links for 2007-07-04


This "interfering with the court's verdict" (it's called "commutation" here) is one of the prerogatives the Constitution gives the President and one which has been used many times before President Bush ever took office. It's not a novelty, and President Bush didn't overstep his authority in commuting Scooter Libby's sentence. What in particular do you find objectionable about this particular commutation?

Posted by charles on July 03, 2007 at 10:21 PM PDT #

Charles: That answers my question. Thanks. Al Gore is right, it seems.

Posted by Simon Phipps on July 04, 2007 at 04:28 AM PDT #

Now I align myself more towards the democrats, but here is the fact. He was convicted of leaking a name of a spy on purpose. That's darn near espionage. If he was Muslim he would be in a jail that no one's ever heard of and no one ever will. Bush is just repaying his friend for what he asked Libby to do. The fact that people are split on party lines makes it even worse.

Posted by Adam on July 04, 2007 at 05:25 AM PDT #

Simon, seems like you might consider some tips on dealing from Heathrow from my last transfer through there. Documented here in my personal blog:

Posted by Mark Cathcart on July 04, 2007 at 06:53 AM PDT #

Handy, thanks Mark. For others, here's the link clickable.

Posted by Simon Phipps on July 04, 2007 at 08:29 AM PDT #

Adam, perhaps you'd better go back and read both the indictment and the verdict again. Libby was not only NOT found guilty of leaking the name of a "spy" (she was a desk jockey, not covert; her cover wasn't blown -- except maybe by her j@ck@$$ husband), he wasn't even charged with such an offense. He was accused and convicted of misleading the FBI during their investigation (and it comes down to whether the jury bought whether or not he could remember a few trivial facts -- nothing germane to blowing anyone's cover). The person who mentioned Plame's name to Novak was Richard Armitage. Armitage was NOT even indicted by SP Patrick Fitzgerald though Fitzgerald knew early in his investigation that it was Armitage and not Libby who leaked Plame's name to Novak. Get your facts straight before you make a fool of yourself -- like Plame's partisan hack of a husband. (Simon, the math questions are way too simple.)

Posted by charles on July 04, 2007 at 09:12 PM PDT #

Charles: You may or may not be right about the case details, I'm not qualified to say. What seems remarkable to foreign eyes is that a mechanism that seems suitable for handling extreme excpetions was used way before the rest of due process was exercised - as I understand it the appeal hasn't even been heard yet. So this seems, like Guantanamo, to be a case of "the law doesn't fit my purpose so I will over-rule it".

Posted by Simon Phipps on July 04, 2007 at 10:04 PM PDT #

First, Simon, that wasn't the reason for sending asymmetrical combatants to Gitmo. Tell me what international law applies to un-uniformed opponents on the battlefield who may or (in most cases with respect to those in Gitmo now) may NOT be from the nation in which they're taken captive. Are the al-Qaeda and Taleban irregulars actually "soldiers" and therefore "prisoners of war"? Under whose and which definition? I think if you look, you'll find that under the Geneva Conventions they're not soldiers. Accordingly, they're not entitled to privileges under the GC. That leaves other venues like military tribunals. In any other circumstance, their trial would've come immediately upon the battlefield and the sentence of a bullet to the skull would've been summarily carried out. Do you find that preferable to feeding them culturally-acceptable halal meals, giving them adequate medical care, Korans, and letting them pray however many times a day facing in the right direction? Back to the issue at hand. The judge ordered Libby to jail \*immediately\*, which is very atypical in a case like this. Normally, a defendant would be allowed to remain free either on bond or personal recognizance during the appellate process. Alas, any appeals process would likely outlast his sentence, rendering any commutation moot. Libby's sentence was far longer than others convicted for similar crimes. That was the criterion given by the president. Not because he's overruling the law, but because the Constitution affords him such latitude. It's one of the few checks and balances against the judiciary anymore. For sake of comparison, Martha Stewart was much more brazen in her untruths to the FBI than Mr Libby. All Libby did was say he couldn't recall certain things, and Mr Fitzgerald had other people saying they could recall those certain things (but vaguely). Ms Stewart had much more evidence against her than Mr Libby did. Ms Stewart gets a couple months, Mr Libby gets a few years. Is that fair? What's your sense of justice, and does it ever rise above your perceptions? Look at the facts of the case -- I presented them accurately with respect to the charges and what he was convicted of -- and tell me if you would honestly think the same if you weren't as emotive about the current administration. I think that's at the heart of all this, and I don't think that's particularly just.

