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Libby's luck; Lone conviction in CIA case avoids prison.

COLUMN: In our opinion

By willfully lying and obstructing justice, I. Lewis Libby became the architect of his own downfall. In a larger sense, however, the Libby saga is a textbook case of the often bizarre confluence of law and politics in Washington, D.C.

The case was back in the headlines this week as President Bush commuted Mr. Libby's 30-month prison term, letting stand the $250,000 fine and probation for perjury and obstruction of justice.

But consider the oddity of Mr. Libby's prosecution and conviction in the context of the investigation into a CIA leak that precipitated it:

The wide-ranging investigation found no indictable offenses by the columnist who revealed the identity of former undercover operative Valerie Plame, nor by the Washington insider who supplied the information. Nor were there indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney, former presidential adviser Karl Rove or any others linked, by Washington conspiracy theorists, to the leak.

As in the misguided impeachment of Bill Clinton, the only indictable offenses the special prosecutor could find were related to Mr. Libby's prevarications. He lied concerning how and when he learned of the operative's identity, in July 2003, and his conversations with reporters about it.

In another bizarre twist, the only person who has spent jail time in this tortuous affair has been reporter Judith Miller, then of The New York Times, who never even wrote about the CIA operative. She was held in contempt of court for declining to reveal what she knew about the episode.

Mr. Libby properly is paying for breach of public faith of which he was convicted. Ultimately, however, he was a luckless pawn in an affair in which, from the beginning, the boundary between law and politics has been all but impossible to discern.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 5, 2007
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