So Many More Questions

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, June 23, 2008; 12:31 PM

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's congressional testimony on Friday didn't produce many answers, but it served as a potent reminder of how little we know about the inner workings of the Bush administration -- and of how much this secrecy has eroded the public's trust in the president.

Dan Eggen writes in Saturday's Washington Post that McClellan decried "an insular and secretive White House that he said lied about the leaking of a CIA officer's name and 'overstated' intelligence in the rush to war in Iraq."

McClellan "said Bush squandered the public's trust by not following through on promises to fire those involved in disclosing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson and to publicly divulge details about the case.

"'The continuing cloud of suspicion over the White House is not something I can remove, because I know only one part of the story,' McClellan said during several hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. 'Only those who know the underlying truth can bring this to an end. Sadly, they remain silent.'"

Todd J. Gillman writes in the Dallas Morning News: "Former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan told Congress under oath Friday what he never said from the White House lectern -- that top officials misled the country about Iraq and are still concealing the truth about leaking a CIA operative's name.

"'The vice president has information that has not been shared publicly,' Mr. McClellan said. 'You could go down the list, from Scooter Libby to Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer. There are others that have not shared everything they know about this.'"

What could Cheney, Rove, and others be keeping secret? Could it be that the vice president -- or even the president -- was responsible for outing Plame and then trying to cover it up?

Joe Conason writes for Salon: "At long last, the most significant issues in the case of one-time CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson are emerging under congressional scrutiny. With former White House press secretary Scott McClellan as a willing foil, the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee seem determined to examine the actual roles of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the Plame affair. . . .

"Five years into the Plame scandal, that remains the most salient question not only for Cheney but for Bush too. What did they tell [special counsel Patrick J.] Fitzgerald when he and his investigators interviewed them about the leak of Plame's identity and the attempted coverup?

"According to published reports, the special prosecutor questioned the president and the vice president during the summer of 2004. Those same reports indicate that Bush, who was accompanied by private counsel, wasn't sworn in during his interview. But even if neither he nor Cheney was placed under oath during their encounters with Fitzgerald, that wouldn't excuse them from telling the truth. Lying would expose them to prosecution for making false statements to federal investigators -- a felony -- as well as possible counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. . . .

"Most Americans have long since discarded any illusions about the integrity of this administration, especially in matters surrounding the war in Iraq. That includes the Plame scandal, where early promises of candor, transparency and accountability, many of them uttered by McClellan, have certainly never been fulfilled (to say the least). . . .

"They will remain silent as long as they can get away with it, of course. The members of the congressional committee who are seeking the truth deserve credit for their efforts, frustrated as they are by an attorney general who promised to uphold truth and law and has so far done little to establish his sincerity.

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