February 16, 2006


Cheney's remark on leak may help Libby (Pete Yost, February 16, 2006, AP)

Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has the power to declassify sensitive government information, authority that could set up a criminal defense for his former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Cheney's disclosure comes a week after reports that Libby testified under oath that he was authorized by superiors in 2003 to disclose highly sensitive prewar information to reporters. The information, about Iraq and alleged weapons of mass destruction, was used by the Bush administration to bolster its case for invading Iraq.

When special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that he had been authorized by his superiors to spread sensitive information, the prosecutor did not specify which superiors.

But in an interview on Fox News, Cheney said there is an executive order that gives the vice president, along with the president, the authority to declassify information.

"I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said.

All Mr. Libby had to do was testify truthfully and he'd be home free.

The Little-Noticed Order That Gave Dick Cheney New Power: Have you ever heard of Executive Order 13292? (Byron York, 2/16/06, National Review)

Cheney was referring to Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003, which dealt with the handling of classified material. That order was not an entirely new document but was, instead, an amendment to an earlier Executive Order, number 12958, issued by President Bill Clinton on April 17, 1995.

At the time, Bush's order received very little coverage in the press. What mention there was focused on the order's provisions making it easier for the government to keep classified documents under wraps. But as Cheney pointed out Wednesday, the Bush order also contained a number of provisions which significantly increased the vice president's power.

Throughout Executive Order 13292, there are changes to the original Clinton order which, in effect, give the vice president the power of the president in dealing with classified material. [...]

In the last several years, there has been much talk about the powerful role Dick Cheney plays in the Bush White House. Some of that talk has been based on anecdotal evidence, and some on entirely fanciful speculation. But Executive Order 13292 is real evidence of real power in the vice president's office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2006 12:19 PM

I was reading the other day where someone was talking about how the President or Executive Branch doesn't have the power to declassify information (this was before Cheney's remarks) and in fact it was something I had heard awhile back as well. I didn't know the laws on this sort of thing, but it did seem odd to me. It seemed to me that if a President wanted to declassify a program or something, he would be within his rights to do so, whether or not it was a wise thing to do.

So, is this Executive Order that Cheney refers to something historical, or something that Bush issued? Are all EOs public, or can they be kept secret?

Posted by: RC at February 16, 2006 12:27 PM

But Libby isn't charged with leaking classified information and the classified information he was testifying about wasn't Mrs. Wilson's work address but a national intelligence estimate.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 16, 2006 12:35 PM

If Cheney told him to it wasn't classified any more.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 12:42 PM

Hence what I said earlier - it wasn't a leak if it had been authorized. It was a briefing, though anonymous.

Posted by: Mikey at February 16, 2006 1:28 PM

RC: that was me, and my apologies.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 16, 2006 1:29 PM

Joe, oh? No problem.

Posted by: RC at February 16, 2006 1:40 PM

Unless it's been changed since the first press conference when Fitzgerald explained Libby's indictment, he's been charged with lying to the grand jury. Does that sound familiar, or what?

Specifically Fitzgerald said that Libby had given two different versions of the same incident. He was very careful to say that classified information wasn't part of the indictment. So what's this about?

Posted by: erp at February 16, 2006 3:52 PM

He lied about legally leaking information.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 4:11 PM

But oj, that's not the point of the indictment. From Fitzgerald's own words, if he had lied about something not classified, he would have still been indicted.

Posted by: erp at February 16, 2006 6:27 PM


Yes, he lied about something legal.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 6:48 PM

Excuse me, after that triple in the previous post, I have lie down before I can think about Libby's legal illegal lies.

Posted by: erp at February 16, 2006 7:40 PM

You can't lie to the feds.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 8:17 PM