Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Leak is a Leak

Knight Ridder's Warren Strobel & Ron Hutcheson, in Libby testimony shows a White House pattern of intelligence leaks, provide some perspective on the "leakiness" standard (which is a first cousin to truthiness) that the Bush Administration is attempting to fashion in light of the recent revelation that Bush is a leaker:

The revelation that President Bush authorized former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to divulge classified information about Iraq fits a pattern of selective leaks of secret intelligence to further the administration's political agenda.

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials have reacted angrily at unauthorized leaks, such as the exposure of a domestic wiretapping program and a network of secret CIA prisons, both of which are now the subject of far-reaching investigations.

But secret information that supports their policies, particularly about the Iraq war, has surfaced everywhere from the U.N. Security Council to major newspapers and magazines. Much of the information that the administration leaked or declassified, however, has proved to be incomplete, exaggerated, incorrect or fabricated.

* * * *

On Friday, White House officials said that the administration declassified information to rebut charges that Bush was manipulating intelligence.

Without specifically acknowledging Bush's actions in the Libby case, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters: "There were irresponsible and unfounded accusations being made against the administration suggesting that we had manipulated or misused that intelligence. We felt it was very much in the public interest that what information could be declassified be declassified."

McClellan didn't address why administration officials often declassified information that supported their allegations about Iraq but not intelligence that undercut their claims.

Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from January 2003 to February 2005, said there was nothing improper about Bush's reported actions.

However, Hutchings said, "The decision to put in the public domain classified information, whether through a leak or through the formal authorization" shouldn't be done for "political convenience."

* * * *

The White House's McClellan took issue with suggestions that the leak to Miller called into question the sincerity of Bush's frequent complaints about government leaks.

"There is a difference between providing declassified information to the public when it's in the public interest and leaking classified information that involved sensitive national intelligence regarding our security," he said.

Still, when leaks of classified information help make the White House's case, officials haven't always complained.

In November 2003, the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard published highly classified raw intelligence purporting to a show a link between Saddam and al-Qaida.

The Pentagon disavowed the report. But in early January 2004, Cheney told the Rocky Mountain News newspaper that the magazine report was the "best source of information" about the Saddam/al-Qaida connection. That connection has never been proved.
(Via Eschaton)

Not so many years ago, this revelation would have been explosive. Today, not so much. Things have gotten so out of kilter in this country that even serious events seem farcical. The constant spin/propaganda machine of the Bush Administration in rewriting every negative fact or event certainly helps promote this dichotomy.

In part, I think that's why my reaction to recent events has been a combination of "OMG" and "you've got to be kidding!" Grave concern and merriment all wrapped up together. Just like the Abramoff/Ralph Reed situation reminded me of the Jack And Jill nursery rhyme, this brings to mind another old time tune:

A leak is a leak, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a leaker of course
That is, of course, unless the leaker is the famous Mr. Chief.

Go right to the source and ask the Leak-in-Chief
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mr. Chief.
(Apologies to Mr. Ed and his theme song)

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