The Washington Post recently analyzed an accusation in the testimony of “Scooter” Libby, which alleged that the President authorized V. P. Dick Cheney to disclose evidence from a classified National Intelligence Estimate to the press in support of the march to war. Much of the initial analysis focused on the fact that none of the testimony revealed indicates that Libby was authorized to reveal Valerie Plame’s identity; in fact, it is clearly stated that “There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame’s CIA identity.”
Much of the controversy has been the question of whether the information authorized for release by Bush qualifies as a “leak.” Signs point to this NOT being a leak; though the right to declassify is still debate fodder, I’m going under the assumption that he HAS this right. But the Post article identifies much more insidious information:
One striking feature of that decision — unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it — is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before. United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003…
Unknown to the reporters, the uranium claim lay deeper inside the estimate, where it said a fresh supply of uranium ore would “shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons.” But it also said U.S. intelligence did not know the status of Iraq’s procurement efforts, “cannot confirm” any success and had “inconclusive” evidence about Iraq’s domestic uranium operations.
As if this weren’t enough, the Washington Post followed up the story of the Libby testimony with another front page story, this one concerning the mobile “biological laboratories” captured by the U.S. in May 2003, about which the President declared “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.” The back-story is a whopper:
But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true. A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.
In a sign that this controversy is becoming far more than a partisan exercise, even Republican Senator Arlen Specter — chairman of the Judiciary Committee — is now calling for the President and Vice President to come clean on exactly what was said and done regarding the information cleared for release. Meanwhile, with our troops tied up in something approaching civil war, plans are being made to bomb Iran. Can we believe our government’s case this time, or are they crying wolf?
Presenting information that indicates inconclusive evidence as part of the rationale for going to war, without volunteering the fact that it’s inconclusive, is deceptive beyond question. Relying on evidence known to be false when proclaiming success is essentially lying. If the analyses in the Post are correct, and the information obtained from Libby is correct, in the name of democracy this demands a response. An investigation should be launched to confirm what was known about these pieces of “evidence” when, and any other related information. Further, the President should be censured–not for the questionably legal wiretapping (sorry – “Terrorist Surveillance”) program as Senator Feingold has proposed, but for willfully choosing to present only PART of the truth — and spreading untruth — for political gain.