Pssst! Have we got a secret for you!

Not that we needed another reminder of just how deceptive, devious and duplicitous the administration of President George W. Bush can be, but Thursday’s revelation in court records that he ordered the leak of classified information to try and bolster his failed case for the Iraq war shows the rampant, business-as-usual dishonesty at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, before anyone says the release of court papers that show former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby told a federal grand jury that President Bush authorized him to give a reporter selected parts of a classified analysis called the National Intelligence Estimate is only one person’s side of the story, let’s examine an important fact – a White House that immediately denies anything that makes it look bad has not, in this case, denying what the court papers say.

“Under any circumstances, the president has the right to declassify information. Secondly, as the press is reporting, there is no indication in the court filing that either the president or vice president authorized the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity, or to insinuate otherwise is flat out wrong,” said Republican National Committee Communications Director Brian Jones.

In the news biz we call that a “non-denial denial.”  The court papers didn’t say a thing about disclosing CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name, even though that’s what Libby is gong to trial over. They did say Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney gave Libby permission to tell New York Times reporter Judith Miller that the NIE showed Saddam Hussein was trying to try weapons grade uranium from Niger – information that turned out to be wrong and which experts within the American intelligence community raised concerns over even before Bush and his boys started bandying it about as fact.

Libby’s charges of obstruction of justice, of course, stem from the  “outing” of Plame, who also just happened to the be wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the man sent to Niger to investigate the uranium claims and the one who said the information in the NIE was dead wrong. Miller used her position at The New York Times to sing the praises of the Iraq war and conservative columnist Robert Novak published Plame’s name, saying he got the information from “administration sources.”

Libby told the grand jury, Cheney ordered him to leak parts of the NIE to the press to discredit Wilson and said Bush approved the tactic. When the information got out, Bush bitched and moaned about leaks of classified information and promised a “full and complete” investigation to track down the leakers.

During a September 2003 speech in Chicago, after authorizing Libby to release the information, Bush said of the Libby investigation: “Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There’s leaks at the executive branch; there’s leaks in the legislative branch. There’s just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.”

Except Dubya knew damn well who leaked it. He ordered the release and can now hide under his Presidential authority to declassify information at will.

Legal experts say Bush, as President, has the “legal right” to declassify anything he wants but say declassifying sensitive information for political gain raises serious ethical questions.

“It is a question of whether the classified National Intelligence Estimate was used for domestic political purposes,” Jeffrey H. Smith, a Washington lawyer who formerly served as general counsel for the CIA, told The Washington Post.

And while the information might have been “declassified” by Presidential order, the declassification itself was kept a secret. Libby said only he, the vice president and the president were aware that the information was no longer classified.

So let’s see if we have all this straight. The President, through the Vice President, says it’s all right for a staff member to give secret information to a reporter.

Except this secret information no longer secret because the President, using his secret decoder ring, has made it not secret.

But, in order to cover everybody’s asses, the staff member cannot tell the reporter – or anyone else – that the previously secret information is no longer secret. That’s still a secret.

This way, the President can go and tell everyone that he is sick and tired of all this secret information, which isn’t really still secret, is getting out and he can act publicly upset while being secretly pleased that the New York Times fell for his little, not-so-secret secret.

Maybe it’s time to let the President of the United States in on a little secret the American public knows all too well.

George W. Bush is a liar.

And that’s no secret. Hasn’t been for a long, long time now.