Three and a half years and a long bloody war after he and a gang of war-mongers in the White House and Blair House, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney, set out to undermine and trash the reputation of an Iraq war critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Libby has been found guilty of perjury, lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice by a Washington jury.
Now maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and what passes for journalists in the mainstream media can get down to the real business of finding out just why the entire White House smear operation was unleashed upon a minor state department official and why they went so far as to violate federal law and expose his CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame, in the process destroying her entire network of contacts for monitoring the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Because that's what this whole Libby story is really about.
The whole focus of the media in this case has been on the narrow, inside-the-Beltway question of who leaked information about Plame to the media.
Entirely forgotten or ignored has been what this leak was all about to begin with.
For that, you have to go back and look at what Wilson did in the first place that so enraged or frightened the Vice President and the President.
And that was to go to Niger, one of the poorest nations in Africa, to prove conclusively that there was no truth to a set of forged notes on the letterhead of the Niger embassy in Rome, purporting to be receipts for 400 tons of Niger uranium ore allegedly being sought by Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Wilson knew those documents were cheap forgeries--the name of the mines official on the papers was someone who hadn't been in office for years--but he went to Niger anyhow, just to make doubly certain that no such purchase attempt had been made.
So the real question then is, who is behind those forged documents?
There is an interesting story here--and an important mystery to be solved.
As it happens, way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationery and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationery from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?
Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.
We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iraq almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.
They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.