The White House Does the Right Thing

This AP story [*] is enormously encouraging. The entire White House staff has been given until close of business Tuesday to come forward either with a any documents they have relating to the Plame affair or a signed statement that they have no such documents.

It would have been even better if the requirement had gone to a statement about whether each staff member had any knowledge of the matter other than from the mass media, but this is pretty good.

Even better, the staff has been told that the White House Counsel’s office is not available to them for legal advice. That’s an unfair burden on employees who are innocent but who have information, since if they want legal advice they will now have to pay out of pocket. But it means that White House Counsel cannot be used to coordinate a cover-up by insisting that its staff attorneys be present at interviews.

Alberto Gonzales, at least, is acting as if the White House would like to see the investigation bear fruit. Good for him. Either he has decided, or been told by the President, that the interests of his client require that the the White House act, and be seen as acting, in a way that helps identify the guilty parties, or he has decided that his professional integrity (and career interests) require him to act properly whatever his client thinks or wants.

If I were one of the people who burned Valerie Plame, I’d be feeling very, very sick just about now.

Update Better and better! CNN reports [*] that FBI interviews with senior White House officials will start soon, and will be conducted under oath. I assume that excludes the President, but even that might be wrong. Of course, a real criminal investigation would want to get the top guy on record right away.

Second update This shouldn’t, of course, lead us to forget what I had in fact momentarily forgotten: the grossly improper request by the White House, granted with equal impropriety by someone in the Justice Department, for a twenty-four-hour delay between Justice’s notification to the White House of a criminal investigation and the formal warning from White House Counsel to the White House staff not to destroy any records. [*] The press and the Congress should be insistent in demanding an identification of who made the request, who granted it, and what justification was offered.

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: