For most of what

October 2, 2003 2:33 a.m.

For most of what you need to know about where we’re going here, read this clip from the lead article in Thursday’s Washington Post

As the White House hunkered down, it got the first taste of criticism from within Bush’s own party. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said that Bush “needs to get this behind him” by taking a more active role. “He has that main responsibility to see this through and see it through quickly, and that would include, if I was president, sitting down with my vice president and asking what he knows about it,” the outspoken Hagel said last night on CNBC’s “Capital Report.”

Hagel is a Republican, even if not much of a loyalist, and he’s pointing at what everyone’s saying: that the problem <$Ad$> centers on the vice president’s office. And people are adding a name: Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff and close advisor.

A mountain of rumor doesn’t amount to a single fact. But two respected ex-CIA officers have now publicly pointed to the vice president’s office — a good sign, I think, that that’s what they’re hearing from ex-colleagues at CIA. An increasing range of circumstantial evidence points in that direction. And now a United States Senator of the president’s own party has suggested the same.

If true, Libby’s involvement would mean much more than a rapid escalation in his attorneys’ billable hours. Much more.

The backdrop to this whole scandal is the war that’s been going on between the Bush administration and the CIA for two years. Another reporter who’s knowledgable about these issues and not at all averse to this perspective, told me a few days ago that “there are people in this administration who think that the CIA was criminally negligent for 9/11 and that the whole place should be shuttered.” That’s an accurate portrayal of what a number of those people think.

That war with the CIA centers on the vice president’s office. If it turns out that Plame’s exposure originated there too, it will inject this legal controversy — this criminal investigation — right into that broader policy controversy, the whole issue of the war against the CIA, the questions over politicized intelligence, all of it. The mixing of the two would be explosive because the white light of press scrutiny and the sharp blade of a criminal inquiry would tear open stuff that otherwise never would have seen the light of day.

P.S. For some salient background see this piece by Tim Noah from July 17th.

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