Let’s see if we have the bottom-line defense of GeorgeBushDickCheneyScooterLibby outing Valerie Plame:
This is the same “scandal” the press tried to sell a few months ago. I wrote about it here. The Sun article (unlike some other press accounts) explains clearly what was going on. Intelligence insiders like Joe Wilson were leaking a combination of falsehoods and minority views to the press in order to challenge the administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq. This was deeply unfair.
Almost certainly, what Libby was permitted to do was preview for certain reporters some of the highlights of what was shortly going to be made public in the NIE. That is, NOT disclose the classified information, but talk about what was going to be in the public domain. This is something that is done everyday in Washington — probably even by Howard Dean.
It would have been an act of political insanity not to do such a thing. There were (and are) people in the government (particularly at the CIA and the State Department) who vigorously opposed the Bush foreign policy. They have leaked things left and right since the president took office, and it would be ridiculous to think they would not have put their spin on the NIE — just the way Joseph Wilson put his misleading spin on something that, in all likelihood, was actually classified and should not have been spoken of publicly (much less made grist for a NYTimes op-ed), namely, the substance of his trip to Niger.
If administration officials like Libby did not speak to the press about what was going to be in the NIE, the American people would only have heard from people like Wilson and others opposed to the President’s policies. One can only imagine how Dean would have played off that one-sided version of events … and I have a slight suspicion — call me crazy — that he would not have been complaining about leaks of classified information from those sources.
As for leaking portions of the National Intelligence Estimate, yes, it was classified, although it would later be declassified. But it should be remembered that when the president decides to make something public, then it can be made public. In the Plame case, there has been much discussion of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Would anyone argue that this disclosure was unauthorized?
Also, it’s useful to remember what was happening at the time of the so-called leak. There was an enormous clamor over the “16 words” in the State of the Union address, and about pre-war intelligence in general. The administration was in the process of declassifying various pre-war intelligence matters. In the midst of that came the specific accusations of Joseph Wilson in the pages of the July 6, 2003 New York Times. How was the White House to answer them?
One can argue about the wisdom of George Bush in declassifying the Iraq NIE when he did, but let’s remember that the press had been clamoring for that information ever since the fall of Baghdad three months earlier. The WMD stockpiles had not been found, and Joe Wilson among others had claimed that “Bush lied”. In response, Bush declassified the NIE so that everyone could see what exactly the intelligence services had told him about Iraq’s WMD programs. Now everyone wants to proclaim George Bush a criminal for releasing the information that the entire media establishment demanded he reveal.
This isn’t brain surgery, folks. Research may be tedious, but it really is necessary before reaching your conclusions.
We’ll send Ed to do his research here.
So, you see, it was unfair of Joseph Wilson to force them to break the law and besides they were going to release all of the information eventually, so no harm, no foul.