by Joe Gandelman
Two publications have the story — and it's not going to help Bush's or his administration's credibility. First, there's the New York Sun, which is sometimes called a "conservative newspaper" by people on the left so it'll be hard for administration supporters to dismiss it as coming from a liberal publication:
A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.National Journal's Murray Waas (who consistency writes some of the best, most solid investigative pieces in American journalism today) has this:
The court papers from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, do not suggest that Mr. Bush violated any law or rule. However, the new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter.
Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry initially focused on the alleged leak, which occurred after a former ambassador who is Ms. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times questioning the accuracy of statements Mr. Bush made about Iraq's nuclear procurement efforts in Africa.
No criminal charges have been brought for the leak itself, but Mr. Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, was indicted in October on charges that he obstructed the investigation, perjured himself in front of the grand jury, and lied to FBI agents who interviewed him. Mr. Libby, who resigned from the White House and pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go on trial in January 2007.
In a court filing late Wednesday responding to requests from Mr. Libby's attorneys for government records that might aid his defense, Mr. Fitzgerald shed new light on Mr. Libby's claims that he was authorized to provide sensitive information to the Times reporter, Judith Miller, at a meeting on July 8, 2003.
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.But it gets even worse for Bush and for those who are defending him because it is in their political interest to play defense lawyer for this administration:
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had received "approval from the President through the Vice President" to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to the court papers. Libby was said to have testified that such presidential authorization to disclose classified information was "unique in his recollection," the court papers further said.
Libby also testified that an administration lawyer told him that Bush, by authorizing the disclosure of classified information, had in effect declassified the information. Legal experts disagree on whether the president has the authority to declassify information on his own.
The White House had no immediate reaction to the court filing.
Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.There are several things about these new developments:
In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.
- This administration does not just have a
credibility problem, it has a credibility
- Bush is now in the "loop" on these allegations.
The stories point out that he didn't violate any law
— but he can't talk about how leakers hurt the
government if he is actively involved himself in
leaking when it suits his political purposes.
- This underscores again the abysmal failure of
one-party government where there is effectively no
vigorous Congressional oversight for political
reasons. Under one party government Congressional
CYLYKW (Cover Your Leader's You-Know-What) has
replaced Congressional oversight.
- Expect that if there are more revelations to
come out, they will. Under the old modus operendi of
journalism, this kind of story would trigger a
competition in the media to get more on this angle
(the President participated in leaks...so what other
ones did he participate in?). The new attention
deficit media of the early 21st Century may not
pursue it the same way, but it's unlikely that this
will be the last story looking closely at Bush's
- If the Democrats gain control of the House in 2006 it'll be a whole new ball game. It will not necessarily mean impeachment proceedings (which is the threat some GOPers are using to try and rally their base for the mid-term elections). But there will be the threat of real — if even excessive — Congressional oversight coupled with political consequences.
4/05/06 PDF of entire
39-page Fitzgerald filing