Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Plame Game

The Washington Post for December 30 reports that
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has recused himself from the investigation of the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity as the Justice Department named a special prosecutor to oversee the widening probe, Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey said today.

The investigation into the disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to a columnist will be led by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Chicago, who Comey said will report to him.

"The attorney general, in an abundance of caution, believed that his recusal was appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation," Comey said at a news conference in Washington. "I agree with that judgment. And I also agree that he made it at the appropriate time, the appropriate point in this investigation."
Comey apparently gave no reason as to why it was now "appropriate" for Ashcroft to recuse himself in a way it wasn't before.

While this does appear to mean the investigation actually is getting serious, once again the question of media spin crops up.

For months, Democrats and anyone with any interest at all in truth have been screaming "Special Prosecutor" to a brick wall. Now, suddenly, the White House has agreed to appoint just such a person - and all the news leads are about how Ashcroft has "stepped aside," as one put it, with an undertone that this somehow shows him to be some kind of honorable figure! "Appropriate time," my ass - the appropriate time was when the whole thing started. One can only wonder how much damage has already been done to any investigation by all the delays in seizing papers and examining people that Ashcroft either allowed or caused.

Still, this may point to trouble, so let's hope - but the emphasis there is on "may," since I for one doubt that the White House gang would let go even to this degree of the investigation if they had any notion it could still hurt them politically.

Update December 31: Something that should be made clear but isn't from the above is that Fitzgerald may be a special prosecutor but he's not an independent special prosecutor. As the article says, he reports to Comey - which means the investigation is still under the control of the DOJ. So instead of a step in the right direction, consider it a half-step in the right direction.

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