Here’s a key question that comes up in regards to the president’s alleged ability to make a classified leak not a classified leak just by virtue of giving it the thumbs up.
Various officials in the government have the ability to declassify different categories of documents or information. Often, it’s the head of the department or agency under whose purview the information falls.
The president has the authority to declassify everything.
That makes sense since everyone in the executive branch, either directly or indirectly, works for the president.
But look more closely at the power that the President, through Scooter Libby, appears to be alleging.
Even with the president, there are procedures he needs to go through. He probably needs to make a finding and I would assume sign some document. Set that aside though. What we appear to have here in the Libby case is a one-off declassification. The president didn’t really declassify anything. He authorized Libby to show classified material to Judy Miller or whomever else.
Here’s the way to find out. After the president authorized Libby, did anyone else in the government know that the Iraq NIE was no longer classified? Was there any change in the NIE’s official status?
Late Update: Okay, Paul Kiel found the part of the new court papers that answers part of the question. This was a declassification that only President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby were allowed to know about.