I’ve written many times before about the inappropriate leaking done by Scooter Libby of classified information contained within the NIE, whether legal or not. Now that the President is directly linked to that leaking I feel compelled to revisit the circumstances that made it so very wrong.
Although Fitzgerald’s inquiry relates to Libby and Miller’s meetings in June and July of 2003, BooMan has an excellent post which strongly suggests that Libby was feeding Miller this classified information as early as September 2002 (and more here).
It’s been reported that Dick Durbin was just on CSPAN deeply upset by this latest revelation and no wonder. It was Durbin who wrestled with his conscience, who couldn’t tell the public during the run-up to war what he well knew because it was classified: that there was serious dissent within the intelligence community about whether or not WMDs actually existed.
I wrote this when Cheney’s involvement in the leak was revealed, and my opinion has not changed:
[I]rony and hackery abound in [Cheney's] decision to let Scooter release information from the NIE to Judy Miller for no other reason than to lead her to political kool-aid that contradicted what they well knew to be true. And since the subject of the NIE is a sore spot on my gum that I just like to poke at from time to time this allows me to revisit the topic once again.
I’ve actually slogged through the 568 page SSCI report, a document so interminably boring and politically biased it would be unreadable were it not for the periodic outrage it elicits. In one of many bitchfests I’ve pitched about the NIE I wrote this back in November 2005:
That NIE (or National Intelligence Estimate — a compilation from the various intelligence departments of all the available information relating to a particular situation) was a crock from the git-go. BushCo. didn’t even want to do one, even though they are typically done before launching any major military operation like oh, say, a war. Unbelievably, Dick Durbin had to make a special request to even get one prior to granting Dubya the authority to declare war (p. 12 of the SSCI).
National Intelligence Officers assert that ideally it takes three months to produce an accurate NIE, but Preznit Itchy Trigger Finger and the Stovepipe Posse claimed that the threat Sadaam posed was so imminent that they couldn’t wait.
The NIE was produced in less than twenty days, and its findings were never sent out for peer review or to a panel of outside experts because Bush and company said there wasn’t time. (p. 13, SSCI).
At the time they compiled the NIE, an INR dissent was included which stated that "the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR’s assessment, highly dubious."
And what happened to this dissent when the NIE was published on October 1, 2002?
The language on Iraq’s efforts to acquire uranium from Africa appeared as it did in the draft version and INR’s position that "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are highly dubious" was included in a text box, separated by about 60 pages from the discussion of the uranium issue.
And what happened when people started to ask questions in July 2003 about the 16 words and wondered why BushCo. had never taken the INR dissent into consideration before launching a full-scale war?
A senior administration official who briefed reporters yesterday said neither Bush nor national security adviser Condoleezza Rice read the NIE in its entirety. "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document," said the official, referring to the "Annex" that contained the State Department’s dissent.*
Okay so here we have a critical document compiled under duress by people who didn’t care for people who didn’t want to read it. Except, that is, Dick Durbin, who had also requested that a white paper be prepared at the same time that wasn’t classified so the public could know why the country had to be taken to war. But when the white paper was prepared, there was no mention of the INR dissent. Dick Durbin was having kittens. He referred to it the other day when Abu G was being questioned by the Judiciary Committee on the NSA wiretaps:
I’ve been on the Intelligence Committee. And I can tell you that when you’re briefed with classified material — I sat in briefings not from here, just a few feet away and listened to what I thought was very meager evidence about weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq.
Based on that, I voted against it. But I couldn’t walk outside that room until it became public much later and say this administration was at war within when it came to this issue.
So Dick Durbin had to bite his tongue and watch the country go to war on what he knew to be a steaming pile bullshit because the NIE was classified and he couldn’t speak about the INR dissent. The public remained blissfully ignorant and thousands died.
But Cheney told Scooter he could fling it around like a dirty napkin while he and Judy were buttering each other’s toast at the St. Regis for no other purpose than perpetuating a public, ass-covering hoax.
Such is the regard that Dick, Scooter and the rest of the future perps treat national secrets and their own security clearances. People should be screaming at the top of their lungs that these callow political hacks have access to anything more sensitive than a three month old copy of People Magazine.
*note: Since that time it’s been pointed out by eRiposte of The Left Coaster that Condi did, in fact, read it in its entirety and this was nothing but another big bag of bullshit.
The firewall is crumbling. This goes all the way to Bush, and it looks like there might finally be some traction. Steve Rhodes from Tiger Beat tells us Nightline will be covering it tonight.
Maybe at last.
(graphic by Cathy H.)