In 2004, President George W. Bush confirmed that he would follow through on his pledge to fire anyone in his administration who leaked classified information. In accordance with this pledge, it is time for Bush to relieve himself as commander-in-chief now that evidence of his unethical behavior has come to light.
Documents relating to the trial of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby have demonstrated that Bush authorized the leak of highly classified intelligence information in 2003—a fact the administration does not dispute. The White House says that President Bush declassified portions of the 2003 National Intelligence Report in order to support his case for the war in Iraq. Rather than going about this declassification in the typical manner, such as releasing the document to the public and holding a press conference, Bush directed Vice President Dick Cheney to handle leaking the information. Cheney then turned to his chief of staff, Libby, to give the information to the media.
While it is true that the president has the authority to classify and declassify material as he sees fit, the way Bush went about orchestrating this leak. While repeatedly claiming that the leaking of sensitive information was a major concern and even calling for the head of anyone involved in such leaks, Bush himself was engaging in the same behavior he was publicly decrying.
While the president may be able to avoid legal issues through his declassification power, a slew of ethical concerns remain. The leaking of intelligence material is a serious issue, especially in a time of war.
Furthermore, Bush’s decision to leak only portions of the National Intelligence Estimate was potentially misleading in his case for war. Had he declassified the entire document, the remaining parts may have shown that Bush’s case was not supported by the facts. This strategic, line-item declassification and leaking of important intelligence material is unacceptable.
If our government is truly to be accountable, President Bush and Vice President Cheney must remove themselves from office. At any rate, the administration has lost its last shred of credibility and it would be best for the nation to begin the process of moving on.