Thursday, July 13, 2006

Plamegate 2: Civil Suit Bugaloo

Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, have just filed suit against Cheney, Libby, Rove and "other unnamed senior White House officials."

"So what?" you say. "What difference could it possibly make?" you say. Well, I got one word for you:

Watergate.

Sure, it's a word you've heard before. Hell, a whole scandal-naming franchise began with Watergate.

But in the opinion of John Dean, a guy who knows a little something about the first big Gate, it was the DNC's li'l ole civil suit against the Nixon administration that was really responsible for bringing the whole thing crashing down:

The hardball politics of Nixon and his people, of course, first surfaced with the bungled break-in and attempted wiretapping at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), when the head of security of Nixon's reelection campaign was arrested there along with a small army of Cuban Americans. These activities were, of course, only the tip of an iceberg, a first bit of public evidence of a White House mentality oblivious to the law.

DNC chairman Lawrence O'Brien, an experienced political operator, correctly suspected the worst. He had been harassed by the IRS, deducing (correctly) but not knowing for certain that the audit was being pushed by Nixon himself. After the Watergate break-in, O'Brien quickly realized that Nixon's Department of Justice was not likely to expose this criminal activity, so he filed a civil lawsuit. In his memoir, he later explained why:

"We wanted to get to the bottom of [the Watergate break-in] -- we wanted the whole story, no matter where it led. There was reason to suspect that the break-in and wiretapping had been authorized by the officials of the CRP [Nixon's reelection committee]; and there was the possibility that the trail might even lead higher. We wanted the facts, and we knew they would not be easily attained. One decision we made, acting on [DNC general counsel] Joe Califano's legal advice, was to file a lawsuit against CRP. In this way, the judicial process would help us get to the truth."

Few appreciate the significance of this lawsuit in the unraveling of Watergate. It has been largely overlooked by history. A few years ago, I told Joe Califano about the impact his lawsuit had: Within the White House, it was considered one of the most difficult problems to deal with during the investigations of Watergate. The FBI was no problem -- no one has to talk to an FBI agent. And no Department of Justice is going to haul White House aides before a grand jury. But a subpoena demanding the production of documents, or an appearance to give testimony under oath at a deposition -- that was a serious threat. It also troubled the FBI and Justice Department, keeping them on their toes. It was remarkably effective.


I fuckin' can't fuckin' wait.

3 comments:

Horace Titworthy said...

The Plame lawsuit will be thrown out very quickly...she was not a covert agent, but worked at a desk in Arlington, VA...lots of people in D.C. knew of her, thanks to her blowhard husband...there was absolutely no law broken here. Sorry.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Sorry yourself, HT.

The suit is a civil one, and does not hinge upon the issue of whether she was "covert," or any of the other technicalities of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act that constricts Fitzgerald's prosecution and that has presumably saved BushCo from anything other than perjury charges.

If you read the story I linked to, you would have read this: "The lawsuit accuses the White House officials of violating the Wilsons's constitutional rights and the couple's privacy rights."

HT, I'm sure you're a nice guy. But I've read your blog, and I feel there's absolutely zero chance of you changing your mind about anything by reading my blog, so why don't you just run along and go make comments on Free Republic or something.

We'll both be happier that way.

Megan said...

I got as far as "Watergate" and was going to suggest you check out John Dean's new book Conservatives Without a Conscience. Then I scrolled down a bit and saw "John Dean. . ." so maybe you're already there.

Also, if no law was broken, why the big cover-up?

Do you ever feel like your brain's going to explode if you think even for three seconds or so about what Clinton did to get impeached (the lying, not the blowjob) and all the things Bush has done that he SHOULD be getting impeached for but isn't?