It worries me that Whitehouse spokesperson Scott McClellan, his boss, and Bush apologists are so predictable. Several blogs including this one said yesterday that BushCo will simply claim that secrets are secrets when they say they are and are not as they see fit. Bush and defenders may have a case for saying that all this is legal, on the other hand the issue of how documents become declassified may not be as simple as Bush waving the royal wand and making it so. Disclosures Are Called Unrelated To Plame Case
But 10 days later, McClellan told reporters at the White House that the estimate had been "officially declassified today" — July 18, 2003 — making no mention of the earlier declassification that Libby described in his sworn testimony. If that statement was correct, reporters pointed out, then the material was still classified at the time Libby disclosed it.
McClellan yesterday declined to give a detailed explanation for the contradiction, explaining that the White House never comments on pending investigations. But he also tried to clarify his 2003 remarks to reporters, stating that what he meant on July 18 of that year when he said the material had been declassified that day was that it was "officially released" that day.
"I think that's what I was referring to at the time," he said.
McClellan said he would not comment directly on the report that Bush declassified intelligence data to rebut a war critic, but he insisted the president has the constitutional right to do so. He also said the White House draws a distinction between leaking classified information that jeopardizes U.S. sources, methods and lives and disclosing sensitive information "when it is in the public interest."
One can't help but note that what the Whitehouse defines as the public interests so conspicuously dove-tailed with the administration's desire to hide the caveats about Iraq's purported attempt to buy yellow-cake from Niger.
One former administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing political strategy, said rebutting Wilson and other critics was an obsession of Cheney, Libby and many others then inside the Bush White House. Other officials said there were frequent discussions about declassifying information to buttress the Bush argument for war. In several cases, this resulted in release of such information, but only after it went through the usual declassification process
That would be the declassification process that Bush himself and other presidents ordered, Media left unanswered questions about NIE disclosure
Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush all signed executive orders pertaining to the declassification of national security information. At least one legal analyst — Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, a former New Jersey state judge — has argued that Bush "would be violating his own order" if he declassified parts of the NIE without following certain procedures.
The president can also issue executive orders and violate them as he sees fit it seems. The Media Matters link in regards to Cheney suggests that the Vice President when acting alone is on shaky ground when declassifying documents like the NIE. Which brings us back to Bush, unless Cheney is ready to take a fall to protect W. The L.A. Times suggests that the leak(s) as they specifcally pertain to exposing the identity of a CIA agent may not fall within the president's right to declassify documents as he sees fit, Any Bush OK of Leak Is Probably Legal
Although legal experts agree that the president has broad authority to declassify information, there are limits. For example, it is unclear whether a president can override laws designed to protect certain categories of sensitive information, such as a 1982 statute that makes it unlawful to expose the identity of an undercover CIA officer.
"If a statute says the executive branch or anybody can't do something, it's not clear to me that the president's inherent declassification authority would be enough to overcome that," Lee said.
We may have to wait a few days before an unidentified CIA source or a retired CIA agent expresses concern about the idea that this or any president may reveal agent's identities for political revenge and intimidation of anyone that is not willing to stifle decent from carefully packaged Whitehouse rhetoric. from legal fiction, TRUST ME NOT
One of these common “roots” is the assumption that the executive branch gets to be the final arbiter of the limits of its own power. This single assumption ties together a number of the administration’s most troubling policies. For instance, according to the administration, it alone decides how detainees will be treated in wartime. It alone decides what constitutes torture. It alone decides who is deemed an “enemy combatant.” It alone decides who will be wiretapped. It alone decides whether it will follow the requirements of the Patriot Act. It alone decides whether America can legally go to war. It alone decides when documents are declassified. It alone decides when the Geneva Convention should be followed.
I have one small fracture of disagreement with legal fiction, he compares the conservative cabal's claim of " executive’s wartime power is unlimited and unreviewable" to Lenin's view. I would say that it is more Stalinists, but this may be a quibble. The Bushoviks have certainly made the claim that their gov'ment is all knowing, all powerful, and above question. That being the case, there is some duplicity since the majority party has failed miserabily to hold their highest executive to account they have consigned themselves the role of being a toothless politburo rather then one of the checks in the scheme of balances that the founders intended.
“Well then; I have received personal information, from a very high quarter that a certain document of the last importance has been purloined from the royal apartments. The individual who purloined it is known; this beyond a doubt; he was seen to take it. It is known, also, that it still remains in his possession.” 20
“How is this known?” asked Dupin.
“It is clearly inferred,” replied the Prefect, “from the nature of the document, and from the non-appearance of certain results which would at once arise from its passing out of the robber’s possession;—that is to say, from his employing it as he must design in the end to employ it.”
“Be a little more explicit,” I said.
“Well, I may venture so far as to say that the paper gives its holder a certain power in a certain quarter where such power is immensely valuable.” The Prefect was fond of the cant of diplomacy.
“Still I do not quite understand,” said Dupin.
“No? Well; the disclosure of the document to a third person, who shall be nameless, would bring in question the honour of a personage of most exalted station; and this fact gives the holder of the document an ascendency over the illustrious personage whose honour and peace are so jeopardised.
from The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe