Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bush leaked!

OK, I've been reading in the papers about this, and seeing that some bloggers are freaking out about the fact that Bush declassified some stuff in order to leak it to the press, in order to manage the WMD issue back when the Wilson/Plame thing was going on.
Andrew Sullivan makes the case that this is the perfect excuse not to trust our President on anything.
The bottom line is that the president clearly used his prerogative to classify and declassify intelligence data to leak selectively to the press to give a misleading notion of what his own government believed about Saddam's WMDs before the war. He was personally involved; and he tasked his veep to coordinate it. The most plausible explanation is that the president believes grave national security prerogatives can be used for political purposes and/or that he had something embarrassing to hide. Bottom bottom line: we can't trust him to be fully honest with us on one of the bases on which he led us to war. That matters, doesn't it?
And Joe Gandelman...
In other words: a "whistle blower" with unflattering information that's leaked is a traitor, a criminal, and belongs in jail, but a President with information he wants to get across can leak it and it's OK because it's flattering and it's in the national interest for the public to get classified information that's flattering to the President.
OK, yes the President admitted it. I don't think that anywhere along the line Bush actually lied about what he was doing. If you look back at the stuff they are linking to it gets fuzzy whether the President was talking specifically about the Plame/Wilson stuff, which he leaked, or if he was talking about other leaks that had happened, or he could have been speaking in general. It does seem fishy. If you did the leaking, you would think that once it was apparent to the public that the information was leaked out of the White House you would say, OK sure we did it.
But no matter how Bush played that hand, the press would make him look bad.
OK everyone (and this includes most journalists and Sullivan and Gandelman) lets get some perspective. You and I might view leaked information as slimy politics, and the "sensitive" classified information as something important, as if all classified information is truly important. However 1. All presidents in recent memory have used leaks to get stuff to the public, and 2. Plame's status at the CIA was pretty well expired anyway. She hadn't been a covert agent in the field for years. The release of this information wasn't going to hurt anyone, and as it happened many people already knew that she worked at the CIA.
Bush's idea here was to try to get some useful information into the public arena without having it look like he's the one who put it there. If he had just come out with it, once again the media would have been all over him with accusations of playing politics with the issue by outing the wife of the guy opposing him.
Which was a shame, as the identity of Wilson's wife did in fact have implications, i.e. she is the one who got Wilson, who made no secret of being opposed to everything the administration seems to have stood for, the job of investigating something pretty serious for the administration. Don't you think that's important information to know?
The thing that really gets me, here, is what kind of a world we live in where in order to get some information out to the public, politicians feel the need to secretly leak it to the press instead of just tell us themselves. This betrays the utter lack of trust that Americans have for their representatives in Washington, that if they just told us themselves, we wouldn't believe them or would question their motives. But the American public didn't just get that way because we're mean spirited and untrusting. It's the result of congressmen and women letting us down time and time again with their institutionalized selfishness.

Meanwhile, Powerline notes that the press is going out on a limb with the "Bush Leaked" meme.
Bazinet's lead:
President Bush vowed to fire anyone caught blabbing classified information to the media, but he himself was the leaker-in-chief, a former top White House aide testified.
It seems to me that it would be difficult to pack a more misleading formulation of Fitzgerald's brief into fourteen words than Bazinet does in that lead. The great cloud of unknowing that descends in Bazinet's lead permeates the remainder of Bazinet's story.
Scott Johnson notes that the author of that article didn't have any quotes of Bush saying that leaks were bad in reference to that specific case (Plame/Wilson).
And anyway, here's a justification for Presidential authority to declassify information from the Reagan administration.

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