Questions of Credibility

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, February 10, 2006; 11:00 AM

In last Friday's column , I wrote that President Bush's fundamental challenge as he tries to regain his political footing is that most Americans don't trust him anymore.

I suggested that members of the White House press corps make a mistake when, either at news conferences or in sit-down interviews with Bush, they allow the central issue of credibility to go unexplored.

Then I asked you readers to help me out by suggesting sample interview questions for the president on the subject of his credibility.

About 500 of you e-mailed me with your ideas. Not all of them were exactly on point -- you seemed to have taken my request as open season on any and every aspect of the Bush presidency. But most every one was heartfelt, and appreciated.

I'm publishing some of them today, below.

But first, as they say, a quick look at the news.

A Misuse of Intelligence?

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post: "The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of 'cherry-picking' intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

" 'Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war,' Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration 'went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.' "

The Cheney-Libby Bombshell

Investigative reporter Murray Waas , now as a staff writer for the National Journal, spots two lines no one else noticed in a document that was made public 11 days ago -- and breaks the biggest Plame-related story in a long while.

The two lines are from a Jan. 23 letter from special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald to the lawyers for former White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. (You can read the letter here ; it's Exhibit C.)

Fitzgerald wrote: "Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate ('NIE') . . . in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003. . . . We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."

Waas adds some aggressive reporting and ends up with a gripping exploration of Libby's testimony and apparent defense strategy.

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