Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bush Leak? Um, no.

Breathless, the lefty blogosphere(to wit(less)) runs with the AP Story that implicates Bush as "leaking" information from the then-classified National Intelligence Estimate to Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, who then passed it to reporters to counter Joe Wilson's article in The New York Times. According to Libby's defense filings, the release of this information was authorized by President Bush some time before July 8, 2003.

People are in a tizzy because they believe the President is thus shown to be 'leaking classified information'. Well, as it turns out, at least some of what's classified depends on who owns the material, and the NIE is an Executive Branch work product. Consistent with Separation of Powers, the Executive has control of what is and isn't classified in its purview. For the President to leak something classified by statute or by Congress would be inappropriate, for sure, but that doesn't seem to be what happened here.

Of course, anyone who tuned in to Brit Hume's interview of Vice-President Cheney on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 (transcript here) would already know this:

Q On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors -- unidentified -- authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's nothing I can talk about, Brit. This is an issue that's been under investigation for a couple of years. I've cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He's a great guy. I've worked with him for a long time, have enormous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case and it's, therefore, inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Q There is.


Q Have you done it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

Q You ever done it unilaterally?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

What can be classified can be de-classified, and parts of the NIE were declassified on July 18, 2003.

Tempest in a teapot. But it's fun to watch it bubble. Note which of your friends freak out about this, and mark them as unserious people.


Kristina said...

The argument that it wasn't leaking information so much as declassifying the information is nonsense. I know that Republicans are big fans of framing their mistakes as either attacks by the left or unimportant issues, but trying to write off the release of sensitive information as an argument in semantics is just ridiculous.

Oh, and unserious people? Lets talk about serious for a second, shall we? Lets talk about how serious the members of the republican party who spand tax dollars and valuable legislative time attacking women on their right to choose, and homosexuals on their right to marry. How about we spend a little less time poking into the private lives of Americans and more time working on that massive deficit the GOP has racked up, okay?

Darren Duvall said...

Heh. Nothing like trailing a little blood in the water to see what comes swimming along.

It's not semantics, it's a critical issue. The NIE is a consensus statement of the relevant intelligence agencies of the United States (in retrospect, you can feel free to question the 'Intelligence' part, but that's another post). This is the information the President uses, and seeing as "helpful" and unofficial leakers were divulging incomplete information, a more through release of NIE information is a legitimate way to counter allegations like Joe Wilson's.

When it comes down to it, SP Fitzgerald didn't proffer charges of releasing classified information, after two years of careful investigation by someone who is praised to the skies as a Genuine Straight Arrow. Sorry, but Valerie Plame's identity is not "sensitive information", and neither is the summary of the NIE if the President says it's not.

However, the release of the NSA surveillance program is a "release of sensitive information", so I look forward to seeing you in the gallery when the leaker of that information goes on trial for treason. Glad to know your priorities are right.

And given that the large bulk of the deficit has gone to social programs like healthcare for the elderly, education and farm subsidies, government spending that has grown far faster under GWB than Clinton, I'm wondering whether it's the children, the sick, the elderly or farmers that you oppose so much. I think if you compare the amounts of tax dollars spent on those programs with the "poking into the private lives of Americans", it might counter your point.

Darren Duvall said...

PS: How sensitive is the NIE information if it was declassified ten days later?

You can read the declassified sections yourself: