Bush Wants To Investigate Who Leaked NSA Story Over A Year Ago
The Bush Administration is giving us a confirmation this morning that to them, there are good leaks, and then there are bad leaks. And they sure hate to be exposed as lawbreakers, don't they?
The same administration and Attorney General that can’t be troubled to find who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to at least six reporters now has decided to open an investigation into who leaked information to the New York Times over a year ago on Bush’s potentially illegal NSA domestic spying program.
Keep that in mind: the Bush White House knew that the Times had this story since before the 2004 elections, and successfully talked Bill Keller out of publishing the story before the elections for obvious reasons. They have had a year to start an investigation quietly to find this out, and haven’t done it. Some would say that they haven’t started the investigation because to do so would reveal the program itself. Fair enough, but if they were really worried about leaks in this administration, they would have waited several months after the election and then started an investigation to find this out.
No, the real reasons why the administration is doing this are several-fold. First, perhaps the White House got caught flat-footed on this, which is even scarier for them. They probably thought they had successfully beaten their propaganda partner, the Times, away on this story, and may not have known that several of their reporters kept working away on it for a book this spring. After all, this is the Times, and using them as just another administration mouthpiece is standard operating procedure for the White House (see: Judy Miller).
Second, those NYT reporters have kept hammering away on this, so they are obviously getting someone inside the Administration to talk about what is going on, and those are the folks that Bush and Cheney want to silence here. It's not the wimps in Congress who may have known about this and didn't raise a sufficient fuss all these years. Hell, this may be one case where Congress kept a secret, a secret that they should have run with at least after the election, if not before.
The administration got caught here on something that will require months of work to dig out from under. The Administration wasn’t ready to deal with this, and then made a hash of it by claiming the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against Al Qaeda was the legal justification for domestic spying, when in fact Congress gave no such specific authority in that resolution. And to its surprise, the Administration finds GOP critics blasting away at them on this as well.
But, let's just play this out and see what could happen. For the sake of argument, let's say that the "investigation" actually finds one or several people inside the administration who have been talking to the NYT since 2004 on this program. Do they really want to make a public deal about who these people are, and have a trial with discovery requests on alleged national security violations while Patrick Fitzgerald is looming? Do they really want it to go public that these people had an agenda to reveal this operation because of concerns over the program's legality? And for an administration to be so concerned about the alleged damage done to our intelligence gathering efforts by this story, doesn't their own talking about this program since the revelation and any investigation and trial of the leakers stand to do even more damage, if in fact there is damage to be done on something that Al Qaeda probably already knew?
No, this isn't about going after a national security leak and those who leaked the information, this is about stopping the bleeding before people talk even more, and about stopping the publication of the book by the Times reporters in the 2006 election year because the White House doesn't know how much the Times knows about what they have been up to. The White House has already tried once to talk the Times and other papers out of publishing NSA stories recently and failed. They are trying to chill this before the media gets into a competitive feeding frenzy in the 2006 election year and reveals what the NSA may really be doing here inside the country to political opponents and critics.
So, when attacked and unprepared, this administration does what it does worst: attempts to intimidate the messengers by showing us that there are good leaks and there are bad leaks. Just think of all the times Scotty McClellan now gets to say "no comment-there's an investigation going on" when pressed by reporters to justify NSA spying.