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April 9, 2006
A Little Honesty From The Media

The Washington Post editorial board injects a little honesty from the media in the so-called leak kerfuffle today, in contrast to its peers in journalism. The unsigned editorial accepts that the administration not only has the right to declassify the kind of information it did, but was right to have it published:

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.

After beating up on Dick Cheney for a paragraph for choosing to have Scooter Libby send the information through quiet channels, the Post reminds its readers why Bush found it necessary to declassify the material at all:

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

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. 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.

The entire reason the NIE had to be released was to answer the lies that the Post acknowledges Wilson told, including through one of its own reporters, Walter Pincus. They could also have explicitly acknowledged that their own reporters created the necessity for the NIE release, but at least they do not engage in the hypocritical screeching coming from other media outlets over the release. The media, especially the Post and the New York Times, fueled the controversy over the Niger claim by poorly vetting the Wilson leaks and the Wilson editorial.

Rather than getting steamed about Libby using a process that every journalist presses their sources to use, they should -- as the Post does -- express gratitude that the administration released the intelligence estimates that led to their decision to go to war. And instead of continuing to prop Joe Wilson up as a hero or victim, it's high time that the media do what the Post did and expose him for the manipulating schemer that he and his wife proved to be in this instance.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 9, 2006 6:20 PM

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