Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hoist by their own petard?

John Dean, a man who's got experience in this area, envisions a storm of feceses bearing down on Rove of biblical proportions:

I am referring to the prosecution and conviction of Jonathan Randel. Randel was a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst, a PhD in history, working in the Atlanta office of the DEA. Randel was convinced that British Lord Michael Ashcroft (a major contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, as well as American conservative causes) was being ignored by DEA, and its investigation of money laundering. (Lord Ashcroft is based in South Florida and the off-shore tax haven of Belize.)

Randel leaked the fact that Lord Ashcroft's name was in the DEA files, and this fact soon surfaced in the London news media. Ashcroft sued, and learned the source of the information was Randel. Using his clout, soon Ashcroft had the U.S. Attorney in pursuit of Randel for his leak.

By late February 2002, the Department of Justice indicted Randel for his leaking of Lord Ashcroft's name. It was an eighteen count "kitchen sink" indictment; they threw everything they could think of at Randel. Most relevant for Karl Rove's situation, Court One of Randel's indictment alleged a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions.

Randel, faced with a life sentence (actually, 500 years) if convicted on all counts, on the advice of his attorney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 641. On January 9, 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation. This sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney to boast that the conviction of Randel made a good example of how the Bush Administration would handle leakers.

The Randel Precedent -- If Followed -- Bodes Ill For Rove

Karl Rove may be able to claim that he did not know he was leaking "classified information" about a "covert agent," but there can be no question he understood that what he was leaking was "sensitive information." The very fact that Matt Cooper called it "double super secret background" information suggests Rove knew of its sensitivity, if he did not know it was classified information (which by definition is sensitive).

United States District Court Judge Richard Story's statement to Jonathan Randel, at the time of sentencing, might have an unpleasant ring for Karl Rove. Judge Story told Randel that he surely must have appreciated the risks in leaking DEA information. "Anything that would affect the security of officers and of the operations of the agency would be of tremendous concern, I think, to any law-abiding citizen in this country," the judge observed. Judge Story concluded this leak of sensitive information was "a very serious crime."

"In my view," he explained, "it is a very serious offense because of the risk that comes with it, and part of that risk is because of the position" that Randel held in DEA. But the risk posed by the information Rove leaked is multiplied many times over; it occurred at a time when the nation was considering going to war over weapons of mass destruction. And Rove was risking the identity of, in attempting to discredit, a WMD proliferation expert, Valerie Plame Wilson.

It's clear- based on the jailing of Miller, and the pit-bull discipline that Fitzgerald's been exercising (unlike Ken Starr, not even a trace of leakiness), that there is some serious karmic consequences headed Karl Rove's way.

We don't even know yet what Rove will be charged with, but the recent hubub about "she wasn't a covert agent" doesn't even begin to exonerate Rove.

Before this is over, we could have a Democratic House and an impeached and convicted Bush.

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