‘N.Y. Times’ vs. ‘Wash Post’ in Editorial ‘Leak’ Battle

By: E&P Staff

It?s war. No, not Sunni vs. Shia in Iraq, but The New York Times editorial page vs. its Washington Post counterpart.

Perhaps it?s all in good fun, but it was startling to find a Times? editorial on Sunday titled ?The Bad Leak? exactly one week after a controversial Post editorial called ?A Good Leak.? The leak?involving former White House aide?Scooter? Libby?was the same, but the point of view about 180 degrees different.

Just a week ago, the hawkish Post had defended Libby?s leak of intelligence information to reporters as being in the public interest; Ambassador Joseph Wilson had it coming; President Bush had good reason to think Iraq tried to get uranium in Niger a few years ago; and now the president?s critics were unfairly criticizing him for the leak, among other things.

In a bit of embarrassment, the Post, on the very day the editorial appeared, had pretty much proved in its news pages that the leak was really meant to punish Wilson, and most of the information in the leak was obviously, and knowingly, false.

Now comes the Times editorial?siding with the Post news team against its editorial page.

President Bush, the Times opens, ?says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he ?wanted people to see the truth’ about Iraq’s weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush’s actions in this case, or his overall record.

?Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq ? in any accepted sense of that word ? when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.

?And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes.? Not only that, but ?the version of the facts that Mr. Libby was authorized to divulge was so distorted that it seems more like disinformation than any sincere attempt to inform the public.

?This fits the pattern of Mr. Bush’s original sales pitch on the Iraq war ? hyping the intelligence that bolstered his case and suppressing the intelligence that undercut it. In this case, Mr. Libby was authorized to talk about claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa and not more reliable evidence to the contrary.?

The editorial concludes by declaring it imperative that ?two things happen soon. First, the federal prosecutor in the Libby case should release the transcripts of what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney said when he questioned them. And the Senate Intelligence Committee must report publicly on how Mr. Bush and his team used the flawed intelligence on Iraq.?

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