The Washington Postand Los Angeles Times lead with government documents showing that indicted former White House aide Scooter Libby testified it was President Bush who authorized Scooter to leak (cherry-picked) prewar intel about Iraq in an effort to rebut Joe Wilson’s criticisms. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and USA Today lead with the compromise immigration Senate bill—detailed in TP yesterday—being nearly wrapped up last night before hitting some snags in the wee hours. (USAT doesn’t seem to catch the last-minute problems.)
Libby testified that Vice President Cheney told him Bush “specifically had authorized” him to “disclose certain information” from the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The newly disclosed documents, which came from the special prosecutor’s office, don’t assert that Bush told Libby to out former CIA agent Valerie Plame (whose name was not in the NIE) and in fact says Bush was “unaware of the role” Libby played in the outing.
In any case, Libby said a White House lawyer had assured him before he leaked that the leak wasn’t really one, since if the president ordered it that amounted to declassification, a notion legal experts backed up. But Bush has long portrayed himself as an anti-leak purist. “I’ve constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information,” he once said regarding Plame. “If there’s a leak out of the administration, I want to know who it is.”
A “senior White House official,” speaking anonymously because s/he can, patiently explained to the Postthat there’s a difference between what Bush did and a leak: “The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.” (That’s the full sum of the official’s explanation, or at least the Post’s summary of it.)
Slate’s John Dickerson isn’t impressed by the legalisms: “It’s one thing to declassify information; it’s another thing to present information to a reporter as though it were classified to preserve the shadow authenticity that comes with a leak. Bush wanted to have the information out there but not have to account for it or explain it.”
It’s hard to get a grip on the exact status of the Senate’s immigration bill. The NYT announces (online), “SENATE DEAL ON IMMIGRATION FALTERS.” The LAT has a similar take. But the Post seems to think everything is settled. If the Senate doesn’t agree, it will have to wait at least two weeks through Easter recess. Meanwhile, there are big pro-immigrant marches planned for Monday. If and when the Senate deal—which would allow most illegal immigrants a path to citizenship—does go through, it would still need to be jibed with the far stricter bill passed by the House.
The WP notices that Attorney General Gonzales asserted in congressional testimony yesterday that the White House has the power to do wiretapping without warrants on purely domestic phone calls. “I’m not going to rule it out,” he said.
Everybody mentions that a bomb outside the most important Shiite shrine in the holy city of Najaf killed at least 10 people; some ancient tombs were destroyed in the blast. Najaf, essentially ruled by Shiite militias, has mostly escaped bombings. Meanwhile, about 10 people were killed by a car bomb at a checkpoint in Fallujah.
The LAT notices that the U.S. is considering teaming up with France, Britain, and a few other countries to impose sanctions on Iran even if the Security Council—as seems almost sure—can’t itself agree on imposing them.
Everybody fronts the surfacing of the only known copy of what’s called the Gospel of Judas; the 1,700-year-old text asserts that Jesus told Judas to sell him out. “You can see how early Christians could say, if Jesus’s death was all part of God’s plan, then Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s plan,” said one academic. “So what does that make Judas? Is he the betrayer, or the facilitator of salvation, the guy who makes the crucifixion possible?”
Talk to their lawyers, Dewie, Cheatem, and Howe … The LAT notices that some fine students at MIT visited rival Caltech and quietly pilfered Caltech’s famed 130-year-old Fleming Cannon, fired annually during commencement day and now sitting peacefully in Cambridge. The MIT students simply presented Caltech guards with work orders from their new business: “Howe & Ser Moving Company.”