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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dick Cheney Wings Peasant

Dick Cheney obviously believes he has the right to control the peasantry by any means necessary. After he shot a 78 year-old man this weekend on a hunting trip, one has to wonder a) who thought it was a good idea to put a gun in the hands of a fat, drunken, ill-tempered gimp with a bad heart and b) what kind of world Cheney thinks he lives in.

And we're not the only ones who are a little worried. On Fox News Sunday this morning both Jack Reed (D-RI) and George Allen (R-VA) called on Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate whether Dick Cheney had the right to declassify the NIE when he ordered Scooter to flash it to Judy Miller.

Said Allen:
I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy.
Which causes us to revisit the question -- did Cheney have the legal authority to do so? I've written before about the dubious ethics involved in leaking something to an easily dazzled dingbat that Dick Durbin couldn't release to the nation, and as a direct result thousands have died. But since a very interesting conversation on the topic has been taken up in the comments I thought we should front page the discussion.

TR points us to basic information on classifying and declassifying material, and also provides a link to an executive order pertaining to classified material signed by by Bush on March 25, 2003 (scroll down to part 3). TR also provides another page of links to documents on secrecy policy.

And KM writes:
[D]oesn't Section 3.5 state that all classified information must be subject to a mandatory declassification review by the originating agency unless it originated with the Pres/VP/etc. (i.e. the specific exemptions in paragraph (b))?

Since the NIE is not information falling under paragraph (b), one assumes that its declassification must be subject to a declassification review by the CIA, its originating agency. That is, not even the President can declassify the NIE without a CIA declassification review.

At any rate, let's make at least an analytic distinction between Libby being "authorized" to leak the NIE to a couple of select reporters (under the pretence of being a "former Hill staffer", no less) and actual, formal declassification of the NIE. Even if the Pres/VP is allowed to declassify unilaterally.

Shouldn't the MSM asking a very basic point of information -- was the NIE ever declassified prior to 8 July 2003? Not some mumbo-jumbo about "authorization" -- whatever this means -- Was it ever formally, officially declassified (by whatever authority, including the Pres or VP)? Presumably there must be some record of this -- even if the Pres or VP can unilaterally declassify the NIE, without the CIA's input, one presumes that there must be some formal documentation somewhere of this official action.

Because if not, and even if the Pres/VP has the authority to unilaterally declassify the NIE (which at least these paragraphs make it sound like they do not), then it seems that this "authorization" did not involve any official declassification, and thus was quite illegal.
I have seen almost no serious discussion of this point other than by people with a serious partisan axe to grind. In that the issue could take center stage I would appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on the matter.

Meanwhile Dick seems poised to go all Sir Henry at Rawlinson End on us all.

It was only a matter of time.

Update: Wolcott: "Time to take the shotgun away from grandpa, who's blasted perhaps hundreds of innocent birds into bloody feathers during his life, before he has another senior moment."

PS -- if anyone has a rare Sir Henry DVD or VHS and can send along a clip of Sir Henry shooting the peasant to put them out of their misery I will glady post it.

(graphic by Dark Black)