Dec 27, 2003 1:43 am


Josh's column at The Hill yesterday is quite good and makes an excellent point that deserves further, well, amplification.

Josh points out the obvious point that the president could be doing more to out the leakers and that it's reaching theatre of the absurd:

According to late news reports, the Justice Department’s investigation is looking at hundreds of people in the White House and perhaps still more hundreds at the State and Defense departments. White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee marvels that they’re looking at “almost 2,000 people.”

Yet all the available evidence tells us that the range of possible suspects is no more than a couple dozen people. It’s like investigating a robbery by deposing every resident of the city.

Yet the real interesting point is that the President is using the spin that this is about"leaks of classified information" (instead of the illegal and security-endangering outing of a CIA agent by an administration official close in W's inner circle) to continue to frighten folks in the CIA who might speak up about the administration's creative and selective use of intelligence in making the case for war with Iraq:

From the beginning, the White House has pursued a conscious policy of changing the subject from one of blowing Plame’s cover to one of opposition to all “leaks of classified information” — something this White House has been after Congress about for almost two years.

Go back and look at transcripts from the president and his press secretary, Scott McClellan, and you’ll see that that’s always the phrasing they use.

What’s the point of this? On the one hand, it produces sound bites about something general and vague — leaks — rather than something petty and despicable — blowing the cover of one of our own clandestine hunters of weapons of mass destruction for political gain. But there’s much more to it.

People who follow national security and intelligence issues have been waiting for months to see whether disgruntled bureaucrats at the Pentagon, State or the CIA would start going to the press with uncomfortable stories about things the administration did leading up to the war. The White House has been wondering, too.

Some of those leaks might involve classified information. Even if they don’t, they might come close enough to the line to scare off some midlevel bureaucrat with children and a mortgage.

By making the issue any and all leaks of classified information, the White House is sending a message that anyone interested in causing the White House more trouble should be very scared indeed. Bush made the point explicitly Monday, telling reporters that the investigation “will help set a clear signal we expect other leaks to stop as well.”

Again, what do we have here? There were apparently two overlapping motives for outing Plame: to get back at a career civil servant for embarrassing the White House and to warn others off doing anything similar.

Now the investigation into that bad act is being used to amplify the original message.

It all comes down to the same thing. Bush says he wants to find the culprits, but he’s done none of the things he could do to accomplish those ends easily. His priority is beating up on the victims of the White House’s initial bad acts (Wilson and Plame) and using the current investigation to help make sure everyone else keeps quiet.

Creepy, eh? W and the boys are using this investigation to intimidate other intelligence agents into keep their mouths shut. That's twisted, isn't it? This is an investigation into their own malfeasance -- but they're using it to frighten other folks away from telling the truth.

These guys really are a great bunch, huh?

I'm beginning to wonder if our country could honestly survive another four years with these guys in charge.

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