Leaking like a sieve

794.jpg WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney’s role in leaking classified information to discredit critics of the Iraq war is pouring more fuel on demands that Congress censure and impeach both Cheney and President George W. Bush.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is building a case, step-by-step, implicating both Cheney and Bush in the campaign of leaks, David Swanson, co-founder of the pro-impeachment online group AfterDowningStreet.org, told the World.

At the heart of Fitzgerald’s case is the “outing” of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, exposed administration lies in a New York Times op-ed article. It is against federal law to identify a covert intelligence officer.

“I think Cheney was already implicated in outing Plame and now Bush is implicated as well,” Swanson said. He cited an report by investigative writer Jason Leopold that Bush attended a strategy meeting where the “outing of Plame was planned.”

Swanson added, “It is a serious problem that Bush was responsible for leaking parts of a National Intelligence Estimate. It needs to be investigated. The bigger picture that is sometimes lost is that the information was leaked to buttress a lie about the reasons for going to war, a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.” The illegal, immoral war, he added, is the real reason to impeach Bush and Cheney.

In legal papers filed last week, Fitzgerald, chief prosecutor in the case, bluntly and repeatedly implicated Cheney as the culprit who authorized the leaking of classified information to “discredit, punish, or seek revenge against” critics of Bush’s Iraq war.

Citing grand jury testimony by Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Fitzgerald described the leaks as part of a “concerted action” by “multiple people in the White House” to discredit critics of the war.

Fitzgerald charged that Cheney “specifically directed” Libby in late June or July 2003 to pass information to reporters from two classified CIA documents, an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and a March 2002 summary of Wilson’s visit to Niger. Libby apparently stopped short of saying his boss ordered the leaking of Plame’s name as a CIA agent.

Wilson had been sent by the CIA to investigate whether Iraq was purchasing uranium from Niger as reported in a British intelligence memo. Wilson determined that the supposed evidence was a “crude forgery,” a conclusion later endorsed by a special commission appointed by Bush. Yet Bush used the discredited document in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union speech to convince a gullible Congress to authorize pre-emptive war on Iraq in the name of protecting the U.S. from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

In his Times op-ed that June, Wilson assailed Bush for using the forged document to justify war. The Fitzgerald case confirms what many have long said: that Bush and Cheney gave the green light for Plame to be outed and for spreading the lie that Wilson’s trip to Niger was a “junket” arranged by Plame — to discredit and silence opponents of the war.

“The demand that Congress act to hold Bush and Cheney accountable is growing,” Swanson said. “Town, cities, communities and political parties are passing resolutions calling for impeachment. The movement is spreading like wildfire.”

In the House, Rep. John Conyers’ bill calling for a select committee on impeachment has 34 co-sponsors. Sen. Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure Bush is backed so far by fellow Democrats Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa).

“Feingold’s approval rating shot up 30 points when he introduced that bill,” Swanson said. “People are desperate for someone on Capitol Hill who will stand up, uphold the Constitution, uphold the majority view that Bush and Cheney should be impeached.”

Even Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) has called on Bush to explain his role in the leaking of classified information, exposing as hypocrisy Bush’s repeated denunciations of leaks.

Fitzgerald’s investigation is still going on. But already Libby, charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, appears to be singing like a canary, and the incriminating evidence is pointing more and more to Bush and Cheney as the “leakers-in-chief.”