To those who are currently mourning I. Lewis Libby and the ‘harshness’ of his penalty, let’s try and put this in some perspective:
If a criminal robs a gas station at gun-point, he is liable to be put in jail for several years; in some cases, decades. What are the consequences of a gas station robbery? Loss of money from the register, possible damage to property, and emotional distress or physical harm to the individual that was threatened.
Now, whoever it was that was really responsible for the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity (which, without a doubt, was secret) was responsible for a number of negative consequences:
- Valerie Plame’s career was negatively impacted: she had presumably wanted to do fieldwork, and now it is impossible for her to do any further.
- Other agents who were known to work with the covert Plame have also had their identities compromised. Any fake companies or organizations associated with Plame’s false identity were taken out of commission.
- If it’s the case, as I’ve heard, that Plame was working in anti-nuclear proliferation, whoever leaked her identity increased, however minutely, the chance that tens of thousands of people will at some future point be killed in a massive fireball.
Ah wait, you say, but it wasn’t Libby that’s leaked the identity, it was someone else. Why should Libby be punished for another’s offense? Well, back to the gas station robber. Someone who lied to protect the robber might be less guilty than the robber himself, but he is undoubtedly guilty, and I should like to see those that are weeping over Libby’s fate call for amnesty.
One of the principle arguments that I’ve heard is that Libby is being made an example of, and that he is actually “smart as a whip” and has rendered “years of exemplary public service.”
Number one, I’ll point out that many of the people who whine that Libby is being made an example of are the same people that support the death penalty and who hold one of their principle justifications to be ‘deterrence.’
What galls me more than that hypocrisy is the sense I get that what people are really saying when they assert as a defense that Libby is smart as a whip and public servant is that who prison is for, really, is poor people and drugged up celebrities. But prison isn’t simply a holding tank for the unwashed proletariat. The whole idea is that anyone who commits a serious enough crime goes there.
The reason things are considered crimes is because they hurt people. There are crimes that are committed with violence, like robberies and assaults, and then there are crimes that are committed without violence, like the Enron scandal and Lewis Libby’s willful lies to try and keep himself and his friends out of the clutches of blind old Justice, who is so crass as to not even discriminate between ‘criminals’ and ‘politicians.’