Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Indict Rove?

Jacob Weisberg says why liberals shouldn't want to.

Hold the schadenfreude, blue-staters. Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive. Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they'll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press's right to find out, the government's ability to disclose, and the public's right to know.

At the heart of this misbegotten investigation is a flawed piece of legislation called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As Jack Shafer has written, this 1982 law is almost impossible to break because it requires that a government official unmask covert agents knowingly and with the intent of causing harm. The law was written narrowly to avoid infringing free speech or becoming an equivalent of Britain's Official Secrets Act. Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents. It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.

[snip]

Call witnesses back enough times and you can usually come up with something. Special prosecutors never give up, because saying no crime was committed, after investing years and tens of millions of public dollars, counts as abject failure. And if gleanings from the grand jury room are to be believed, Fitzgerald may go beyond the Ken Starr-style foolishness to bring more creative crap charges of his own devising.


As much as many (including myself) might like to see Rove's scalp, is it really worth the price? I'm starting to think no.