Indictments coming this week in Plamegate scandal?

Reuters is reporting that it’s very possible we’ll see indictments laid out this week:

Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be laying the groundwork for indictments this week over the outing of a covert CIA operative, including possible charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers involved in case said on Sunday.

Top administration officials are expected to learn from Fitzgerald as early as Monday whether they will face charges as the prosecutor winds up his nearly two-year investigation, the lawyers said.

Could be wishful thinking on their part, but we’ll know for sure as the week goes on.

As always, check Tom Maguire’s blog on the latest regarding Plamegate. Scroll for his many posts on the subject.

The buzz seems to be more and more that if there are indictments, it won’t be over an alleged intentional outing of a covert agent but instead charges of obstruction, perjury, and/or conspiracy to mishandle classified information. If these types of charges are filed, there are worries within the press about what this could mean in terms of obtaining information in the future from ‘anonymous sources’, the NYTimes reports:

WASHINGTON β€” There are still lots of real secrets in Washington. But the most secretive White House in modern history has learned the hard way – even while its spokesman reflexively utter the caution, “We don’t talk about intelligence,” or, “Sorry, that’s classified” – that it must reveal a pretty steady stream of secrets all the time.

That is one reason journalists and some government officials are so wary of what might happen next in the C.I.A. leak case, which could conclude with indictments within a week. What began as a narrow case on a specific leak, many fear, has morphed into a broader threat to the way business is done here, a system that often benefits both sides.

The investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a then covert C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson, might end with a broadly defined charge that boils down to divulging secret information, a category that covers not only real secrets, but the daily give and take between officials and journalists.

Reporters worry about a chilling effect, one that would make it even harder to explain what the government is doing. Some government officials say they fear the impact because they know that it is often difficult these days to try to justify a national security decision, or warn of an impending threat, or even complain about some kinds of budget cuts without slipping into classified territory.

Michael Barone has similar thoughts:

True, Rove and Libby did seek to discredit Joseph Wilson — as they should well have done. As the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a bipartisan report in July 2004, just about everything Wilson said publicly about his trip to Niger was untrue. He said that he had discredited reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Niger. But the CIA people to whom he reported concluded that, if anything, he substantiated such reports. He said that he pointed out that certain other intelligence reports were forged. But the forgeries did not appear until eight months after his trip. He said his wife had nothing to do with his trip to Niger. But it was she who recommended him for the trip. And on and on.

In the absence of a violation of the underlying espionage acts, any indictment here arising from the course of the investigation would be, in my view, unjust and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. It would also be, as the liberal commentator Jacob Weisberg has pointed out, a long step toward something like the British Official Secrets Act — a precedent that would staunch the flow of information from the government to the press and the people.

The press has been shrieking for Rove’s and Libby’s scalp. If they’re indicted, the administration will be hurt in the short run, but in the long run it will be the press and the people who will suffer.

As a side note, Dick Cheney complained about leaks coming out of Washington back in 2002 – a complaint that strangely did not garner much attention:

According to the congressional panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency intercepted two messages on Sept. 10 that may have made reference to the next day’s attacks.

Vice President Dick Cheney complained to lawmakers Thursday about what the administration is calling inappropriate leak of the intercepts to the press. At President Bush’s direction, Cheney called Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “to express the president’s concerns about this inappropriate disclosure” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

“The information that is being provided to these committees is extraordinarily sensitive” Fleischer said. “The selective, inappropriate leaking of snippets of information risks undermining national security, and it risks undermining the promises made to protect this sensitive information.”

Where was the mass outrage over leaks regarding sensitive information at that time? The President was concerned, and the VP was as well, but I don’t recall a heavy press push to find out the who, what, when, where, and why on those leaks, which – as the VP stated – risked undermining our national security. Leaks only seem to be bad to the press when they damage the credibility of press heroes like Joe Wilson.

Related: Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard has written an excellent piece on the chain of events that led to the investigation to begin with. (Hat tip: Jeff Goldstein)

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