Victims of Frontier Justice: Wilson and Plame

We’ve been shown again an important long-term cost of the 2000 and 2004 elections: court stacking by ideologs.  Jason Leopold’s The Public Record notes a significant legal development that we should all pay attention to.

Wrong Roberts, but you get the idea...

Wrong Roberts, but you get the idea...

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case brought by Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, about the “outing” of Plame as a CIA agent by members of the Bush Administration.  The Wilsons had brought a suit against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former Deputy Sec. of State Richard Armitage for violating their civil rights.

Despite discovery by federal Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that Bush Administration officials had attempted to discredit and retaliate against Wilson for his statements criticizing the manipulation of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, a variety of conservative jurists went out of their way to thwart the Wilson’s case.

  • A District Court judge dismissed the case, characterizing Plame’s outing as a form of rebuttal exercised by the defendants to counter Wilson’s criticism.  (This sort of overlooks the obvious, that exposing a CIA agent’s identity is a crime.)
  • The Republican-dominated DC Appeals Court turned down their bid for appeal on a 2-1 vote.
  • The Republican-dominated Supreme Court has declined to hear the case

The Wilson’s case could have further peeled back the veil of secrecy surrounding the Bush Administration, which was successful in shielding the higher-ups after tossing one of the hired help to the wolves.  Separately, Libby was convicted on four out of five charges related to the incident, getting sentenced to 30 months.

“The Wilsons and their counsel are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case, but more significantly, this is a setback for our democracy,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an attorney representing the Wilsons. “This decision means that government officials can abuse their power for political purposes without fear of repercussion. Private citizens like the Wilsons, who see their careers destroyed and their lives placed in jeopardy by administration officials seeking to score political points and silence opposition, have no recourse.”

And what about George?  He initially denied any knowledge of this, blustering at one point that any Administration official shown to be complicit would be fired.  Bush’s backtracking on this very public pledge ended with Bush commuting Libby’s sentence, so Scooter dodged jail time.  Why he didn’t just pardon him is curious, since his Vice President, Dick Cheney, had lobbied strenuously for a pardon.  Perhaps a belated concern about his legacy stayed Bush’s hand on the pardon pen.

If anyone doubts that the battle for good governance and the requirement of civil vigilance are daily necessities, the plight of the Wilsons should stand as proof that the fight can never stop.  A recent decision by the Obama Justice Department to continue the Bush policy shielding transcripts of Vice President Dick Cheney’s meetings during the period emphatically punctuates the argument that we, as citizens, can never ever stop demanding that our representatives be accountable and that our government be transparent.  When the courts are stacked, we lose a valuable tool in that pursuit.

May the Higher Power of your choice inspire your civil pursuits in protection of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

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