conflicts of interest

Remember that 12-hour advance warning that the Justice Department gave the White House rearding preserving documents related to the Plame Affair?

With pressure building, the Justice Department alerted the White House late Monday of the decision to move from a preliminary inquiry into a full investigation, a step rarely taken with complaints involving leaks of classified information.
Most White House employees discovered the probe was under way when they turned on their computers and found an e-mail timed at 8:46 a.m. that said: PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office. It alerted the staff to keep all documents that could be related to the investigation.

(emphasis mine). That's 8:46 AM Tuesday morning. This is outrageous - Nina Totenberg mentioned this on NPR noting that the 12-hour gift has not gone un-noticed:

"The White house asked for and got permission earlier this week to wait a day before issuing a directive to preserve all documents and logs which led one seasoned federal prosecutor to wonder why they wanted to wait a day, and who at the justice department told them they could do that, and why?"

Well, I think we know why. And the calls for a special prosecutor are increasing - including an overwhelming majority of the public polled on the issue:

Seven in 10 Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say they favor a special counsel rather than the administration's own Justice Department to investigate the leak of a CIA undercover officer's identity, according to an ABC-Washington Post poll.

Interestingly, Timothy Noah argues that a special prosecutor is not necessary:

many Democrats are calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Chatterbox isn't sure even that is worth the bother. Special prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the attorney general, making them the practical equivalent of a Justice Department employee. Why not just give it to the employee? Justice Department lifers, no less than special or independent counsels, have the ability to retaliate against politically motivated suppression of their investigation by leaking to the press.

I disagree, since even if the special prosecutor serves at the whim of the AG, they still have an additional layer of insulation (the "special" status) in the public eye that will help shield the investigation from interference. As Noah points out, when Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, his replacement simply picked right up where he left off. Firing a special prosecutor is a publicity-garnering event, so there's correspondingly more attention paid to the conduct of teh White House and the tone of its cooperation than if the entire investigation was handled internally.

We need a special propsecutor, and even a majority of Republicans polled agree. Anyone who argues otherwise is playing the partisan game and this time it isn't pork, but national security that lies at stake.

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