Hush-Hush: Rove's Security Clearance Renewal

The White House refuses to discuss why Karl Rove's security clearance has been renewed.
The White House refuses to discuss why Karl Rove's security clearance has been renewed. (By J.d. Pooley -- Associated Press)
By Michael A. Fletcher
Monday, July 2, 2007

Should White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove be privy to the nation's most sensitive secrets? Did he break trust with President Bush and the nation when he told syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak about Valerie Plame's classified job with the CIA? Did he further erode that trust in 2003 when he told then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan that, as McClellan put it, there was "no truth" to rumors that he played a role in the disclosure of Plame's identity?

Rove, of course, was investigated by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the CIA leak case but was never charged. His security clearance was renewed after a reinvestigation in late 2006, which has puzzled Rep . Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In a letter sent last week to White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding, Waxman alleged that Rove's actions amounted to a violation of presidential guidelines that say "deliberate or negligent disclosure" of classified information can disqualify a staffer from future access to such material. Also being less than forthcoming, even about unintentional breaches, can be cause for revoking a security clearance.

"Under these standards, it is hard to see how Mr. Rove would qualify for renewal of his security clearance," Waxman wrote.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he could not discuss details but that Rove's "clearance was appropriately renewed as part of the regular process that occurs every five years."

Not-So-Open Government

This Independence Day marks 40 years since implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, the law aimed at ensuring public access to government records. Just last week, FOIA led to the release of information from the recesses of the CIA's files, offering details of assassination plots, domestic spying and drug experiments.

But a survey being released today by the National Security Archive, an independent research institute, found that the federal government is often slow in responding to FOIA requests. In fact, requests with some executive agencies have been pending for as long as two decades. The oldest request turned up in the audit was filed with the State Department by the Church of Scientology International in May 1987 -- half a lifetime ago for the law. The church wants to see information related to it that is held by State. It was among 10 FOIA requests that have been pending with the department for 15 years or more.

"The Internet grew into adulthood in less time than it has taken our federal government to deal with these outstanding Freedom of Information requests," said Eric Newton, vice president of journalism programs at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports the archive's FOIA audits. "Americans once said they had the best open-government laws in the world. Is that still true?"

And you thought Vice President Cheney could keep a secret.

Slouching Toward Vermont?

Bush's speech at the Naval War College last week marked the first visit to Rhode Island of his presidency. After arriving on Air Force One, Bush took a helicopter tour of the tall ships gathered in Newport Harbor for a festival. The stop left just one state that Bush has not visited as president: Vermont. Like Rhode Island, Bush lost Vermont in both 2000 and 2004, so don't expect him to head there for Ben & Jerry's anytime soon.

According to Mark Knoller of CBS News, the master unofficial archivist of the White House, it took Bill Clinton until seven years and 11 months into his presidency to visit all 50 states, making it to Nebraska in December 2000. George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, hit all 50 states in three years and two months. Ronald Reagan never made it to all 50, according to Knoller -- he visited 46.

Lest We Forgot

Maybe it was the school setting, but Bush was leaving nothing to chance in explaining the world to the audience at the Naval War College. "Remember," he said at one point, "when I mention al-Qaeda, they're the ones who attacked the United States of America and killed nearly 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001."

Oh, that al-Qaeda.

Energy Displacement

Aimee Whitelaw, deputy director of public affairs at the Department of Energy, is said to be moving over to the White House in two weeks to replace Jonathan D. Felts as assistant to Vice President/Sen. Cheney for political affairs.

Four Years and Countless Gaffes Ago . . .

Today marks the fourth anniversary of one of Bush's most memorable and -- he has said -- most regrettable lines. Asked about insurgent attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, the president responded with what many observers perceived as a taunt: "Bring 'em on."

At the time, Bush's words drew frowns from those who found them unbecoming of the most powerful man in the world. Now, given how events have unfolded, they are downright haunting. Bush has since acknowledged that his response "sent the wrong signal to people." The words came two months after another famous Bush quote, this one spoken from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

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