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Leaks? Much ado about nothing
Posted by: McQ on Friday, April 07, 2006

Is anyone else less than impressed by the story, or should I say spin, in which President Bush is accused of "leaking classified info?"
Constitutionally, the authority to declare documents "classified" resides with the president. So, under the terms of an executive order first drafted in 1982, he can declassify a document merely by declaring it unclassified.

The language of the executive order reads as follows: "Information shall be declassified or downgraded by the official who authorized the original classification, if that official is still serving in the same position . . . [or] a supervisory official." In the executive branch, the president is the ultimate "supervisory official."
That's the way I've always understood it. John Podhoretz adds a little twist to the story as well:
Yesterday, breathless news reports suggested that President Bush had directed the "leak" of classified information in July 2003. Yet the "leak" in question was from a document called the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE - and by the time this "leak" occurred, the contents of the NIE as they related to Iraq were almost entirely public.

On Oct. 7, 2002, nine months before Bush's supposed "leak," the administration released an unclassified version of the very same NIE at the urging of Senate Democrats. And in early 2003, reporters hostile to the administration (primarily John Judis and Spencer Ackerman of The New Republic) were being told all sorts of things about the still-classified portions of the NIE.
To those not paying attention, however, I'm sure this is a big story.
 
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McQ - when I first saw this "breaking news!" headline yesterday, and the connection to Libby, the implication of the headline seemed to be that Bush had authorized/directed Libby to out Valerie Plame.

Then I read the actual article and thought, WTF? Yeah, he declassified information, which he can do.... but no one has said that he specifically TOLD Libby to finger Plame in the release. But the headline, and the big ’breaking news’ context was that the Prez had done something WRONG of course.

It’s pure spin. They might as well make a breaking news headline like ’President authorized use of government plane to fly family to California!!!!’ and then tell you in the text that he used Air Force One to fly to LA to meet with Arnie and that Laura and Jenna went along to do some charity work while in town.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I agree. Why, it is perfectly legal for President Bush to de-classify documents when it suits his political puposes. Just like it is perfectly legal for him to authorize wiretaps without a court order.

I am sure those at the CIA agree 100% that it was peachy keen for Palme to be outted. They can’t wait for his next perfectly legal strategy.

But isn’t it also perfectly legal to duck a private issue such as getting a ’Monica’? Oh. Yeah, ’he’ lied’. And Bush never lied about any involvement he had in this perfectly legal tactic. Silence is not a lie, oh no. Perhaps the de-classification was, uh, classified for ze war effort..

::insert perfectly legal presidential smirk here::::
 
Written By: Rick D.
URL: http://
There’s not much question that it’s legal for Bush to declassify documents. I don’t think that’s an interesting angle for critics to pursue. (though, it might be interesting to ask why McClellan said the NIE was declassified on "July 18, 2003", 10 days after Bush authorized the leak)

A better question is whether it’s good governance for a President to declassify intelligence information for political gain. And why Bush claimed to be in the dark about who might have leaked the information about Wilson.

It might be legal, but legal and right differ.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
There’s a lot of leaking in Washington, D.C. It’s a town famous for it. This investigation in finding the truth, it will not only hold someone to account who should not have leaked — and this is a serious charge, by the way. We’re talking about a criminal action, but also hopefully will help set a clear signal we expect other leaks to stop, as well. And so I look forward to finding the truth.


— < ahref="http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2003_10_7.html">President George W. Bush, October 7, 2003

I bring this quote up only to point out that while I remain fairly sure that nothing illegal went on, Bush was pretty obviously not being honest about this from day one. That is why this is news. There’s nothing illegal about bullsh!tting, but it further erodes his credibility.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://catallarchy.net/blog/
Whoops, forgot to close the tag. Preview and the built-in editor are my friends. Link.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://catallarchy.net/blog/
Why, it is perfectly legal for President Bush to de-classify documents when it suits his political puposes.
Uh, let’s see ... because it is perfectly legal?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Do you know exactly what version of the document was declassified in July 2002, McQ? It’s common practice to declassify a redacted version of a document while the full original remains classified, so it’s entirely possible that the information Libby leaked was still classified at the time. As Think Progress points out, Bush could have declassified it, but he didn’t. He only made it available to those who would use it for purposes that suited him, and by failing to take the step of properly declassifying it - even if that seems like a mere formality - he broke the law. In fact, he broke the very same laws that he publicly claimed were so dear to him when he promised to go after other people as he had done.

You can split hairs over exactly which kind of hypocrite, felon, and/or liar he is, but scum is scum no matter what you call it.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
A better question is whether it’s good governance for a President to declassify intelligence information for political gain.
Good question. However that’s not been the story.
And why Bush claimed to be in the dark about who might have leaked the information about Wilson.
I agree.
I bring this quote up only to point out that while I remain fairly sure that nothing illegal went on, Bush was pretty obviously not being honest about this from day one. That is why this is news. There’s nothing illegal about bullsh!tting, but it further erodes his credibility.
That is what is news now. That’s not why it was news initially. And that was my point.

As to further eroding his credibility ... seen his numbers lately?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Bush could have declassified it, but he didn’t ...
If he says it’s declassified, it is declassified, Platypus. It is really that simple. So ...
it’s entirely possible that the information Libby leaked was still classified at the time.
... no, it’s not. Again, review the fact that all is necessary to declassify it is Bush’s verbal ok. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing more is needed. No other authority is consulted. No other approval is necessary. Nada.
He only made it available to those who would use it for purposes that suited him, and by failing to take the step of properly declassifying it - even if that seems like a mere formality - he broke the law.
And what law is that? While you may righteously decry the politics of all of this as have Matt and Jon (and I agree with both of them and you in that regard), you haven’t a legal leg to stand on in terms of his authority to declassify whatever he chooses to whenever he chooses too.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
If the President authorizes the disclosure...isn’t that by definition NOT really a leak?

Again, the subtitle for the whole Plame affair is "Much ado about nothing"
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Presidents don’t normally do things for political gain?

You mean like... Lincoln, waiting for say, the ’victory’ at Antietam (September 16-18, 1862) to announce the Emancipation Proclamation (September 22, 1862)?

What country have you guys been living in?
I won’t say every President has done it, but I’d be willing to venture it’s 99%.

Was it right to out Plame, no. Despite her husbands own hack job, but they haven’t said Bush did that or told Libby to do it.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Was it right to out Plame ...
And that was the whole "classified leak" problem as I remember it. It had nothing to do with the NIE per se.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Read my earlier observation of "that the Prez had done something WRONG of course." to equate to "done something illegal".

What they were supposedly after was who exposed Plame as a CIA agent, and
who, if anybody, ’authorized’ that exposure.

That’s what this is supposed to be about.


 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Is anyone else less than impressed by the story, or should I say spin, in which President Bush is accused of "leaking classified info?"
From there to here…
A better question is whether it’s good governance for a President to declassify intelligence information for political gain.
Good question. However that’s not been the story.
Followed by…
That is what is news now. That’s not why it was news initially. And that was my point
.

Okay, you’ve lost me. What was the news initially and what is the news now? And what is your point again?
That the prez can declassify whatever he wants, whenever he wants??? Uh.., yeah. That’s how I figure. And that’s what’s being reported,
GREGORY: Well, a couple of points here, Chris. The White House — White House officials making the point today that nowhere in this filing does it indicate that the president or the vice president was in any way — were in any way behind leaking Valerie Plame’s name. And it also makes the point, White House officials do, that when we talk about leaking classified information, it may sound like parsing information to a lot of people, but the reality is that once the president makes a decision to authorize the release of information, it’s no longer classified, it’s instantly declassified.
Presto Chango.
And why Bush claimed to be in the dark about who might have leaked the information about Wilson.
I agree.
And so do I. And so will millions of other Americans.
MATTHEWS: But David, I think objectively that argument the White House is putting out to you and other reporters doesn’t hold up because it says that the president, by the very fact of authorizing a leak, is declassifying. If he felt he was within his rights to do so, why would he tell the vice president to tell his chief of staff to go under cover, use a separating identity like "former Hill staffer" on background to leak the information? If he was within his rights to do what he claims — what he now is exposed as having done, why didn’t he do it openly? Why didn’t he put out a White House press release and say, "Here’s some elements from the National Intelligence Estimates that shoot down the arguments of Joe Wilson"? Why didn’t he do it that way?
Perhaps McQ could answer that.
“Leaks? Much ado about nothing.”
LOL. Hahahahaha.
"You must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department’s investigation," counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered. Officials indicated that would include telephone logs, e-mails, notes and other documents.
Can he order the President around like that?
"I don’t know of anyone in my administration who has leaked," Mr. Bush told reporters in Chicago. But, he added, "If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."

The president added, "There’s too much leaking in Washington. That’s just the way it is. We’ve had leaks from the executive branch and leaks from the legislative branch. I want to know who the leakers are."
Dishonesty. Deceit. Manipulation…. Must be neolibertarian for “nothing”.
Is anyone else less than impressed by the story, or should I say spin,
Spin indeed.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I can remember another time that a President did the same thing. It was in defense of the full "quarantine" of Cuba. The President .. St. John F. Kennedy (all praise be to Allah).
This President showed U2 photos, which the Soviets had never been able to fully evaluate the capabilities of, to the UN Security Council in full public view. It exposed the capabilities of the U2, a method of the CIA/military, to the whole world.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
all is necessary to declassify it is Bush’s verbal ok. That’s it. That’s all.
Did Bush actually give that OK? I’ve seen a lot of blather about how he could, but did he? It’s the difference between a positive statement that X occurred and a conditional statement about the consequences if it had. Did other actions that would be triggered by declassification (e.g. deposit at NARA) occur? If not, that’s prima facie evidence that declassification did not occur.

Furthermore, Executive Order 13292 (which is still the operative law in this case) does not make any provision for such peremptory declassification. Read part 3; it says "information shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standards for classification under this order" . . . but this information did still meet the standards for classification as laid out in the same EO. Did President Bush or anyone in his office actually make a statement (and I don’t mean retroactively) that the information no longer met the standards for classification, or did he just let Libby convey it without regard to whether it did or not?

I don’t find your opinion, or John Podhoretz’s, or even David Addington’s (from the same office that gave us the torture memo and all this "unitary executive" BS) nearly as compelling as the text of the actual relevant law. If I were interested in opinion rather than fact, I’d give Patrick Fitzgerald’s opinion more weight than all three of you put together and these items wouldn’t be in his report if they weren’t legally significant. No evidence has yet been presented to indicate that the material Libby is accused of leaking had been declassified at that point in time. Do you have any?
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Did Bush actually give that OK? I’ve seen a lot of blather about how he could, but did he? It’s the difference between a positive statement that X occurred and a conditional statement about the consequences if it had. Did other actions that would be triggered by declassification (e.g. deposit at NARA) occur? If not, that’s prima facie evidence that declassification did not occur.
All he has to say is he verbally approved it’s declassification, doesn’t he? That ends the debate.
Furthermore, Executive Order 13292 (which is still the operative law in this case) does not make any provision for such peremptory declassification.
It doesn’t have to since, as noted, he has the primary constitutional authority for both classification and declassification.
Did President Bush or anyone in his office actually make a statement (and I don’t mean retroactively) that the information no longer met the standards for classification, or did he just let Libby convey it without regard to whether it did or not?
Apparently yes if I read this part of the WaPo story on it correctly:
Libby understood that only he, Bush and Cheney knew of the declassification when Libby held his first conversation with a reporter in July 2003, the court papers show.
And another point the story makes:
Experts said the power to classify and declassify documents in the federal government flows from the president and is often delegated down the chain of command. In March 2003, Bush signed an executive order delegating declassification authority to Cheney.
So whether it was Bush or Cheney, it appears they each had the authority to do so.
I don’t find your opinion, or John Podhoretz’s, or even David Addington’s (from the same office that gave us the torture memo and all this "unitary executive" BS) nearly as compelling as the text of the actual relevant law.
The relevant law doesn’t change a thing as to who has the ultimate authority to classify or declassify information, despite your opinion about what the law says.

Back to Fletcher’s WaPo story that I’ve been quoting above:
Legal experts say that President Bush had the unquestionable authority to approve the disclosure of secret CIA information to reporters, but they add that the leak was highly unusual and amounted to using sensitive intelligence data for political gain.
Tell the "legal experts" why you find your interpretation more compelling than their opinion that the President’s authority is "unquestionable" in that regard.

I’d be interested to hear how they respond.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
http://mediamatters.org/items/200604070008

According to Executive Order, classified information is exempt from review and can be declassified by the president "only if it originated within the White House or the Cabinet. The NIE, however, was a product of the CIA, suggesting that it would have been subject to a mandatory review by the CIA prior to declassification. "
 
Written By: miscavige_of_justice
URL: http://

 
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