Page 4 - The War over the Leak (Cont'd)

Page 4 - The War over the Leak (Cont'd)
Mon Oct 6 11:14:16 2003

Page 4 - The War over the Leak (Cont'd)

But the White House was already shaping the outline of a defense in the event any leakers are found by the fbi or come forward on their own. White House officials argued privately that it was possible that whoever leaked Plame's identity may not have known she was undercover, as the law requires for prosecution. While the Administration suggested that perhaps hundreds of people knew of Plame's spywork, some in the White House admitted that the West Wing was on the hunt for Clinton-like technicalities to skate through. "I did not have conversations with that man," one wry aide quipped. Bush has seldom been in this position before—that is, on the political defensive. Republicans watching the White House wondered last week how long it would take for Bush to get his mojo back, and several even reminisced fondly about the way Bill Clinton would fight hardest when all seemed lost. "Bush is the opposite of Clinton," said one, trying not to sound worried. "He's all offense and no defense. Clinton was awesome when his back was against the wall. Bush doesn't know where to turn."

The Justice Department is trying to make a swift start, perhaps to forestall calls for a special counsel. The clamor faded a bit last week, but it will be back. So half a dozen agents are on the case, government sources told TIME, led by Inspector John Eckenrode, a seasoned veteran of leak probes and other sensitive investigations. Plame was interviewed by the fbi for the first time last Friday. But if the probers narrow their scope to a shortlist of possible leakers, the handling of the case could become very controversial very quickly. fbi agents have already been asking reporters for their voluntary cooperation—it never hurts to try—but what happens if everyone in the White House denies being the leaker and all the reporters involved refuse to name their sources?

One irony here is that a special counsel might actually help the White House keep the story off the front page. Damaging as they were in the Clinton years, well-managed special counsels have the one advantage of theoretically putting everything under a cone of silence and allowing a President to move on. Some legal experts have noted that special counsels are needed not to open probes but to end them. "DOJ won't be able to make this case," says a former Clinton Justice official, noting the difficulty of leak hunts, "but it also won't be able to close it because nobody will believe them." That's why, notes George Terwilliger, a former deputy attorney general in the first Bush Administration, "in some cases, it's absolutely true that due to personalities and circumstances, the perception of the integrity of the resulting judgment will be enhanced if some outside person ... is brought in."

Just because most experts predict the legal damage to be limited does not mean the political fight will end soon. One of the reasons the fight feels even uglier and more desperate than usual is that it comes at a time when almost every political institution seems tarnished. To the extent that the Bush Administration has to answer for David Kay's failure to find any WMD in Iraq, its answer is that fault lies with the shortcomings of the intelligence community. The spies, for their part, have been quick to remind their allies on Capitol Hill of the White House's and hard-liners' refusal to listen to their footnotes, warnings and caveats last year. And the Democrats, who had forgotten what it was like even to glimpse the political upper hand, seem just a little bit too happy that the WMD hunters have come up empty-handed and the situation in Iraq is becoming an ever greater liability for the President. With the White House, the cia, Democrats and Republicans so busy covering their tracks, it is no wonder that public confidence in their judgments and motives is shaken when the nation's challenges seem only to be growing.

—Reported by Timothy J. Burger, Massimo Calabresi, James Carney, Matthew Cooper, John F. Dickerson, Viveca Novak, Elaine Shannon, Karen Tumulty, Douglas Waller and Michael Weisskopf/Washington

Searched news for Joseph-Wilson. Results 1 - 30 of about 2,130

This White House Scandal Finally Tips the Scale!

Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.)
(governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents)

Main Page - Wednesday, 10/08/03

Message Board by American Patriot Friends Network [APFN]


messageboard.gif (4314 bytes)