April 07, 2006


Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks:
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 [PDF] 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.
Expect some in-depth discussion on the following legal issue, which calls to mind the whole "Executive Power" argument the Bush White House uses to justify Bush's reckless law-breaking:
Additionally, Libby "testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then counsel to the Vice President, whom [Libby] considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document."
Scandalously, the White House Press Corpse did not even ask about this today.

Reaction from prominent blogs is also slightly more subdued that one might expect. Sure, there are lots of questions to be answered and it would not be right to jump to conclusions here (is Libby lying? was Cheney lying when he told Libby that Bush authorised release of the info? etc). But have anti-Bush bloggers become so accustomed to White House stone-walling that we no longer even bother to express our outrage?

Georgia10's post at Kos is uncharacterisically subdued:
If Cheney corroborates Scooter Libby's story, he implicates the President. If he denies it, he calls his former Chief of Staff a liar.

Lots of questions, though I suspect we won't be receiving any answers from the White House. After all, the President doesn't comment on ongoing investigations (except, of course, when he does).
The ever historical-minded Juan Cole compares Bush to a Johnson-Nixon amalgamation, says I told you so, and points to a useful background post on the scandal.

Atrios is more aggressive. He quotes the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committe, via Raw Story:
"If the disclosure is true, it's breathtaking. The President is revealed as the Leaker-in-Chief.

"Leaking classified information to the press when you want to get your side out or silence your critics is not appropriate.

"The reason we classify things is to protect our sources - those who risk their lives to give us secrets. Who knows how many sources were burned by giving Libby this 'license to leak'?

"If I had leaked the information, I'd be in jail. Why should the President be above the law?

"The President has the legal authority to declassify information, but there are normal channels for doing so. Telling an aide to leak classified information to the New York Times is not a normal channel. A normal declassification procedure would involve going back to the originating agency, such as the CIA, and then putting out a public, declassified version of the document.

"I am stunned that the President won't tell the full the Intelligence Committee about the NSA program because he's allegedly concerned about leaks, when it turns out that he is the Leaker-in-Chief."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid cites eight instances where Bush or his McClellan denied the President had knowledge of the leak.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall is like a puppy with a new bone:
Let's set aside the whole question of whether the president can do that or whether there's a specific procedure he has to follow. Just set that issue aside.

If it isn't true that Vice President Cheney told him that, then Vice President Cheney must know that Libby has again perjured himself. I would think the Vice President has an affirmative duty to come forward and say that Libby's testimony is false.

I just overheard Jeff Toobin on CNN saying that the White House will probably be able to squelch this story simply by 'no commenting' it. But can we not fairly draw the inference from Cheney's silence that he did in fact tell Libby this?

By a slightly looser logic -- and one in which sworn testimony doesn't come into play in the same fashion -- doesn't President Bush's silence tell us that Cheney was telling the truth?
Personally, I can see Rove's signature all over this stuff... He is, after all, a man who has made a career out of political mud-slinging. I'm betting that if Bush tell Cheney to tell Libby to release the docs, it was Rove who told Bush to tell Cheney.

UPDATE: It's worth posting these old quotes from Bush in full. The man is a LIAR!!!
President Bush, 9/30/03:

"I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action."

President Bush, 9/30/03:

"If 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. . . . I have told our administration, people in my administration to be fully cooperative. I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business."

President Bush, 10/28/03:

"I'd like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information."

President Bush, 6/10/04:

Reporter: "Do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?"

President Bush: "Yes. And that's up to the U.S. Attorney to find the facts."

President Bush, 10/28/03:

"I want to know the truth. ... I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers."
That last quote is rather stunning, in retrospect? Given that many reporters at that time knew a lot more than they were saying (e.g. Bob Woodward), it's reasonable to aks whether Bush's words amounted to a nod and a wink to the press in the know.

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