“I think what we see here today, when a vice president’s chief of staff is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, it does show the world that this is a country that takes its law seriously; that all citizens are bound by the law. But what we need to also show the world is that we can also apply the same safeguards to all our citizens, including high officials. Much as they must be bound by the law, they must follow the same rules.”

– Independent Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005

Those were stirring words from Patrick Fitzgerald.

And, I believe, he means them.

His presentation to the nation Friday was professional and persuasive.

Personally, I am not at all concerned about the CIA leak case.

I don’t believe anyone was hurt by the leaks.

Valerie Plame was no covert CIA agent, in my book. She had not been working overseas since 1996 and appeared unlikely to take any covert assignments abroad in the future.

Had Lewis Libby not lied under oath to investigators, I doubt very seriously he would be under indictment right now. Because no other crime appears to have been committed.

Nevertheless, Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, is now facing 30 years in jail for a cover-up of what he leaked to reporters.

While I like to see the high and mighty brought low as much as the next guy, the possible sentence seems a little excessive.

Where was this guy Fitzgerald when we really needed him?

Where was he when former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was caught red-handed stealing highly classified documents from the National Archives, destroying some and then lying about it to investigators?

If ever there was a crime that warranted 30 years in the slammer, it was that theft from the people and the ensuing cover-up.

But Sandy Berger walked. He got away with a modest fine and a prohibition against taking another national security job in the federal government until at least 2009. Big deal. His party is out of the White House until then.

Is anyone else struck with the contrast between these two prosecutions?

While I appreciate that independent counsels want to send signals to the people that even high officials can be brought down for violating the law, we also have a concept in this country of “equal justice under the law.”

Can anyone honestly look at these two cases – Libby and Berger – and tell me they were treated equally?

I don’t think so.

Now, I don’t have any love for the Bush administration. In fact, it was the Bush Justice Department that let Berger walk. I don’t know Scooter Libby – wouldn’t know him if I tripped over him. I never heard of him until the Valerie Plame case.

But 30 years for lying under oath?

Does anyone remember another high official who lied under oath?

I seem to remember a former president.

And what was his sentence?

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

His defenders say he was only lying about sex in the White House with an intern.

Well, heck, Libby was only lying about what he told reporters.

What’s a worse crime? Lying about abusive sexual behavior in a sexual harassment case, or lying about what you told some reporters?

I’m a reporter and I tell you the former is a much worse offense.

So where, for heaven’s sake, is the proportionality?

Where is the equal justice under the law?

Is it fair and just to throw the book at one official and let others skate for more serious crimes?

Does that breed respect of the law by the people?

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