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.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
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.