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Special Report

Hume: Special counsel for security leaks probe?

Republicans demanding a special counsel to investigate national security leaks seem to have a case of shoe-on-the-other-foot disease. Have they forgotten their last experience with such a case, and such a counsel the protracted inquiry into the Valerie Plame case? She, you will recall, was the CIA employee whose identity was leaked to the media by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's right-hand man at the Bush State Department.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew almost from the start that Armitage was the leaker, but he continued to pursue the matter nonetheless. Not surprisingly, he ended up bringing no charges against anyone for leaking.

Instead he indicted Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby for things Libby said during the course of his investigation, in other words for offenses that would not have occurred if Fitzgerald had stopped when he discovered the leaker.

It was a clear illustration of what can happen when an ambitious prosecutor is given authority to pursue a singe case outside of normal channels. Now with a Democratic White House under suspicion of leaking, Republicans seem ready to loose another Captain Ahab to find another great white whale. They say they can't trust the Holder Justice Department to do the job. Maybe not, but Holder is at least answerable to the president and to Congress. Special counsels are effectively answerable to no one.