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Friday, October 21, 2005

Gullible's Travails: Fitzgerald Always Had Full Authority Edition

Multiple recent articles and columns in the MSM (sorry, no time to link) have included statements---either in passing or as a key element in the authors' arguments---suggesting that the CIA leak investigation originally concerned only the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The reason such assertions matter (at least in terms of spin and public debate) is that the IIPA was written in a deliberately narrow way---it's quite difficult to prove a violation absent very high-powered evidence. While I think people have been too quick to dismiss the possibility of an IIPA-based indictment, the fact is that other laws, most notably the Espionage Act, seem more likely sources for a substantive indictment; perjury and obstruction also seem highly possible.

Special Counsel Fitzgerald has just started a website that provides documents relating to his investigation (that alone strikes me as terrible news for the various WH advisers to the President and VP who appear to have been conspirators in the campaign against Joe Wilson and his wife). It is useful to note that this Feb 6, 2004 letter from then-Deputy AG James Comey to Fitzgerald states that Fitzgerald's authority
is plenary and includes the authority to investigate and prosecute violations of any federal criminal laws related to the underlying alleged unauthorized disclosure, as well as federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, your investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses...
This letter was a clarification of the letter from December 30, 2003 that initially delegated to Fitzgerald
all the authority of the Attorney General with respect to the Department's investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee's identity.
Note that this language refers to "the alleged unauthorized disclosure", not to any particular statute that declares this disclosure unlawful. That is, the language empowering Fitzgerald specifically provides him the power to investigate and prosecute those responsbile for anact (or acts). It does not limit Fitzgerald's authority to any particular law that governs such an act (or acts).

Best as I can tell, the reason people seem to think that Fitzgerald's investigation was originally confined to IIPA violations is that media reports at the time simply didn't mention any other statutes (e.g., the Espionage Act).

The resulting belief some appear to hold (see the poorly researched and poorly reasoned recent column by Richard Cohen in the WaPo, for instance) that Fitzgerald has broadened his investigation beyond its initial mandate appears to be the result of some combination of poor/lazy journalism and poor/lazy thinking by consumers of journalism.

Of course, not all MSM types have been as gullible as some, but those who have been surely deserve today's GT award. Maybe now that Fitzgerald's site is up, the price of information collection will be low enough for the Richard Cohens of the world to actually do their jobs before they start to write and talk.


Blogger Blogenfreude said...

Agitprop predicts Fitzmas Day will be Wednesday.

10/23/2005 4:24 PM  

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