Leaky Bush: The Breakdown

Some of our friends on the right are (predictably) arguing the revelation regarding Libby’s testimony that Bush authorized his leaks is insignificant. They argue that it wasn’t technically illegal. While they are probably right on that issue, there are numerous other reasons why this matters beyond mere legality.

First, the story if true (and to date it is not being denied by Bush or Cheney) further destroys the fraudulent image of Bush as a Washington outsider who detests the dirty side of Washington — mainly leaks.

Second, it shines further light on how Bush and his entire administration abuse security classifications for political purposes as opposed to reasons of national security. In effect, the Bush defenders are arguing that they are O.K. with Bush (and Cheney) declasifying information on the fly, in an ad-hoc manner that ignores the declassification procedures and without informing others, specifically the American public, when information is declassified. As this instance shows, their ad hoc, declassification process has more to do with politics than anything else. Yet, we live in a democracy that is supposed to value transparency over gamesmanship. We know that this administration is the worst abuser of classifying information to keep politically harmful information from the public. Now it appears that the president himself declassifies so that anonymous sources can then spin the media and ultimately manipulate the public for purely political purposes. Americans do not view governments that engage in this stuff as moral, think the USSR and Pravda. Nor should Bush’s actions in this regard be viewed as moral.

Third, the issue raises a myriad of questions about the President’s innvolvement in manipulating the case for war generally and, more specifically, as to what role he may have played in the leaking of Plame’s identity. Ignoring the prewar stuff for now, one question that needs asking is was Plame’s identity one of the items Bush “declassified” in this ad hoc manner so that Libby and Rove were authorized to leak it. If so, it points out a stark problem with this ad hoc procedure being employed. Isn’t it obvious that it is extremely dangerous to be revealing the identity of CIA NCOs without first telling the CIA and that agent?

Just because the President has legal authority to do something does not mean that he should. Further, doing something, at best, immoral and, at worst, a heinous act putting the lives of other people in danger is worthy of criticism at least.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a concise post up as to what’s wrong with Bush’s leak and he adds a second post quoting Andrew Sullivan’s also concise takedown of this tactic.

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