Scandal du Jour: Vice President leaking CIA Names

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.