Posted by charles on July 05, 2007 at 08:20 AM PDT #

Charles: But isn't a decision like that what an appeals court is for? Your opinion and mine count for nothing, the verdict of a court count for all and the role of an exception process is to act as a corrective at the end of due process. Or are you saying the American justice system can't be trusted even to the extent of allowing an appeal to take place?

Posted by Simon Phipps on July 05, 2007 at 09:27 AM PDT #

Charles, your clarifications are useful and you raise some good questions about those legitimately detained during battles, or engaged in planning or carrying out activities which are contrary to the rule of civil or military law in the country they were detained.

The problem is without any fair trial or other discovery process how can anyone be sure these people are guilty of anything at all? If the US Feels it needs to detain these people, who have at best dubious legal status, then it should create a legal framework in which they can be tried and bring them to the USA and do it. I doubt anyone would argue that they should be given bail or otherwise treated as normal accused during such prosecutions or subsequent imprisonment. Just keeping them in Cuba, of all places, where no real rule of law applies is simply not acceptable.

Of course no one advocates summary execution, thats what sets us aside from them, or should.

Your otherwise useful comment though falls apart on the core issue in my view, comparing Stewart and Libby is just bogus. While one was a celebrity and CEO and broke the law on insider trading, she in no way was in a position to act for or influence the VP and President of the United States. Can you say the same for Libby? Shouldn't we expect these people to be held to as high, or higher standard. If indeed Mr Libby simply couldn't recall, should there have been minutes of the meeting or other protection in place to make sure his memory was the sole record.

For all the good things there are in the US, and the US Style of Government, the ability of the President to grant such pardons and intervene in the rule of law just isn't defensible, its not just Bush and the republicans, but also past Presidents such as Ford. As soon as you accept these behaviors, now both the masters and servants will assume the "I forgot" defense is a good one, if it fails you'll get off anyway. Can't be right, sounds more like a 3rd World Dictator than the behavior of a 1st World President.

Posted by Mark Cathcart on July 05, 2007 at 09:42 AM PDT #

Simon: In some cases, but not all. Again, does the punishment fit the crimes with which Libby was \*ACTUALLY\* charged and convicted -- not the specious BS about "outing spies" or public perceptions about the war in Iraq -- and is it particularly onerous for the judge to order him to begin serving immediately instead of post-appeals? I think the sentence was overly harsh, and I think the judge's points in refusing to allow Mr Libby to remain free while awaiting even his initial appeal is unjustified.

Mr Cathcart: I drew the comparison between the two cases because the issue of evidence is apropos, not because one is was accused of one thing or another. In the case of Ms Stewart, there was a paper trail of phone call records and stock transactions showing exactly what was happening and when. In the case of Mr Libby, there wasn't: the charges of obstruction and perjury were based on pitting Libby's testimony before the grand jury that he couldn't recall certain details against reporters' equally murky (murkier in some cases) recollections of details. Read the trial transcripts or the articles about the testimony of witnesses like Tim Russert.

The case against Libby wasn't particularly convincing. That is, except to people who haven't looked at the actual facts of the case. All the more reason I'm glad our system is (supposed to be) based on evidence and the rule of law rather than on skewed emotive perceptions.

Posted by charles on July 05, 2007 at 10:43 PM PDT #

BTW, Mark, what other checks and balances in our Constitution do you take exception? I don't find it bothersome that, in the right interests, one branch of government can undo what another has done when the other branch has acted in the wrong interests. Congress does it all the time in writing laws or withholding funds. The courts do it ALL the time -- that's part of their Constitutional authority, but they often overreach that and the other two branches have very few checks against the judiciary in comparison to the power the courts have assumed. The authority and latitude to grant clemency, pardons, etc., given the President under our Constitution is one of the few checks the executive branch has. I have no problem with it, and I don't see it as a dictatorial privilege.

Particularly in an instance such as this in which only part of the sentence was commuted (Libby won't go immediately to jail, but he paid a quarter-million fine and the rest of his sentence is in effect while he appeals).

Posted by charles on July 05, 2007 at 10:51 PM PDT #

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