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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 10:46 AM
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Edited on Thu Feb-16-06 10:51 AM by leveymg
Yesterday, Cheney claimed in a televised interview that he may on his own authority make public classified documents. This assertion comes in the wake of accusations made in Grand Jury testimony by Cheneys former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, that he was authorized by his superiors to release to Judy Miller and other reporters a classified CIA National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) related to Iraq WMDs issued the previous October.

The Vice President is quoted by AP as stating during an interview on Fox News last night: There's an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously it focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president.'' See, AP, 02/16/2003, Cheney Says He Has Power to Declassify Info


A review of relevant laws, executive orders, and presidential directives reveals that the Vice President has no lawful power to unilaterally declassify CIA documents. Court documents released last week revealed that Dick Cheney stands accused of having told his aide to release a secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) ten days before it was declassified by the Agency. See, ;

Cheney appears to be referring here to Executive Order 13292, issued March 25, 2003 which gave the Vice President the authority to request the classification of his own documents, and to exempt some of these from release under the Freedom of Information Act. See, E.O 13292, Sec. 3.5 (03/25/2003)

However, there is nothing contained in that Order, or any other law, executive order or presidential directive that gives the Vice President the power to unilaterally de-classify secret agency documents, or to authorize others to do so on his behalf. Such a power by the Vice President simply has never been provided for in any written statute, executive order, presidential directive, or agency regulation. It simply didnt exist as part of American law until Cheney announced it yesterday.


Quite to the contrary. Federal law states that it is a felony for officials to disclose the contents of classified documents to persons who arent authorized to receive them. It is a separate offense to disclose the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. If the Vice President desires that his subordinates desire to make such disclosures, Executive Order spells out the precise procedures whereby any official must first request that a document be declassified, and recisely who in the government has the authority to carry out declassification. As before, that authority rests with the head of the originating agency, which in this case is the Director of Central Intelligence.

At that time, Cheney would have first had to request that George Tenet authorize Agency declassification. There is no record that such permission was ever sought or obtained. Tenet resigned a year later without explanation.

Since the beginning of the Bush Administration, EOs have been published and posted at the White House website, and are not classified. / Additionally, there is a second category of presidential orders, National Security Presidential Directives (NSPDs), the contents of some of which are classified. But even these have been numbered and indexed, and NSPDs issued since February 13, 2001 are posted by the Federation of American Scientists.

A series of EOs spell out the precise procedures whereby any official may request that a classified document may be declassified, and who has the authority to carry out declassification. The Executive Order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information. The first one still in effect was issued on April 17, 1995 and took effect on October 14, 1995. E.O. 12958 was amended with E.O. 12972, dated September 18, 1995, E.O. 13142, dated November 19, 1999, and E.O. 13292, dated March 25, 2003.

As before, that authority rests with the head of the originating agency, which in this case is the Director of Central Intelligence. While the President may overrule the head of the agency regarding declassification, the matter must first be considered by the CIA Director or his designate. That is clear from the language of the controlling document. In this particular, Executive Order 13292, Sec. 3.5 (03/25/2003) remains the lawful directive for declassification of CIA documents. See,

Sec. 3.1. Authority for Declassification. (a) Information shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standards for classification under this order.
(b) It is presumed that information that continues to meet the classification requirements under this order requires continued protection. In some exceptional cases, however, the need to protect such information may be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure of the information, and in these cases the information should be declassified. When such questions arise, they shall be referred to the agency head or the senior agency official. That official will determine, as an exercise of discretion, whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.
(c) If the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office determines that information is classified in violation of this order, the Director may require the information to be declassified by the agency that originated the classification. Any such decision by the Director may be appealed to the President through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The information shall remain classified pending a prompt decision on the appeal.


Definition of terms is essential to a full understand in of what is meant here. As before, these terms contained in the 1995 Order remain operative. Consider the following, and it become clear that Mr. Cheney was not following the law when he told Mr. Libby to reveal the contents of the NIE to Ms. Miller.

