Got home, decided to peep a little C-Span. Woke up, decided this needed a little re-writing for clarity.
One thing that's striking to me that I haven't seen blogged about (though I'm sure others have observed it), is that part of Libby's intended alabi is that he was passing some information on without knowing if it were true. This was the manner in which he supposedly blew Valarie Wilson/Plame's identity: "well, you know what I hear? I hear the buzz from some other reporters -- you know, Tim Russert is one of the people who told me this -- is that this Wilson guy's wife works for the CIA. Oh yeah. What? No, I don't know if she does or not, but that's what I hear..."
In other words, the manner in which the office of the Vice President interacted with the Press -- which is not unlike how other public and political officials do -- is intimately bound up in the crime. It's quite a regular thing to traffic in rumors and nudge-nudge-wink-wink leaks like this, which I think is a problem with our public information ecosystem. That Scooter Libby was savvy (or devious) enough to use this to construct an alabi for a crime against national security serves to highlight the problem fairly well.
Libby seems to have been thinking that as long as that's the conversation that got traced, he could give the same story to an investigator as he used to spin off the fact-as-rumor to the press. Then Fitzgerald found evidence that Rove had told him previously, and that he had talked about it previously. He didn't learn it from other journalists. The result? Libby, called back to the Grand Jury, was actually forced to claim that, "yeah, Karl told me that, but see then I forgot and when I heard that "rumor" from Tim Russert, it was as if it were for the first time. "
Scooter Libby, born again virgin.
In terms of what's really going on here, I think billmon has a good take. Fitz really zeroed in on busting heavy on the coverup. He also essentially said in his press conference that because there was a coverup, he couldn't indict anyone for the explicit crime of outing Plame, because the statute that applies is pretty heavy. The presence of the coverup means you can't really tell what's going on, so best to prosecute that.
But the investigation continues. It would seem that the "anonymous" Official A listed in the indictment -- aka Karl Rove -- is in the sights, although there's a certain tempting logic that Fitzgerald will lean on Scooter to burn someone more powerful than Karl. Still, I don't think it will drag on too much longer.
UPDATE: However, that being said, this is also the truth:
The moral of the story, I think, is that we really need a public investigation through the political system to get to the larger conspiracy here - the cabal that took us to war under false pretenses to further their own unstated aims. Our challenge, as citizens, is to force the political system to live up to its obligations. This is where I am pessimistic for obvious reasons - when the Congress is in the hands of the President's party, it's hard to imagine a repeat of the Senate Watergate hearings.
The grand jury process is designed for secrecy, to protect information about individuals who don't end up charged with a crime, also to protect whistleblowers or people who testify against their superiors. Fitzgerald's investigation is not going to indict the whole White House Iraq Group, the cabal of Bush Administration figures (and a few select others, like Judy Miller), who conspired to "make the case" for invading Iraq.
If we want accountability on that, it's got to happen through congress. If we want that, Democrats need to take control of either the House or the Senate. While I try not to villify the GOP en masse, I just don't seen them launching an investigation into the White House's use of false and misleading information in their effort to sell the war.
I dunno... I sort of loose interest here. Anyone who cared to pay attention three years ago could plainly see that a decision had been made to pursue an offensive against Iraq. Anyone who cared to look could see they were committed to whipping up support by any means necessary; humping the smoking hole at ground zero and vastly overstating the threat Saddam Hussein represented. Anyone who cared to listen could hear careful language -- misleading without being criminally false -- reflecting intention and planning.
But the people who mattered didn't care to see, or perhaps saw and didn't feel they could or should do anything about it. The simple fact is that the DC press and Congressional Democrats are accountable for the success of the Bush Administration's campaign of dis-information. The Bush administration is obviously accountable too, but we have checks and balances and a free press for a reason. With alarmingly few exceptions, everyone in power dropped the ball here. I'm not holding my breath for these people to come out and admit this.
Remember: regular folks never really supported this war. If you look at the levels of support, a greater proportion of American citizens were skeptical compared to those in congress or in the elite press corps, who were overwhelmingly either cooperative or openly cheerleading the war. The public was more right (or less wrong, if you like) than congress or the press. Don't forget it.