Thoughts on Bush’s Role in Press Leaks

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Currently, there are a couple of U.S. government officials who have been charged, prosecuted, and/or ordered to serve prison time because they were involved in leaks of national security information.
One of these people is former Defense Department official Lawrence Franklin who pled guilty to leaking classified information to two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. Another is former State Department official Donald Keyser who was charged with taking classified information out of the State Department, something I remember that former CIA Director John Deutsch did when he was reading and processing classified information on his home computer — and definitely on par with former National Security Advisor taking notes from classified memos — and taking memos themselves — from classified material holding vaults.
I’m not in a position to really know what constitutes “guilt” in these cases, and I have softened my own criticism of Franklin and AIPAC if, in fact, the U.S. President has engaged in the same behavior that his staff has.
The response that many have had to Bush’s authorization of leaks that the President has the authority to declassify information does not interest me. The fact is that the President engaged in behavior that his staff are being prosecuted for — and whether I like what Franklin was doing with AIPAC or not — it seems clear to me that given how he saw his boss, Douglas Feith, conducting his office that Franklin would have felt that his behavior was not only appropriate but probably expected.
In the case of Donald Keyser, whom I know by reputation and from afar, he may have been sloppy with classified information — but I know that that State Department and USTR officials, as well as Commerce Department and Treasury officials, trade information back and forth with other diplomats, public intellectuals, NGOs, journalists, and the like. Keyser is a senior guy — and as far as I can tell was engaged in exactly the same sorts of “information exchange” activity that I have been involved with with countless of government officials throughout the administration. As Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report wrote last night — and which I will post later, sometimes the “cops” don’t understand what is normal operating procedure when it comes to the management of ‘sensitive information’.
Again, I do not know the hard details of the cases against people like Keyser and Franklin, but I don’t believe that either of these people were Ames-like spies. They were not self-dealers. They did not seek personal gain in doing their job and leaking information as they did.
And the President of the United States — who has talked a vigilant and hostile line when it came to other leakers — did exactly the same thing.
Bush’s moral credibility is in doubt in the eyes of many Americans, and the latest AP/IPSOS poll shows this — with President Bush’s favorability now posting its lowest ever reading at 36%.
The night that the FBI raided Lawrence Franklin’s office was August 27th, my birthday, and I recall that Josh Marshall (who was over) and I both looked at each other when we heard the news and said it must be Larry Franklin. In an email exchange later that night, CNN’s David Ensor and I traded communications that it appeared Franklin was the target of the FBI investigation.
We would not have suspected Franklin, in my view, if he was not quite visibly engaged in relationship building with an oddball roster of players in the Middle East. Douglas Feith, in my view, had created a culture where this exchange of information, including quid pro quo deals, were part of the way he and his team operated. After all, Feith — who had deep and broad relationships with the senior echelon of Israel’s defense and intelligence bureaucracies — had also housed the Iraqi National Congress in his pre-DoD legal office. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress Chief of Intelligence Aras Karim Habib was apparently a sieve of information from Feith’s activities and operation to Iranian intelligence.
In fact, one interesting question that few have seriously explored is whether Iran, Israel, Turkey and Chalabi were essentially colluding via Douglas Feith’s operation for some time — both before Feith went into government and after. (I will be writing more about this in a future post.)
In the mean time, however, Bush’s leak makes all other leak controversies look small. This is an administration that has actually gone back to the National archives to reclassify declassified information. This administation is obsessed with creating fortresses around secrets, and then the “top dog”, as Karl Rove has called him, went and leaked highly classified material.
One of the things that really bothers me about this leak is that it’s not like the President authorized the leak and then told the rest of the world that the information he and Cheney were promulgating was now officially declassified.
Let’s have some honesty about this. That material has never been officially “declassified” as part of a process. The material that was leaked (i.e. “declassified” by the President) is not over at the National Security Archives at George Washington University.
This was a selective declassification if one wants to be generous, but the defense of the President’s actions holds no water if the information was not more broadly promulgated than Judith Miller and the other involved journalists. In fact, did Judy Miller think that she was getting “declassified” information — or was she trafficking in “Secret” information. I think the latter.
The President’s potential defense that this was legal is irrelevant. His behavior has undermined all other leak cases and prosecutions where officials were engaged in official work but not self-dealing and engaged in corrupt acts.
More later.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

58 comments on “Thoughts on Bush’s Role in Press Leaks

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  6. Matt Rose says:

    Today’s Washington Post Editorial pages reprints the lie (amongst many others) that Bush did declassify this information. I invite you to take them to task. Publishing outright mis-statements of objective fact diminishes The Washington Post brand.
    On a separate line, when is someone going to ask the President, “When you stated that you wanted to know who was leaking this classified information, where you aware that it was you?”

    Reply

  7. Pissed Off American says:

    “It seems that some Republicans are willing to stand up to the WH.”
    Posted by TokyoTom
    Yeah right. All Specter is doing is the foreshadowing, opening the door for Bush to read from whatever script Rove is writing about this issue. “Coming clean”, in Specter’s world, means, “Hurry up, feed them another lie so we can get back to the business of looting the coffers and committing domestic and international crimes”.

    Reply

  8. TokyoTom says:

    According to CNN, Arlen Specter has joined in calling for Bush to “come clean”:
    “”I think that it is necessary for the president and the vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened,” Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told “Fox News Sunday.”
    “I’m not about to condemn or criticize anybody, but I do say that there’s been enough of a showing here with what’s been filed of record in court that the president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people.”
    He added, “The president may be entirely in the clear, and it may turn out that he had the authority to make the disclosures which were made, but that it was not the right way to go about it, because we ought not to have leaks in government. We ought not to have them.”
    Wilson, on ABC’s “This Week,” said the administration’s actions had furthered a “disinformation campaign.”
    “Indeed, it seems to me it is long past time for the White House to come clean on all of this,” he said.”
    It seems that some Republicans are willing to stand up to the WH.

    Reply

  9. avaroo says:

    Still interested in losing elections, are you, pissed off?
    Would you mind losing them as a member of another political party for awhile?

    Reply

  10. Pissed Off American says:

    “Posted by avaroo”
    Uh oh, the “native american democrat” is back.
    And the insurgency is in its “last throes”, too.

    Reply

  11. avaroo says:

    The president (every president) has the power to declassify whatever he wants to. Some may not like that, but it is the law. And the fact is, it’s legal for some people to do things that it isn’t legal for others to do. This isn’t new. Doctors may practice medicine, those without medical degrees/board passage cannot. To say that it’s unfair that the president may declassify material but others who have been prosecuted for doing so, may not, is just silly.
    Look, President Bush isn’t going to be impeached over this. It isn’t an impeachable offense. It isn’t even an offense. We ‘re wasting time we could be using to figure out our own platform for the next presidential election. Why aren’t we talking about who the candidate might be?

    Reply

  12. Pissed Off American says:

    What amazes me is that thje true nature of this CRIME is not being discussed. Look up the definition of “treason”. If Bush was instrumental and complicit in leaking the classified documents about the alleged Niger/Iraq/yellowcake connection I have to believe he was also instrumental and complicit in leaking the true nature of Plame’s status and position. If so, he undoubtedly exposed a number of CIA assets that, it is my understanding, were engaged in the act of gathering intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programs and ambitions. In exposing those assets, and effectively negating their ability to gather intelligence, Bush was aiding the enemy, in a time of “war”. (If one accepts his GWOT as a legitimate “war”, rather than an excuse to commit international crimes).
    Thats TREASON. Period.
    I have long advocated throwing Bush and Cheney in a Federal prison. It appears that I am underestimating and understating the gravity of the punishment that these fascist traitors have earned.

    Reply

  13. Marky says:

    Sy Hersh writes that Bush is considering using nuclear weapons on Iran—exactly as per my thoughts.
    Given everything we have learned about Bush in the last 5 years, one should take these claims very seriously.

    Reply

  14. daveminnj says:

    the law may work slowly (or not at all).
    the politics may turn out to be a wash.
    cynicism and hypocrisy are quite prevalent
    already. but the new awareness of bush’s true
    character may prove fatal to him- he has
    portrayed himself as a rocksolid cowboy, yet
    is now revealed as a weasel and coward.

    Reply

  15. Mash says:

    Here’s a historical perspective on President Bush’s claim of the Unitary Executive. It compares Robespierre’s use of the Unitary Executive to its current use.

    Reply

  16. Mike says:

    What really astonishes me here is that this incident completely repudiates Bush’s reputation for absolute loyalty.
    If what Libby argues is true he was acting directly at the behest of George Bush. Yet here he is on trial, with the administration perfectly willing to let him take the fall and refusing to divulge correspondence that might aid in his defense. At every stage of this investigation Bush has stated his revulsion towards leakers and his desire to see the culprit exposed. When Libby and Rove were exposed, he asserted they acted without his knowledge. At any point, he could’ve put a stop to the entire affair by coming forward and accepting responsibility (doubtless with flourishes about 9/11 and everything changing). Instead a loyal footsoldier is left to shoulder the blame, simply to save the president personal embarrassment.

    Reply

  17. Mike says:

    Glen makes a good point, and the one that’s bothering me the most here. Why would the president lie about this? Even if the president has the authority to declassify this specific information, he can’t secretly declassify it. There has to be some record of it. If it was declassified, there’s no illegality in the leak, but Libby, or anyone else for that matter, could have publicly rebutted Wilson with the newly declassified information. The fact that the NIE document was declassified 10 days later was probably a reaction to the fact that it had been improperly leaked before.
    I also remember Judy Miller making some comment about having a SECRET clearance level, herself. If so, Libby may have felt there was no improper release at the time, but of course, she’d be precluded from divulging or using the information herself. So what would be the point of telling her?

    Reply

  18. Big Red says:

    This is all that matters to this story:
    Bush has many times said, implied, threatened, etc. that leaks are bad. The lead headline in my local paper this morning: “Aide: Bush OK’d leaks.”

    Reply

  19. LInda says:

    I find it strangely interesting that no one yet has mentioned Dan Ellsberg’s trial after he copied and gave journalists the Pentagon Papers. He definitely knew that he was breaking the law in doing so and expected to be arrested and tried. However, Nixon was so determined that the Plumbers first job was breaking in to Ellsberg’s psychiatrists’ office to obtain information on him. They didn’t find any. No one knows if Ellsberg would have been convicted or not because the judge had to declare a mistrial when Nixon’s people visited him in secret and offered him the job as head of the FBI if Ellsberg were convicted.
    There surely are some parallels about the lengths to which Presidents will go to politically attack those who shine light on problems with wars in which we never should have become involved.

    Reply

  20. Glen says:

    Steve,
    Assuming that the President CAN declassify anything anytime (a claim which I find VERY weak), then why did the President repeatedly LIE to very pointed questions from the press, and make false statements to the press. Why didn’t he come out in 2003 and just tell everything? Because none of this passes a public smell test – this whole thing stinks to high heaven. There is no way leaking this information can be “in the public’s interests”, it’s just plain covering Bush’s a$$. Obviously there was quite a cover-up going on to keep all of this out of the public eye.
    If we actually had a President who published blueprints to classified weapons as Ian suggests, then wouldn’t Congress block such an action and impeach a President who has clearly violated his oath of office? The problem we have is that the Republican Rubberstamp Congress is not doing it’s job, and apparently we have a President who can do no wrong when clearly such an assumption is absurd.

    Reply

  21. bakho says:

    This is the CEO presidency. Bush is again behaving like a CEO, not a president. The US system is only as good as the checks and balances the framers of the Constitution built into the system. We have had dysfunctional Congressional oversight for over 12 years now. Oversight has been abused to protect and further party, power and priviledge, not to uphold the Constituion and the nation’s laws. Republican philosophy has degenerated into a corrupt quagmire of self-dealing and unchecked abuse of power to achieve personal and party ends.
    The American people have had enough. We WILL reinstitute checks and balances starting in 2007.

    Reply

  22. Mike says:

    There is also an executive order involving nuclear weapons information.
    The president is also bound by the non-proliferation treaty which restricts member states from giving aid to non-nuclear states, so he’d be violating the law by releasing blueprints. I may be mistaken, but I’d guess most classification is based on laws enacted to protect national security. There are procedures for declassifying information and I have a hard time believing “because I said so” is a valid procedure in most cases.

    Reply

  23. vachon says:

    Rampant speculation:
    1)I’m willing to bet the farm there is no paper trail as to Cheney going into Bush’s office, getting Bush’s explicit OK that he (Bush) is declassifying the NIE and that Cheney may act as his (Bush’s) messenger and pass this abruptly declassified NIE to Libby to do with as he wished.
    2)I’m also willing to bet the farm that Cheney has no declassification privilages.
    3)Cheney and Rove are probably a target of phase 2 of the investigation either directly via thier testimony or via any post-dated docs Cheney/Rove/Libby may have created to give the appearance that the above referenced Bush/Cheney meeting occured.
    I am so addicted.

    Reply

  24. Ian Kaplan says:

    Regarding Michael’s comment: in theory the president
    is bound by the law. He is a citizen like all of
    us and is, in theory, bound by the same laws. I
    write “in theory” here because the Bush administration
    has acted in a lawless fashion. The Rubberstamp
    Republicans refuse to do their constitutional
    duty.
    Congress passed a law against disclosing the identity
    of a US covert agent. The president cannot “out” a
    convert agent because this would violate the law
    that congress passed. So far no one has been able
    to tie Bush directly to the “outing” of Valerie
    Plame.
    While you (or I) may not like it, the president
    does, in fact, have the power to arbitrarily
    declassify information. This is a unique power
    that is derived from the fact that classification
    itself arises from an executive order. There is
    also an executive order involving nuclear weapons
    information. I don’t know if congress has passed
    any laws in this regard. Assuming that there are
    no applicable laws that would be violated then,
    yes, the president could publish the blueprints
    and manufacturing information for a nuclear weapon
    by declassifying the information.

    Reply

  25. koreyel says:

    “Every commenter I’ve read starts from the
    premise that if the president say’s somethings
    declassified, it’s declassified.”
    Not me Michael.
    Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear.
    It is FAR FAR worse than that.
    If you click on the Tom Tomorrow’s latest comic
    you will get a good glint at what I mean.
    In effect: It is WHATEVER BUSH WANTS.
    That is where we are in this country.
    That is what the republican party is about.
    That is what the supreme court is about.
    That is what McMedia is about.
    If Bush says: “Up is down.”
    One damn well better believe the nonsense,
    because ALL THE INSTRUMENTS OF POWER BELIEVE IT–
    most vociferously.
    That’s where the POWER is in America right now.
    That’s the space it is occupying.
    That is the behavior it is evidencing.
    This is undeniable.
    ABSOLUTELY UNDENIABLE.
    And it isn’t going to change until
    an opposition party siezes one of the branches.
    There is no other way.
    Until then…
    we’re trapped like rats on a sinking ship,
    waiting for Godot.

    Reply

  26. Michael says:

    Every commenter I’ve read starts from the premise that if the president say’s somethings declassified, it’s declassified. I have a very hard time believing this is true. The president can’t use the power of government simply to attack a political rival or to avoid embarassment for his own actions. Certainly, he couldn’t declassify the blueprints of a nuclear weapon on a whim. Selective declassification for the strict purpose of misleading the public about something as pivotal as war would be unconscionable. And I find it incredible that he has the authority to out a covert agent in a fit of anger.

    Reply

  27. Daniel DiRito says:

    It wasn’t long ago that the Republicans were enjoying calling President Clinton “Slick Willy”. It seems more than evident today that President Bush and his mouthpiece minions have far advanced the art of “well it depends on what the meaning of is, is”. Apparently, it’s now simply a question of how one defines “leak”.
    This is the same President who campaigned as a man of principles who would restore honor to the White House. There’s a limit to the amount of doublespeak that the American public will accept…recent polling indicates this administration has far exceeded that threshold.
    http://www.thoughttheater.com

    Reply

  28. Carroll says:

    I really like Steve’s post but I have to say I don’t get this:
    ” and I have softened my own criticism of Franklin and AIPAC if, in fact, the U.S. President has engaged in the same behavior that his staff has.”
    I must be living in some alternate universe because this sounds like saying ..well my oldest son broke a guy’s jaw and my younger son only gave the guy a black eye so really who can blame him?”
    I don’t know, maybe I was raised differently, but when I was growing up blaming your own actions on “everyone else does it too” wasn’t acceptable.

    Reply

  29. David Studhalter says:

    Jawbone: Excellent points, except it’s worth pointing out that the President is exempt from prosecution. The only recourse is impeachment. Since the Senate impeaches (and the House tries), there’s little chance of that in the balance of W.’s term.

    Reply

  30. Carroll says:

    Frankly I don’t see any linkage between Bush’s leak and Franklin being a “leaker” except that they both “leaked”.
    Maybe we can quibble about presidential powers regarding leaks but what part of the security clearance Franklin had to sign as a pentagon employee regarding “unauthorized persons” did he not understand?
    It seems now that we are all back to the favorite DC pasttime of what the meaning of “is” is. What kind of crime is it if Bush leaked, what kind is it if Franklin leaked, what kind is it if AIPAC received it and leaked it on to an Israeli offical and a reporter…we could go on and on.
    Bush leaked, so if we don’t get Bush for leaking, should we get anyone else for leaking?
    Jesus Christ on a stick!….someone please dig up Twain and Will Rogers…I am sure something they said could seperate all these apples and oranges in ten words or less.

    Reply

  31. vaughan says:

    If this information was leaked/released (sigh) for the purposes of national security (as McLellan said today), then why was it realeased in the false form of a “former hill staffer”, to Judith Miller only in a secret meeting? Why didn’t McLellan announce it? Why did Bush act like he knew nothing of it?

    Reply

  32. David Studhalter says:

    This post is by far the best analysis of this whole situation I’ve come across so far.

    Reply

  33. dweb says:

    The discussion has focused on the purported fact that the White House released declassified information which the President claims he had the power to declassify.
    But the big question is, “what declassified information did they release?”
    Because if you look at the actions they took, their focus was NOT on releasing information which would have countered the findings of Ambassador Wilson’s trip to Niger….They NEVER have ever tried to present countervailing information to undercut the findings.
    Instead, their focus was instantly and always an effort to undercut Ambassador Wilson…his credibility, his reliability, the circumstances surrounding his selection and his wife’s supposed involvement.
    So the President authorized Cheney to tell Libby to use information he had declassified to counter Wilson. But did Libby do it in a public way? No, he did it secretly and anonymously and using reporters carefully selected as known allies of the administration — Novak, Miller and Woodward. And the entire focus of Libby’s efforts were to discredit Wilson and his wife.
    Josh Marshall today posts a small snippet from a WaPo piece on the matter which reads as follows:
    “A senior administration official, speaking on background because White House policy prohibits comment on an active investigation, said Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.”
    Let me repeat the key phrase……..”Bush authorized the release…to ASSURE THE PUBLIC OF HIS RATIONALE FOR WAR….”
    Can anyone point to ANYTHING the White House did in relation to the Plame case which was aimed at such a goal? No…it was not assuring the public of his rationale for war. It was using anything they could lay their hands on to discredit someone who was raising serious questions about one of the key rationales they had cobbled up to justify a war they had already decided they were going to launch, regardless of the truth.

    Reply

  34. Thomas Allen says:

    Something else that I haven’t seen touched upon: People in the field often make decisions based upon knowledge that a particular piece of information is safely classified. If the President exercises (what he believes is) his power to instantly declassify information, this could endanger field operations and/or lives. It goes back to the argument the Administration made regarding the NSA domestic spying leak.

    Reply

  35. ManagedChaos says:

    First of all about Larry Franklin; it was never about what information Larry Franklin gave to AIPAC or the Israelis as evidenced by this passage in the Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/05/AR2005100501608_pf.html
    He said he never intended to harm the United States, “not even for a second,” and that he received far more information from Gilon than he gave. “I knew in my heart that his government already had the information,” he said.
    Also from your post, Steve, you claim the following:
    They did not seek personal gain in doing their job and leaking information as they did.
    Well, I beg to differ based on this quote from a CNN article.
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/01/20/analyst.sentence/
    The former Pentagon analyst said that he took classified documents to his Kearneysville, West Virginia, home to read and prepare for questions. However, the government has countered that he took the documents “in an effort to advance his own career, advance his own foreign policy agenda and influence persons within and outside the U.S. government.”
    Again, the AIPAC spy case is NOT about the information given TO the Israelis, it is about the MIS-INFORMATION funneled into the Office of Special Plans, the very same office that promulgated the false intelligence about Iraq’s WMD’s courtesy of the likud and Chalabi’s people.
    Larry Franklin was clearly not working on behalf of the best interests of America and that in my book is called treason along with these AIPAC scumbags. The difference between you and me, Steve, is that my job and my ability to make a living is not dependant on how I can sugarcoat treasonous offenses by Israeli-firsters.

    Reply

  36. Ian Kaplan says:

    Steve,
    I’ve followed the Lawrence Franklin story somewhat
    and only tangentially the Donald Keyser story.
    Leaving aside what Bush did and is doing, which
    I deplore, there are some important issues about
    handling classified information in this discussion.
    A security clearance is not like the right to speak
    or publish. A security clearance is something
    that you apply for. You don’t have to apply for
    the clearance, it is entirely by choice that one
    does so.
    When the clearance is granted you sign a contract
    that has both civil and criminal force behind it.
    In signing this contract you agree to not disclose
    the information you’ve been given access to. You
    don’t have to sign this contract. You do so
    entirely by choice.
    As the person who signs this contract, you and
    only you are responsible for your actions. If
    you disclose classified information because Doug
    Feith told you to verbally or because doing so
    gets you some quid-pro-quo exchange of information,
    you have broken your agreement. So the fact that
    someone was in an environment of selective
    leaking is no excuse. You signed the agreement
    by choice and you should live up to it or face
    the consequences. All of this has nothing to do
    with whether your support this deplorable
    administration, are a liberal or a conservative.
    So I’m not going to shed any tears for Franklin
    or, perhaps, Keyser (I don’t know his story). I
    will point out that the agreement that Franklin
    signed does not bind those who he gave the
    information to. It is a rather novel and dangerous
    legal theory that they are criminally liable for
    receiving classified information when there is
    no espionage involved.

    Reply

  37. jawbone says:

    Any Constitutional scholars wish to comment?

    Reply

  38. jawbone says:

    From Eschaton commenter:
    You see, the essence of the United States system of governance is that the position of President is entirely separated from the person occupying the position. This is the motivation for everything that goes on within US government. It does not matter if the President issues an executive order – the individual occupying the office does not own that executive order, is not supra- that executive order, nor is s/he exempt from obedience and observance of that executive order. Not as an individual.
    The President of the United States is nothing more nor less than a Citizen of the United States of America and is thus subject -subject- to all the laws and obligations that every other ordinary citizen is subject to.
    It’s a little thing that the Founding Fathers decided. It’s the difference between a Democratic Republic and a Monarchy.
    GWPDA, yclept Irate Scholar | 04.06.06 – 8:37 pm
    Of course, for today’s Republicans, there is the Divine Right of Republican Presidents to do anything they wish.
    Or, as Nixon put it to David Frost in May, 1977:
    “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
    Can anything be more Divine Right than that? And Scalia agrees with that point of view. Roberts? Alito? Who knows?
    The only remaining power to stand against the Unitary Executive monarch is the Congress of the United States–and it is in the hands of the True Believers in the Divine Right of Republican Kings, er, Presidents.
    Help!

    Reply

  39. Marica says:

    Who can take action to rein in this administration other than Congress? Legal or illegal, there is no force to stop them so they will continue. The Republican controlled Congress refuses to act, this allows the President unlimited power. Now Gonzales is pushing to extend the wire tapping net.
    If there is not public pressure on the Republicans in Congress to make them fear for their seats what force opposes the White House–
    None.
    Do you think the larger public in going to delve into the details of legality? The press is silent, concentrated and under control. Look at the budgets or shadow budgets, there is no more truth there than in the declarations concerning this leak affair.
    It is as if you can see the energy waning out of the entire function of governmant.
    Has there ever been a real Constitutional crisis in the US?

    Reply

  40. Dons Blog says:

    Scotty’s newest spin, the leaking was okay because it was in the public interest.
    I guess they never heard that one about first stop digging.

    Reply

  41. parrot says:

    andys.,
    I detect a hint for the humorless in your post. All kidding aside, it is high time that we got on to the business of high crimes and misdom.

    Reply

  42. jim preston says:

    Really great post, Mr. Clemons. You are absolutely correct in stating that the president’s defense that this was legal is irrelevant. The “selective” leaking is truly despicable. Even more so when classified info that discredited the leaked information was withheld. Of course, all of this stuff was pretty obvious to many of us the whole time!!!
    Your brief description of Feith and his dealings with the powers-that-be in the Middle East is fascinating. Feith knows everything and won’t talk. Why aren’t there reporters camped out on his lawn? The “Turkey question” for example has some shades of grey that are never discussed. Has the discussion of a three-state solution for Iraq never been advanced because Turkey will not accept it? Does this mean that the only alternatives are a regional war or an internal bloodbath? Fun world, eh?
    peace,
    jim

    Reply

  43. andrews says:

    “The issue here is deeper than what the press is talking to, and deeper than what many analysts have expressed.”………..meaning lives could be at stake with the mishandling of classified.

    Reply

  44. chris_from_boca says:

    “The issue here is deeper than what the press is talking to, and deeper than what many analysts have expressed.”
    For a change, huh?

    Reply

  45. orionATL says:

    caitlyn (4-7 11:01)
    good comment
    nice style.

    Reply

  46. chris_from_boca says:

    i thought i read yesterday that the details of the leaked Nationaal Intelligence Estimate were released to the public shortly after Bush’s leak, like a couple of weeks later. This distinction seems huge. Steve, can you clarify this? I forget where I read this. The administration is going to puish back and suggest that this stuff became public by design shortly thereafter anyway. won’t they?

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  47. charles says:

    Caitlin: Great point. Consider Benjamin Hellie’s analysis at Leiter Reports: …Bush failed to meet the implicit publicity requirements in Order 13292 for declassification of the NIE. So he did not in fact declassify the NIE. Rather, he instructed his lieutenant to go blabbing classified information around town. That’s illegal.

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  48. andys. says:

    Steve,
    Good post. The issue here is deeper than what the press is talking to, and deeper than what many analysts have expressed. The declassification of intel in this rapid of a process can put lives in danger. While the information may not seem all that fascinating when it drops, someone or something collected that data. To release it so quickly, whether it is legal, or illegal… can and in the past HAS put lives in danger or resulted in the death of individuals. The President has shown great prudence in protecting information and protecting those who provide this information. This latest news flap needs to be taken with a grain of salt and we probably need to wait for a period of time for the no kidding details to emerge.

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  49. John B. says:

    pretty good summary Jim S.

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  50. Jim S says:

    The President wanted a war and sold it to the American people based on the imminent threat of nuclear attack from Saddam Hussein as proven by the purchase of African Uranium and Aluminum Tubes to purify the Uranium. Except the President was well aware that the State Department, parts of the CIA and the Energy Department all had serious reservations about both justifications.
    In the Spring of 2003, after the invasion, when no weapons of mass destruction were being found; Ambassador Joe Wilson inconveniently pointed out that one leg of the justification for invasion was bogus. Karl Rove and the Iraq Group, at the Presidents direction, went into high gear and successfully leaked, hid and smeared the fact the President knew that the justifications for the Iraq Invasion were false until years after the successful 2004 reelection.

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  51. Marky says:

    One of the counts of Nixon’s impeachment was similar to this—abuse of classification/declassification authority to get at political enemies.
    Feingold looks good now, doesn’t he?

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  52. LJ says:

    The President can claim that, now that it has been disclosed, “Oh, by the way, this was a declassification.” But Fitzgerald has also used the “sand in the eyes” image. This administration has a big supply of sand and has used it. Claims of declassification seem to be a bit late in the game.

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  53. koreyel says:

    Remember when folks used to carp about DC gridlock?
    You know — having the House & Senate & Presidency
    under the control of different parties?
    It was horrible.
    No significant bills could get passed.
    We were seriously stuck.
    Well look at us now:
    Fast tracking on a road to Hell
    paved with bad intentions.
    In other words:
    It doesn’t matter if the leak is legal.
    It doesn’t matter if the leak is ethical.
    It doesn’t matter if the leak abashes the Royal Adolescent.
    What matters,
    is having control of all branches of government.
    Once you’ve got that,
    you can, like Cheney did,
    and like Bush does daily,
    tell America to go and fuck itself.
    This is were we are at.
    And this is were we will be,
    until the White Houses loses a branch of government.
    Until that happens,
    they are going to be “malfeasance emboldened.”
    And hell no… they won’t apologize for it.
    [Note: Tom Tomorrow’s latest comic
    shows McMedia’s role in all this.
    They are worse they worthless.]

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  54. Caitlyn says:

    Classification is a bureaucratic process, with the process spelled out in government regulations. If something is properly declassified, then it has a new set of parameters as to who may have access and how it may be shared. It sounds like the president authorized a leak rather than officially directed the declassification of material. The effect may not be different – it’s not like a security officer or the justice department is going to come after him – but it does not sound like he ordered the declassification of the materials nor that anyone (e.g. Cheney) followed up with declassification. The question to ask is “Is the NIE (or the section leaked by Libby) declassified now?” If it isn’t, then how can it have been declassified by Bush? If it is, will the Washington Note get a copy?
    I believe that declassification actions are also supposed to be noted by date and official’s name, so it should be easy to confirm if the information was officially declassified. If the processes weren’t followed, then this was a leak, albeit one apparently authorized by the President.

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  55. vaughan says:

    Laura Rozen makes an excellent point here–think about all the obstructing, rather than oversight, that Pat Roberts and the republican congress have done regarding the intelligence failures and mis-use of intel. The phrase “made a mockery” doesn’t quite capture it. Steve, help us out, you’re good with words…
    Rozen on Roberts as Chairman Hypocrite

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  56. focus says:

    Not only does it damage all other leak cases. It sets up the defense for everyone else: The President authorized it. Will the courts really demand the President testify under oath in every case that he did or did not authorize this or that leak?

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  57. vaughan says:

    The implications of this story are sinking in. I don’t think the press have really digested it yet–they’re giving the first reactions of whether this is legal or illegal. Then they talk about political embarrassment. But this goes to the heart of the credibility of Bush and the mode of operation at the White House and beyond. Great post, Steve.

    Reply

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