(e) "Classification" means the act or process by which information is determined to be classified information.
(f) "Original classification" means an initial determination that information requires, in the interest of national security, protection against unauthorized disclosure.
(g) "Original classification authority" means an individual authorized in writing, either by the President, or by agency heads or other officials designated by the President, to classify information in the first instance.
(h) "Unauthorized disclosure" means a communication or physical transfer of classified information to an unauthorized recipient.
(i) "Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.
(j) "Senior agency official" means the official designated by the agency head under section 5.6(c) of this order to direct and administer the agency's program under which information is classified, safeguarded, and declassified.
(k) "Confidential source" means any individual or organization that has provided, or that may reasonably be expected to provide, information to the United States on matters pertaining to the national security with the expectation that the information or relationship, or both, are to be held in confidence.
(l) "Damage to the national security" means harm to the national defense or foreign relations of the United States from the unauthorized disclosure of information, to include the sensitivity, value, and utility of that information


As one should expect with such bureaucratic matters, the law is not in the least bit vague about the steps that government officials are required to take before they can release classified documents to the public. The Vice President is no exception.

In Mr. Cheneys case, there is no evidence that he requested the Director of Central Intelligence to declassify the NIE before its contents were revealed by his aide, Scooter Libby, to Judy Miller of the New York Times on July 8, 2003. That document was not in fact declassified until ten days later. Dick Cheney and any other official who might have issued such an authorization was thus in violation of law in carrying out that disclosure. There is no murky presidential delegation of powers, as has been suggested by some, that might change that fact.

Therefore, the Vice President should be prosecuted for this.

MARK G. LEVEY, 2006.

