President Bush Orders Staff to Attend Ethics Briefings
President Bush has ordered his entire staff to attend remedial training in ethics and handling of sensitive information in light of the CIA leak investigation and charges against former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby.
Bush Orders Staff to Attend Ethics Briefings (WaPo, A2)
President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material after the indictment last week of a senior administration official in the CIA leak probe. According to a memo sent to aides yesterday, Bush expects all White House staff to adhere to the “spirit as well as the letter” of all ethics laws and rules. As a result, “the White House counsel’s office will conduct a series of presentations next week that will provide refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information,” according to the memo, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post by a senior White House aide.
The mandatory ethics primer is the first step Bush plans to take in coming weeks in response to the CIA leak probe that led to the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, and which still threatens Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff. Libby was indicted last week in connection with the two-year investigation. He resigned when the indictment was announced and on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to federal investigators and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters.
A senior aide said Bush decided to mandate the ethics course during private meetings last weekend with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and counsel Harriet Miers. Miers’s office will conduct the ethics briefings.
The meetings come as Bush faces increasing pressure from Democrats to revoke a security clearance for Rove as punishment for Rove’s role in unmasking to reporters a CIA operative whose husband was critical of the White House’s prewar assessment of Iraq’s weapons capabilities. The five-count indictment against Libby maintains that other government officials were aware of, if not involved in, leaking the identity of Valerie Plame to the media.
This is as embarrasing as it is pointless. Now, granted, it is not unusual to have refresher courses in the handling of classified information (DoD tends to require at least perfunctory training annually) but this is rather silly for officials at the highest level of government. Additionally, there are probably nuanced ethical issues that are unique to working in the White House that would not necessarily occur to even the most honorable people.
Still, people in their 50s who have been entrusted with presidential-level secrets and policy-making should be above reproach. If the president is not confident in their ethics or discretion, they should be relieved of their duties immediately.