Friday, April 14, 2006

Asking Questions

It appears that the White House is beginning to lose its strangle hold on the media, at least some of the media. Scooter Libby's testimony that he released classified information to journalists in an attempt to undermine Joe Wilson and his assertion that the regime knew the claim of Iraq's attempt to get uranium ore from Niger were false only when told to do so by the Emperor and Vice-Emperor stunned those who have been following the Fitzgerald investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame. When the news hit, the White House spin machine went into high gear, but this time, not everybody in the media bought into the spin. It took a few days, but the Star Tribune figured out just what was going on and raised some very pertinent questions about the White House efforts.

So far the White House hasn't contradicted Libby's testimony but has issued a series of vague defenses that raise more questions than they answer:

• The White House says Bush was trying to correct Wilson's errors and set the record straight on Iraq's weapons program. But it turns out that much of what Libby leaked was wrong -- and the White House had been warned about it by career intelligence officers at the CIA and the State Department, according to a long account in Sunday's New York Times.

• The White House says the president has the authority to release classified intelligence. Then why didn't he go public with the document in a speech or press briefing, rather than leaking it covertly to sympathetic reporters -- especially at a time when he was denouncing the practice of Washington leaks as a threat to national security?

• The White House says Bush wanted the document made public and was in the process of declassifying it when Libby spoke to the reporters. Then why authorize the leak before it was declassified, and why only the portions most favorable to the White House?

These questions are important to ask, even if we can't really expect any honest answers from this regime. The fact that a midwestern newspaper asked them, however, is important. Citizens in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and the rest of the 'heartland' can no longer be assumed to be the docile sheep Washington folks have assumed them to be.

The real kicker is the conclusion of the editorial:

It became clear long ago that the White House botched the prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein and his weapons program. Some Americans will forgive the president for that failure; others will not. But if it turns out that the White House knew it was operating on false information and used it to discredit those who knew better, that will be unforgivable. [Emphasis added]

Nicely done.


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