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The Latest Plame Smear: Does Fred Hiatt Even Read the Washington Post?

Sunday's editorial on the BushCo. leak shows exactly how the Post is earning its reputation for being just a few shades less reliable than PRAVDA.
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For years now the GOP machine has succeeded in strong-arming the Washington Post into legitimizing their propaganda, dribbling out sensational disinformation during Whitewater to the hacktackular Sue Schmidt to put on the front page without skepticism or question. Over time they have provided easy, sleazy copy and traded "access" to the point that it has fueled an empire of mediocrity where only the people willing to limbo low enough and shape the news to Karl Rove's satisfaction are rewarded with the scoops that trigger seniority. Both editors and reporters alike know their only ability to ascend the hierarchy comes from emulating supreme access pimp and BushCo. dupe Bob Woodward in a slavish devotion to stenography and the propagation of spin.

The new Washington Post editorial, an enormous turd that editorial page editor Fred Hiatt is no doubt behind, is such an unmitigated piece of BushCo. propaganda, such a giant bag of bs it deserves to be taken apart, piece by piece and beaten into the ground. Armando at Daily Kos has a rundown of Hiatt's bloodthirsty warmongering for which the paper will one day soon be held to account. But Sunday's editorial on the BushCo. leak shows exactly how the Post is earning its reputation for being just a few shades less reliable than PRAVDA:

A Good Leak

President Bush declassified some of the intelligence he used to decide on war in Iraq. Is that a scandal?

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.

How exactly does the public benefit from having selective, misleading bits of information leaked to a reporter for no other reason than to polish Bush's image in the press? Over at the Left Coaster, eRiposte takes apart the notion that this "declassification" was in any way intended to benefit the public.

Basically the NIE report had three sections -- the Key Judgments, which had no mention of the uranium claim, the Body of the NIE which did mention the uranium claim, and the Annex which contained the INR rebuttal that said the uranium claim was extremely iffy.

Says eRiposte:

If Libby had actually passed on the key judgments of the NIE to Miller, Miller would have discovered that it had NO mention of the uranium claim. So, it appears that Libby, Bush and Cheney tried to deliberately misrepresent the NIE to reporters by claiming that the uranium claim was part of the NIE's key judgments (even though it was not) and then tried to leak the contents from the body of the NIE (minus the annex) to make it appear as if the NIE made a strong case against Joseph Wilson's claims.

Hiatt may want to take a short trip down the hall, because journalists Barton Gelman and Dafna Linzer, also writing for Sunday's Washington Post seem very much aware of this fact.

Further, according to Fitzgerald the CIA report on Joe Wilson's trip had not been declassified at the time Libby leaked it to Miller. Hiatt conveniently ignores this in his eagerness to give Bush a free pass and attribute his craven abuse of power to some misty-eyed notion of public service.

But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.

This is a portrait of Fred Hiatt gorging on beltway cocktail weenies. How helpful of him to spread the meme that this is all just more partisan politics. There is no legitimate concern here, no. It's all just Democratic "hyperbole." I can't wait to see the polling on this one, I'm sure it'll prove there are a whole lot of Democrats out there.

Rather than follow the usual declassification procedures and then invite reporters to a briefing -- as the White House eventually did -- Vice President Cheney initially chose to be secretive, ordering his chief of staff at the time, I. Lewis Libby, to leak the information to a favorite New York Times reporter. The full public disclosure followed 10 days later. There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that....

Did they even bother to read Fitzgerald's recent filing before they wrote this? From page 20:

Defendant testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller -- getting approval from the President through the Vice President to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval -- were unique in his recollection.

And from page 23:

Defendant testified that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively declassified by virtue of the President's authorization that it be declassified.

And as Christy Hardin Smith noted this morning, these actions were in direct contravention of what Condaleezza Rice herself said about the Administration's policy regarding the NIE at the time:

[S]even days before key portions of the NIE were released, reporters badgered the then national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice to allow them to see some of the NIE, which had been used by the administration to make the case for war with Congress. "We don’t want to try to get into kind of selective declassification," said Rice, though she added, "We’re looking at what can be made available."

But wait, it gets better:

....nor is this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national security.

They're absolutely right about this. George Bush abused his power to authorize leaks to mislead the press for political gain. The leakers in the NSA warrantless wiretap scandal are true whistleblowers, people who risked much to inform the public about the Administration's illegal activities. Fred Hiatt takes out a big-ass knife and plants it in the back of his fellow journalists by applauding the witch hunt being carried out by the Bush Administration. Any journalist who is willing to collect a paycheck working for or with Hiatt ought to think very carefully about this fact in the future.

Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney's tactics make Mr. Bush look foolish for having subsequently denounced a different leak in the same controversy and vowing to "get to the bottom" of it.

This is an amazing bit of sophistry. "Mr. Cheney's tactic" distances Bush from responsibility with absolutely no evidence provided that Cheney cooked up this particular scam. In fact, Digby surmises that he didn't. "A different leak" -- technically, yes. But all a part of the same effort, to mislead the public and spread political propaganda.

The affair concerns, once again, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his absurdly over-examined visit to the African country of Niger in 2002. Each time the case surfaces, opponents of the war in Iraq use it to raise a different set of charges, so it's worth recalling the previous iterations. Mr. Wilson originally claimed in a 2003 New York Times op-ed and in conversations with numerous reporters that he had debunked a report that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Niger and that Mr. Bush's subsequent inclusion of that allegation in his State of the Union address showed that he had deliberately "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraq threat." The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth.

