- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

President Bush is privately seething over a reported leak about the identity of a CIA analyst and has twice in recent days reminded White House employees about their commitment to uphold the honor and integrity of the office, according to senior administration officials.

“The president does not like leaks. Anytime a leak becomes a distraction, he becomes particularly irritated,” one senior administration official said, adding that the president “made it clear” Monday and Tuesday that he expects the highest ethical behavior by staff members.

Several Bush aides, all of whom requested anonymity, said the administration has not ramped up a damage-control operation to deal with reports that White House officials leaked the identity of the CIA analyst in order to punish her husband, a Democratic operative who had been critical of intelligence on Iraq used by the president.

Instead, they said, administration employees are barely discussing the matter within the White House and have been told to comply with any request by the Justice Department, which is handling the investigation.

“If we do anything outside the investigation, it could [be] just as dangerous and have the appearance of doing something wrong,” one official said.

Another Bush official said if White House employees really are behind the leak, they may have more to worry about than the Justice Department investigation.

“My sense is that if there’s any truth to this, the people have as much to fear from an angry president as they do from any criminal penalty,” the official said.

Administration officials are keenly aware that Mr. Bush expects each of them to adhere to the high standards that come with high office, one official said. Just days after they took their posts in January 2001, the president swore in White House staff with an oath: “You’ll be my representative. I expect each of you, as an official of this administration, to be an example of humility and decency and fairness.”

The administration has endured several potentially scandalous incidents since taking office, from the financial collapse of Enron to a claim in the State of the Union speech to the appropriateness of the president’s trip to a aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.

But it has employed a simple tactic when faced with fierce questioning by scandal-seeking reporters: swamp them with information. When 16 words in the president’s State of the Union address were called into question, senior officials held marathon question-and-answer sessions with reporters.

A controversy about whether Enron executives asked administration officials to help their failing company suffered the same fate when it turned out Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans had rejected the plea. Mr. Bush actually claimed the issue from Democrats when he spearheaded a campaign to revamp corporate laws, an effort he touts during most speeches to supporters.

Another “scandal” the White House battled was a charge that the president unnecessarily rode in a jet May 1 when he delivered a speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had told reporters that Mr. Bush would have to take a jet from San Diego to the Lincoln because the carrier would be “hundreds” of miles at sea, beyond a helicopter’s range.


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