Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Karl Rove and Due Process

It appears that no charges will be filed against Karl Rove relating to the Valerie Plame investigation.

I suspect that many Democrats will still proclaim Rove guilty, as Democratic National Committee Chairman John Dean did on the Today show. Partisanship on both sides create a mindset where people in the other party are presumed guilty unless proven innocent. Since no person can ever be proved innocent (the best a person can do is defeat all of the evidence that exists that says that he is guilty), Rove will always be presumed guilty in their eyes.

I follow a different set of assumptions. I have no admiration for Rove. However, on this specific issue, I am confronted with a situation where I must compare the opinions of two people. One is that of a person who has spent years going over the evidence and testimony and who knows more about the case than anybody, and the opinions of a person who knows only what he gleaned out of a few articles read in online news accounts.

The first person, in this case, is the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The second person is me. Given these two options, the intellectually responsible person would have to go with Fitzgerald’s judgment in this case, which is the judgment that I will make.

This is the morally and intellectually responsible position to take.

The crime of cherry-picking data that supports a presumption of guilt has been one of the most destructive traits we have seen. Bush got us into this war with Iraq by presuming guilt and reading into the evidence the guilt that he assumed was there. He completely lacked the ability to trust to an independent investigator. We would have been in a lot better shape today if Bush had only trusted the investigators who were in Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction that they could not find any. However, he had to presume guilt and attack his enemy even in the face of insufficient evidence. Many Democrats will condemn Bush for this, while they do exactly the same thing themselves with respect to Karl Rove.

However, there is another aspect of this case that deserves mention. It does not require an assumption that Rove is guilty. It only requires suspicion.

Rove has been the beneficiary of a system of justice that requires due process. This system has allowed him to live his life in relative peace while an investigation was conducted to see if it was possible to prove wrongdoing.

Karl Rove might have learned a valuable lesson if he had been given the same treatment that he and the rest of the Bush Administration, and in particular Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have argued for over the past five years. A fundamental principle of morality says to treat others as you would have others treat you.

Under this principle, Karl Rove should have been picked up one day on his way to work, stuffed into a van, and then hauled off to the nearest airport. From there, he would have been flown to a "black site" in eastern Europe or an American-run prison in Afghanistan and Iraq, and given the status of an ‘enemy combatant.’ After all, he was suspected of providing Iran with important military information. Valerie Plame was allegedly working to discover Iran’s nuclear secrets when Karl Rove was suspected of blowing her cover.

At this secret prison, Rove would have had no access to lawyers or any of the institutions of justice that people enjoy in a civilized country. Evidence against him would not have been presented to a grand jury. It would have been handed to his captors to provide a starting point to the questioning that would follow.

There would be no "one phone call" to a lawyer or anybody else. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, he simply disappeared.

His questioners would have every right to assume that he is a part of a cell working for the benefit of Iran by discovering and exposing agents keeping track of Iran's ability to produce atomic weapons.

The questioning would involving sleep depravation, waterboarding, and all of the other procedures that might result in his pleading for an opportunity to reveal the secrets of his activity to weaken the United States by exposing its secrets. Knowing that his interrogators expect him to tell them about his plan to aid Iran, he would tell them what they wanted to hear. If they believe him, then maybe they will leave him alone. They will believe him only if he can tell them a story that they are predisposed to accept as true.

Rove would then have every reason to expect that this is what his life will be like for the indefinite future. He has nothing to look forward to but day after day of this. If he should protest this treatment by means of a hunger strike, he will be force-fed. If he should decide that he has nothing left in life to look forward to, he might try to take his own life. Whether he does or does not, nobody else will know about it. That will not matter anyway.

Perhaps his interrogators will decide that they have no further need of him and let him free. One morning, he wakes up on a street in Albania. He is released. He goes home. He thinks he might want to file a lawsuit against his captors for what they did to him for six months. However, the judge rules that his private interests must give way to matters of national security. He has no 'rights' in this case. He is not entitled to compensation for what he has been put through.

According to Karl Rove himself and other members of the Bush Administration, this is how we should treat potential threats to national security. Bush, as the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, exercising his responsibility to keep America safe, certainly has the authority to declare Karl Rove an ‘enemy combatant’ and subject him to this fate.

But he will not.

This is one of the evils of arbitrary power, like that which the Bush Administration is claiming for the President. The best way to escape the pains of arbitrary power is to become friends of those who wield it and to help turn against those who would protest. That is how dictators are born.

Instead, Karl Rove gets to remain free. His prosecutors are bound by legal requirements of getting warrants before they could access his secret files. Or did Patrick Fitzgerald have the right to use the NSA phone database to find out everybody Karl Rove had called or who had called him during the days in question – information that the government can apparently collect on everybody without a warrant? He would, after all, be using the information in an attempt to protect national security by finding those who would expose government secrets.

It is possible to identify people who do not have a basic understanding of morality by the fact that they insist that others have an obligation to live under a set of rules that they declare themselves to be immune from. In this case, they demand the rights of due process, while denying those same rights to others.

We can apply this example to a number of people who have joined the ranks of those who have shown no regard for due process as a moral principle and a human right . . . former majority leader of the House of Representative Tom DeLay, Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Conservative hate-monger Ann Coulter, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Fox news commentator Bill O’Reilly.

All of these peoples’ lives would have been quite different if they had lived under a system of “presume guilt unless proven innocent and cease all of this nonsense talk of civil rights” that they advocate for others.


Hume's Ghost said...

It's a tricky issue. No charges were brought against Rove, but this doesn't mean he didn't out Plame to reporters, which is what some people are interpreting the lack of charge to mean. The apparent difference between Scooter Libby and Karl Rove was that Rove admitted to giving Plame's name to a reporter (Cooper if I recall correctly), while Libby lied about it.

Hume's Ghost said...

From an old WP article on this

To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent's identity.

You can see how someone could out an agent without it being a violation of the law.

As an aside, the bit in that article about not giving Plame's name is asinine. Wilson's wife was identified as a CIA agent, which is giving her name, since it was no secret that Wilson had a wife.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the greatest fan of President Bush. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq--big deal so I was right.
But to blame the president is really shirking our own responsibility for the invasion. We were a wounded nation after 9/11 and we wanted vengeance. We were bleeding for vengeance. Bush merely facilitated our desires. Bush lied and what not. So what? He did what we wanted, he waged war, and we felt pretty good that he did. Iraq today is our nation's fault, not Bush's alone.