I have a headache. I'm trying to get a grasp on this intelligence leak story.
From what I gather, former White House aide/prominent scapegoat Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified that V.P Dick Cheney told him that W. had given the green light to "leak" to reporters (Scooter chose crappy New York Times reporter Judith Miller) about previously classified material on Saddam Hussein's nuclear intentions.
W. and Cheney are getting slammed by Democrats who allege that the White House also authorized the disclosure of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, an Iraq war critic. Democrats link the Valerie Plame leak and the pre-war intelligence link together because they came from the same source, Scooter.
Scooter faces trial on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury and investigators about what he told reporters about Plame. If I got any part of this story wrong, which wouldn't suprise me, please make a comment.
So the the question becomes: Was the W. "declassifying" intelligence for national interest or for political interest? It's clear that "declassifying" pre-war intelligence was intended to garner support for the war, but to what extent was the White House willing to silence critics? White House Press Corp. punching bag Scott McClellan said Friday:
"The president believes the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. And I think that's why it's important to draw a distinction here. Declassifying information and providing it to the public when it is in the public interest is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious, and there's a distinction."
Clearly, McClellan is trying to differentiate declassifying pre-war intelligence (which doesn't compromise national security) and "leaking" the identity of a CIA agent (a federal offense) as an alleged act of revenge.
W.'s in a sticky situation. An AP-Ipsos poll puts his job approval rating at 36 percent, his lowest ever in that poll. Only 35 percent approve of his handling of Iraq, which should be his approval rating cornerstone.
While the leak is still unraveling, I'll make a few points:
- This story is way too complex for the public to easily comprehend and probably doesn't greatly affect polls.
- What ever happened to the good old Clinton days? Sex scandals were so much easier to understand.
- W.'s not in any trouble. The president has the authority to declassify material. So, once W. authorized the leak, it became declassified material. By default, he's not at fault.
- Politicians should not play "Telephone." W. had a message that was relayed to Cheney that was relayed to Scooter. The message could have changed in the relay.
- Democrats are trying to connect Scooter's actions to W., but that could be a long reach.
- I'm going to go take some Aspirin and will stop analyzing this leak. And then I'm going to go take a leak.