YouTube has again captured a news story overlooked elsewhere. On Nov. 15, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan revealed that President Bush confirmed that he authorized Scooter Libbys leak of a classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iraq:
Bush acknowledged green-lighting the leak in the simplest possible terms. The president and his entourage were in North Carolina, where Bush had given a speech. As Bush and McClellan headed into Air Force One, a reporter shouted a question about the leak of the NIE. On board, McClellan says, he told Bush what the reporter had askeddid you authorize leaking classified informationand Bush replied simply, Yeah. I did.
So Bush told McClellan directly that he himself, as president, was behind the process leading to the infamous CIA leak of Valerie Plames name.
McClellan narrated this exchange to an audience Nov. 15 at the Miami Book Fair, discussing his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House. McClellan had endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president on CNN on Oct. 25. McClellan has also stated publicly that Vice President Cheney has information that has not been shared publicly and should testify about the CIA leak.
According to McClellan, the moral of the story is clear.
In order to push back against criticism of the Niger uranium story, McClellan says, the administration including the White House and the Office of the Vice President targeted critics, who included former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV. Wilson went public with skepticism about the supposed Iraq-Niger uranium deal in a column for the New York Times, titled What I Didnt Find in Africa.
The aim was to destroy their political enemies no matter what the cost, he says, and it resulted in a period of very bitter partisanship. The broader aim was to take the country into war, with a political marketing campaign used to sell war to the American people.
Bushs moment of jaw-dropping candor also clarifies further that the Plame leak was a deliberate administration plant. The NIE does not include Plames name and CIA status, but when word to leak went down from Bush as well as from Vice President Cheney, to VP Chief of Staff Scooter Libby and to then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer among others, Plames WMD unit inevitably became part of the picture.
In a concerted bureaucratic hit, officials began by simply buttonholing two prominent reportersJudith Miller of the New York Times and Bob Woodward of the Washington Postat two of the biggest newspapers in the national political press, apparently thinking that Miller and Woodward would run with the item, generating a media trickle-down that would gather national momentum. As the public now knows, the first attempts went nowhere, and hastily timed plants with other reporters finally bore fruit with syndicated GOP columnist Robert Novak. Novak, who subsequently also outed Plames CIA front companyBrewster Jenningshas expressed some regret at the outing. In recent remarks, he has reverted to defiance:
Now Im much less ambivalent. Id go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me. My response now is this: The hell with you. They didnt ruin me. I have my faith, my family, and a good life. A lot of people love meor like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I dont think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.
McClellans Nov. 15 account raises questions:
In the extensive multi-year investigation of the CIA leak, how did President Bushs confiding this item to his press secretary fail to come out? Calls placed at Scott McClellans home have not yet been returned.
How did the trial of Scooter Libby, who was convicted by a conscientious jury, establish a cloud over the vice president, as then Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald put it, but omit the same cloud over the president? Libby held positions in both the White House and the Office of the Vice President. What prosecutorial strategy, in pursuit of justice, necessitated leaving Bush out of the picture? The Plame investigation is now officially terminated, along with the position of Special Counsel. Questions placed with US Attorney Patrick Fitzgeralds office in Chicago have not yet been answered.
On the other side, did knowledge that Bush green-lighted the leak inform the neo-con defense of Libby as a fall guy? Did Bushs disclosure form the basis for the neo-con talking point that Libby was just a sacrificial goat? Libbys defense team knew that Libby had been authorized to disclose the NIE before his conversation with Judith Miller. Was that information shared by the White House and the OVP with sympathetic media outlets?
Information from the Libby trial revealed that Wilsons op-ed piece did not set off the events leading to the outing of his wife. Wilson did not bring out his column until July 7, 2003, and the Bush administration had begun focusing on the Wilsons at least a month prior. According to testimony, intense confabbing about Joe Wilson and his Africa trip, and his wife, began in May 2003. A June 10, 2003, classified State Department memo by the Bureau of Intelligence & Research (INR) on Wilsons Niger trip mentioned Wilsons wife as a CIA WMD manager. (The memo also debunked the Niger uranium story.) Since Wilsons trip had already been referred to in a May 6 New York Times piece by Nicholas Kristof, and since Wilson had gone on television with his criticisms by March 2003, why was the administration still desperately going after former ambassador Wilsonnow retired to the private sectorthrough June of that year? Did he individually pose that great a threat?
Was the real target Valerie Plame Wilson, who lost her CIA jobwhile Joseph Wilsons career benefited from the controversyand whose counter-proliferation unit was compromised? Did the administration plant the item to defend invading Iraqor to prep for moving against Iran, whose WMD capability was being monitored by Plames unit?
Did the prominent reporters who first received the tip about Joe Wilsons wife smell a plant? Judith Miller, boosting war with Iraq, had little incentive to scrutinize the gift horsealthough she did not use it. Miller now works for Fox News. But wouldnt the White Houses using news outlets to target its critics be a political story for Woodward?
Why did Woodward keep silent about the plant for two years while the investigation continued? Why did he reveal it, along with the fact that his particular administration handler had been Richard Armitage, only when the first grand jury disbanded? Questions placed earlier to Woodwards office were not replied to.
And why did Woodward make media appearances critical of Fitzgeraldretailing meaningless details about the prosecutors housekeepingand downplaying the investigation and the leak? Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, syndicated through the Washington Post Writers Group, years ago called Woodward an unofficial spokesman for the CIA. Why did Woodward in effect shield the president and the vice president at the expense of the CIA?
Furthermore, why did the prosecution overlook Novaks subsequent mention of Brewster Jennings? When Novak named Brewster Jennings, after all, he was airing information about the CIA WMD unit, and clearly with intent. Was this to support administration aims against Iraq? Or against Iran?
Margie Burns writes from Washington, D.C. Email email@example.com. See www.margieburns.com.
From The Progressive Populist, Jan. 1-15, 2009
Subscribe to The Progressive Populist