By now you don’t need me to tell you that THE story today is by Murray Waas, National Journal: “Cheney ‘Authorized’ Libby to Leak Classified Information.”
Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been “authorized” by Cheney and other White House “superiors” in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration’s use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.
Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein’s purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. …
… Libby testified to the grand jury that he had been authorized to share parts of the NIE with journalists in the summer of 2003 as part of an effort to rebut charges then being made by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war.
Whether it was legal for Cheney to declassify these documents or not for purely propaganda purposes is for legal experts preferably not named Victoria Toensig to debate. Given the fact that Cheney and Libby knew as of June 17, 2003 that the Niger uranium claims were bunk and Libby began this crusade with Judy Miller anyway on June 23, the service to which these documents were put remain safely outside of “ethical” territory.
Keep in mind this revelation comes days after Libby’s “faulty memory” defense was neutered when it was revealed that Cheney and Libby were aware in mid-June 2003 that the CIA had discredited the Niger claim, weeks before Libby began talking to reporters. Both of these taken together indicate what we have suspected all along: Cheney and Libby, as well as others in the White House, engaged in a payback campaign to destroy Joe Wilson and his wife in July 2003, even after they knew weeks before that the Niger story was about to unravel, and Congress had been told of such.
So some intelligence matters are so important that the administration will not divulge them even to critical members of Congress. But others are leaked to journalists to win a political war. This is a pointed reminder that when the administration says it is withholding information to protect national security, a hefty dose of skepticism is in order. The same goes for their assurance that their wire-tapping has never been abused. Remind me again: at this point, why should we trust them?
Well, hell if I know, Andrew.
In other news, the President today reminded us how scared we’re supposed to be of terrorists by revealing details of a 2002 al Qaeda plot to slam an airplane into a Los Angeles tower. This is, I believe item #1 on the official White House list of foiled terrorist plots released last October. Certain details given by the President — the use of shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door, for example — have met with some skepticism. But, hey, if some guy could take apart the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch without anyone noticing, then why not shoe bombs?
Finally, this Associated Press story — “Reid Aided Abramoff Clients, Records Show” has been hailed on the Right Blogosphere as the Missing Link between Democrats and Jack Abramoff that they all fervently believed would be found. But Scott Shields at MyDD smells a smear:
The first clue was that Senator Reid has a long history of protecting gambling in Nevada from outside competition. He does, after all, represent Las Vegas. So the fact that he sought to keep Indian casinos from expanding off of their reservations, while I may not necessarily agree, makes sense. He didn’t need lobbyists telling him what to do on the issue, as he’d held that position long before they’d ever come knocking. But still… the article’s a long one. I wasn’t quite ready to dismiss it.
The story totally lost credibility for me when it got to mentioning the Marianas Islands. By now, you’re probably aware of the fact that one of Abramoff’s pet projects was maintaining a low minimum wage in U.S. territories not subject to the federal minimum wage. This was of interest to the Republicans because manufacturers could exploit the territories’ low wages to essentially create a sweatshop environment without completely having to leave America. This AP story tries to imply that Reid was complicit in this plot.
But the AP story, as Josh Marshall notes, leaves out an important detail — there was no quid quo pro. No indication that Reid took any action to support Abramoff’s position. So Abramoff lobbying partners may indeed have billed hours for phone calls and meetings with Reid’s office, but it didn’t get ’em anything from Reid.
Of course, this detail will be lost on the Right Blogosphere. In the next few days they’ll persuade themselves that Senator Reid was Abramoff’s chief accomplice.
More great moments in journalism: MSNBC ran a headline “Top Democrat Reid Met Often With Abramoff” over this same AP story, which makes no claim Reid and Abramoff ever met at all.