October 08, 2003

Executive Privilege Seen as Leak-Case Option, Shielding Material is Not Ruled Out; Democrats Protest

The injustice that befell California yesterday started
in a hotel room with only Conan the Deceiver, Ken Lay,
Michael Milliken and Richard Riordan present. You and
I will live to see it avenged politically. MEANWHILE,
of course, it sucks all the air out of the REAL news
of the day: a great national injustice deepening, ever
deepening. ("Out, out damn spot!") But you and I will
live to see this one too politically avenged. AND both
political retributions will come sooner than later.
Remember, more than ever, 2+2=4!

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1008-02.htm

Published on Wednesday, October 8, 2003 by the Boston
Globe
Executive Privilege Seen as Leak-Case Option, Shielding Material is Not Ruled Out; Democrats Protest

by Wayne Washington

WASHINGTON -- Despite President Bush's repeated
pledges of full cooperation, administration officials
yesterday refused to rule out invoking executive
privilege to shield some documents from Justice
Department investigators looking into whether someone
in the White House illegally leaked the name of a CIA
operative.

McClellan said Gonzales's office set its own deadline
for 5 p.m. yesterday so that it could go through the
piles of information to see what information is
relevant and should be turned over. Gonzales's office
will also have the opportunity to examine what
information, if any, should not be turned over because
the administration believes it is protected by
executive privilege.


Democrats who have complained that the investigation
should be handled by a special counsel instead of the
Justice Department because of its connections to the
White House said the prospect of executive privilege
being used shows that more independence is needed.


"Asserting executive privilege would make a farce of
the investigation," said US Senator Edward M. Kennedy,
Democrat of Massachusetts. "That's why we need a
special prosecutor, so that we can challenge any
coverup."

The very words "executive privilege" evoke memories of
scandal-plagued presidents trying to use the power of
their office to hide from public view politically
damaging information, and White House press secretary
Scott McClellan was careful not to use the term.
Still, he would not rule out the use of executive
privilege, saying: "I think it's premature to even
speculate about such matters."

Presidents can invoke executive privilege to shield
from public view some aspects of their internal
decision-making process. "It's used to shroud advice
that's sometimes inflammatory or has been rejected,"
said Thomas Sargentich, a law professor at American
University in Washington, D.C. "Executive privilege is
not supposed to be a shield in criminal
investigations."

Yesterday, Bush pledged "full disclosure" in the leak
investigation, adding that he wants "to know the
truth."

But even as the approximately 2,000 people who work
for him at the White House scoured their desks for
notes and e-mail to meet a 5 p.m. deadline to deliver
any documents related to the alleged disclosure, Bush
said the identity of the leaker might never be known.

"This is a town full of people who like to leak
information," Bush said to reporters after meeting
with Cabinet members. "I have no idea whether we'll
find out who the leaker is partially because, in all
due respect to your profession, you do a very good job
of protecting the leakers."

As the 5 p.m. deadline passed, staff members scrambled
to turn over relevant documents to White House Counsel
Alberto R. Gonzales, who is the White House's liaison
to the Justice Department during the investigation.
Justice Department officials have given the White
House specific deadlines to produce documents related
to the investigation, though they would not make the
dates public. McClellan said the deadlines are in the
next couple of weeks.

McClellan said Gonzales's office set its own deadline
for 5 p.m. yesterday so that it could go through the
piles of information to see what information is
relevant and should be turned over.

Gonzales's office will also have the opportunity to
examine what information, if any, should not be turned
over because the administration believes it is
protected by executive privilege. The Justice
Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which provides
legal opinions on questions with constitutional
dimensions, would review any White House claims.

Sargentich, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel
during the Carter and Reagan administrations, said
lawyers in that office can make independent judgments,
though the attorney general remains their boss and can
overrule them.

If the White House asserts a claim of executive
privilege, Sargentich said it would be a strong sign
that the investigation is heading to the highest
levels of the Bush administration, given that the
claim can only be used to shield the president's
decision-making process.

Former US ambassador Joseph Wilson has backed off his
initial claim that Bush's top political adviser, Karl
Rove, leaked the name of his CIA agent wife, Valerie
Plame, as retribution for his work disputing some of
the intelligence the administration used to bolster
its case for war in Iraq. It is a federal crime to
disclose the name of an undercover CIA agent.

Wilson now says that Rove did nothing to contain the
leak.

McClellan said that neither Rove nor Lewis "Scooter"
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff,
nor Elliott Abrams, director of Mideast Affairs at the
National Security Council, leaked Plame's name to the
press or authorized the disclosure.

But McClellan refused to say if Rove pointed reporters
to the disclosure. Yesterday, US Representative John
Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House
Judiciary Committee, called on Rove to resign.

"Since these initial allegations have arisen, neither
the White House nor your office have denied your
involvement in furthering the leak," Conyers wrote in
a letter to Rove.

Administration officials have said Democrats are using
the investigation to score political points and
strongly back Rove. Still, the investigation has
already meant some late nights for staff combing
through their files to see if they have anything that
should be given to investigators.

Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., told White
House staff in a letter yesterday that the president
expects full cooperation. "The sooner we complete the
search and delivery of documents, the sooner the
Justice Department can complete its inquiry and the
sooner we can all return our full attention to doing
the work of the people that the president has
entrusted to us."

Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company

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Posted by richard at October 8, 2003 02:28 PM