Friday, April 7, 2006

Plamegate: Are You Really Surprised?

Where's Ken Starr now?

A Leaking Mess

April 7, 2006

Yesterday it was disclosed that President Bush authorized Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby to disclose classified information in an effort to discredit Joseph Wilson, a CIA adviser whose criticisms undermined the administration's case for war. According to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s 39-page court filing (PDF), Libby testified that Cheney told him that the president authorized Libby to disclose “relevant” portions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.). These revelations put Bush and Cheney at the heart of the administration-wide effort to attack Wilson. In addition, it shows that Bush wasn’t above leaking information to suit his purposes — even information that the administration knew was false.

  • President Bush authorized the leaking of information despite repeated assurances to the contrary. Over the past 2 ½ years, President Bush has made numerous statements speaking out against leaking. On October 28, 2003, the president said, "I'd like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information." Turns out, he knew all along who was leaking — himself. Bush was personally authorizing highly-sensitive intelligence leaks and has therefore been engaged in a cover up about the extent of his own involvement in the leak case.

  • When President Bush authorized the leak of the information, the administration was aware the information wasn’t true. What is perhaps the most troubling aspect of these new revelations is that the White House knew the information Bush was leaking wasn’t true. The full N.I.E. actually bolstered Wilson's claim. The CIA gave "low confidence" to the uranium claim and said "we cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore." The estimate further said the intelligence was "inconclusive." By authorizing a small, select portion of the N.I.E. to leak, Bush was clearly engaging in a political smear campaign.

  • These new disclosures do not affect the case against Scooter Libby. Libby’s naming of the president and vice president do not take him off the hook. He is on trial for having allegedly lied to the FBI and the grand jury about how he learned about Valerie Plame’s identity. The court filing reasserts that the "central issue at trial (PDF) will be whether defendant lied when he testified that he was not aware that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA prior to his purported conversation with Tim Russert about Mr. Wilson's wife on or about July 10, 2003."

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