No Easy Answers

Friday, April 07, 2006

Declassification of NIE and the Plame Game

The old media is full of stories this morning about what was reported at the end of January - Scooter Libby "delivered" part of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to reporter Miller of the NYT. Here are a couple of stories that illustrate the "old," and in fairness, what is new is that President Bush is connected to the story. Cheney gave Libby OK to rip foe: mag - 02/10/2006 Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information - 02/09/2006 See Post 27 There is another aspect to the present stories, namely the leap to false conclusion that release of part of NIE includes "Leak of Plame." Now THAT would be a real problematic release, as it would have President Bush authorizing an Independent Counsel, standing by while an investigation takes place, expressing that the investigation is serious, permitting the investigator to jail Miller for refusing to testify, and putting his staff at risk for making false statements in order to protect the WH from political embarassment (when he could have told them that "Leak of Plame" was permitted).

Q Sorry. (Laughter.) My question, sir, is, well, as Anthony alluded to earlier, and as you're aware, we have many students at SAIS who are currently working for or considering working for the State Department, the various intelligence agencies and such. And how do you respond to the recent report by Prosecutor Fitzgerald that there is, in his words, a concerted -- "evidence of a concerted effort by the White House to punish Joseph Wilson" who, himself, has a distinguished record of government service?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. No, I -- this is -- there's an ongoing legal proceeding which precludes me from talking a lot about the case. There's also an ongoing investigation that's a serious investigation. I will say this, that after we liberated Iraq, there was questions in people's minds about the basis on which I made statements, in other words, going into Iraq. And so I decided to declassify the NIE for a reason. I wanted to see -- people to see what some of those statements were based on. So I wanted to see -- I wanted people to see the truth and thought it made sense for people to see the truth. And that's why I declassified the document.

You can't talk about -- you're not supposed to talk about classified information, and so I declassified the document. I thought it was important for people to get a better sense for why I was saying what I was saying in my speeches. And I felt I could do so without jeopardizing ongoing intelligence matters, and so I did.

And as far as the rest of the case goes, you're just going to have to let Mr. Fitzgerald complete his case. And I hope you understand that. It's a serious legal matter that we've got to be careful in making public statements about it.
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