The Washington Post’s write-up today of the CIA leak investigation raises more serious questions about the involvement of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. In an article entitled, “Libby May Have Tried to Mask Cheney’s Role,” the Post writes:
In the opening days of the CIA leak investigation in early October 2003, FBI agents working the case already had in their possession a wealth of valuable evidence. There were White House phone and visitor logs, which clearly documented the administration’s contacts with reporters.
And they had something that law enforcement officials would later describe as their “guidebook” for the opening phase of the investigation: the daily, diary-like notes compiled by I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, that chronicled crucial events inside the White House in the weeks before the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame was publicly disclosed.
While the article is explicit about the idea that Cheney may have played a larger role in the leak, the tie to Bush is not as apparent. There are at least two damaging pieces of information as they relate to the president.
First, President Bush was stating in early October 2003 that he didn’t “know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official” who leaked Plame’s identity. That statement now deserves greater scrutiny in light of evidence that the White House was presumably in possession of, or at least had knowledge of, a “guidebook” (i.e. Libby’s notes) that gave strong clues as to who leaked.
Second, on October 7, 2003, Bush answered a journalist’s question about the leak by stating, “how many sources have you had that’s leaked information that you’ve exposed or have been exposed? Probably none.” A week later, on October 14, 2003, Libby met with FBI investigators and told them a false story about how he first learned of Plame’s identity from reporters. In a case which would later hinge upon the accounts of reporters — who as Fitzgerald described were “eyewitness[es] to the crime” — it is interesting that Bush would highlight journalists’ historical disinclination for revealing sources. To drive home his point, Bush said to the journalists, “you do a very good job of protecting the leakers.” Was he not-so-subtly suggesting that they continue doing a “very good job”?