Another Bush critic is threatened with jail

Does the Bush Administration really want to establish the precedent that officials who put a pro-Administration spin on their communications to Congress may later face criminal charges

Bill Frist has charged Richard Clarke with having lied under oath, and has demanded that Clarke’s classified testimony from 2002 be de-classified. Of course Frist, as the Majority Leader, coordinated this with the White House in advance.

1. This isn’t the first time someone has been threatened with criminal prosecution for dissing Mr. Bush after leaving the government. The Treasury Department inquiry into whether Paul O’Neill had violated security laws just concluded last month, with a finding of no wrongdoing. It was ordered by the White House, on transparently absurd grounds, as part of the slime-and-defend against O’Neill.

2. Could it be any clearer that the Republicans regard the classification system as merely an adjunct to the news-control mission? Note that Clarke can’t defend himself from this charge as long as his earlier testimony remains classified.

3. No doubt there is a sentence in that testimony which, if taken out of context, would seem to contradict some sentence in Clarke’s book or 9-11 testimony or Senate testimony from this week. Then he was defending the Administration’s position, which was part of his job. Now he’s criticizing it. If anyone really thought that it rose to the level of a crime, the right thing to do would be to write a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation, not to make an accusatory speech on the Senate floor.

I concur with Senator Frist’s call for de-classification of Richard Clarke’s testimony to the Joint Inquiry. To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week. ]

4. Does the Bush Administration really want to establish the precedent that officials who put a pro-Administration spin on their communications to Congress may later face criminal charges?

[Update: Bob Graham, who was on the committee, doesn’t think Clarke has a problem, and wants all of that testimony released, plus some other stuff:

I concur with Senator Frist’s call for de-classification of Richard Clarke’s testimony to the Joint Inquiry. To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week.

I would add three other recommendations:

First, if Mr. Clarke’s testimony is to be released, it should be released in its entirety — not, as the Bush administration has done in the past, selectively edited so that only portions favorable to the White House are made public.

Second, the Bush administration should de-classify other documents that surround the Clarke testimony, such as his January 25, 2002, plan for action against al Qaeda, in order to clarify the issues that are in dispute.

And finally, the Bush administration should release all other testimony and documents related to 9-11 for which classification can no longer be justified — including the 27 pages of the Joint Inquiry’s final report that address the involvement of a foreign government in supporting some of the 19 hijackers while they lived among us and finalized their evil plot.

The American people deserve to know what their government has done — and should be doing — to protect them from terrorists, and who should be held accountable for shortcomings that have left our country vulnerable.”

Via Josh Marshall.

Kevin Drum has more.

Wait, it gets worse. Update here.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com