Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Scandal summary

The Washington Post has an editorial today that helpfully summarizes the CIA leak scandal that is currently haunting the Bush administration for anyone who is still not up to speed on the topic.

One thing the editorial makes clear is that the case actually involves two leaks - the first being the one that outed Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife as a covert CIA operative and the second being a White House whistleblower who ratted on the ones who did the inital leaking.

"What sets this case apart is that it was a Bush administration official who turned (anonymously) on other Bush administration comrades. We know this because on Sunday Post writers Mike Allen and Dana Priest reported that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife." The senior Bush administration official told The Post, "Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge." Asked about the motive for disclosing the behavior of other administration officials, the purported whistleblower said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

I would be interested to know which of the two sets of leakers Bush is more interested in plugging up at this point.

The Post also makes clear that the story is not about to go away any time soon.

"The expanding probe, which promptly shifted to a full investigation after an initial review..."

In other words, we are already well beyond the point where this could all be explained away as no big deal. If, as some conservative bloggers have tried to argue, Valerie Plame was not an undercover agent but just an analyst and therefore no crime was committed by publicizing her name - then that would have been found out during the initial review period.

I can accept that the Justice Department will need some time to conduct a thorough investigation, but if it begins to appear that they are dragging their feet - as appears to be the case with the Enron probe - then expect lots more carping from Bush critics that an independent counsel be appointed. They can't just sit on this scandal and hope that people forget about it until after Bush is safely re-elected to a second term.

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