Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I don't know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House," said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.
Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.
This news could not have come at a worse time for a White House beleaguered by a host of scandals and political troubles. While the damage to U.S. national security is likely minimal and the involved nation, the Philippines, far from the notorious Axis of Evil in terms of a threat to strategic interests, the arrest will still likely be seen as a black eye to a notoriously tightly run and controlled White House.
It's ironic that the arrest was made public today as cracks in the historic unity of the Republican Party have also appeared over recent days with the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court. A wide range of conservative thinkers and politicians, from George Will to former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork have expressed concern about Mier's qualifications and lack of an established legal and constitutional philosophy.
George Will takes the President to task for using "intellectually disreputable impulses":
Under the rubric of "diversity" -- nowadays, the first refuge of intellectually disreputable impulses -- the president announced, surely without fathoming the implications, his belief in identity politics and its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation. Identity politics holds that one's essential attributes are genetic, biological, ethnic or chromosomal -- that one's nature and understanding are decisively shaped by race, ethnicity or gender. Categorical representation holds that the interests of a group can be understood, empathized with and represented only by a member of that group.
The crowning absurdity of the president's wallowing in such nonsense is the obvious assumption that the Supreme Court is, like a legislature, an institution of representation. This from a president who, introducing Miers, deplored judges who "legislate from the bench."
With an unpopular war in Iraq, rising gas prices, and a massive reconstruction operation in the Gulf region, President Bush's second term agenda was already in jeopardy, if not on life support. It will be interesting to see if these new allegations of espionage at the highest levels of government will in some way undermine support for Miers, a longtime legal counsel to President Bush, in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For much more on political scandal and mayhem, check out the Blogcritics Political Scandal Sheet. For more on the Supreme Court, click here.