(HOST) While President Bush braces himself for the possibility that two senior White House aides will be indicted for leaking the identity of a CIA operative, commentator Barrie Dunsmore gives us his perspective on the meaning of the case.
(DUNSMORE) After a two-year investigation, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is about to reveal his findings as to whether a crime was committed when White House officials blew the cover on a CIA agent. His decision could come any day now. But, whatever his conclusions, the significance of the case is now clear: it’s about the war in Iraq and the selling of that war with
what we know now was bogus intelligence.
One of the chief salesmen of the argument that Iraq should be attacked pre-emptively because it had weapons of mass de-
struction was Vice President Dick Cheney. One of the men who may be indicted is Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis – better known as Scooter – Libby. The other possible indictee is Karl Rove, Presi- dent Bush’s deputy chief of staff. And Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who went to jail for 85 days to avoid naming her sources, also just happens to be the reporter who did most of the stories in the Times about Saddam Hussein’s stock-pile of biological weapons and his developing nuclear capability.
Miller finally decided to testify after receiving Scooter Libby’s blessing to do so. She told the grand jury about three conversa- tions she had with him in which the identity of the CIA agent was discussed. But she remained vague on some important details. Since going public in the Times on Sunday, Miller has been scathingly attacked by both journalistic critics and Times colleagues for not being more forthcoming.
But it’s Miller’s role in pushing the weapons of mass destruction story, and her close ties to Cheney’s office, that are worth greater scrutiny. We learned in Sunday’s Times that a former co-writer on some of these stories complained to Times editors, I do not trust her work, her judgment or her conduct. She is an advocate. Even more damaging was the revelation in Sunday’s paper that the executive editor had told Miller two years ago that she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
We know that in the summer of 2003 the weapons of mass de- struction pretext for the Iraq war was quickly unraveling, as no such weapons had been found. So, when critics began suggesting that the administration had deliberately exaggerated this issue to justify the war, top White House officials went on the attack.
They began telling selective reporters, including Miller, that diplo- mat Joseph Wilson – who was accusing them of twisting the evi- dence for war – was not credible. They suggested that his trip
to Africa to investigate Iraqi attempts to buy uranium, was actually just a CIA boondoggle – arranged by his wife – who worked at the agency on nuclear matters.
This was not a minor leak or normal political hardball –
as apologists for the White House are now arguing.
It was actually part of a grand design to keep Americans from coming to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was begun under false pretences.
This is Barrie Dunsmore.
Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.