Friday, April 07, 2006

Leaky Bush: The Breakdown

Some of our friends on the right are (predictably) arguing the revelation regarding Libby's testimony that Bush authorized his leaks is insignificant. They argue that it wasn't technically illegal. While they are probably right on that issue, there are numerous other reasons why this matters beyond mere legality.

First, the story if true (and to date it is not being denied by Bush or Cheney) further destroys the fraudulent image of Bush as a Washington outsider who detests the dirty side of Washington --- mainly leaks.

Second, it shines further light on how Bush and his entire administration abuse security classifications for political purposes as opposed to reasons of national security. In effect, the Bush defenders are arguing that they are O.K. with Bush (and Cheney) declasifying information on the fly, in an ad-hoc manner that ignores the declassification procedures and without informing others, specifically the American public, when information is declassified. As this instance shows, their ad hoc, declassification process has more to do with politics than anything else. Yet, we live in a democracy that is supposed to value transparency over gamesmanship. We know that this administration is the worst abuser of classifying information to keep politically harmful information from the public. Now it appears that the president himself declassifies so that anonymous sources can then spin the media and ultimately manipulate the public for purely political purposes. Americans do not view governments that engage in this stuff as moral, think the USSR and Pravda. Nor should Bush's actions in this regard be viewed as moral.

Third, the issue raises a myriad of questions about the President's innvolvement in manipulating the case for war generally and, more specifically, as to what role he may have played in the leaking of Plame's identity. Ignoring the prewar stuff for now, one question that needs asking is was Plame's identity one of the items Bush "declassified" in this ad hoc manner so that Libby and Rove were authorized to leak it. If so, it points out a stark problem with this ad hoc procedure being employed. Isn't it obvious that it is extremely dangerous to be revealing the identity of CIA NCOs without first telling the CIA and that agent?

Just because the President has legal authority to do something does not mean that he should. Further, doing something, at best, immoral and, at worst, a heinous act putting the lives of other people in danger is worthy of criticism at least.

UPDATE AT 04/07/06 at 11:47 am: Kevin Drum has a concise post up as to what's wrong with Bush's leak and he adds a second post quoting Andrew Sullivan's also concise takedown of this tactic.


  • Posted down one abandoned thread.

    Andrew Sullivan;

    In this case, we're...talking about the following set of circumstances. A president is challenged in his public account of pre-war intelligence. The president authorizes a selective leak of classified information to rebut the challenge. He selects only those parts of the classified information that supports his case, and omits the rest that actually show parts of the government disputing his case. He authorizes the veep to authorize Libby to give the selected information to a pliant reporter for the New York Times. Meanwhile, his public statements reiterate an abhorrence of all unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

    ....It shows a conscious capacity to mislead people by selectively disclosing data that skews — for a while — the public's understanding of the facts. It proves that this president is capable of deliberately misleading the American people as a gambit in a Beltway spat

    By Blogger Semanticleo, at 12:50 PM  

  • Unfortunately Drum's post sloppily (and deliberately) conflates the Plame leak with the leak of intelligence info, and is thus useless. His Nixon analogy isn't terribly compelling either.

    Sully's got a much more accurate take on the situation, though the last line of the first paragraph kindly posted by semanticleo tries to create an impossible sort of hypocrisy (the President, by definition, cannot be party to an "unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

    He also mischaracterizes the attack on the war as a "Beltway spat," which is a cute but wrong-by-several-orders-of-magnitude description of the huge nationwide swell of criticism sparked by Wilson's letter. He was also revealing the data that the administration used to decide to go to war - with that objective in mind, why would he reveal the data that he didn't use? Particularly when that would further fuel criticism of an intelligence case that was a "slam-dunk."

    By Anonymous geoff, at 1:13 PM  

  • Geoff;

    Your clever perspective is a familiar
    dodge being ably executed by the very
    competent legal counsel engaged by
    Libby and his generous benefactors.

    It is unnecessary to hire scatatologists with electron microscopes in order to verify that
    rising flood waters have indeed
    contaminated the local water supply.

    Just take a whiff. The big picture
    is often distorted by focusing on the minutiae. But then, that is more of a strategy than a search for
    truth. Isn't it?

    By Blogger Semanticleo, at 1:45 PM  

  • If Bush's leak was "in the public interest" as McClellan is now claiming, why didn't Bush just release the full NIE and argue it openly instead of cherry picking portions favorable to himself and releasing those pieces anonymously through the "liberal" New York Times?

    Is he just inbred against having a full and open debate or, and what I believe to be the truth, was he trying to mislead?

    By Blogger Macswain, at 1:53 PM  

  • Hmmm,,,,no week end response from geoff. Blogging from work? Who do you work for?

    By Blogger Semanticleo, at 10:39 AM  

  • Your clever perspective...

    No, the point is that you don't yet have a legal or moral case. When you get one, people (even on the right) will listen. But over and over we've had the left talking about impeachment when the evidence is flimsy and interpreted with a maximal partisan slant.

    why didn't Bush just release the full NIE

    Because it's classified, and the detailed information would compromise security.

    instead of cherry picking portions favorable to himself

    He released the entire "Key Judgements" section. That's hardly cherrypicking.

    Hmmm,,,,no week end response from geoff. Blogging from work? Who do you work for?

    I work for myself, so I don't have any Internet access issues. But I usually spend my time at conservative blogs (not even that much time at RWS) - I never had any desire to become a foil or troll on liberal blogs. But Macswain keeps spewing nonsense over at RWS's site, so if I have the time, I feel like this is a better forum for discussing his points.

    By Blogger geoff, at 11:08 PM  

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