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March 29, 2007

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Great citizen journalism AND blogging!

It also reflects poorly on Bush, who must know that Cheney overstepped the line.
Since nothing has changed, either Bush is in agreement with Cheney's actions or doesn't care about the rule of law. And I suppose those are not mutually exclusive conclusions.

Now if only there were a Legislative Order giving Emptywheel subpoena power to inestigate use and misuse of Presidential signing orders, this government could regain its equilibrium overnight.

If any more shoes hit the floor, we're going to think an army of octopi has taken over the White House.

Wait....

Tentacles. Suckers. Big heads. Ink-splattered cover-ups. And yet more suckers.

This doesn't call for a superhero, but a sushi chef! ;)

A bit more seriously, that aide (Cathie Martin?) who left rather than listen while the NIE was being discussed over the phone was right to be uncomfortable.

Somebody needs to tell Cheney that he doesn't have total and absolute insta-declass authority so that he can get Bush to amend his EO and backdate it. Otherwise, we would have to have him up for trial on treason... during wartime.

ew, Mr. Leonard should be asked specifically whether Bush and Cheney can out a CIA undercover agent and, if so, what is the policy and procedure. It seems to me people are (deliberately?) confusing declassifying the NIE and outing an undercover agent. These are two very separate issues and should be treated as such.

Sally

Not as it relates to classification (at least from Leonard's perspective)--a classified identity is the same as a classified document.

"...would depend upon the extent to which he has been delegated that authority..."

Hypothetically, could the president delegate to the vp the authority to declassify national security information at will?

Great post. This slip in the Russert interview where he idenifies himself as President is also revealing.

"Now, is it tough and difficult? Absolutely. No doubt about it. You regret every single casualty. I visit with the families. We spend time with the wounded when they come back. I visit with the troops every chance I get. It's the toughest thing the President has to do. But it is absolutely the right thing to do, Tim,..."

Stuart

Yup. In fact, Libby says Bush did that, in just this case.

But you see the risk of where their argument leads?

First, it is probable that it wasn't the NIE they were discussing.
Second, if Bush just authorized declassification in this instance it would mean 1) he was intimately involved in the smear and 2) he may have told Dick he could leak Plame's identity.

That's why, I think, Cheney has claimed the ability to declassify. To build in a firewall for Bush.

That's fantastic, Marcy. Like you, I noticed that Davis tried to elide the distinction between the Prez and Veep in his question to Leonard, and worried that the response was a punt. It perpetuated the vague sense, endorsed by Cheney himself, that the revised Executive Order gave Cheney the power -- or asserted the power -- for the Veep to declassify at will.

The language of the EO is (perhaps deliberately vague), though I'd reached the same conclusion that Leonard confirmed: that Cheney's powers of declassification were still akin to those of an agency head, except when delegated from above.

But what's still vague is the extent to which the plenary authority of the president has been delegated, and what mechanisms are available for determining that. Presumably, any such delegation has to be documented, though: otherwise, it's just at-will declassification that goes beyond even the wider powers of the 2003 revision to the EO.

Nice work, EW. That's as strong a confirmation of the basic asymmetry between classification and declassification authority for the VP that I've yet seen. And it's quite categorical about the only possible exception to that asymmetry.

It seems clear that EOs 13292 and 12958 intended the delegation of classification/declassification authority to be a specific privilege, applying only to specific cases. (Though for the sake of practicality it would probably also include a limited set of cases.) But I've got the same question as Stuart. What if the Admin claims that in Cheney's case the President's authority was delegated as a general privilege -- i.e. it wasn't limited to a specific case or limited set of cases, but was an across-the-board, unlimited and indefinite delegation?

Here's the first clause from the relevant section in EO 13292, 1.3(c):

(1) Delegations of original classification authority shall be limited to the minimum required to administer this order. Agency heads are responsible for ensuring that designated subordinate officials have a demonstrable and continuing need to exercise this authority.

Now obviously an unlimited delegation of authority would fly in the face of the intent and spirit of this article. But you know the routine here. Nation at war, terror terror terror, national security, etc. -- it is essential given the unique nature of the situation America finds itself in that the VP be delegated the President's original declassification authority broadly and indefinitely. The need, conveniently, is "demonstrable and continuing". And so forth.

