Plame: Libby Points to Bush; WH: Not Illegal

Let's Out Plame

“[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.” — George Bush, September 2003

Yesterday, testimony from Lewis “Scooter” Libby surfaced that pointed to the highest levels of White House involvement in the scandal surrounding the outting of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Libby, who was indicted in October 2005 by a grand jury investigating the case, testified that he received “approval from the president through the vice president” to leak parts of the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to New York Times reporter Judith Miller (link to court papers with overview).

A senior White House official responded to the allegation by taking a new direction with the legality of the issue, claiming that the president had the authority to declassify Plame’s status and that the whole thing was simply an overblown nothingness thanks to their own stupidity at covering it up in the first place:

“By definition, the president cannot leak,” the official said. “He has the inherent authority to declassify something. It’s like accusing a shopkeeper of shoplifting from himself.”

Gee, I didn’t realize Bush owned this country… imagine how mad we might be if he was some kind of elected official who had to uphold an oath of office and defend the constitution against treasonous acts.

Or, in more comparative terms, and to use their own analogy: “We say he has the inherent authority to destroy his own company …It’s like accusing the elected CEO of intentionally sabotaging his company in order to get an employee fired … fuck you, shareholder.”

While it’s too early to tell if the president will live up to various promises to fire anyone (err… himself and Cheney? ohpleaseohplease…) who leaks information from the White House, it’s a safe bet to say that Libby won’t be getting a Christmas basket from the White House this year.

Update: The sizzle here seems to be that at the time of the leak, the NIE was merely verbally declassified by Cheney. I have my doubts as to whether this kind of verbal order will hold up in court, and it reeks of impropriety and unethical behavior at the top levels. I imagine that there will be a lot of FIOA requests flying towards those declassified NIE docs that name Plame and comparing them to dates of leaks to reporters (hint: the answer is that the NIE was declassified 10 days after being told to Judy Miller, which makes this a leak of classified information). Who wants to place bets that this will end up being a game of whether a verbal authorization is the same as a legally signed order?

Another Update: Queue up the flashback video montage from a September 2003 press conference:

Q Are you doubting that the leak came from the White House directly? I mean, you seem to have been casting doubt throughout this whole conversation. I mean, you talked about —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m telling you the facts. The fact is that we don’t have any information beyond what we’ve seen in the media reports to suggest White House involvement.

[image from Stephen Pitt cartoons]

18 Comments
  1. I just hope that everyone stays away from the trap of talking about Bush’s ability to declassify documents (The Executive Power Trump!) and ignoring the deception(s) he and his administration conducted.

    A few months from now I predict a steely-eyed Bush peering into the camera at America and wagging his finger at us saying:

    “I’ll say it again… I.. did not have inappropriate relations with that document, the Constitution…”

    Man, I feel like we’ve been here before…

  2. Well, there are two possibilities.

    The first is that Bush actaully did authorize the disclosure, in which case we’ll probably be seeing his resignation fairly soon.

    The other is that Cheney only said to Libby that Bush authorized it, in which case Cheney resigns.

  3. OK, now I really want to impeach his ass. That’s treason. Let’s show the rest of the world America’s still a land of justice…let’s execute the bastard.

  4. seriously, the president does have the ability to declassify documents. what’s so hard to get about that? if he deemed it necessary to stage a PR campaign to discredit wilson’s assessment, maliciously or not, he can do so…

  5. I think the Republicans hold their grasp on power in much higher esteem than they do their emperor President. With all their troubles as of late, and mid-term elections coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them throw somebody to the wolves.

    This may get hot enough to scorch off Bush’s Teflon.

  6. Nothing is going to happen. You people forget that Christians commit the sin of idolatry with Bush. He is Jesus. If Bush resigns, which isn’t going to happen, Cheney becomes President. And Rice VP. If Cheney resigns, Rice becomes VP. Nothing is going to change and nothing is going to happen.

  7. Obviously, any impeachment would have to involve both Bush and Cheney. Speaker of the House would be next in line, quite possibly a Democrat after early 2007. Speaker Pro Tem of the Senate would be 4th and only then Rice. Don’t be soo gloomy!

  8. I’m kind of surprised that you bought into the media’s way of writing this story. Buried three quarters of the way down every story on this you find out that it had nothing to do with the leak of Valerie Plame’s name. This is about information from the National Intelligence Estimate on Hussein’s attempts to buy uranium. They purposely mixed two completely different stories. Throw in the fact that it’s the unsworn testimony of a guy already accused of obstruction of justice…not much to hang your hat on if you want to be intellectually honest.

  9. If President Bush really believes that what he did was perfectly legal, then why the hell didn’t he tell investigators (not to mention the public) two years ago?!

  10. If President Bush really believes that what he did was perfectly legal, then why the hell didn’t he tell investigators (not to mention the public) two years ago?!

    He did. This has nothing to do with the “outing” of Valerie Plame and it’s not news to anyone who was paying attention. AS near as I can see, past all the hysteria, is that it explains why “Scooter” Libby was talking to Judith Miller in the first place and that’s its only relation to the Plame affair.

  11. how’s that impeachment thing going guys?

    figured out the difference between releasing declassified materials and outing a formerly undercover agent, yet?