There are many ways to lie. The simplest is to assert something that is patently false. But a more insidious, effective way is to ignore facts that contradict one's narrative.
Consider the reaction of former FBI Director James Comey and former CIA employee Valerie Plame to President Trump's recent pardon of I. Lewis (aka Scooter) Libby. In 2007, Libby, who had been Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice during the investigation of how Plame's identity had been leaked to the press four years earlier. In pardoning Libby, Trump declared he had been unjustly prosecuted.
Eager to push their own agendas, Comey and especially Plame omit crucial facts about the Libby case that don't fit their claims. In a recent interview with Axios, Comey, who as deputy attorney general appointed his friend Patrick Fitzgerald as special counsel to investigate the leak of Plame's name, denounced the Libby pardon as "an attack on the rule of law."
For her part, Plame argued in a recent Op-Ed in The Washington Post that pardoning Libby gravely harmed her and her "entire network of foreign assets." She was forced to quit her job, she wrote, because the Bush White House leaked her name to punish her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, for exposing how the administration had cherry-picked weapons of mass destruction intelligence to lie the country into the Iraq War.
In fact, the CIA determined otherwise. An internal investigation soon after the 2003 leak found no evidence indicating that any CIA personnel, source or operation — or Plame herself, for that matter — was placed in jeopardy as a result of her outing. As to her supersecret, covert role, dozens if not hundreds of people knew she was an agency employee.
Plame, moreover, was not forced out of the CIA, though she has asserted that "political payback" ruined her career. While her motives remain unclear, she quit after the CIA concluded that neither she nor her family was in danger, and therefore, that the round-the-clock security protection she demanded was unnecessary.
We believed then, as we do today, that it was absurd to have treated the leak as a criminal matter. Everything we have learned since Libby's trial suggests that the investigation itself was a miscarriage of justice, not to mention an interminable distraction and a colossal waste of time and money.
It has been well known for years that it was Richard Armitage who leaked Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who in the process made her a public figure. Armitage, Secretary of State Colin Powell's deputy, was hardly a neocon war hawk trying to punish her husband for challenging WMD intelligence.
It is also now well-established that neither Libby nor Cheney outed Plame to reporters, despite Plame's, Comey's and special counsel Fitzgerald's repeated assertions.
What makes Libby's prosecution all the more unjust is that Fitzgerald knew about both the CIA's damage assessment and the identity of the original source of the leak before his inquiry began. But in the course of the four-year investigation, he subpoenaed at least 10 journalists — and put me, Judith Miller, in jail for 85 days — to pursue a noncrime that had caused no harm to national security.
As I initially disclosed in 2015, Fitzgerald then proceeded to withhold information from me and the defense that led me to give unwittingly false testimony in the Libby case. In 2015, after studying the new evidence, I recanted that testimony.
My recantation and other revelations ultimately led a panel of judges in the D.C. Court of Appeals to restore Libby's law license — because, as it found, there was ample reason to believe he was innocent.
Fitzgerald, who now represents Comey, never explained why the Justice Department continued an inquiry into a leak that had caused no national security harm. There is little doubt, however, that the inquiry itself fed a useful, if false, political narrative. The Iraq War wasn't simply a catastrophic mistake, these voices cry; it was the result of a deliberate lie.
"Bush lied; people died," the story line — one Trump himself has fed — goes.
Comey's and Plame's claims ultimately serve their own interests, not the country's. Lies by omission about the Libby case helped to criminalize policy differences in Washington and further polarize Americans.
Libby has now been pardoned. But the damage inflicted by such disregard for the truth, and its repetition as fact in credible news outlets, still haunt us.
Miller, a former New York Times reporter, is a City Journal contributing editor and author of "The Story: A Reporter's Journey." Rizzo is former general counsel of the CIA and author of "Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA."