Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hurricane Season

This just in from the AP:

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide told prosecutors President Bush authorized the leak of sensitive intelligence information about Iraq, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case. Before his indictment, I. Lewis Libby testified to the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame leak that Cheney told him to pass on the information and that it was Bush who authorized the leak, the court papers say. According to the documents, the authorization led to the July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
He really, truly never should have wagged that finger. If the day should ever come when you're in charge of a President's media operation, and he finds himself beset by some kind of scandal, fit him with some finger guards before you let him go out and face the press.
The Monica Lewinsky scandal would have been a problem no matter what, but his finger-wagging insistence that "I did not have sex with that woman" was what the media latched on to as a symbol for the broader issue of Clinton's alleged mendacity.

So too, now, with Bush and Valerie Plame. After the scandal broke, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan gave a press conference on September 29, 2003 at which he said, regarding the leak,

"That is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing."
A few days later, Bush himself gave a conference at which he struck the same note, telling the press that,
"There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."
I have no doubt that at this very moment, some schmuck at Powerline is busily typing up some ass-kissing argument that Bush didn't specifically refer to this leak, and that he only promised to "take care" of people who "violated the law." Since Bush has the authority to personally declassify the information (the schmuck will argue), no violation of the law occurred and so Bush wasn't technically lying about his knowledge about the Plame leak or his reaction to it.

In the real world, that will cut about as much ice as the liberals who pointed out, back in 1996 that Clinton technically didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky, i.e.: none.

If Libby's version of events is supported by the evidence, this Administration will have a Category 5 shitstorm on its hands.

Half the Republicans in Congress are on the record as saying that whoever leaked Plame's identity shouldn't be working in the White House. If it turns out to be Bush himself, then the Congressional Democrats are going to have a field day.

Bush's approval ratings are likely to hit new lows, as the public becomes aware that Bush has been looking them in the face and lying to them about the Plame scandal for years.

As Feingold would probably say, this too is "right in the strike zone" of what the Framers would have considered an impeachable offence. Using classified national security information for shallow political ends isn't strictly cricket; and the whole mess feeds right back into the festering issue of the Iraq War, and the notion that "Bush Lied."

At best, if Libby is telling the truth, the Administration can construct a hypertechnical defense around the Nixonesque argument that if the President leaks the information, then it is not illegal. Bush has the authority to classify and declassify almost everything, so he can be said to have implicitly declassified the identity of Valerie Plame when he gave permission to leak it. That's not very effective politically, but it can potentially stave off impeachment.

Which is why I'm now going to look into whether Bush actually DID have the authority to declassify Plame's identity, and, if so, whether his exercise of such authority can be implicit.

Posted by Thrasymachus. To reply to this post, click HERE.