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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Uncommon Sense: "What the Libby Trial Is Really About"

Bad lie

Thanks to Uncommon Sense for this great insight piece - THANKS UC!

The big news of the week from Scooter Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial is that a juror was removed from the deliberations for being exposed to media coverage of the trial. Details at FDL.

With respect to the overall coverage of the trial, it is important most of all to remember what this proceeding is about. Many mainstream media outlets seem to have forgotten, if they ever really understood it at all.

I am by no means an expert on, or even an obsessive follower of, the Libby trial or the leak case which facilitated it, but I do know enough about it to know when I see unvarnished administration talking points tainting the news coverage of the trial.

Last Friday, Washington Post reporter Carol Leonig wrote the following in a story about the deliberations phase:

When the jury in I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury trial returns with its verdict, its decision also will intensify the debate over whether Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald should have brought the case in the first place.

For Fitzgerald, who has led the CIA leak investigation for more than three years, an acquittal for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff would be a blow to a reputation as a nonpartisan prosecutor with a record of high-profile successes. Some say it would vindicate critics who think Fitzgerald went too far by charging Libby with perjury when no one was indicted for the original offense investigated, the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name.
Is it too much to ask of the Post that they don't allow reporters to write about matters they clearly do not understand?

The charges against Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice are not mitigated by the fact that nobody was indicted for leaking Valerie Wilson's name to the news media. They are validated by that fact. The rest of it is just a Bush administration talking point designed to distract people from the real issue.

Scooter Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice precisely because his lies to federal investigators made it impossible to discover who directed and participated in the leak. This is not difficult to understand. Fitzgerald contends that Libby's lies kept justice from being carried out in the investigation to determine who exposed the undercover identity of a CIA operative. This is why Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, while nobody was indicted for the leak. He lied in order to keep administration officials (read: Dick Cheney) from being indicted. Anybody paying even superficial attention to this case should know this. Fitzgerald explained it when he announced the indictment against Libby. Leonig could have learned this by reading the transcript on the website of the Washington Post.

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, the Republicans previewed some talking points in anticipation of your indictment and they said that if you didn't indict on the underlying crimes and you indicted on things exactly like you did indict -- false statements, perjury, obstruction -- these were, quote/unquote, "technicalities," and that it really was over reaching and excessive.

And since, when and if they make those claims, now that you have indicted, you won't respond, I want to give you an opportunity now to respond to that allegation which they may make. It seems like that's the road they're going down.

FITZGERALD: And I don't know who provided those talking points. I assume...


FITZGERALD: I'm not asking -- OK.


FITZGERALD: I'll be blunt.

That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven -- because remember there's a presumption of innocence -- but if it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

FITZGERALD: And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.
If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.

In other words, when witnesses lie to the grand jury, the grand jury does not have the information it needs to make informed decisions as to whether it should indict someone for a crime. When witnesses lie to the grand jury, justice cannot be done.

Scooter Libby lied to investigators and to the grand jury, and by lying , he obstructed justice. The fact that nobody was indicted for leaking Valerie Wilson's undercover identity is the evidence of Libby's success at obstructing the investigation. And, as we see here, the talking point suggesting otherwise was identified as such long before Libby's trial ever started. The only thing Fitzgerald got wrong was his assertion that it "won't fly."

As Carol Leonig proved with this story, the talking point doesn't just fly. It soars.

- posted by Uncommon Sense