Tuesday, October 7, 2003


Amid all the discussion of whether investigators should try to squeeze the names of the officials who outed Valerie Plame out of the reporters whom the officials told, no one has mentioned a much simpler step the President could take -- could, for that matter, have taken any time since July 14 -- to "get to the bottom of this," as he reportedly would like to do. 

Reader Michael Ham offers the suggestion, elegant in its simplicity:

The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that's cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson's wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons. 

The President has, of course, no power to compel compliance with that order. He does, however, since all of the officials involved except the Director of the FBI and the Director of Central Intelligence serve at his pleasure, have the power to dismiss anyone who refuses to submit such a statement, or who submits a statement claiming the privilege against self-incrimination.

It would take intrepidity amounting to temerity for anyone to falsely certify innocence under oath, given the high probability that the truth will come out. There might be legal defenses for the original act, but not for a false statement. 

The President's power to follow Mr. Ham's advice is clear. And it would clearly help "get to the bottom of this." 

So why not, Mr. President?

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