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Is immunity in offing as Congress looks at Plame case?


By SCOTT SHEPARD
Cox News Service

WASHINGTON — As Congress tip-toes into the controversy over the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, some lawmakers and analysts worry that the criminal investigation of the matter could be undermined by any congressional grant of immunity from prosecution, as has happened in the past in politically charged investigations.

The cases of key Iran-contra figures Oliver North and John Poindexter underscore their worries: both were prosecuted and convicted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, but their convictions were overturned because Congress had granted them immunity in order to compel them to testify in the congressional investigation of the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages deals.

Walsh, in his final report on the White House brokering arms deals with Iranian terrorists to free American hostages and diverting arms sales profits to anti-government guerrillas in Nicaragua, complained that Congress had "infinitely complicated" his efforts to prosecute North and Poindexter or to force them to testify about the activities of higher-ups in the Reagan administration.

"Immunity is ordinarily given by a prosecutor to a witness who will incriminate someone more important than himself," Walsh wrote. "Congress gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who incriminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the initiation, supervision and support of their activities."

Walsh concluded with a word of caution to future lawmakers: "Congress should be aware of the fact that future immunity grants, at least in such highly publicized cases, will likely rule out criminal prosecution."

Consequently, because recent disclosures that senior White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby were sources for Time magazine reports about Plame, some lawmakers and analysts are reprising the warnings of Walsh to the congressional intelligence committee chairmen as they plan hearings on the leak.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for example, is drafting letters of caution to the chairmen, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.

"The (congressional) hearings should not be used as a ruse to provide White House officials with immunity," Lautenberg said in a statement late Friday.

Roberts and Hoekstra could not be reached for comment, and their spokesmen at their committees did not respond immediately to requests for details about the upcoming hearings.

Tom Blanton, president of the National Security Archive and a leading expert on the Iran-contra scandal, noted some differences in the situation facing Roberts and Hoekstra and the one facing the co-chairs of the Iran-contra investigation, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and then-Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., most notably the timing of the criminal investigations.

Walsh was just getting his investigation started when Congress granted immunity to North and Poindexter, and Congress was anxious to discover the facts of the still unfolding events of the Iran-contra affair, Blanton noted.

On the other hand, Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent counsel appointed to investigate the leaking of Plame's name, has been at work for two years already "and, hopefully, has some idea of what happened and whether any crimes have been committed," he added.

Still, "you always have to be careful with granting immunity to witnesses," Blanton said.

Similarly, David Garrow, noted author and Emory University law professor, agreed that any prosecution arising from the special investigation could be undermined "if the Congress did immunize people." But he questioned whether the planners of the upcoming congressional hearings "are that Machiavellian."

After much prodding by former CIA officials and Democratic lawmakers, Roberts and Hoekstra said last week that their panels would hold hearings on issues raised by the public disclosure of Plame's identity, reportedly by the White House in political vendetta for her husband's critique of pre-war intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

It is unclear, however, when those hearings will be held and what exactly they will examine.

Hoekstra, in a mid-week speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said his hearings would focus on toughening federal laws barring the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

But he declined to comment on the extent to which his hearings would examine the leaking of Plame's name to reporters after her husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson, questioned some of the claims made by the White House about Iraq's nuclear capabilities prior to the war.

In addition, early last week, Roberts suggested to Time magazine and CNN that his committee would look into the leak of Plame's identity as part of an examination of how the CIA determines which officials at the agency get "covert" status. But by mid-week, Roberts was quoted by other news organizations as saying he would limit the hearings to the issue of "covert" status.

"It's silly that someone would assume that we should take the role of a special prosecutor," he told a home state newspaper, the Wichita Eagle.

But his spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said the Senate hearings would look into the two-year probe by Fitzgerald, her comments coming after editorial columns in the Wall Street Journal labeled Fitzgerald a "loose cannon" and an "unguided missile."

Scott Shepard's e-mail address is sshepard(at)coxnews.com.

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An unguided missile? That's a good thing.

How much more will they undermine this country ?
Will people finally unite when the Goons start going door to door ?
Bush and Company are the New World Order for the Rich, ONLY.
What makes them different from the Gestapo of WWII ? NOT MUCH. JUST TIME.
Fitzgerald and the Neo-Con's will aggree, to give Amnesty to all of Bush's buddies, and Bush himself, we all know it.
Bush is just a chip off the old block, who was a chip off the old block, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN ? PRESCOTT BUSH.
HEY, do your History, This all started PRIOR to WWII, The Goons of today are nothing but decendents of Goons from long ago.

I know this is very frustrating, but this tactic is nothing new.
What IS new, is the fact that we a huge number of "Saturdaze Kidz"
combining efforts in a peer-to-peer world wide communication network for the first time in recorded history to expose these Marchiavellian tactics for what they are.

For us "Older Kidz", we immediately recognize this PNAC NEO CON
play as the same pattern they played in "IRAN/CONTRA" with Ollie
North & Co. Recognizing that you are being swindled is the first
step in coming up with a counter-defense/offense.

Come on now,
I am sure there was something we learned in either a Scoobie Doo
mystery, a National Lampoon or Charlie Chaplan movie, or a SPY vs. SPY Mad cartoon that will provide the key to "Porky-izing" these
NEO CON blow hards. They aren't that smart, ya know. We know
what THEY are going to do because predators always do the same
things over and over because it works. Let's be ready for them!!!
Expose them and scream it from the roof-tops!!!

I guess I agree with Ben Franklin, that the key to making the first
great experiment in Democracy work lies with what he called
"The Middlings", what we would call the "middle class."

Franklin & Co relied heavily on the new media of the printing press (which was still illegal in most of the world at the time). From the first time I connected two main frame computers together over
a leased line and sent e-mail, I have had this dream of the Internet
as the NEW META-PRINTING PRESS, the ultimate in multi-media peer-to-peer communications that would finally give us the power to expose these Patriarhcal Tyrants and their Machiavellian ways.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with people all over the world that have dedicated their lives to Peace and the Pursuit
of Happiness for All Humankind over these lines of communication.
I am very proud of the Internet we have built and that it has allowed us to come together for peace in forums such as this.

We've had Patriarchal tyranny for over 6000 years. We are replacing
it, but we are having to make up the new model of Liberty and Democracy as we go along. The NEO CONS keep trying to sabotage our efforts to justify going back to the Imperial Ruling Class/Slave Class model. Marx never counted on a Joseph Stalin and Jefferson never counted on a JP Morgan or an Albert Pike. . . they didn't have
Freud, Adler, Skinner, Maslow, Jung, Lilly, or Leary to prepare them for truly dysfunctional personalities destroying their models.

I think we can take 'em.

peace.

The possibility of amnisty for the likes of Bush Rove Bolton and all, makes me shudder. I only pray that their actions are being closely watched by the Hauge and the ICC. Impeachment should be only the beginning!

Vote the republicans out in the "06" elections. Then and only then will we be able to impeach George W Bush, and put the other's in jail.

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