Secrecy News

Bush Authorized Disclosure of NIE to NY Times’ Miller

President Bush specifically authorized Vice Presidential aide Scooter Libby to disclose information from a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller in July 2003, effectively declassifying the information, according to a government filing (pdf) in the Libby prosecution yesterday.

“Defendant’s [i.e. Libby’s] participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller on July 8 [2003] occurred only after the Vice President advised defendant that the President specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE,” the government filing stated (at pp. 19-20).

“Defendant [Libby] testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller — getting approval from the President through the Vice President to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval — were unique in his recollection.”

The new filing in the Libby case was first reported today by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun.

Whatever its significance for the Libby case, the latest filing helps to resolve a lingering question that arose last February regarding the Vice President’s role in authorizing the disclosure of classified information. It appears that the Vice President did not direct disclosure on his own authority but on that of the President.

“Defendant [Libby] testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document,” the government filing said (p. 23).

See “Government’s Response to Defendant’s Third Motion to Compel Discovery,” April 5, 2006.

0 thoughts on “Bush Authorized Disclosure of NIE to NY Times’ Miller

  1. While the President may have “authorized” the disclosure of classified information to the press, many would argue that this in fact does NOT automatically amount to declassifying of that information. The president’s authority to classify and declassify national security information does not exempt him from the provisions of his own executive order covering the proper reasons for such moves.

    To be sure, political motivations do not come close to any rationale for the classification or declassification of national security information. (See EO 13292)

  2. Also, while this new information does clarify who authorized Libby to leak parts of the NIE, it doesn’t settle the question of whether anyone authorized and/or directed him to leak Valerie Plame Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA which, according to Fitzgerald, was also classified information.

  3. First, it would be necessary to have the precise date on which Bush presumably authorized Cheney to declassify the information that Libby leaked. If Libby leaked BEFORE such authorization was given, it would still be a security breach.

    But even more important,if Bush really had authorized the declassification, what was the basis for his insistence that he wanted to find out who leaked, and that the leaker would be held responsible. Enough of Bush’s charades!

    Talk about tangled webs. . . .

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