Friday, April 07, 2006


Regarding the revelation that Bush declassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate so they could be leaked to court stenographer Judith Miller, I wish I could pretend to be surprised at the chorus of "It's no big deal!" from the usual corners, but it's clear by now that nothing short of Bush's performing a late-term abortion in the Oval Office on national television while simultaneously officiating a gay marriage and signing a capital gains tax-hike will ever put the Moral Clarity Bunch off their belief that he is the Right Man.

Cliff May, defining obtuse, deserves special attention:
[T]here is nothing unusual about releasing the NIE -- with some sections remaining classified to protect methods and sources. We have no reason to believe that anyone authorized Libby to leak any sections that would remain classified.

It also is standard practice for every administration to leak to select reporters in advance information that later will be released to the press corps as a whole.

Why? Because that ensures better coverage: When the New York Times gets it first and exclusively they are more likely to put it on the front page and run it big. And a second wave comes later because the other media have to play catch up.

I'd suggest that May is just playing dumb, but that assumes he isn't just dumb. The point that sometimes "some sections [remain] classified to protect methods and sources" is entirely irrelevant in this case, as information wasn't withheld because it compromised security, but because it compromised the President's ability to defend the Iraq invasion. May's contention that this was about "giving a scoop" to the New York Times is obviously nonsense. The National Intelligence Estimate would have been a reasonably big story regardless of how many papers first got it. Taking Mark Twain's advice that "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," Bush clearly wanted to give his preferred version of the intelligence a headstart before having to confront all that pesky, resolve-weakening disconfirming evidence. In other words, Bush used his office's power of declassification to authorize the selective release of information as part of a propaganda effort. How the hell is that kosher?

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