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  - Fantastic post!  H2O Man   Feb-16-06 10:49 AM   #1 
  - I second that.  janx   Feb-16-06 10:50 AM   #3 
  - But what about the Theory Of The Unitary Co-Managing Executive?  cryingshame   Feb-16-06 11:09 AM   #12 
  - Yup, just asked the same question  Emit   Feb-16-06 11:12 AM   #16 
  - But then why do they pass the powers of the Presidency to the  mediaman007   Feb-16-06 08:29 PM   #78 
  - Yep  FreedomAngel82   Feb-16-06 01:17 PM   #44 
  - I third that. But to paraphrase Bill "Gamblers Anonymous" Bennett:  PurpleChez   Feb-17-06 05:44 AM   #90 
  - And I third that!  Emit   Feb-16-06 11:07 AM   #11 
  - Need a fourth?  TacticalPeek   Feb-16-06 11:09 AM   #13 
  - Cheney: "Do too."  Sparkly   Feb-16-06 10:50 AM   #2 
  - Good points.  janx   Feb-16-06 10:52 AM   #5 
  - Recommended! Excellent info and analysis.  dicksteele   Feb-16-06 10:52 AM   #4 
  - Supurb post! K&R!!! n/t  Talismom   Feb-16-06 10:53 AM   #6 
  - This is simply outstanding research - This should be Front page news!!  stop the bleeding   Feb-16-06 10:54 AM   #7 
  - Cheney's using the Newton's Third Law in Politics  Norquist Nemesis   Feb-16-06 10:55 AM   #8 
  - PERFECT!  Rebelry   Feb-16-06 01:34 PM   #48 
  - K&R. IMPEACH the filthy bastard.  The Witch   Feb-16-06 10:56 AM   #9 
  - K & R  Me.   Feb-16-06 10:57 AM   #10 
  - K+R  bettyellen   Feb-16-06 11:10 AM   #14 
  - This is a great post. Bookmarking, nominating and kicking.  myrna minx   Feb-16-06 11:12 AM   #15 
  - A reading of 4.1(c) in that order also supports your conclusion  Rose Siding   Feb-16-06 11:14 AM   #17 
  - Goss was sworn in Sept., 24 2004  leftchick   Feb-16-06 11:21 AM   #20 
  - Excellent - now there is work to do - this must be explained to the  higher class   Feb-16-06 11:17 AM   #18 
  - K&R n/t  Fiendish Thingy   Feb-16-06 11:17 AM   #19 
  - Mr. Levey, you have proven (QED) that Cheney has cooked his goose!  EVDebs   Feb-16-06 11:26 AM   #21 
  - DOJ's Inspector General, Glenn Fine, also is fiddling while Rome burns  EVDebs   Feb-16-06 11:47 AM   #24 
  - Is it possible that Fitzgerald is folding this matter  npincus   Feb-16-06 11:33 AM   #22 
  - Fitz!!!!!!!!!!!!  fooj   Feb-16-06 12:02 PM   #26 
  - This is why I believe the Libby indictment to be a stroke of  myrna minx   Feb-17-06 07:45 AM   #95 
  - Thank you!  spuddonna   Feb-16-06 11:43 AM   #23 
  - Sometimes they dump lies like this on their hard core voting base so  higher class   Feb-16-06 12:18 PM   #31 
     - "Growing the right wing dis-reality"... that's an awesome quote...  spuddonna   Feb-16-06 01:12 PM   #41 
  - Thank you, everyone.  leveymg   Feb-16-06 11:59 AM   #25 
  - Why Plamegate and NSA wiretap scandal converge...  EVDebs   Feb-16-06 12:11 PM   #28 
  - Some GOOD NEWS on the NSA wiretapping, which could help here  EVDebs   Feb-16-06 12:18 PM   #32 
  - Slam dunk, Mark.  bleever   Feb-16-06 12:09 PM   #27 
  - Wow, did I enjoy reading THAT ! WELL DONE!!! n/t  AzDar   Feb-16-06 12:13 PM   #29 
  - Thanks for the informative post! Another example of acting above the  rumpel   Feb-16-06 12:13 PM   #30 
  - Wonderful post! ... Thanks for all the work that went into it. Bookmarked  mom cat   Feb-16-06 12:18 PM   #33 
  - He should be prosecuted, but he cares nothing about the law.  redqueen   Feb-16-06 12:27 PM   #34 
  - Please submit as an op-ed to the NY Times & WaPo  Stephanie   Feb-16-06 12:38 PM   #35 
  - Outstanding Post!  Innoma   Feb-16-06 12:43 PM   #36 
  - Mark, I am still more worried about what Cheney decides to  Laura PackYourBags   Feb-16-06 12:44 PM   #37 
  - Theoretically, Cheney can classify anything within his own office -  leveymg   Feb-16-06 01:52 PM   #53 
  - Excellent work, leveymg.  FrustratedDemInNC   Feb-16-06 12:47 PM   #38 
  - Excellent post!!!!  wicket   Feb-16-06 12:48 PM   #39 
  - Excellent Post!  Klukie   Feb-16-06 01:02 PM   #40 
  - kicking for impeachment!  BareNakedLiberal   Feb-16-06 01:15 PM   #42 
  - and one for indictment  proud patriot   Feb-16-06 01:16 PM   #43 
  - Terrific post. nm  texpatriot2004   Feb-16-06 01:21 PM   #45 
  - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  freefall   Feb-16-06 01:22 PM   #46 
  - Thank you thank you for this concise explanation  Rebelry   Feb-16-06 01:31 PM   #47 
