Monday, April 10, 2006

A good editorial?

This morning, when I read the Washington Post's attrocious Sunday editorial, "A Good Leak" which suggests the President should be commended for authorizing members of his adminstration to leak portions of the NIE, my immediate thought was that it had been written by someone from the White House, or rather, that the editor who had written the piece had had a conversation with some White House official, got his/her spin on the leak revelation, and then ran that as an editorial without revealing who the real source of the article was. My reasons for thinking this were:

1. It just sounded like something from the White House. Call it an instinct.
2. The story was full of already debunked White House talking points.

The editorial has already been demolished (see here, here, here, and here) but now Think Progress notes that the White House is using the editorial to defend Bush's leak authorization. This only reinforces my suspicion: someone in the White House was the real source of this editorial (recall Cheney's office leaking intelligence about Iraq to Judy Miller and then Cheney later citing Miller's work as evidence supporting the case for Iraq without revealing that his office had been her source.)

Whether or not this editorial was fed to the Post by an administration member, the real question reporters need to start asking is this one from Elizabeth De La Vega:

Is a President, on the eve of his reelection campaign, legally entitled to ward off political embarrassment and conceal past failures in the exercise of his office by unilaterally and informally declassifying selected -- as well as false and misleading -- portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate that he has previously refused to declassify, in order to cause such information to be secretly disclosed under false pretenses in the name of a "former Hill staffer" to a single reporter, intending that reporter to publish such false and misleading information in a prominent national newspaper?
If you're wondering what Vega means by "false and misleading information", then this New York Times article from Saturday should clear it up for you.

President Bush's apparent order authorizing a senior White House official to reveal to a reporter previously classified intelligence about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain uranium came as the information was already being discredited by several other officials in the administration, interviews and documents from the time show.

A review of the records and interviews conducted during and after the crucial period in June and July of 2003 also show that what the aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., said he was authorized to portray as a "key judgment" by intelligence officers had in fact been given much less prominence in the most important assessment of Iraq's weapons capability.

Mr. Libby said he drew on that report, the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, when he spoke with the reporter. However, the conclusions about Mr. Hussein's search for uranium appear to have been buried deeper in the report in part because of doubts about their reliability.

The court filing asserts that Mr. Bush authorized the disclosure of the intelligence in part to rebut claims that Mr. Wilson was making, including those in a television appearance and in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003. The filing revealed for the first time testimony by Mr. Libby saying that Mr. Bush, through Mr. Cheney, had authorized Mr. Libby to tell reporters that "a key judgment of the N.I.E. held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

In fact, that was not one of the "key judgments" of the document. Instead, it was the subject of several paragraphs on Page 24 of the document, which also acknowledged that Mr. Hussein had long possessed 500 tons of uranium that was under seal by international inspectors, and that no intelligence agencies had ever confirmed whether he had obtained any more of the material from Africa.

And from Editor and Publisher

On page one on Sunday, Post reporters Bart Gellman and Dafna Linzer observed that Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald this week in his latest court filing had for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" using classified information to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" Wilson. “Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign,” they write.

Fitzgerald said the grand jury has collected so much testimony and so many documents that "it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson."

Then, getting right to the point, the two reporters debunk their own paper's “public service” defense by observing “that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before." Libby, allegedly at Cheney’s direction, "sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited uranium allegation.” In other words: Far from serving our citizens, the White House was misleading and manipulating them.
And don't forget the story Murray Waas did March 30 revealing that Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley had worried that if the public became aware that the President had been advised that the claims he was making regarding Iraq seeking to start up a nuclear program were dubious that he would not be re-elected.

Here's the picture that emerges from all this: the administration cherry-picked intelligence that was already thought to be dubious in order to bolster the case for invading Iraq. When a critic of the administration (Joe Wilson) began questioning the way in which it had used intelligence leading up to the war, Karl Rove worried that if that information came to light the President would lose the 2004 election. In order to avoid this, a pr campaign was launched to discredit Wilson (and blame intelligence failures on the CIA). As part of this push to discredit Wilson, the President authorized members of the administration to leak intelligence (misleadingly) from the NIE to support his pre-invasion claims, and in the process Valerie Plame's identity was revealed.

What we are still missing is who pulled the trigger on deciding to out Plame.


bryan @ shotgunfreude said...

In honor of the Washington Post Editorial Board...

Impatient Patient said...

so is Judith Miller a patsy or was she complicit? I would love to hear someones view on this........

Hume's Ghost said...

Judy Miller