MoonDawg's Den: If...?

MoonDawg's Den

Friday, April 07, 2006


Scooter Libby testified that Bush gave the okay to leak some classified information to the press to help sale the war in Iraq. If this is true, is that grounds for impeachment?

Here's a link to my take on the subject.

What do you think?


GARRY'S RESPONSE: "Grounds for impeachment"? Hello? If the President of the United States doesn't have the authority to declassify information, then who the heck does? In any case, classification authority for the office of the President has been codified for a long time, such as in a 1995 Executive Order signed by President Clinton.

The information that was given to reporters by Libby came from the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which was declassified in large part and released to the public only about one week after Libby talked to reporters. The info from the NIE was not released to "exact revenge on a political opponent", but to counter the lies of that political opponent - i.e., Joe Wilson.

Jeff responds:

Two questions:

1- Does the President have the authority to out a covert operative of the CIA? That's the classified information that was leaked that is of interest.

2- Wilson lied? Those 16 words should not have been in the State of the Union, which is what he said. Who sent him to Niger is irrelevent.

Ari Fleischer: Now, we've long acknowledged -- and this is old news, we've said this repeatedly -- that the information on yellow cake did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect.

Condi Rice: What we've said subsequently is, knowing what we now know, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn't have put this in the President's speech -- but that's knowing what we know now.

George Tenet: These 16 words should never have been included in the text written.

About the real issue--if Iraq tried to buy Uranium from Niger--Wilson was dead on. Anything else is irrelevent, and even if he lied, the President does not have the right to out a CIA operative for political gain. How can you defend that? How is that okay?

Still frustrated,

GARRY RESPONDS AGAIN - Let's take the two questions one at a time:

1- Does the President have the authority to out a covert operative of the CIA? That's the classified information that was leaked that is of interest.
If you read the full text of the April 6 court filing by the OSC, you will see that it in no way indicates that the President was involved in leaking Plame's identity - in fact, Special Counsel Fitzgerald states just the opposite in the document (emphasis mine):

During this time, while the President was unaware of the role that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser had in fact played in disclosing Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment, defendant implored White House officials to have a public statement issued exonerating him.
Again, the information that the President authorized Libby to discuss was from the 2002 NIE, which was released to the public just one week later.

2- Wilson lied? Those 16 words should not have been in the State of the Union, which is what he said. Who sent him to Niger is irrelevent.

Yes, Wilson lied - from the WaPo article I linked to earlier, emphasis mine again:

The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.
Wilson was "dead on" regarding Niger? Here is part of what Wilson found (but never bothered to mention in his famous NYT op-ed) in Niger, according to the 2004 report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (this from a meeting Wilson had with former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki):

Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, (deleted) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
Thus Wilson's own report supported (or "bolstered", to use the WaPo's word) the findings by British intelligence, which is what the President cited in the famous "16 words". As the UK's own review of Iraq intelligence (the Butler Report) said:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.
The "forged documents" being referred to were from an Italian journalist that purported to show a purchase of uranium from Niger by Iraq. These documents were related to another Wilson lie exposed by the SSCI report:
The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article ("CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid," June 12, 2003) which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because `the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged."
"Misspoken" indeed - well, it's no less than one would expect from an operative in the Kerry Campaign.


  • Well, now I have a few more questions. I think that you're making this issue too complicated. It's a bit like Jesus' characterization of the Pharisees--I believe your position is "tripping over pebbles while trying to swallow a camel."

    First, do you believe that the 16 words in the SOTU speech were completely accurate? If so, why did the administration retract the statement? If they weren't completely accurate, then Wilson's assertions that those words were not accurate are true. That was his main claim.

    Second, you made mention that the President didn't authorize the disclosure of Plame's name. We really don't know that yet, and considering the new revelation that he authorized other disclosures, I believe there is some room for doubt.

    Third, we do know that Cheney authorized the leak. What should be done about that? Did he, or Rove, or Libby, or anyone else involved do anything wrong in your view?

    The camel in the issue that you have to swallow to take your position is that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program and that exposing a CIA operative to score political points is okay (You can say that they were trying to defend themselves against a political opponent, but it's really the same thing). That's really hard for me to swallow, and the sad part is that it gets lost in the debate over whether or not Wilson told the whole truth. I still think that the little inconsistencies that you cite are irrelevent to the big picture.

    If we're looking at inconsistencies, we can talk about WMD in Iraq and the reasons for war. Those have shifted 9 or 10 times. Or we can look at statements made by Bush about firing leakers (Rove still has a job) or about leaks in general. There has been little, if any, consistencies coming from the administration. But, I guess that those inconsistencies are okay since they come from the right.

    This whole issue stinks to me. Something is rotten, and the congress and other Republicans don't seem to want to get to the bottom of it. Clinton would have been run out of town at the point of a gun by now, but the Republicans seem to value party over principle.


    By Blogger Jeff, At 10:44 PM, April 07, 2006  

  • Why was the summary of the NIE not leaked or declassified? Oh, it makes Wilson's case stronger. I see now.

    The whole story wasn't told to us. It still isn't being told. That is the problem.


    By Blogger Jeff, At 1:55 AM, April 10, 2006  

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