Just when things looked darkest for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, when prison seemed all but certain, President Bush wiped away the former White House aide's 2 1/2-year sentence in the CIA leak case.
Bush's move came Monday, just five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. His prospects for an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court seemed bleak. The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby was just waiting for a date to surrender.
After months of sidestepping pardon questions, Bush stepped in. He did not issue a pardon but erased a prison sentence that he felt was just too harsh.
"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a written statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison."
That's all fine and good -- I agree that the sentence was excessive.
But there are two people in prison right now who shouldn't be, with terms much longer than 30 months, and it has been a lot longer than five hours after their sentencing.
Their names are Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. They are the two Border Patrol Agents, arrested for defending themselves against an illegal alien smuggling over 740 lbs of marijuana into the United States.
Agents Ramos and Compean were sentenced to eleven and twelve year prison terms with a possibility of twenty years to life. I wrote about this travesty back in January in an open letter to President Bush:
On February 17, 2005, U.S. Border Agent Ignacio Ramos (a former nominee for Border Patrol Agent of the Year), and Jose Compean attempted to apprehend a fleeing illegal alien at our border. Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila had the pleasure of getting a personal visit from a Department of Homeland Security investigator, sent by you, to offer him full immunity in exchange for testifying against the Border Patrol Agents.
Really, Mr. President? Who are you representing -- an illegal immigrant who tried to smuggle drugs across the border and assaulted an American, or Americans who are trying to protect other Americans? You didn't offer them a pardon, so I guess we know your answer.
Mr. Aldrete-Davila thanked you for your kindness, generosity, and faith by getting caught smuggling more drugs into the United States. He was again freed. He thanked the United States by suing for $5 million, claiming his civil rights were violated.
T.J. Bonner, of the National Border Patrol Council, said on CNN that ''This is really the most outrageous miscarriage of justice that I'm aware of in my twenty-eight years as a border patrol agent. I have never seen anything so... I can't even think of the word.''
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, said, ''The word is out that the southern border is undefended. Border agents won't dare to draw their weapons, and the drug cartel will double their effort to drive a wedge in our border.''
''This is the worst betrayal of American defenders I have ever seen,'' he continued. ''It's shameful this was done by someone who is in the Republican Party. He obviously thinks more about his agreements with Mexico than the lives of American people and backing up his defenders.''
They are now in prisons where they are surrounded by criminals, which they themselves have arrested. They were being held in the general population -- until Ignacio Ramos was the victim of a brutal attack by a group of illegal immigrants yelling “Maten a la migra!” which means “Kill the Border Patrol agent.” He suffered repeated blows and kicks, and allegedly did not receive medical attention for up to 48 hours after the attack. His wife reported he had a concussion, with blood coming out of his ears after the attackers kicked him wearing their prison work-issued, steel toe boots in the back, ribs, and head.
These men were doing their job to protect us and our borders, and yet they are in prison. Where is a pardon for them, or a commutation of their sentences? Both are married, with families. They did nothing wrong, and the President is refusing to act.
That's why there is no reason whatsoever that this Scooter Libby clemency should be news.