  - And another THANK YOU, Mr. Levey (nt)  enough   Feb-16-06 01:39 PM   #49 
  - Great post  suffragette   Feb-16-06 01:47 PM   #50 
  - Impeachment City!  Independent_Liberal   Feb-16-06 01:50 PM   #51 
  - Thank you for the good news!  mod mom   Feb-16-06 01:52 PM   #52 
  - Kick & Recommend!  debbierlus   Feb-16-06 02:05 PM   #54 
  - Kyra Phillips whipped out old EO 13292 -said they'd worked all  Rose Siding   Feb-16-06 02:22 PM   #55 
  - Cheney is sooo royally fucked!  Swamp Rat   Feb-16-06 02:24 PM   #56 
  - Oh, just an error in judgment, Cheney will say  mnhtnbb   Feb-16-06 02:30 PM   #57 
  - Bookmarked & recommended. Thank you.  understandinglife   Feb-16-06 02:31 PM   #58 
  - There already existed a declassified sexed-up version of the NIE  chill_wind   Feb-16-06 03:03 PM   #59 
  - Anybody?  chill_wind   Feb-16-06 03:10 PM   #60 
  - Steve Clemons concurs:  mod mom   Feb-16-06 03:23 PM   #61 
  - This is what I was wondering  Patsy Stone   Feb-16-06 09:16 PM   #80 
  - Kick!  KT2000   Feb-16-06 03:25 PM   #62 
  - Phenomenal post. Cheney broke the law here plain and simple. K&R  happydreams   Feb-16-06 04:02 PM   #63 
  - Wonderful collage to show Cheney is screwed.  Justice Is Comin   Feb-16-06 04:07 PM   #64 
  - Cheney states he is the "Declassification authority"...  PhilipShore   Feb-16-06 05:31 PM   #69 
     - Nothing in this order  Justice Is Comin   Feb-16-06 05:56 PM   #71 
        - Why not just Revoke the law?  PhilipShore   Feb-16-06 06:10 PM   #74 
  - Nice work. They did that to Clinton's conversations with Barak  robbedvoter   Feb-16-06 04:38 PM   #65 
  - Careful, Mark, or we'll draft you for Congress. n/t  rucky   Feb-16-06 05:12 PM   #66 
  - The House of Representatives must Impeach VP.  Disturbed   Feb-16-06 05:21 PM   #67 
  - Looks like Cheney has made Valerie Plame Wilson's civil suit  Burried News   Feb-16-06 05:22 PM   #68 
  - The hunting accident story has run it's course.  Disturbed   Feb-16-06 05:44 PM   #70 
  - BUSTED!!!  cry baby   Feb-16-06 05:58 PM   #72 
  - It would be nice if this post was frozen to stay...  Disturbed   Feb-16-06 06:07 PM   #73 
     - I agree  Canuckistanian   Feb-16-06 10:26 PM   #84 
  - Thank you Mark! K&R!  redacted   Feb-16-06 06:37 PM   #75 
  - Pay attention to that man behind the curtain.  seafan   Feb-16-06 06:55 PM   #76 
  - Cheney IS lawyered up...  npincus   Feb-17-06 08:50 AM   #98 
  - Excellent post  Lone_Star_Dem   Feb-16-06 08:22 PM   #77 
  - And...  Miss Chybil   Feb-16-06 08:31 PM   #79 
  - The prison jumpsuit is neatly pressed and waiting Mr Cheney  savemefromdumbya   Feb-16-06 09:58 PM   #81 
  - It's just another unbelievable outrage...All in a day's work for Cheney  Trevelyan   Feb-16-06 10:00 PM   #82 
  - Wow! No wonder Tenet was pissed at the outing of Plame  Canuckistanian   Feb-16-06 10:17 PM   #83 
  - Many thanks, leveymg, I'm glad to be armed with this info  bud E. holly   Feb-16-06 10:56 PM   #85 
  - Apparently you missed the "Make Shit Up" Executive Order  Spinzonner   Feb-17-06 12:45 AM   #86 
  - lol.  threadkillaz   Feb-17-06 02:51 AM   #88 
  - The real question is...  Tristan   Feb-17-06 02:43 AM   #87 
  - Outstanding sum up Mark, one of your best - K&R  BR_Parkway   Feb-17-06 05:18 AM   #89 
  - He's Deputy Fuhrer  Hubert Flottz   Feb-17-06 05:51 AM   #91 
  - Questions - If Cheney had declassified Plame's status  NewJeffCT   Feb-17-06 05:55 AM   #92 
  - Because Cheney didn't ask for Tenet's approval to declassify - he's done  stop the bleeding   Feb-17-06 07:35 AM   #93 
     - I know  NewJeffCT   Feb-17-06 08:09 AM   #96 
        - yeah I know that you were being rhetorical - that was my way of  stop the bleeding   Feb-17-06 08:30 AM   #97 
  - A mere technicality - they'll change the law  Loge23   Feb-17-06 07:41 AM   #94 
  - That wouldn't make his action legal - laws are not retroactive  robbedvoter   Feb-17-06 08:57 AM   #99 
     - Well we now know that Cheney has been the Res in thief all along  BookemDano   Feb-17-06 09:10 AM   #100 
  - excellent work  plcdude   Feb-17-06 09:35 AM   #101 
     - YES, especially because he seemed to NOT question dikk's assertions  sundancekid   Feb-17-06 10:30 AM   #102 

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