Saturday, April 08, 2006

The authorized leak

Today's papers report that Lewis Libby says the President authorized the disclosure of parts of the CIA's classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction (whew) to Judith Miller and other reporters. The release occured less than a week after Joseph Wilson's op-ed in the New York Times discredited the President's State of the Union claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy nuclear materials from Niger.

Libby, facing prosecution for lying about revealing the identity of a CIA agent--Miller's wife--to reporters, is not a very reliable source, but since the White House isn't denying his story (in fact they are defending the action without admitting it), we can safely assume it is true.

The LA Times calls Libby's discussion with Miller a leak, but points out that the President's permission makes this something other than a leak. So the scandal isn't that the President (or Libby) leaked classified material, but that doesn't mean there isn't a scandal here.

The part of the NIE that Libby "leaked" to reporters implied that the CIA really believed the Niger story. But within the administration, the Niger story was already known to be false. (Months before Wilson's op-ed, the New Yorker had already reported that the story was based on clearly forged documents) Later they would admit that including the claim in the State of the Union had been a mistake.

The real scandal is that the President released information he knew to be false. Unless lies from this President have already ceased to be surprising enough to be scandalous.


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