By DALE McFEATTERS
The Bush White House sternly and piously denounced leaks of classified and sensitive information even as the president and his aides were assiduously and selectively leaking secrets that would help make their case.
Inside the Beltway, this kind of two-facedness is well within the standards of acceptable hypocrisy, but it may be a shock to the system of some of the president’s more ardent supporters who took the White House’s mock outrage at face value.
The probe that culminated in the perjury-and-obstruction trial of “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, originally set out to determine who leaked the identity of a CIA agent married to a Bush administration critic. The answer, now that the case has come to trial, appears to be: Who didn’t?
The source of the leak to columnist Robert Novak was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, by any definition a senior Bush administration official. Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s first White House spokesman, is expected to testify that he discussed the identity of the agent, Valerie Plame, with reporters.
And Cheney’s staff drew up plans leaking the name and debated to whom to give the leak — The New York Times or The Washington Post, both regularly denounced by the White House for printing leaks, Time or Newsweek, maybe NBC?
The president himself, it seems, was involved in leaking selected parts of a top-secret National Intelligence Estimate, supposedly one of the government’s most closely guarded documents. With a straight face, the White House explained that the president wasn’t leaking; he was declassifying.
Cheney’s former communications director, Cathie Martin, testified she got in hot water with a top Bush aide who thought she was the source of a leak the White House was trying to blame the CIA for giving the president inaccurate information. Indeed, the White House was leaking to shift the blame to the CIA, but apparently it wasn’t Martin who was doing the leaking. The actual leaker’s name has yet to come to light.
The next time grim-faced Bush aides appear on TV to denounce the press for printing a leaked story, consider: You may be looking at the leaker.