"I don't know of anyone in my administration who has leaked. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. ... Leaks of classified information are bad things. We've got too much leaking in Washington. I want to know who the leakers are."
So said President Bush in 2003, when asked by journalists about leaks coming from the White House regarding the Valerie Plame/CIA
agent outing case.
Well, we now know who the leakers are -- or at least who ordered Scooter Libby and Karl Rove to leak to New York Times reporter Judith Miller and others: President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And we now know what the president considers "appropriate" action when leakers are discovered: Make up some new lies. The latest spin is that the president unilaterally decided to secretly "declassify" a portion of the NIE report on Iraq prewar intelligence and leak it to the press. This, of course, was done "for the good of the country."
Excuse us while we retch. There is so much wrong here, it boggles the mind. If the president truly wanted to declassify intelligence for the good of the country, why not just do so? Why do it under cover to selected journalists? And why would the president then lie about it, telling Americans he didn't "know of anyone ... who has leaked"?
And why only declassify selected bits of intelligence -- the bits that supported the administration's case against Iraq? And why out CIA agent Valerie Plame? How was that information in any way "good" for the country?
The answer, of course, is that the leaks were not about informing the American public; they were about gaining political leverage and meting out revenge on Joseph Wilson, Plame's diplomat husband, who told the truth about the administration's distortions of intelligence reports on Iraq's WMD capabilities.
The ugly truth about this administration's manipulation of intelligence for the purpose of (mis)leading the U.S. into the Iraq debacle is slowly but irrevocably emerging. The latest poll numbers indicate that overall support for the president is around 35 percent. And Bush's disapproval ratings for his handling of the Iraq war stand at 60 percent or higher. The Americans who still buy into the administration's "fighting terrorism over there so we won't have to fight them here" line is roughly equivalent to those who believe in the Easter Bunny.
It is time for courage. It is time for men and women of honor to stand up in our House of Representatives and Senate and say "No more!" No more cover-ups. No more bullshit. It is time to call this administration on its incompetence and its corruption and its lies. We need a thorough investigation. Throughout our history, American legislators have stepped forward in times like these, eschewing partisanship for the good of the country. That time is here. That time is now.