“[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 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 taking a new direction with the legality of the issue, claiming that the
“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 , 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]