Lewis Libby, the vice president’s former right-hand man who has been indicted in the CIA leak investigation, recently told a grand jury that the president authorized him to leak from an intelligence document about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. If Libby’s statement is true, it illustrates that the president desperately wanted to undercut a vocal critic of the war because the case for war was weak.So far, the president has not denied Libby’s statement. According to a filing from the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby also said that the leaked information was intended to challenge claims made by a critic of the administration, Joseph Wilson.
Wilson was a credible threat to the administration’s case for war. In July of 2003, he published an op-ed piece in the New York Times that challenged the administration’s case for war, specifically the statement that the president made in his State of the Union address about Saddam Hussein seeking yellowcake uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapon.
Wilson, who is a former ambassador, wrote that the CIA asked him to travel to Africa to investigate the claim, and he said that he found no evidence to support the president’s statement.
That same summer, Libby met with Judith Miller, a former reporter for the New York Times, and told her that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapon.
Legally, the president did nothing wrong. The president has the power to declassify any information that he wants to.
What the president did is unethical. If Libby’s claim is true, the president tried to manipulate members of the press and push a war that was built on false evidence.
Unfortunately, the CIA leak investigation only continues to become more complicated. Libby could be just trying to assign blame elsewhere, so his sentence is lessened.
There are also other key elements of the investigation that are still unanswered. It is still unknown who leaked the identity of Wilson’s wife and a former undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame, to the press. Robert Novak, a popular syndicated conservative columnist, first published her name in July of 2003.
The leaking of her identity and Libby’s recent statement paint an eerie picture of how far administration officials will go to punish a dissenter. Wilson was a direct threat to the administration because he was credible critic who challenged the case for war.
More than three years after the war started, the American people have seen that Wilson is right. Hussein did not possess the capabilities to make WMDs. Unfortunately, the war is dragging on and no one has faced any serious punishment in the CIA leak investigation or for starting a war based on false evidence.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.