The Spine

Rules Of Evidence


Just before noon yesterday, Thursday, The New York Times released online a dispatch telling us that U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled against the prosecutor in the trial of Scooter Libby on how much and what classified information could be made public in the proceedings.

I know that this will distress so-called civil libertarians, because they don't want Libby to be able to exercise his procedural rights. On the other hand, and especially with prosecutions in terrorist cases, these same civil libertarians want the defendants to know absolutely everything. Sometimes, courts have ruled in their favor, and the feds have had to give up the proceedings altogether, rather than expose their intelligence sources to the defendants and their friends. This is not the case in this matter. It's hard to imagine any classified evidence (presumably historical stuff on Iraq) that Libby might want counted in his trial that would expose the United States to peril.

In any event, this is not the first step in the unwinding of the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame struggle for martyrdom. That probably came when Colin Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, confessed to having outed Plame. This undid her as a victim of the warmakers. But the loosening of the rules on evidence in the Libby trial will almost certainly produce proof of the handsome couple's script to make themselves victims of the war. My guess is that Libby will deservedly go free, because prosecutor Fitzgerald tormented him about information he already had. And at what price in cash and also in public hysteria?

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