But for Fitzgerald, a prosecutor known for being as tough and relentless as he is brilliant, that's a distinction without a difference.
It's a matter of law, and anyone who knows Fitzgerald knows he doesn't hang back when he believes a crime might have been committed - no matter what the crime might be.
"At a certain point, we have to yield to law because if we don't, we're lost," Fitzgerald told a judge this month, on the day New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail at his request for refusing to testify about her sources.
The mentality is classic Fitzgerald, colleagues and friends say, calling it the secret to his success. But the aggressive tactics that flow from it have, at times, drawn controversy.
Fitzgerald's decision to force journalists to reveal their sources has been criticized by reporters and some legal analysts, who say it could irreparably damage the news media's ability to do their work. Others, including some critics, call it a clever and, above all, necessary move that could help Fitzgerald solve a puzzling case.
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have sat for questioning by Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney from Chicago chosen by the Justice Department in December 2003 to handle the leak case.
Karl Rove, a top Bush aide, is under fire for his involvement in the matter, after Fitzgerald subpoenaed e-mails from Matt Cooper, a Time magazine correspondent, detailing a conversation in which Rove mentioned the agent, Valerie Plame, although not by name.
Scott McClellan, Bush's press secretary, has been fielding daily questions from journalists at the White House demanding to know why he denied two years ago that Rove was involved.
Miller is on Day 11 of her jail stay.
Fitzgerald declined, through his office, to be interviewed for this article. But friends, colleagues and adversaries say the aggressive methods he has employed in the CIA leak case are typical of the workaholic Chicago prosecutor, an Amherst College Phi Beta Kappa in math and economics with a Harvard law degree, who has always excelled at taking unorthodox approaches to mind-boggling problems.
"Pat always sees beyond the obvious in a case," said David N. Kelley, a friend who worked organized crime and terrorism cases alongside Fitzgerald in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.
One night, shortly after both had started there, Kelley gazed down at stacks of files in a case he was handling, certain he was about to lose. Colleagues who came by to page through his notes and research agreed, one by one, that Kelley was doomed. Not Fitzgerald.
"Pat looked at it and said to me, 'Have you thought about it this way?' And I hadn't. And it's suddenly like someone had flicked the lights on," said Kelley, now Manhattan's top federal prosecutor. Kelley worked all night drafting a brief based on Fitzgerald's idea and salvaged his case.