Thursday, June 07, 2007

Letters for Scooter Libby

When Scooter Libby's sentence was handed down, the judge also made public the letters he had received in response to his invitation for people to comment on the sentencing. I’ve been skimming them, and have been struck by the consistency of what I’ve read. The letters were from (1) professional colleagues and associates; (2) personal friends and acquaintances; and (3) people with no direct ties to Libby.

As near as I can tell, everyone in category 1 & 2 has nothing but glowing things to tell of Libby, and asked the court for leniency. The people in these categories include several famous names (e.g., Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Deborah Tannen (who’s his next door neighbor)), and the support also came from a number of people who stated that they disagreed with him politically. Even though I’m not sympathetic to Libby, I became impressed with Libby by what I learned in some of these letters -- the personal anecdotes describing both the numerous good things he had done and the caring he exhibited in all facets of his life suggest that Libby has been a wonderful person. "His actions were never about what he could get out of it personally. . . they were about how he could help others." Many of the letters expressed shock that he could have done what he was convicted of doing -- "I cannot state strongly enough that Scooter's conviction is completely inconsistent with his character. First, . . . Scooter is extremely honest. I never knew him to lie, exaggerate or bend the truth, NEVER."

On the other side of the ledger, everyone in category 3 (about 10% of the letters) asked the judge to sentence Libby to the maximum (or to deviate upward) based on the seriousness of the crime.

Libby argued that his sentence shouldn't have included jail time. I recognize the argument that even without jail time, Libby will suffer a great deal -- with this conviction, his legal career is at an end. Nevertheless, obstructing justice and perjury are serious crimes. Someone who obstructs justice prevents justice from being carried out, and protects people who should be prosecuted. If the penalty is a fine, then you create an incentive for those who have committed crimes to in essence buy their way out of having to face the consequences of their illegal activities. Without real consequences, there’s little reason to testify truthfully. The investigation here was into the outing of a covert CIA agent, and there's a significant possibility that in addition to the loss of the intelligence network she worked with, people who were part of that network may have been killed as a result. It's probable that we won't ever know the full effects of the outing. Nevertheless, despite the potentially serious consequences, Libby has shown no remorse for his obstruction into this investigation.

Ultimately, I agree with John E. Rogers, a former Assistant United States Attorney, who said in his letter --
I urge you to impose a sentence in this case appropriate to the crimes committed by this defendant, taking into consideration his betrayal of his high position and his country, his superior knowledge as a lawyer and a former partner in a major law firm as to exactly what he was doing, and his continuing unrepentant conduct. Whether he is kind to his dog, a good neighbor, or anything else is, of course, irrelevant to what he did and continues to do.