And, as pseudonymous is suggesting, we still need to figure out whether such delegation did in fact happen. Just as we do, for that matter, for the insta-declassification of NIE/Plame.

Oh, BTW, it would be worth firing off an e-mail to Steven Aftergood to see what he thinks about this and some of the further questions it suggests.

Which means that if Libby leaked Plame's identity the NIE based on just Cheney's say so, the leak would be illegal.

This is true. But I think it's sort of beside the point, since as you say Cheney is building a firewall for Bush, though not exactly in the way you suggest. Cheney knows full well that he doesn't have the power of declassification - look carefully at what he says, and at all points it's a non-assertion assertion of vice presidential declassification power. I think he's making it sound like he does or might just in order to save Bush from uncomfortable questions, given the story of Cheney getting presidential authorization. Don't you think it's safe to say that Cheney and Libby didn't concoct a story about going to the president for authorization to leak stuff? I take it they wouldn't simply abandon the principle that your first job is to protect the president. So that being so - and in light of the fact that Bush apparently backed up Cheney's and Libby's story in his interview with Fitzgerald - what's going on, I strongly suspect, is an effort just to keep things focused on Cheney and Libby and away from Bush, not an effort to hide the fact that they did not go to Bush.

If I had to guess, Cheney went to Bush, they discussed pushing back against Wilson, there was probably some mention of Plame, and Cheney basically kept his permission-asking very vague, along the lines of, "There's some stuff we want to get out there, can we get the go-ahead from you to do that?" and Bush responded, "Yeah, get everything that's helpful out there, get it all out." Which Cheney and Libby, helped by the legal opinion of Addington, took as declassification of all relevant documents and/or information they needed on the matter, probably including, in their mind, some documentation that would have revealed that Wilson's wife was CIA.

That's just a guess, though it is in keeping with the information practices Cheney has been innovating, so nicely characterized by Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine.

A couple of further thoughts.

First, on one point by pseudonymous:

Presumably, any such delegation has to be documented, though: otherwise, it's just at-will declassification that goes beyond even the wider powers of the 2003 revision to the EO.

From EO 13292, Section 1.3(c):

(4) Each delegation of original classification authority shall be in writing and the authority shall not be redelegated except as provided in this order. Each delegation shall identify the official by name or position title.

(Also, the part about "redelegation" seems to confirm the intended specificity of the practice of delegation that I was suggesting earlier.)

Second, Leonard's response very strongly suggests that another talking point has hit the dust. The one that relied on the definition of "declassification authority" in Section 6 (l), which includes "a supervisory official of [the original classifying authority]", to argue that Cheney, as VP, was a "supervisory official" of Tenet and the CIA and so fully entitled to declassify the NIE (or Plame's ID, for that matter).

The main point you raise in this post about VP powers is a very important one.

But, I'm unclear where you're going with the point that Libby didn't get first-hand verification that Bush had declassified [the material], and I don't understand your conclusion that the leak was therefore illegal. To help those of us who can only hold one thought in our heads at a time, can we take the scenarios in turn?

Alibi A, in which Bush really declassified [whatever] and Cheney saw him do so and truthfully informed Libby. Was it illegal for Libby to treat that [whatever] as having been declassified, based on Cheney's word? Why?

Alibi B, in which Bush did not declassify [whatever] and Cheney falsely asserted to Libby that Bush had done so. In this scenario it is clear that Cheney has done a dirty, and would likely face some charge for it (I hope). But would Libby be charged somehow for the leak? Certainly not under any statute that requires him to intentionally be revealing classified information.

wow, e'wheel.

this is important.

the question has nagged me for a long time.

why do you suppose the ny times or the wapo couldn't have checked on this three years ago?

thanks for keeping your gaze on these critical small matters that get overlooked in the great surge of verbiage and publicity where white house shenanigans are concerned.


i'll bet anything that the nie or plame were improperly "de-classified" by cheney. if so, this really is a federal offense.

The poor dear's just confused, that's all. He's so used to being the de facto Prez that he forgets he's not the de jure one.

