Since then, politicians, lawyers, and Constitutional experts have been debating whether the president has the legal right to declassify classified material whenever he wants.
I'll leave that debate to them. What concerns me is, why didn't President Bush just come out and say that he was the leaker? Instead, when this leak first became public, the president said that anyone in his administration involved in the leak would be fired. Is he going to fire himself now?
If he didn't mislead us when he acted outraged about the leak, what was he doing? It reminds me of the famous scene in "Casablanca" when the Claude Raines character closes the café saying, "I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!" A moment later, a croupier hands Raines his winnings. If Bush not only knew about the leak but authorized it, wasn't he being dishonest with us when he claimed he was "shocked, shocked" to hear about the leak?
As with the wiretapping flap, why didn't he just come forward and "cowboy up?" Why didn't he say, "I'll tell you who was responsible for the leak. It was me. And as president, I have every right to declassify material whenever I want to. I did nothing illegal, and nothing I need to apologize for." Then the lawyers could have debated the issue, but at least the president would have been honest with us.
Instead, after some pressure, the administration appointed an independent special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to investigate.
That investigation reminds me of another movie: "No Way Out." In that one, Kevin Costner was put in charge of an investigation in which, unbeknownst to anyone else, he was the culprit everyone was looking for. President Bush has been saying that this investigation should run its course, but he's known all along who the big leaker was — him.
Now that it's public knowledge, the president has come forward and acknowledged that it was his decision to declassify the material and get the information — which turned out to be misinformation — to the American public.
But why did they leak it in the first place? If the administration really believed in the "intelligence" about weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear material from Africa, why not just say this was the case?
If it's not illegal for the President to decide to declassify something, why not just declassify it and tell everyone what's in it instead of secretly leaking it?
If they primarily wanted the threat from Iraq to appear greater than it really was, we should know about that. If they leaked the report to discredit one of their critics, Joseph Wilson, and/or his CIA wife, Valerie Plame, we should know about that. Now is not the time for more "movie acting."
Just tell us the truth.
When the wiretapping that the administration was secretly doing became public, President Bush said, "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war."
Is it less shameful to leak information from classified documents? Last time I looked, that same war was going on.
Way back in 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied that administration officials had anything to do with the leaking of the identity of CIA operative, Valerie Plame. He said, "I'm telling you flatly that that is not the way this White House operates."
It sounds exactly the way this White House operates — in shadows, in secrecy, in defining its own power. Their position has consistently been, "If you're against our policies and you do something we don't like, you're disloyal and hurting the war effort. If we do the same things, we're just doing our jobs."
So, what was my reaction when I found out that not only Vice President Cheney, but President Bush was behind this leak? I was shocked, shocked that such a thing could take place in this administration.
Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for SportsLine.com. He has written for many television shows, while awake, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver