A reader writes:

Forgive me, but I'm studying for the Bar Exam right now and I think this debate has provided me with a good review opportunity. In the criminal law, there are four classes of mens rea ("guilty mind") that can be used to justify the imposition of criminal sanctions: intent, knowledge, recklessness, and criminal negligence.

Intent requires the desire to act to bring about a foreseeable prohibited purpose; to be charitable (for this exercise), I think it can at least be argued that the President did not intend to provide the public with misleading information.  It would certainly be difficult to prove.

Knowledge requires awareness and practical certainty that the information he was providing was false. Easier, but still tough.

But it is almost impossible to contend that the President was not reckless (consciously disregarded the risk of error) or criminally negligent (grossly deviated from the care than a normal person would exercise) during the run up to war. So I guess the question of whether Bush lied turn on whether you think the "crime" of lying requires intent/knowledge to mislead, or simply recklessness/negligence with respect to the truth of the information.

Now, you could argue that disseminating incorrect information in such an important context is a strict liability offense, but I have to get back to the books...

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.