The Talking Dog

April 9, 2006, Thus Runs the Spin Cycle... or Whitewash-ington strikes again

Senator Arlen Spector, fresh off of a not necessarily masterful but nonetheless effective job of managing to obfuscate the President's brazenly illegal wiretapping and other eavesdropping on American citizens in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") now proposes a means of commencing the whitewash of the President's deliberate instructions to leak extremely sensitive classified information to ex-Times reporter Judith Miller via her boyfriend Administration contact, ex-Vice-Presidential chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby... by "demanding" that the President and Vice-President "publicly speak" and tell the American people what happened.

Here's the problem with the "fair and balanced" paradigm, or "you have to hear both sides" nonsense that has infested our monopolized, corporatist main-stream avenues of journalism, and as such, governmental leaders can play it to tell us that "if only we hear all sides we can judge for ourselves." As a courtroom lawyer myself (from time to time), I recognize this for the "trial" model: hear all sides, and the truth will emerge.

Well, no. No. NO. NO. A thousand times no.

In court, invariably, someone is telling the truth, and someone isn't telling the truth. Period. If the facts are not really in dispute, then the parties will ordinarily stipulate to that, and dump the case on the judge's lap to decide based on the law. When the parties can't do this, of course, they require a trial to either a judge or jury to decide what the facts are. The courtroom model. The parties disagree with the facts. On occasion, both sides honestly recount what happened, and the jury sorts out the nuances between them. Mostly, though, one side or the other (or all too frequently, both) lie their asses off, and the jury pretty much has to decide who they like better... or all too often, who they despise least.

Why do I take this long diversion? Because Senator Spector is trying to use emotional concepts of "fairness" derived from the courtroom model to "hear out" the President and Vice-President, as if this will be ameliorative. So, I have to call bullshit before we start. The President and Vice-President have elected not to deny Mr. Libby's statement to the grand jury, which became public through the round-about route of being mentioned nearly 20 pages into the special prosecutor's response to a discovery motion by Mr. Libby to seek access to sensitive documents and other evidence.

As such, we need not hear the President's or the Vice-President's "explanations". We know what they did. They have had over three years to explain. They have a functioning press apparatus, and a most sympathetic media, for the most part. Their story is out. We know what happened. We have no need to hear from them.

I'll bottom line it for you: the President who said he had no idea who the leaker is but he wanted to find and deal with the leaker and whose Administration wants to radically increase efforts to seek criminal penalties for leaks and handed over incredibly sensitive intelligence data willy nilly to Judith Miller to politically justify its decision to go to war in Iraq and to discredit political opponent Joe Wilson, and of course, to keep things stirred up just over a year before the 2004 presidential election.

Got all that? Of course you did-- you knew it already. No need to "hear everyone out". We know the facts: the White House has chosen not to deny them. We needn't hear the justification for those facts-- we know that too. "We're at war" will be what we'll hear, and therefore, "good leaks protect us" whereas "bad leaks threaten us".

In short-- the courtroom model. There's "the truth," and there's "lying your ass off." I think, with the President's approval at 36% and dropping, the American people are coming round to a verdict...


one set of facts you portray is the fact that Mr. Bush said he would go after leakers, while at the same time he had actually requested to "get it out". The other set of facts relates to exactly what information was declassified when, and what Mr. Bush was saying to "get out". I've seen several references to the chronology, but as some people have pointed out, the WaPo's editorial page was disagreeing with its own news department, so I confess I am still murky on exactly the what the chain of unclassification/reclassification versus leaking is. Presumably there is a set of facts that distinguish a leak procedure versus a declassification procedure and there are paper trails for the latter. Do you happen to have a good link on that?

Posted by Robert Bell at April 10, 2006 3:58 PM

Our friends at the White House have produced this executive order governing this issue of classification and declassification.

Let's just say, it doesn't appear to permit "whisper something to vice-president to tell chief of staff to selectively release classified information to trustworthy news reporter for political gain."

Here is a letter from Democrats to the GAO asking for a probe of the Plame leak that touches on a lot of these issues.

Needless to say, while there is a declassification "procedure", I haven't seen a "leak" procedure... the whole point of it is that its not documented-- it's intended to be unofficial.

It does not look like "official procedures" were followed. Again-- not necessarily a crime-- but not necessarily not a crime, either, and in any event, it should certainly be something the American people should know about.

Posted by the talking dog at April 10, 2006 6:33 PM