February 09, 2004

O'Neill and O'Bobb

I don't blog much on the weekends - hell, I barely follow the news then, which is why I'm just now getting to a development in the Paul O'Neill classified document incident. When I wrote about this originally, the point I wanted to make was that it didn't matter how he got classified documents - if he got them, he was obligated not to use them in the preparation of an unclassified document (his book)!

About the only defense O'Neill would have in this case would be if he could make a credible claim that he didn't know the documents were classified. Af first glance, it looks like that's the case:

The Treasury Department said it improperly released classified information to former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill for a book about the Bush administration.

The department said the fault was in the document-screening process and that no action would be taken against O'Neill or the book's author, Ron Suskind. "The corrective action is to be taken internally," said Anne Womack Kolton, a Treasury spokeswoman. She said there will be no effort made to prevent publication of the documents, which are being released over the Internet.

In a letter to lawmakers, O'Neill's successor, John W. Snow, said a preliminary review done by the department's inspector general found "a number of documents that contain classified information."

"The Treasury Department recognized that those documents were not properly reviewed before their release," Snow wrote.

O'Neill provided about 19,000 pages of documents to Suskind for his book, "The Price of Loyalty," which is critical of President Bush and his administration. It portrays Bush as detached from policy details and his administration as unconcerned about deficits and determined to go to war in Iraq even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Suskind said yesterday that he has hired lawyers who have been in discussion with government lawyers over the online release of the documents. "None of the documents in the 19,000 that we know of were stamped 'classified,' " he said. "There may be documents the government feels retroactively that should be classified. Those are the documents the government in the last few days has alerted us about."
. . .
The Treasury investigation began after one document, marked "secret," was shown in an O'Neill interview on CBS's "60 Minutes." But Suskind has said that document was only a cover sheet for secret documents that were not included in those released to O'Neill.
So what the hell is 60 Minutes doing throwing around Secret cover pages? The quote from my earlier article says they didn't really have a classified document:
"We don't have a secret document. We didn't show a secret document. We merely showed a cover sheet that alluded to such a document," said CBS spokesman Kevin Tedesco.
So they were 'sexing up' their story? We all know how well that worked for Andrew Gilligan and the BBC!

One last thing - Chuck Rangel gets another quote and as usual manages to miss the point entirely:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, responding to the inspector general's report said, "While the administration has gone through all of this trouble to see if they can find something that Secretary O'Neill did wrong, they have not contradicted the accuracy of his account."
Was Bush interested in toppling Hussein before 9/11? Sure. So was Clinton. The difference is that Bush was serious about it.

I think what surprises Rangel is that a possible leak of classified information is actually being investigated.

Posted by Chris at February 9, 2004 01:07 PM

Category: Political Stupidity