The Gray Lady started an editorial cat fight with WaPo, says Editor & Publisher.
Itâ€™s war. No, not Sunni vs. Shia in Iraq, but The New York Times editorial page vs. its Washington Post counterpart.
Perhaps itâ€™s all in good fun, but it was startling to find a Timesâ€™ editorial on Sunday titled â€œThe Bad Leakâ€ exactly one week after a controversial Post editorial called â€œA Good Leak.â€ The leakâ€”involving former White House aideâ€œScooterâ€ Libbyâ€”was the same, but the point of view about 180 degrees different.
Just a week ago, the hawkish Post had defended Libbyâ€™s leak of intelligence information to reporters as being in the public interest; Ambassador Joseph Wilson had it coming; President Bush had good reason to think Iraq tried to get uranium in Niger a few years ago; and now the presidentâ€™s critics were unfairly criticizing him for the leak, among other things.
In a bit of embarrassment, the Post, on the very day the editorial appeared, had pretty much proved in its news pages that the leak was really meant to punish Wilson, and most of the information in the leak was obviously, and knowingly, false.
Now comes the Times editorialâ€”siding with the Post news team against its editorial page.
From “A Bad Leak“:
President Bush says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he “wanted people to see the truth” about Iraq’s weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush’s actions in this case, or his overall record.
Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq â€” in any accepted sense of that word â€” when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.
And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes. He has run one of the most secretive administrations in American history, consistently withholding information and vital documents not just from the public, but also from Congress. Just the other day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee that the names of the lawyers who reviewed Mr. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program were a state secret.
The Kool-Aiders are sticking to the “if the President does it, it’s OK” defense, utterly ignoring the bare-assed context of this particular leak — that the President used classified documents for selfish purposes, as if an intelligence assessment were nothing but a useful gimmick for political advantage that happened to be at his personal and privileged disposal.
Since Mr. Bush regularly denounces leakers, the White House has made much of the notion that he did not leak classified information, he declassified it. This explanation strains credulity. Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.
Even more, it strains credulity that a document was actually “declassified” if the White House kept the full document hidden and the “declassification” secret — even from the CIA — until it became politically expedient to announce it. As John Dean wrote, “The secrecy surely suggests cover-up.”