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January 12, 2004
Secret Documents Inquiry Launched

After Paul O'Neill's appearance on 60 Minutes included a document labeled "SECRET," Treasury officials have requested an investigation into its release:

The U.S. Treasury requested a probe on Monday of how a possibly secret document appeared in a televised interview of Paul O'Neill, as a book criticizing the Bush administration that uses material supplied by the ex-Treasury secretary hits the stores. ... "It's based on the (CBS program) '60 Minutes' segment, and I'll be even more clear -- the document as shown on '60 Minutes' that said 'secret,"' Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols told reporters at a weekly briefing. Nichols said the probe will focus on how possibly classified information appeared on a television interview as one of O'Neill's papers.

While this is going to look vindictive, no matter what Nichols says, once that document appeared on TV, an investigation cannot be avoided. Classified information can't just be tossed around, and its connection to a former government official who is flacking for his new book looks very suspicious. O'Neill and Suskind were foolish to allow its publication, as at least O'Neill is bound by the terms of his security clearance to protect that data until it is declassified by the relevant government agency. Just having the 'SECRET' designation on the top of the page makes any defense based on ignorance moot, and O'Neill -- as a member of the National Security Council -- has to know better.

Classified information does not exist for the purpose of high government officials to sell books. The Department of Justice or the Treasury needs to determine whether any other classified documents are in O'Neill's possession.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 12, 2004 6:18 PM

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