We'll let Barton Gelman and Dafna Linzer, writing for today's Washington Post, field this one:

One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they had additional, secret evidence they could not disclose. In June, a British parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique of Blair's role in promoting the story. With no ally left, the White House debated whether to abandon the uranium claim and became embroiled in bitter finger-pointing about whom to fault for the error. A legal brief filed for Libby last month said that "certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

It was at that moment that Libby, allegedly at Cheney's direction, sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited uranium allegation. Libby made careful selections of language from the 2002 estimate, quoting a passage that said Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium" in Africa.

Explain to me again about how Wilson was the one twisting the truth? Bush ordered the selective leaking of misinformation to prove something he knew was not true. Need more proof? Let's check Saturday's New York Times:

Mr. Fitzgerald, in his filing, said that Mr. Libby had been authorized to tell Judith Miller, then a reporter for The New York Times, on July 8, 2003, that a key finding of the 2002 intelligence estimate on Iraq was that Baghdad had been vigorously seeking to acquire uranium from Africa.

But a week earlier, in an interview in his State Department office, Mr. Powell told three other reporters for The Times that intelligence agencies had essentially rejected that contention, and were "no longer carrying it as a credible item" by early 2003, when he was preparing to make the case against Iraq at the United Nations.

Mr. Powell's queasiness with some of the intelligence has been well known, but the new revelations suggest that long after he had concluded the intelligence was faulty, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were still promoting it.

But the facts do not faze the surreal fantasies engaged in by the Post. No, no, they decide to do all the drugs at once:

In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.

This is where we get into the deep and heavy denial. First off, I don't know how these people open their mouths and say this stuff without their heads exploding -- it pains me to inform them that Joe Wilson was right. There were no Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger. This is a sad fact that the Washington Post is eventually just going to have to accept. But in the mean time, I tip my hat to eRiposte for this link, to George Tenet's sword-fall on July 11, 2003:

Because [the report associated with Wilson's trip], in our view, did not resolve whether Iraq was or was not seeking uranium from abroad, it was given a normal and wide distribution, but we did not brief it to the President, Vice-President or other senior Administration officials.

To quote eRiposte, "In other words, even if you take Tenet's spin for gospel, this WaPo editor's claim that [the report attributed to Wilson] supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium is simply flat out false. They're just making stuff up."

Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, who he said was an undercover CIA operative. This prompted the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. After more than 2 1/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge.

Let's take a look at what Fitzgerald actually said. Page 26:

Indeed, there exist documents, some of which have been provided to defendant, and there were conversations in which defendant participated,that reveal a strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr. Wilson before and after July 14, 2003.

And again, on Page 29-30:

Defendant also asserts without elaboration that "documents that help establish that no White House-driven plot to punish Mr. Wilson caused the disclosure of Mr. Wilson's identity also constitute Brady material." Once again, defendant ignores the fact that he is not charged with participating in any conspiracy, much less one defined as a "White House-drive plot to punish Mr. Wilson." Thus, putative evidence that such a conspiracy did not exist is not Brady material. Moreover, given that there is evidence that other White House officials with whom defendant spoke prior to June 14, 2003 discussed Wilson's wife's employment with the press both prior to, and after, July 14, 2003 -- which evidence has been shared with defendant -- it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to "punish" Wilson.

Contrary to Hiatt's assertion, Fitzgerald seems to think he has plenty to back up Wilson's claim. To the extent that he hasn't called up the Post to let them personally know what that evidence is, I suppose it must be disappointing to them. Ah the days of Ken Starr.

Had enough Fred? Well I haven't. Let's keep going:

In last week's court filings, he stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame's identity.

Mr. Libby's motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife.

Joe Wilson's July 6 editorial in the New York Times is what caused George Tenet, five days later, to publicly state that the Administration had been wrong to include the "16 words" in Bush's speech. That didn't happen because Wilson was wrong. And any attempt to smear Wilson, defame either him or his wife is only an extension of the initial White House disinformation campaign. It blithely ignores the cold, hard reality of the matter.

Mr. Libby is charged with perjury, for having lied about his discussions with two reporters. Yet neither the columnist who published Ms. Plame's name, Robert D. Novak, nor Mr. Novak's two sources have been charged with any wrongdoing.

And how does that make perjury, false statement and obstruction of justice okay exactly?

As Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out at the time of Mr. Libby's indictment last fall, none of this is particularly relevant to the question of whether the grounds for war in Iraq were sound or bogus.

No he did not say that. What he said was this:

The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And I think anyone who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.

In other words, oh ye of simple mind, his investigation did not seek to resolve the question of whether the grounds for war were justified. He made no judgment about the applicability of its findings, nor did he claim to be the arbiter of that.

It's unfortunate that those who seek to prove the latter would now claim that Mr. Bush did something wrong by releasing for public review some of the intelligence he used in making his most momentous decision.

Which "momentous decision" would that be? The one that wouldn't let the public know the truth about the dissent within the intelligence community regarding Iraq's attempts to reconstitute their nuclear arms program? Save your speeches about the unbridled patriotism of George Bush's motives. He's a petty, petulant mediocrity whose agenda could not accommodate the truth, just like Hiatt. It was political smoke and mirrors intended to dupe a nation, pure and simple. Hiatt is just adding a rubber chicken show to the act.

Jane Hamsher blogs at

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