Feb. 13, 2007 -- After making a star turn observing courtroom proceedings last week in Washington, former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., is now publicly railing against Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's prosecution of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, calling it a "travesty and injustice."
While serving as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee in the late 1990s, Sen. Thompson led the fight to allow the Office of Independent Counsel to expire and in the years since, Thompson clearly remains wary of prosecutors with too much power.
"When you put too much power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable people who have every incentive to focus massive resources onto one particular person -- who gets the plaudits in the media for doing so -- it's a bad thing. And many, many times an injustice can occur," said Thompson in an exclusive interview with ABC News.
Prosecuting the Prosecutor
Thompson, a character actor who plays a conservative district attorney on television's "Law & Order," indicated that he still believes it is appropriate for the U.S. Attorney General to appoint a special counsel when a conflict of interest exists and a clear violation of the law has occurred. However, Thompson -- who has contributed to Libby's defense fund -- doesn't believe Libby's case meets that threshold.
Thompson claims that it was clear Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose identity was leaked, was not covered under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and that, he believes, should have short-circuited the entire investigation.
"There was no indication that a law had been violated," said Thompson.
"That's borne out by the fact that nobody's been charged with outing her. The Justice Department knew that early on. The CIA should have known that early on. Special Counsel Fitzgerald had to have known that at the very beginning. There was no law that had been violated at the time the investigation had been started," he added.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, declined to comment on Thompson's remarks on the handling of the case.
Witnesses Fail to Remember Their Lines
The actor-turned-senator-turned-actor, who also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney told ABC News, "Usually, in District Attorney's offices across the country and U.S. Attorney's offices, you balance out all of the factors in the case and how the thing came about, how the investigation started, the severity of it and all of that."
"You very very seldom see a charge like this brought," he explained, then adding, "You can get someone caught up on a faulty memory and make this kind of accusation in almost any investigation. Here, everybody connected with the case has a faulty memory. We've seen an array of prosecution witnesses, one after another, who cannot remember entire conversations they had with people."
The lack of supervision surrounding Fitzgerald is where Thompson sees a prosecution out of control.
There was "no brake and no check and no balance at all as he pursued his job and as the press was expecting him to return something for all this money and effort that he was putting out and, of course, he didn't disappoint him," criticized Thompson.
"He turned out to be a fella who can see miles and miles in a straight line, but had no peripheral vision at all and didn't realize apparently that he was caught up in a bureaucratic political dogfight."
Keep the Day Job
As for NBC News' Tim Russert's performance on the witness stand the day Thompson was sitting in court? The actor isn't sure the broadcaster should start preparing a reprise for a future episode of Law & Order.
"I don't know if he's quite up to that or not, but he's certainly welcome to apply," advised Thompson.