Libby: Bush Authorized Plame Leak
A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded “National Intelligence Estimate” on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.
The court papers from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, do not suggest that Mr. Bush violated any law or rule. However, the new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter.
Andrew Sullivan has the same reaction to this that I had when the Plame flap first made the news: “We’re either talking extreme hubris here, or someone who felt he had a lot to hide. Or an admixture of the two.”
Christy Hardin Smith speculates:
Is it because: (a) Bush didn’t actually know that he had declassified this — because he didn’t really, and Dick Cheney lied to Libby in order to get that information out to Judy Miller? Or Libby lied in that portion of his testimony as well? (And won’t that be an interesting free-for-all if the Rove/Bush end of things starts flinging that mud at Team Libby?) (b) Bush was grifting his own administration and not being forthcoming about having already declassified the information because he either wanted it declassified to cover his butt or because he didn’t want them to know he had previously declassified the information because…he knew what was done with it — including revealing Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity — was wrong? (And criminal, in the case of outing a CIA NOC?)
Susie Madrak, naturally enough, thinks Bush should be impeached and is the mastermind behind the whole thing because, “He ran the dirty tricks ops for his father with Lee Atwater. From all accounts, he loved it – and he was good at at.”
Ace, on the other hand, thinks people are reading way too much into this. Rather than specifically authorizing the leak of Plame’s name, which would have been stupid, the president merely agreed to the declassification and release of “various parts of the National Intelligence Estimate Bush thought would help buttress his case for war with Iraq, and counter charges leveled at him by other leakers, such as Joseph Wilson.”
Update: Dave Wissig points out that the AP account reports that, “There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame’s CIA identity.” Hmm.