Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Article on Cheney's power inside the White House

As illuminated by the Libby trial: "Trial Spotlights Cheney’s Power as an Infighter." Most intriguing part of the trial evidence enumerated here, to me:
In a hush-hush meeting described in testimony, Mr. Libby asked the vice president’s chief counsel, David S. Addington, whether the president could declassify intelligence personally, effectively without C.I.A. knowledge or approval.

Mr. Addington testified that as he explained to Mr. Libby that indeed the president could do so, Mr. Libby shushed him. “He extended his hands out and pushed down a little like that, that would indicate, ‘Hold your voice down,’ ” Mr. Addington said at the trial. Mr. Libby testified that Mr. Cheney then went to Mr. Bush and got a presidential declassification.

White House officials have said Mr. Bush did not know how Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby intended to use the intelligence. (emphasis added)
The implication, of course, that Cheney could in effect "work" Bush to get whatever he wanted, here a quickie declassification. This is strange, however, as Cheney has publicly claimed to have the power to declassify intelligence himself. Apparently there was an Executive Order issued by Bush on March 25, 2003 amending classification powers to include the Vice President. So what's Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, doing in the summer of 2003 asking Addington about declassification if Cheney already had that power? The more likely answer is that Cheney did not have declassification authority, despite his public position.

For the leaking of Valerie Plame's CIA status, a special presidential seal of approval was required and Cheney got it. Note the comic last line from the excerpt above, that Bush didn't know how Cheney and Libby were going to use the intelligence he was declassifying. A tad irresponsible, don't ya think? Oh well, that's just Bush being Bush, right?

The rest, as they say, is history.