Cherry Picking the Truth

CHERRY PICKING THE TRUTH….It turns out Andrew Sullivan had already written my previous post about presidential leaking an hour before I did. That’s what I get for being on West Coast time. Here’s his version:

In this case, we’re…talking about the following set of circumstances. A president is challenged in his public account of pre-war intelligence. The president authorizes a selective leak of classified information to rebut the challenge. He selects only those parts of the classified information that supports his case, and omits the rest that actually show parts of the government disputing his case. He authorizes the veep to authorize Libby to give the selected information to a pliant reporter for the New York Times. Meanwhile, his public statements reiterate an abhorrence of all unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

….It shows a conscious capacity to mislead people by selectively disclosing data that skews ? for a while ? the public’s understanding of the facts. It proves that this president is capable of deliberately misleading the American people as a gambit in a Beltway spat

This gets to a point that I’ve made once or twice before: national security is different because the president controls all the information. If George Bush spins the truth about Social Security reform, there are dozens of analysts with access to the numbers who can spin back. When it comes to national security, though, the president holds all the cards. If we have a president willing to cherry pick intelligence and release only the parts that support his case, there’s no one who can fight back.

Scott McClellan, it turns out, not only agrees, but thinks this is just fine:

The unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to a program like the terrorist surveillance program is harmful to our nation’s security….So there’s a distinction…between declassifying information that is in the public interest and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information that could compromise our nation’s security.

Translation: the president decides what’s in the public interest, and that’s what the public gets to hear. Everything else is harmful to national security.

And of course, as Laura Rozen points out, Pat Roberts feels the same way. Apparently Republicans are of one mind about this: A powerful, unaccountable executive is fine as long as it’s their powerful, unaccountable executive.