Leaker in Chief Gets Some Help from the Post –updated–
|Joe Wilson on “This Week.”
Also… Attacks on Fitz begin.
… Bush, it appeared, was not above the old leaking
game after all. The president who, as a younger man, once played the role
of loyalty enforcer in his father's White House had not forgotten how to play
hardball. According to a filing from the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak
investigation, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who has been indicted for lying in the
case, told a grand jury that President Bush specifically authorized him to
leak from an intelligence document on WMD in Iraq. … …
… Legally, Bush did nothing wrong. The president
can declassify a document any time he wants. Indeed, a sanitized version of
the document in questionÃ¢â‚¬”a National Intelligence Estimate compiled by
the CIA and other agenciesÃ¢â‚¬”was formally declassified and made public
only 10 days after some of its contents were leaked by Libby to New York Times
reporter Judith Miller in July 2003. But the administration was unquestionably
playing games with reporters, whether or not the president was directly involved.
For instance, on July 11, seven days before key portions
of the NIE were released, reporters badgered the then national-security adviser
Condoleezza Rice to allow them to see some of the NIE, which had been used
by the administration to make the case for war with Congress. “We don't
want to try to get into kind of selective declassification,” said Rice,
though she added, “We're looking at what can be made available.”
George W. Bush's new nickname is sticking. Leaker in Chief
is a perfect fit. It even comes with quotes and videotape.
So, this morning the president gets some help.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page is a notorious display
of wing-nut offerings. It never stops. Once you're on
Paul Gigot's editorial page, look out. It's Republican Party talking points or bust.
It seems the Washington Post is endeavoring to replicate
the Wall Street Journal, by using talking points on their editorial page, much
to the glee of Republicans, no doubt. Once you turn to the
editorial page, you've really walked into a land of facts forgotten. Their editorial
today is exhibit A, which strains all credulity, especially when holding the
editorial up against the article by Gellman and Linzer.
has a personal response from Joseph Wilson:
Sunday's Washington Post lead editorial
once again misrepresents the facts as the paper's own reporting in the Barton/Linzer
article in the same edition makes clear. While I respect the separation of
news and editorial function it might be helpful to the Post's readers if the
editorial board would at least read the news before offering its judgments.
One of the reasons my trip to Niger has been overanalyzed, as the Post editorial
says, is because people like those who wrote the editorial continue to misconstrue
the facts and the conclusions.”
As Wilson illuminates, whomever wrote the editorial isn't reading the Post's own reporting. Here's an editorial snippet:
PRESIDENT BUSH was right to approve the declassification
of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in
order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear
weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the
public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily,
exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that
Democrats are leveling.
Rather than follow the usual declassification procedures
and then invite reporters to a briefing — as the White House eventually did
— Vice President Cheney initially chose to be secretive, ordering his chief
of staff at the time, I. Lewis Libby, to leak the information to a favorite
New York Times reporter. The full public disclosure followed 10 days later.
There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that; nor is
this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized
disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national
security. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney's tactics make Mr. Bush look foolish for
having subsequently denounced a different leak in the same controversy and
vowing to “get to the bottom” of it.
A good leak? For whom, exactly?
It was a “good leak” for President Bush and the administration,
because it went after the man who was discrediting the Administration's uranium
from Niger claims. Claims that the NIE itself said were doubtful.
It was a “good leak” for George W. Bush because it kept
we the people distracted for a long time, as well as coerced the Senate to vote
It was a “good leak” because it allowed that distraction
and the misinformation to yield a second term for the president. A president who selectively cherry picked classified
information to declassify and then leak, in order to bolster his case for war, which an American
citizen had proved was faulty.
Specter thinks George W. Bush owes the public an explanation.
No, George W. Bush didn't leak Valerie Plame's name. Instead,
he gave the order to Dick Cheney to leak parts of the NIE to Judy Miller, which
were meant to discredit Joseph Wilson, which then led others in the administration
to get busy on the dirty details. Hey, did you know Joe Wilson's wife works
at the CIA on WMD? I bet she sent him to Niger. What do you think about
that? I can hear Karl Rove's hissing from history.
Let us now turn to the Post reporting for today by Gelman and
… United Nations inspectors had exposed the main
evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the
Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they
had additional, secret evidence they could not disclose. In June, a British
parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique
of Blair's role in promoting the story. With no ally left, the White House
debated whether to abandon the uranium claim and became embroiled in bitter
finger-pointing about whom to fault for the error. A legal brief filed for
Libby last month said that “certain officials at the CIA, the White House,
and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence
failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.”
It was at that moment that Libby, allegedly at Cheney's
direction, sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited
uranium allegation. Libby made careful selections of language from the 2002
estimate, quoting a passage that said Iraq was “vigorously trying to
procure uranium” in Africa.
The first of those conversations, according to the
evidence made known thus far, came when Libby met with Bob Woodward, an assistant
managing editor of The Washington Post, on June 27, 2003. In sworn testimony
for Fitzgerald, according to a statement Woodward released on Nov. 14, 2005,
Woodward said Libby told him of the intelligence estimate's description of
Iraqi efforts to obtain “yellowcake,” a processed form of natural
uranium ore, in Africa. In an interview Friday, Woodward said his notes showed
that Libby described those efforts as “vigorous.”
Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed
in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in
late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director
of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert
Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently
been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau
of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim “highly dubious.”
For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage
in the October estimate.
But the White House Iraq Group, formed in August 2002
to foster “public education” about Iraq's “grave and gathering
danger” to the United States, repeatedly pitched the uranium story. The
alleged procurement was a minor issue for most U.S. analysts — the hard part
for Iraq would be enriching uranium, not obtaining the ore, and Niger's controlled
market made it an unlikely seller — but the Niger story proved irresistible
to speechwriters. Most nuclear arguments were highly technical, but the public
could easily grasp the link between uranium and a bomb. … …
'Concerted Effort' to Discredit Bush Critic
Prosecutor Describes Cheney, Libby as Key Voices Pitching
So, let me get this straight. It's “a good leak,” according
to the Post, because it gives the American public information. But what about
the information that bolsters Wilson's assessment that the uranium from Niger
claim was bunk? Wouldn't that part
be good for Bush to include in the leaked information? I mean, as long as we're providing information to the public.
The simple truth is that George W. Bush and his administration
have been selectively leaking information to the press since Bush walked into
office, but amped up their misinformation campaign after 9/11. Bob Woodward got two books out of it.
The president can declassify at will, the Republicans and the
Washington Post, along with Fox “News” claims. He can use the press
to facilitate his convenient leaks of omission. But just because George W. Bush uses administration officials
to dump selectively declassified information to reporters for political purposes,
which make his case, without offering the full truth, doesn't make it right,
ethical or good for this country. To do so to discredit a critic, who actually
has the facts right, is not only immoral but it is un-American. It is a disgrace.
According to the filing by the prosecutor,
Libby told the grand jury that he had been authorized by Cheney to disclose
the “key judgments” of the NIE. Libby further testified that Cheney
told him he had “consulted” with Bush. A lawyer familiar with the
investigation, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of
the matter, told NEWSWEEK that the “president declassified the information
and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out.” But Bush
“didn't get into how it would be done. He was not involved in selecting
Scooter Libby or Judy Miller.” Bush made the decision to put out the
NIE material in late June, when the press was beginning to raise questions
about the WMD but before Wilson published his op-ed piece. (Bush once harrumphed
that he would fire whoever had outed Plame. No one is accusing Bush of leaking
Plame's name, but he started the ball rolling that ended up with her exposure.)
I think we can lose the question mark.