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April 12, 2006
Fizzlemas Strikes Again!

Those waiting for the Fitzmas That Never Came must suffer from terrible disappointment, and this week they have yet more reason to be morose. Patrick Fitzgerald delighted them with an extraordinary court filing that accused Scooter Libby of misrepresenting the National Intelligence Estimate and the uranium-procurement story as a consensus analysis by American intelligence. It turns out that St. Fitz did some misrepresentation of his own:

The federal prosecutor overseeing the indictment of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, yesterday corrected an assertion in an earlier court filing that Libby had misrepresented the significance placed by the CIA on allegations that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger.

Last week, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald wrote that, in conversation with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Libby described the uranium story as a "key judgment" of the CIA's 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a term of art indicating there was consensus within the intelligence community on that issue. In fact, the alleged effort to buy uranium was not among the estimate's key judgments and was listed further back in the 96-page, classified document.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, Fitzgerald wrote yesterday that he wanted to "correct" the sentence that dealt with the issue in a filing he submitted last Wednesday. That sentence said Libby "was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

Instead, the sentence should have conveyed that Libby was to tell Miller some of the key judgments of the NIE "and that the NIE stated that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

Ah, well. Fitzgerald giveth, and Fitzgerald taketh away.

One would expect an attorney to write a little more concisely and accurately than did Fitzgerald in his original brief, and this hasty correction calls into question the performance of this prosecutorial team once again. Tasked with determining whether a crime had been committed in the release of Valerie Plame's identity, Fitzgerald wound up never addressing it at all. Instead, the only crime he discovered was one supposedly committed by Libby in the course of the investigation itself, and now even Fitzgerald can't get his story straight on Libby's testimony and his alleged actions regarding his conversations with Miller.

After creating a firestorm of controversy, Fitzgerald now wants to pull a lame Emily Litella routine. Perhaps this sort of correction happens frequently, but I don't recall it in any high profile investigation in the past. It appears that Fitzgerald wanted to make a public splash with his original filing and quickly discovered that he had miscalculated both the NIE and the declassification process while misrepresenting Libby's supposed misrepresentation.

What a waste of time. If the prosecutor can't get this basic part of the case correct, why should we trust him to do any better with the rest of it?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 12, 2006 5:55 AM

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