Politics: April 2006 Archives

Captain's Quarters says it's not even a story that the president used the authority he legitimately has to authorize Lewis Libby to reveal classified information to the press. He also notes that this is information the media had been pressuring Bush to reveal, and only the president could authorize that it be revealed.

I want to say one thing that I haven't seen anyone else say. I've been getting lots and lots of searches with keywords related to Bush's statement that the leaker will be dealt with and that anyone who did anything illegal will be fired. Both statements have to do with the context of the specific information that had to do with Valerie Plame's identity. Nothing in Libby's testimony indicated that he had authorization to reveal her identity, just to share that they had good reason to doubt Joseph Wilson's claims about Niger and uranium. I'm imagining that people are trying to find this quote in order to say that Bush should fire himself, but any conclusion like that requires a very impressive incapacity to engage in careful thought. He never said anything about anyone revealing information that he had legally authorized to be released. He specifically spoke of firing anyone who had committed a crime in leaking information, and he said that the person who leaked the name would be fired. Neither one has anything to do with Bush's legal authorization of releasing the information Libby said Bush authorized him to release, which was just the same information that was released to the media shortly thereafter.

There is one thing people might say. They might wonder not at the legality but at the morality of releasing information like this to the press if the reason is simply for his administration to save face. Several commenters at CQ seem to have this problem. Though I can't say much for the level of commenting on that post, I think it's worth saying something about that point. There are two issues in just war theory when it comes to right intention. One is what the actual person making the decision actually intended. The other is whether a right intention is available. We can never know for sure what any other person was fully motivated by. What we can do is explore whether there was a good reason for doing what the person did. In this case, I think there's a fairly obvious explanation for how someone could authorize the release of this information with the right intentions and not just to save political face. Joseph Wilson was lying about the facts that were part of the basis of the justification for an ongoing military conflict. Those lies could have a negative impact on the entire war on terrorism and not just a negative impact on the president's approval ratings. So getting the facts out in the open about the intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq could be good in terms of things completely independent of political maneuvering. While it's true that no one can prove that this was the motivation, it's also true that no one can prove that it isn't, and I think it's pretty low to condemn someone's motives as if you know what they are when an alternative explanation is available.

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