Sunday, April 16, 2006

Anatomy of Journamalism

One of these things is not like the other

Last Sunday, the WaPo said Bush can leak and leak and leak and it's all right with them. He's the President so he can do what he wants. So there.

A Good Leak

PRESIDENT BUSH was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.

Editor and Publisher said, Not so fast:

'The Washington Post': At War With Itself
The newspaper's editorial page on Sunday declared Scooter Libby's notorious 2003 gift to reporters "The Good Leak." On the same paper's front page two reporters thoroughly debunked the notion.

No wonder the Post, in today’s editorial, calls Wilson’s trip to Niger “absurdly over-examined.” This is what people say when they want to change the subject instead of having to renew an indefensible position. The Post's editorial page has been wrong from the start on Iraq so we must at least applaud its consistency.

Little Debbie (Deborah Howell, laughably bad ombudsperson) defends WaPo today by saying, on the one hand, on the other hand, who needs facts when you own the paper?

Two Views of the Libby Leak Case

Editorials and news stories have different purposes. News stories are to inform; editorials are to influence.

And, finally, the Grey Lady gets it right, for once:

A Bad Leak

Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq — in any accepted sense of that word — when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.

And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes. He has run one of the most secretive administrations in American history, consistently withholding information and vital documents not just from the public, but also from Congress. Just the other day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee that the names of the lawyers who reviewed Mr. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program were a state secret.


Since Mr. Bush regularly denounces leakers, the White House has made much of the notion that he did not leak classified information, he declassified it. This explanation strains credulity. Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.

To declassify an intelligence document, officials have to decide whether disclosing the information would jeopardize the sources that provided it or the methods used to gather it. To answer that question, they closely study the origins of the intelligence to be disclosed. Had Mr. Bush done that, he should have seen that the most credible information made it clear that the Niger story was wrong. (In any case, Iraq's supposed attempt to buy uranium from Niger happened four years before the invasion, and failed. The idea that this amounted to a current, aggressive and continuing campaign to build nuclear weapons in 2002 — as Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney called it — is laughable.)

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