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.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Allowing Bush to breach his Plame vows

Robert Novak said yesterday what has long been obvious: that President Bush knows who is responsible for leaking Plame's CIA employment, or at least could easily find out:

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, according to an account published yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

And Novak's recommendation to the media as a result of this "revelation" is equally obvious, and long overdue as well:

"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.

There is an entire cottage industry that is now devoted to expert and sometimes-not-so-expert speculation as to the identity of the Plame culprits. For more than two full years now, citizens have been kept in the dark about who leaked this indisputably classified information to the press, while the Washington media, half of whom has always known, have pitifully pretended that they didn't know, in the process destroying the small amounts of credibility they had left.

None of this had to happen, and it could all be put to an end right now by one person -- George Bush. All along, he could have easily discovered, if in fact he didn't, who the leakers were by simply rounding up the relatively small group of suspects and asking each of them if they leaked. We don't know whether he did that or not, and if he did, he hasn't been pressured at all by our submissive media drones into disclosing what he knows, let alone doing anything about it.

That glaring failure is all the more inexcusable given that Bush long ago vowed to do everything he could to discover the identity of the leakers and then fire them. These statements compelled him long ago 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, for instance, Stephen Hadley into his office and simply ask him whether he leaked Plame's identity to Bob Woodward, 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 proclaimed on multiple occasions that he takes the investigation seriously and that he is 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.

Prior the election, George Bush was able to mostly deflect damage from this scandal by claiming to be as outraged by it as anyone else and professing a desire to find out who the responsible parties are and hold them accountable. But the media has allowed, and is still allowing, him to simply breach those promises.

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