"Once Upon a Time at the White House…"
Crooks and Liars points out that there was a time when President Bush abhorred leaks. How adamant was the Bush administration about keeping classified information classified?
President Bush, 10/9/01:
Q Mr. President, when you meet with the congressional leadership tomorrow, will you be specific about what they can and cannot relay back up to the Hill? Or, do you just expect them not to relay anything?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to talk to the leaders about this. I have talked to them about it. I mean, when the classified information first seeped into the public, I called him on the phone and said, this can’t stand. We can’t have leaks of classified information. It’s not in our nation’s interest. But we’re now in extraordinary times. And I was in the — when those leaks occurred, by the way, it was right before we committed troops. And I knew full well what was about to happen. And yet, I see in the media that somebody, or somebodies, feel that they should be able to talk about classified information. And that’s just wrong. The leadership understands that…But I want Congress to hear loud and clear, it is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk. I’m looking forward to reiterating that message…But one thing is for certain, I have made clear what I expect from Capitol Hill when it comes to classified information.
Press Briefing, 10/10/01:
Q Yesterday, the President made clear his point about leaks. He’s had breakfast today with congressional leaders. Is the President willing to go from eight to a higher number of congressmen and senators getting the information? And, if so, when would this occur?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me try to bring you up to speed on where we are. That issue did come up in the meeting with the four congressional leaders. And I think it’s fair to say, message received. There’s no doubt about it that the importance of keeping classified information classified has been stressed, and the President hopes that it will be closely, exactly adhered to.
It’s important that members of Congress have information that they need to do their proper oversight activities; while at the same time, the President will continue to remind members of Congress about the importance of keeping classified information classified.
Q When the members emerged, their perception was that the administration was going to be much more careful in what information it shared; that if it was classified or sensitive, they would share that information if it was past-tense information, what happened earlier today or yesterday. And the President made clear he would be much more reluctant because he doesn’t trust them to share “this is what’s going to happen tomorrow” information. Is that fair?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can’t speak about past tense; I haven’t heard that. But I can suggest to you that secrets will be kept secret. And the President knows that he will work with the Congress so that objective can be achieved. And he was satisfied with the meeting this morning; the leaders were satisfied with the meeting this morning. So I think it’s fair to say that from the members’ point of view, and the President’s, this issue has been addressed. And I hope there is a new sense of awareness throughout the government about the importance of keeping information classified.