WASHINGTON, DC—In the interest of national security, President Bush has been asked to stop posting entries on his three-month-old personal web log, acting CIA director John E. McLaughlin said Monday.
According to McLaughlin, several recent entries on PrezGeorgeW. typepad.com have compromised military operations, while other posts may have seriously undercut the PR efforts of White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
A July 24 posting read, "Just got back from a lunch with Colin and Adil Moussa (one of Prince Saud al-Faisal's guys). Colin wants the Saudis to send some troops to Najaf—so some of the soldiers are Arab, I guess. This Moussa guy sure wears a lot of jewelry. A golden chain, a golden ring with his initials or something, and some other sparkling stuff—kinda effeminate. Anyway, best of luck in Iraq, Iyad."
McLaughlin, normally hesitant to express public disapproval of the president, said the blog was "ill-advised."
"I would hate for the president to inadvertently put American soldiers at risk," McLaughlin said. "We work hard to maintain the integrity of state secrets. When we see the president posting details of troop movements, international counter-terrorism negotiations, and even the nuclear launch codes, as he did on Monday, we have to step up and say something."
Bush said he could not understand McLaughlin's anger, characterizing his blog as a "personal thing written for friends and family or whoever" and therefore "none of the CIA's business."
Nevertheless, U.S. Secret Service director W. Ralph Basham objected to the blog, as well.
"He is compromising his safety and the safety of those in my department," Basham said, citing a post from last Thursday in which Bush revealed that he "had to go to some secret meeting with Norquist at some Marriot [sic] over in Virginia." "Someone could uncover some serious state secrets, if they took the time to wade through all of those photos he posted after he got that digital camera in June."
On Saturday, Basham asked to pre-screen all blog activity before Bush posts it online.
Bush rejected Basham's request and later that day wrote in his blog that "Some people who shall remain nameless apparently do not know there is such a thing as free speech in this country."
Members of Bush's re-election team have urged the president to exercise caution with his blog, perhaps because of posts like the one dated July 8, 2004: "Another long day of speeches and fundraisers. Met with all these phony media company execs. Had to promise them some bill next term and shake a lot of stupid hands, but they did bring in two or three million or so. Whatever. Karl keeps a list. I got big laughs during my speech, so I'm happy."
Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said he spoke to Bush about the blog last month.
"After he mentioned our Monday message-of-the-day in a Saturday post, we've really been pushing him to not talk about campaign strategy," Gillespie said. "He's not that involved in the planning anyway, so it shouldn't be too much to ask."
"We're not trying to stifle the president's creativity," Gillespie added. "We think it's great he's taking an interest in writing."
Bush maintained that he's doing nothing wrong.
"I know so many people, but I'm way too busy to keep in touch with all of them," Bush said. "Whether I'm talking about our strategies in Gitmo or my dogs down in Crawford, the blog is an easy way to let everyone know what's been up with me. If I've just had a really good lunch at a new restaurant, or something funny happens in a briefing from the NSA, I want to let my friends and family know about it."
McLaughlin said it's likely that Bush will eventually agree to submit his blog for review by the Secret Service.
"Right now, the president insists it's his right to have it, as long as he doesn't work on it during White House work hours," McLaughlin said. "But I believe we'll be able to convince him, if we let him calm down. And even if we don't, frankly, I can't see the blog holding his interest for too long."