Good Point, Harry
Harry Reid has a thing or two to say to a President (and Vice President) who "won’t comment on an ongoing investigation" (except when they want to leak to the media through "Senior Administration Officials") and calls on them to release the transcripts of their Fitzgerald interviews:
Dear Mr. President:
I was deeply disturbed by your confirmation earlier this week that you and Vice President Cheney authorized the selective leaking of sensitive intelligence information in order to discredit those who raised legitimate questions about your Administration’s case for the war in Iraq. Just as troubling, when presented with opportunities to publicly explain your actions, you and other Administration officials have either issued more misleading statements or hidden behind legalistic defenses. I urge you to immediately heed bipartisan calls to publicly and fully explain to the American people your role in this selective leak of sensitive American intelligence for political purposes.
I regret that you and other Administration officials have had several opportunities over the past week to set the public record straight, but you have repeatedly chosen not to do so. You and your spokesperson have instead chosen to issue more misleading statements or to hide behind a legalistic defense that "ongoing legal proceedings" prevented you from talking about the matter. For example, at a recent press briefing, your spokesperson relied on the defense of "ongoing legal proceedings" sixteen times to avoid responding to reporters questions about this matter. Misleading statements and legalistic jargon are hardly appropriate responses for the Commander in Chief, especially when the questions involve whether the Administration manipulated intelligence information relied on by Congress and the American people to decide the proper course for Iraq.
As long as the defense of "ongoing legal proceedings" is used by the White House to deny critical facts to public, the American people will not "see the truth" you pledged to provide. In fact, the White House strategy only raises further questions. For example, in addition to Mr. Libby, have you directed anyone else in your Administration to disclose classified information to reporters? Was any other highly classified data, beyond that contained in the National Intelligence Estimate, selectively leaked to reporters or other persons outside of your Administration, and if so, why? And, why did you tell the American people on October 13, 2003, that you "don’t know of anybody in (your) administration who leaked classified information"?
These and other questions are best addressed by following the advice of the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said that "there has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the President said to him, and an explanation from the President as to what he said so that it can be evaluated." A good interim step, if you are unwilling to come forward now, would be for you and the Vice President to immediately release the transcripts of your interviews with investigators. Perhaps this would give the American people some insight into your motivations until you and the Vice President are prepared to speak openly to the American people.
Immediate and full disclosure of your involvement in the manipulation and leaking of sensitive intelligence is the best way to address growing questions about your Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq as well as other critical national security decisions. For the sake of our troops and our security, I urge you to heed the bipartisan call to level with the American people.
Well put, Harry.
Obscured in all of this "can he/can’t he declassify" discussion about the NIE is the fact that Scooter Libby leaked the contents of two other documents that were not declassified to Judy Miller. Given the care Libby took to check with Addington before releasing the NIE, I think it’s quite likely he wasn’t acting as a "lone wolf" when he spoke about the other documents as well.
And I’m sure this matter did not escape the questioning of Patrick Fitzgerald, either. While I have no doubt Bush and Cheney felt they had the ability to order this stuff leaked as well under their grand theory of the Unitary Executive, I wonder what people in the country would think if they knew the extent of the Administration’s arrogance on this front.
I absolutely believe Fitzgerald did not release his biggest bombshells, but was merely raising a giant well-timed fist to keep them from screwing around with the legality of his appointment, or some other sort of mischief we know nothing about.
But Reid raises an excellent point, and my enquiring mind for one would like to know the answer.
So hey, George, whaddup?