Honor System

How to fix a leak


Why would anyone in the White House think revealing that Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife worked under cover for the CIA would "punish" or "intimidate" him for publishing an article critical of the Bush Administration's use of bogus information about supposed Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger? If disclosing that information was aimed at somehow "discrediting" Wilson, it was just plain stupid. Besides being illegal, it just makes Wilson seem more credible, not less.

The Plame Affair began back in July, when columnist Robert Novak incidentally noted that Wilson's wife Valerie Plame was a CIA agent, not the private energy consultant she pretended to be. Wilson went ballistic, claiming that an official in the Bush White House was behind the revelation that she is an undercover CIA agent and had possibly put her life and the lives of her foreign contacts at risk. It has happened in the past. CIA Athens station chief Richard Welch was killed by Greek terrorists in 1975 after former CIA agent Philip Agee revealed that Welch worked for the agency. Subsequent to Welch's murder, it was made illegal to knowingly reveal the identity of an under cover CIA agent.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan in his press briefing on September 29 repeatedly declared that there was no specific information tying the leak about Plame to the White House. However, this assertion had certainly been called into question a day earlier when the Washington Post reported that "two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife."

The Bush White House is famous (or infamous) for being leak proof and for the fierce loyalty of its staffers to the President. Time to put that loyalty to the test. There should be no need for an investigation by the Justice Department. The President should order whoever made the leak to admit it and resign. If silence still reigns, then President Bush will know that loyalty has its limits. If the guilty refuse to come forward, then President Bush must ask each one of his top aides to sign a sworn statement that they did not tell Robert Novak or any other member of the press about Valerie Plame. Even if requiring White House aides to sign such sworn statements doesn't expose the guilty, they do raise the stakes for the leaker because he or she could be prosecuted for perjury if a later investigation finds them out.

Top White House operative Karl Rove has been asked if he had anything to do with the leak. Rove denies that he did. Fair enough. See how easy that was? Now it's the turn of other top White House officials to face President Bush and answer the same question.