Hiding behind a shroud of secrecy

Not since the years of Nixon has an administration been so steeped in silence.

Nearly three years after the first accusations of the White House’s alleged leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity to the press, the controversy only gets more convoluted.

Last week special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald submitted a court filing that, for the first time, put President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at the center of the Valerie Plame case.

According to the filing, the White House had a strong desire to retaliate against and undermine Joseph Wilson – Valerie Plame’s husband – because, as a former CIA employee, he came forward to discredit the administration’s reasons for going to war and stated frankly that the “intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

Based on the sworn grand jury testimony of Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, Bush authorized him through Cheney to give information from the National Intelligence Estimate to the press. It is clear the declassification was purely for political reasons and an effort to punish Joseph Wilson.

Already the filing has caused the White House to belatedly acknowledge that, in fact, Bush ordered some parts of the Intelligence Estimate to be declassified and given to the press. However, they remain ambiguous as to when and why they did so. This comes after the president unequivocally stated that he would fire any individual involved in the leaking of classified documents.

Because of the administration’s penchant for secrecy and plausible deniability, the American people might never know what the president authorized the vice president and Lewis Libby to do or not to do. It is clear, however, that if these allegations are true, the president will have moved beyond teetering the grounds for impeachment. If these allegations are true the president of the United States has committed treason.