Nothing 'Good' About Mr. Bush's Leak

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The April 9 editorial "A Good Leak" defended President Bush's declassification of previously classified information. The editors probably were right that the president's action was not unlawful, but The Post's judgment that this was a "good leak" is badly flawed.

To the extent that government officials make important decisions on the basis of classified information, they are making choices that the people are unable to review and revise.

This is true, and unavoidable, when the classification system works as it should. But far worse (and inexcusable) are the effects of irregular high-level "leaks" involving selective disclosure. The democratic process is distorted when senior government officials use unattributed partial leaks as a weapon, lobbing selected bits of favorable information from behind a wall of classification that shields contrary evidence from public view. This selective "declassification" by presidential leak can so skew the public discourse that it undermines the concept of the consent of the governed.

We don't know exactly what happened in this instance, and we don't know to what extent previous administrations engaged in similar behavior, but we should know this: No anonymous, one-sided release of misleadingly selective parts of a report deserves the accolade "A Good Leak."


Chapel Hill, N.C.

The writer was a senior official in the Justice Department from 1993 to 1997.


For The Post to characterize President Bush's leaking of portions of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq as "good" was astonishing. The president's selective leaking of highly sensitive intelligence for political purposes should be condemned, not praised.

The leak was not intended to inform, clarify or aid public debate. It was, instead, straight out of Karl Rove's politics-of-fear playbook. The motivation was to discredit a critic of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy.

The president has been caught red-handed doing what he publicly claims to abhor. Presidents should lead by example, including adherence to national security protocols for the proper declassification of sensitive intelligence. From the beginning the Bush administration has manipulated intelligence about Iraq to try to strengthen the president's political position.

The Post should stop condoning Mr. Bush's behavior and should join the call for an investigation of the administration's manipulation of intelligence for political purposes. Congressional oversight is long overdue.


U.S. Representative (D-Calif.)


The writer is the House minority leader.

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