Boston Globe | Don't Ask, Don't Know

Sunday, 19 October 2003 04:58 by: Anonymous

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     Don't Ask, Don't Know
     Boston Globe | Editorial

     Saturday 18 October 2003

     At a time when President Bush ought to be doing 0aeverything he can to show that he is an engaged commander in chief, he is acting 0aas though there is nothing he can or should do to discover and punish the 0aofficials who leaked to columnist Robert Novak the identity of the CIA's Valerie 0aPlame Wilson. Bush's passivity in response to a political dirty trick that harms 0aUS intelligence operations and demoralizes intelligence officers is an 0aabdication of responsibility.

     Bush has left the work of locating the leakers to 0athe Justice Department and the FBI, while he plays the role of a detached 0aobserver. This stance makes him look like a weak leader presiding over a band of 0aunruly subordinates who feud with each other, betraying patriotic Americans like 0aMs. Wilson, with no fear of being brought to hand by the president.

     If he wished to do so, Bush could summon the likely 0asuspects from the vice president's office, the Pentagon, and the National 0aSecurity Council to the Oval Office and tell them that, as their president, he 0ais ordering the officials who gave away Valerie Plame's cover to confess their 0arole and resign.

     What the leakers did was not a merely technical 0aviolation of the law. By revealing her identity, the dirty tricksters in the 0aadministration sacrificed all the informants and sources who had ever, wittingly 0aor unwittingly, given Wilson intelligence information. Perhaps even more 0adestructive was the leakers' apparent attempt to show the CIA there is a price 0ato pay for refusing to tailor the agency's analyses to the wishes of policy 0amakers.

     The leak seems a transparent effort to devalue the 0afindings of Valerie Wilson's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who had been 0asent by the CIA to the African nation of Niger to check out a British report 0athat Saddam Hussein bought a large quantity of uranium ore from Niger. Agency 0aanalysts cast doubt on the allegation because Saddam already had 15 tons of 0auranium ore that had been inventoried by UN weapons inspectors, and, since Iraq 0alacked any uranium enrichment capability, the Niger story appeared dubious.

     Moreover, the British report originated with Italian 0amilitary intelligence, whose resources for intelligence analysis are limited. 0aAnd the Italians had not made the documents available that were the basis for 0athe British report. When those documents were finally produced for scrutiny by 0aUN weapons inspectors and concerned intelligence agencies, they were swiftly 0ashown to be poor forgeries.

     Wilson's wife and the CIA, it seems clear, were 0abeing punished by highly placed leakers who resented the agency's resistance to 0ahaving its gathering and analysis of intelligence politicized. If Bush continues 0arefusing to root out and punish those leakers, he will undermine the nation's 0adefense and his own claim to leadership.

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