Wilsongate calls for special counsel

From Wilsongate’s beginning, commentators and politicians have demanded that Attorney General John Ashcroft name a special counsel to the investigation. Ashcroft acknowledges that political matters or conflicts of interest are situations that call for special counsel but then claims to see neither as an issue here, in which he is obviously ignoring reality.

Ashcroft must recuse himself and name someone else, of unquestionable integrity, to determine how and why an administration official revealed Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative. Outside counsel would insulate the investigation from partisan politics as much as is practical. Special counsel would not be a career Justice Department employee or a political appointee and would therefore be more independent.

The issue is obviously political, as legislators’ statements make clear. Washington disagrees on this issue along strict party lines. Democrats criticize the administration’s handling of the matter daily, while Republicans condemn the offenders with hyperbole, then question Joseph Wilson’s politics or support the president on the matter. When a Republican like Arlen Specter disagrees, he is quickly made to retract his comments.

Unlike prior attorneys general, Ashcroft has shown no capability of opposing the White House. The idea that Ashcroft can investigate his co-workers and bosses with integrity is tenuous. More problematic is Ashcroft’s relationship with President George W. Bush’s adviser Karl Rove, who worked on three Ashcroft campaigns and someone many feel at least condoned the leaks.

The administration recently announced it will review all documentation requested by the Justice Department and determine whether to withhold some through executive privilege. This increases the need for special counsel. The investigation stands ripe for coverup and fraud.

Ashcroft needs to name someone independent of the Justice Department to investigate an administration that put a CIA operative’s life and our nation’s security in danger just to get back at someone who dared criticize it.