In the last year scandals seem to follow a curious pattern: they rise up, get a lot of talk in Washington but little elsewhere and then disappear, only to come back three months later as massive public news.
Back in July, we posted a number of entries about White House dirty tricks against a whistleblower’s wife. For those who missed the story, diplomat Joseph Wilson had traveled to the African nation of Niger to investigate the story that that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from it. Wilson easily determined that the story was a hoax and reported this information back to Washington. Despite the debunking, President Bush used the allegation in his State of the Union address and Wilson later came out and told reporters the President knew the information was false. A short time later someone in the White House let a conservative columnist know that Wilson was married to an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, exposing her name and endangering both her mission and the lives of those helping her.
We called this a treasonable offense but the news blew over and few people outside Washington seemed to follow the story. Last week it blew up big again and it’s been creating headlines. Rumor has it that the White House leak came from very high up in the Vice President’s office and the questions have mounted:
- who leaked the information?
- what did the Vice President know?
- what did the President know?
- did the President and his advisors know the Niger story was false when he addressed the nation and use it to call for war in Iraq?
The in’s and out’s of the renewed scandal are being ably tallied by Joshua Michal Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. He’s situating the leak in the backdrop of an ongoing war between the Vice President’s office and the CIA. As we’ve been documenting for a year now, the Vice President has been pressuring the CIA to skew their findings to suit the political needs of Administration. Most of the pre-war reports from the CIA found no evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, for example, which made Vice President Dick Cheney furious and he was somewhat sucessful in getting them to rewrite their story. Now of course we know the CIA was right, and that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction.
We have independent intelligence services precisely so we will have the best information possible when making decisions of national security. To politicize these services to serve the agendas of a pro-war Administration (who salivated over an Iraq invasion long before the 9/11 bombings) is wrong. It’s the kind of thing a banana republic dictator does. It’s not something that the American people can afford.