Kangaroo Justice: Process crimes and moral equivalence

Welcome to 2010, where all crimes and sins can be made equal, given the right set of logical acrobatics. Welcome to 2010, where if a prosecutor isn’t able to prove an actual crime has taken place, he will just charge someone, anyone, with a process crime. What is a process crime, you might ask. Simply put, it is a crime committed during an investigation of another crime. Three examples come to mind, each of them equally wrong.

  1. President Bill Clinton was charged with lying to a Grand Jury about whether or not he had sex with the help. This occurred while he was being investigated for the White Water Land Scandal. There was insufficient evidence to charge him or Hillary with any crime related to that, so a frustrated Ken Starr charged him with perjury, which occurred in the process of the crime which didn’t occur, (at least it wasn’t committed by the Clintons.)
  2. Martha Stewart was investigated for insider trading. The prosecutor was unable to gain enough evidence to prove that the crime of insider trading even occurred. Martha was charged and convicted on a charge of Obstruction of Justice, for not answering the Federal Prosecutors requests for information in a timely manner. In Stewart’s case, she was charged and convinced in a process crime where the underlying investigation revealed that no crime had actually taken place.
  3. Scooter Libby, was charged in a process crime of Lying to a Federal Investigator for leaking the name of a non-covert intelligence operative, where once again, that investigation showed that no actual crime had occurred.

All three of these process crimes were wrong to prosecute.

This conversation is not solely about process crimes. It is also about moral equivalence. Moral equivalence is the thing which upsets me about the political left more than any other. Moral equivalence occurs when we allow ourselves to suspend discriminating thought. Here is an extreme example of moral equivalence. When somebody notices that a group of religious zealots hijacks and flies airplanes into buildings killing everyone of the airplane and a whole bunch of people in the building. When they further notice that those religious zealots are indeed Muslims chanting, “Allahu Akbar.” They might be inclined to say, we need to protect ourselves against Muslim Zealots, there will always be a group of people who will bleat on about those annoying Family Planning Picketers being just the same, and that we need to be just as wary of them as well. After all, one religious zealot is the same as another. Well, not quite. While the picketers are supremely annoying, they are actively attempting and succeeding at killing 3000 random people. It is true that the picketing zealots will occasionally commit acts of violence, which I do not condone by the way, typically their violence occurs at night and is exacted on buildings they believe will be empty, or targeted against individuals. Don’t misunderstand me, they deserve to be punished for their crimes. I’m just trying to point out that the depravity is not equal, or even close. There are degrees of wickedness.

Which brings me to this:
The WikiLeaks scandal, and the prosecution of Scooter Libby are not the same, not by a long shot. first off, Scooter Libby did not leak the name of Valerie Plame. Richard Armitage leaked the name of Valerie Plame. The prosecutor knew that Armitage was the name leaker prior to his even interviewing Libby, which by the way makes this process crime even worse to prosecute than the others. Richard Armitage was a Clinton appointee who was kept in his role by Bush 43 at the recommendation of Secretary Powell. He leaked Plame’s name because he was simply a gossip. He did not have some raging axe to grind. He didn’t have some nefarious scheme to hurt the country or strike a blow against the current administration. He just had a big mouth, and liked being the guy who knew everything. In retrospect, he probably wasn’t a good fit for the State Department. WikiLeaks occurred because an Army Intelligence Officer hated his country, and the Army in which he served. He had a nefarious scheme to do damage to his country and to do damage to the Army. His accomplice had a nefarious desire to damage any government he could damage, and has vowed to find ways to similarly damage other governments at his first opportunity. That Alan Colmes, and by proxy, people on the political left are trying to equate these two events is intellectually dishonest. By printing these leaked documents, the NYT is damaging the country. By printing the name of Valerie Plame, the NYT damaged only Valerie Plame, and the political left. Valerie Plame by the way called attention to herself, by printing an Op Ed in the same NYT attacking the Bush Administration during a Presidential Campaign. Had she and her husband not posted an Op Ed, her name would still be a super secret today.

Originally posted over at Musings of a Mad Conservative.

  1. Speaking of moral equivalency, I like how you made a moral equivalency between an actual crime (the Plame incident) and a non-crime (wikileaks). ref: http://www.lasisblog.com/2010/11/12/wikileaks-has-committed-no-crime/ You see, it IS a crime to intentionally leak a name of a covert operative, wikileaks redacted names, or at least did due diligence to ensure that no covert operatives were named (offering to turn over the Afghanistan docs to someone in the government who could redact names).

    1. First off, Valerie Plame was not a covert operative. she was riding pine at Langley. Second, Libby did not leak the name. If leaking her name were a crime, why was Armitage not charged by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald knew that Armitage had leaked the name prior to even speaking with Libby. Get your facts straight before spouting you Democrat Party talking points.

      Secondly, the Wiki Leaks leaker is sitting right now in a prison cell in Leavenworth Kansas. He has been charged with the very real crime of Treason against the United States and faces possible execution. Stealing those documents, and publishing them is an act of espianage against the United States, no matter what some crank with a keyboard says. Perhaps, as Pfc Manning faces the Lethal injection, he can console himself with the knowledge that you and Trevor Timm fell that no crime was committed.

      1. Well first, Assange is playing the part of Novak in this drama, not the part of Armitage, playing Armitage’s part would be Manning, who as you pointed out is in jail. Given that, and your equivalency, please tell me why Armitage isn’t in jail, and why there were no calls from the Senate floor for Novak’s arrest, nor media pundits calling for Novak’s assassination? I’ll tell you part of why Armitage isn’t in jail: Libby ran interference and lied to the investigators, thus committing the last crime in the chain. If someone were to commit Murder, and you came up with a false alibi and repeated it so often that the murderer went free, of course they’d send you to jail, given that because of your actions they can’t do it to the murderer. In Clinton’s case, the lying was to protect HIMSELF, which is, whether you believe it or not, a constitutionally-protected right. In Stewart’s case? “providing a false alibi, thus being the last crime in a chain”. Note that there is no constitutionally-protected right to prevent incrimination of others, just yourself, and the thing about rights is sometimes you have to take positive actions to protect them and not rely on the passive protections of the Constitution.

        Manning faces only prison, he’s not charged with treason, but violation of articles 92 and 134 of the UCMJ, which are non-capital offenses. Thanks for playing there though.

        As for the “democrat” comment, this isn’t hammer of democracy, this is hammer of liberty, we’re libertarians around here, so screw your red and blue states with a football bat. I certainly get the claim of being one of the few left-libertarians, more concerned with the civil rights part of libertarianism than the economic (TBH, I don’t think that the economy is even the government’s business, but if the government wants to take non-coerced money and spend it on _panem et circusem_, let ’em). One of those civil rights is freedom of speech, and that’s where Assange fits today: he published information. The fact that it was a crime to disseminate it to him is covered by the Manning Court Martial, and sometime in the next fifty-odd years, maybe Manning will get the fact that he was trusted not to do what he did, and breaking that trust was criminal. Armitage? All he got was a bad case of indigestion because his fall guy did his job.

        Last point, The trouble wasn’t Plame’s cover being blown, it was her front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, whose cover was blown, while covert operatives were still using the company as a front.

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