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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Libby Defense Team Tries Some Fishing

Scooter Libby's defense team filed a discovery fishing motion today, requesting every piece of evidence that Patrick Fitzgerald might have about anything that any journalist involved might have known about Valerie Plame Wilson. They've filed this because Fitz told them he was only giving them discovery regarding the fact that Libby was a perjurer, a liar, and a false swearer.

Looks like the Libby defense is on a serious deep sea expedition.
The lawyers for the former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., said in their motion that the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, had refused to turn over to the defense documents that would shed light on whether any reporter knew about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, before her name was first disclosed in a newspaper column on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's lawyers said in their motion that "the prosecution invoked an extraordinarily narrow conception of its disclosure obligations." The prosecutor turned over, the defense said, only documents related to Mr. Libby's contacts with reporters, refusing to turn over documents about what these and other reporters had learned about Ms. Wilson from other sources.

The defense team said that such documents were highly relevant as Mr. Libby's lawyers sought to find out "the identity of all reporters who knew that Ms. Wilson worked for the C.I.A., and to discover when they learned such information, from whom they learned it and whether they disclosed it further after learning it."
Too bad they are really trying to hook a shark. Fitz drew that indictment very narrowly -- it dealt only with Libby's statements, Libby's actions and Libby's knowledge. You can review the Libby indictment here (PDF).

Libby appears to be fishing for some reasonable doubt. If he can find some way to spread the blame around to journalists, then he stands a chance of making a juror or two ask some questions -- or at least so he thinks. We all know that with sterling characters such as Judy Miller and Bob Woodward, though, it's going to be tough to find chinks in the credibility armor. (*cough* Ouch, that was difficult to even type.)

Libby's legal team is arguing for a pretty broad swath, according to reports, without having a lot to hang the request on other than maybe other people knew and we'd like to perhaps know as well, whether or not Mr. Libby even knew about it.
Libby would have the right to produce testimony that tended to show many reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and that Russert did make the statement Libby allegedly attributed to him, but that Russert had forgotten about it, the court filing stated.

In addition, the defense could argue that Libby's statement to investigators that "all reporters knew" about Ms. Wilson's CIA connection is a factually correct statement that was made to Libby and that it shows Libby "is simply confused about whether Mr. Russert is the source of the statement," the papers added.

The defense says it also has a right to show whether other reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and were discussing that fact with government officials, "some of whom in turn may have shared such information with Mr. Libby," his lawyers said.
Well, that's partially correct. If Libby can show that someone with whom he discussed Valerie Wilson found out the information from a reporter and then told Libby about it, then that could be of interest only in terms of the possibility for the "everybody knew about it" defense. (Which I still personally think is a long shot.) But, well...couldn't Libby just ask all the folks with whom he spoke about Valerie Wilson how they found out about her? I mean, they all used to work together and all, wouldn't you think they'd tell him.

Unless, of course, they all learned it from Scooter or Dick Cheney or something, in which case Scooter doesn't want to ask all of them, and his legal team is just hoping to find some half-assed unrelated statement made by some egomaniacal journalist who contemplates turning aspens or something -- to use it to their advantage, whether or not it's even relevent to Libby's case.

And that doesn't even get to the fat that Libby made a number of false statements that had nothing whatsoever to do with this particular line of discovery requests -- including statements under oath to the grand jury that look a whole helluva lot like he's covering for someone else. ("Dick Cheney hotline? Yes, I need some camo. Could you lend out Scooter for a coupla hours?")

Look, a defendant is entitled to full disclosure of evidence, including anything that might perhaps be exculpatory in any fashion. Courts generally bend over backward to make sure there is very full discovery disclosure by prosecutors, because you don't want that to come back to haunt you on appeal. (Just drags things out even longer, and judges don't like that. Plus, it could get you overturned and that's not good for the ego.)

But defendants are not entitled to everything a prosecutor could possibly have in a complex case when that information is not material to the charges in their indictment or to that portion of the case in which the defendant is currently involved.

We've said all along (and so has reader rwcole, FYI) that the indictment was very narrowly drawn for a reason. Re-reading the indictment in light of this voluminous, fishing expedition discovery request makes it even more clear how carefully crafted the indictment is -- and how all of the charges rely on Libby's own statements and assertions, and of assertions made or testimony given by members of the Administration and a few, select members of the press.

And, smart boy that he is, you'll note that no charge rests on the testimony of our gal Judy. How desperate would Scooter have to be to play the Judy defense card? I mean, really?