"What's black and white and read all over?"

Friday, April 07, 2006
Posted 10:12 PM by

Valerie Plame, Lynn Swann and me

Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, play 'I Spy' in front of the White House. Val won with 'I spy Dick Cheney's comeuppance.'Welcome to Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, political revenge edition.

Scooter Libby named Vice President Dick Cheney and his boss, President Bush, (or is it vice versa?) in court papers as the people who gave him permission to disclose Valerie Plame's employment as an undercover CIA agent to reporters, court papers filed this week say.

And somewhere in California, Richard Nixon did a 360 in his grave.

Libby had serious qualms about leaking such classified intelligence, but was pressured by Cheney, who told him the president wanted it done.

In his court filing, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald asserted that "the president was unaware of the role" that Libby "had in fact played in disclosing" Plame's status. The prosecutor gave no such assurance, though, regarding Cheney.

Bush and Cheney's motive is obvious - political revenge against Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who publicly questioned Bush's "evidence" of weapons of mass destruction for the Iraq war.

I see a lot more questions about my credibility and truthfulness on the horizon.Bush, who has the right as president to declassify information and leak it to whoever he wants to, gets a pass on any possible impeachment from the affair.

However, his public vow that he would find and punish the White House leaker now seems about as earnest as the oath O.J. Simpson took to find his ex-wife's real killer.

Something sort of similar happened at the state level last week, only in reverse.

John L. Micek, the Allentown Morning Call's Harrisburg reporter, questioned a state Department of Revenue spokeswoman on March 27 whether gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann should be collecting the 6 percent state sales tax on some of the memorabilia sold on the Hall of Famer's Web site, including autographed footballs.

Swann, a Republican, will face Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, in the fall.

That same day, the Revenue Department sent the former Steelers star a five-page questionnaire about the mission and activities of Swann Inc.

Four days later - even faster than the state's mail to him - Swann agreed to start paying sales taxes and Micek reported that the state would not be seeking back taxes nor face penalties.

Here's where it gets interesting folks.

Citing confidentiality restrictions last Friday, Revenue Department spokesman Steve Kniley said he could not say whether tax officials had received the questionnaire back from Swann. Nor could he say whether Swann Inc. had applied for a sales tax license.

Did Pennsylvania revenuers violate state law in order to publicly embarass Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann? It sure seems that way.But today, exactly one week later, the Revenue Department introduced a new weapon in its efforts to pressure delinquents to pay overdue sales taxes - public embarrassment - by posting their names on its Web site.

Oops. I guess somebody finally realized that what they did to Swann was unprecedented and tried to cover their tracks. I wonder if they would have been so accomodating if the reporter was seeking similar information about an incumbent Democrat?

Was Micek tipped to Swann's mistake in an effort to embarrass him? John's a pretty good reporter so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he just looked at Swann's Web site and saw no sales tax was being charged.

I'm a pretty good reporter too, or so I've been told.

That's why at least one Luzerne County official broke federal law by tapping a national crime computer to dig up dirt on me nearly a decade ago.

NCIC is the nation's most extensive computerized criminal justice information system, containing criminal history information, files on wanted persons, and information on stolen vehicles and missing persons. It is available for use by any cop in a police cruiser or in radio contact with a police dispatcher. Most 911 centers also have access to it.

Unfortunately, it's also easily accessible by politicians seeking to dig up dirt on anyone they want, even though there's supposed to be laws against such abuse. And that's just what happened.

I pulled a DUI in 1990. There was no accident and I was just over the legal limit. But at that time, I was the court reporter for the Press-Enterprise in Columbia County so you can imagine my embarrassment and that of the paper. The judge even woke up to sentence me. A first offender, I got probation and a suspended license.

Seven years went by and I started working for the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre covering the corrupt political machine run by the Luzerne County commissioners.

Two weeks on the job, I got a call from a friend in the Columbia County Prothonotary's office that Luzerne County's Clerk of Courts, who also doubles as a ward leader, was prying into my old case which I left on the public record rather than have expunged.

I didn't say anything publicly about it at the time - there was no reason to, but I let that politician privately know he had broken the law by misusing the computer system.

It's all just politics as usual my friends, or as Don Segretti called it while working to re-elect ol' Tricky Dick, "Rat fucking."
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