I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why isn't Bush being forced to disclose the identity of Woodward's leaker?

There are now unconfirmed reports that the Bush Administration official who leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA employment to Bob Woodward is National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. But Hadley this week issued a coy non-denial denial, and thus far only anonymous sources, which have been wrong in the past with regard to this scandal, have claimed that it is Hadley. For that reason, this should still be viewed as an unconfirmed (although likely) possibility.

But why do we have to endure endless speculation and be forced to try to piece together pieces of this puzzle? It is not hard to find out if Stephen Hadley was the one who leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA employment to Bob Woodward. In fact, it would be very easy to find out. President Bush can simply call Hadley into his office and ask him, and then he can tell us whether Hadley is the leaker.

Why is President Bush being allowed to get away with this absurd game of pretending that he wants to get to the bottom of this leak while simultaneously avoiding taking the steps which would easily and quickly uncover this information? While the public does not yet know for certain who Woodward’s leaker is, publicly disclosed information has enabled the list of potential leakers to be narrowed down to a handful of officials. Shouldn’t Bush simply speak to each one of them, beginning with Hadley, and demand to know if they leaked this information to Woodward?

It is worth remembering that Bush long ago vowed that he wanted to find out who the leaker was, and he also vowed he would fire anyone involved in the dissemination of classified information (which unquestionably includes Plame's employment with the CIA). These statements ought to compel him to take affirmative steps to find out who it is in his Administration who leaked this information. And he ought to be compelled to follow through on his promise to fire them.

Bush long ago claimed he wanted to know the identity of the leaker(s) because leaking classified information is, in his view, "a bad thing."

"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

"I welcome the investigation. I am absolutely confident the Justice Department will do a good job.

"I want to know the truth," the president continued. "Leaks of classified information are bad things." He added that he did not know of "anybody in my administration who leaked classified information."

Bush also claims to have directed everyone in his Administration involved in the leak to cooperate with the investigation and come forward and admit their involvement:

Bush said he has told his administration to cooperate fully with the investigation and asked anyone with knowledge of the case to come forward.

And, Bush vowed to fire anyone responsible for the leak. Here’s his White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, announcing this vow on September 29, 2003:

McCLELLAN: The president has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it [the leaking of Plame's identity], they would no longer be in this administration. [...]

Q: You continue to talk about the severity of this and if anyone has any information they should go forward to the Justice Department. But can you tell us, since it's so severe, would someone or a group of persons, lose their job in the White House?

McCLELLAN: At a minimum.

Q: At a minimum?

McCLELLAN: At a minimum.

Regardless of whether he committed a crime when doing so, we already know – because he testified to it – that Karl Rove disclosed Valerie Plame’s CIA employment to Time’s Matt Cooper. Doesn’t Bush’s vow to fire anyone involved in the leaking compel that he fire Rove?

And it would have been extremely easy over the last 2 years for Bush to have found out that Lewis Libby also leaked this information. He simply could have asked him. Did Bush ever ask Libby about this? Did Bush know from any other sources that Libby was a leaker in the Plame matter? If he did know this, why was Libby permitted to stay employed for two years at the White House in the face of Bush’s vows to fire anyone involved in these leaks?

And even more so, don’t Bush’s claims that he is eager to find out who did the leaking compel him to call Stephen Hadley into his office and simply ask him, and then tell Americans whether or not Hadley did this?

These questions are particularly compelling in light of the fact that whoever is Woodward’s original source concealed this information from the Special Prosecutor for two years while the investigation proceeded – in obvious defiance of Bush’s supposed order to everyone in his Administration to come forward and share with the Prosecutor what they know. Wouldn’t Bush especially want to know the identity of the officials who defied his orders to cooperate with the Special Prosecutor and to come forward with any information they have?

The media has been inexcusably lax in not pressing the Administration for these answers. Regardless of one’s view of the relative importance of these leaks, Bush has publicly claimed on multiple occasions to take the investigation seriously and to be committed to finding out who is responsible for the leaking.

But he has not followed through on those commitments because he has been permitted to ignore them. The Administration has no valid excuse for refusing to find out -- and to tell us -- whether Stephen Hadley is Woodward’s leaker, and then to find out on its own -- and to disclose -- whatever else it can about how and why this leak occurred.

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