*Thank you* for getting to this, and doing such a thorough job of following up. I thought it was pretty clear from everything I'd read that classification authority did not automatically include declassification authority (over other people's classification); frankly, the idea that it would seemed insane. But I'm certainly not an expert in this area.

On a related note, I'm hoping to make it to one of Tom Davis' town meetings on Saturday and ask him whether he actually believes that to protect its covert agents, the CIA has to tell the White House who all of them are, as he seemed to be saying in the Plame hearing. :-)

Good reporting EW!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have the authority as Vice President under an executive issued by the President to classify and declassify information. And everything I've done is consistent with those authorities.

Untrue (of course). Everything the Vice President has done is, in fact, inconsistent with those authorities, since the Office of the Vice President has been out of compliance with Information Security Oversight Office regulations since 2003.

The ISOO finally got around to challenging the OVP's extraordinary claims of exemption from its regulations recently. But guess who's supposed to enforce compliance?

Yeah, you guessed it. Alberto Gonzales.

emptypockets

I think Jeff is absolutely correct: That what Cheney is doing is drawing attention away from Bush, but that Bush in fact declassified Plame's identity. In fact, I'd go further and say he knew about it.

Which means the leak would not be illegal.

But the reason, Jeff, that it's important to get this out is to make Cheney's (and Davis') excuse ineffective. IF Bush did indeed grant Cheney the power to declassify Plame, then he needs to pay for it politically. (Not least since acknowledgement that Plame needed to be declassified would be acknowledgment that she was covert.)

ew: Bush in fact declassified Plame's identity. In fact, I'd go further and say he knew about it [...
] Which means the leak would not be illegal.

It wouldn't violate the IIPA... I think it still amounts to treason.

smiley

Well, the point is that COngress would have to make that judgment. They're not going to do so unless the case is made for them.

it's important to get this out is to make Cheney's (and Davis') excuse ineffective.

Completely agreed. I'd just add that from Cheney's very own carefully parsed, casuistic statements, it's clear he knows that he does not have unilateral declassification powers. I'd also add that the point is that his and Libby's official story is that they went to Bush. The business about vice-presidential declassification is an utter and double distraction. It's irrelevant, given the very story that Libby and evidently Cheney (and almost certainly Bush as well) gave to investigators. No claim was ever made to vice-presidential declassification.

Jeff
First, I think you're wrong--it is not a non-assertion assertion. For example, in this exchange:

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Cheney overstates what his powers to declassify info are. Add in the Davis question, and there is a clear attempt to say he does have the power.

Besides, we don't know what Cheney's story is. Yes, Libby's story is that Cheney told him he asked Bush. But we don't know what Cheney said.

By clarifying the law, it becomes easier to dismiss this distraction. And, more importantly, to use the distinction to press for release of the non-grand jury interviews from Bush and Cheney.

Who said what when, and where the authorities lie is important in unraveling what's going on in the White House. But there is another point about classification that needs to be kept in mind, even if it shifts out of the spotlight.

That is that there are reasons for classifying information. We don't want just anyone having the blueprints for a nuclear weapon. We don't want the enemy to know the plans for an attack. We don't want just anyone to know who's a spy.

Information should be declassified only because that information no longer needs to be protected. There are books and books of rules for this sort of thing.

But if you classify in order to protect your buddies or to hide the unconstitutional things you're doing, then it makes sense to declassify just as arbitrarily.

In other words, this is one more part of the administration's Politicization of Damn Near Everything.

Devil and deep blue sea. Bush knew or Cheney committed a crime. HMMMMM. They might as well cop to Bush knowing - he can't get any less popular. However, this brings echos of 9-11 when Cheney gave the green for shooting down passenger planes while Bush listened to my pet goat. My money says Cheney did the declass himself knowing Bush has given him free reign.

emptywheel

This is another one of those non-disagreement disagreements on my part. But:

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Cheney overstates what his powers to declassify info are.

He leaves the impression that his declassification powers are greater than they are, but because of the maddeningly imprecise nature of the question, Cheney can leave that impression without, technically speaking, saying anything false. The executive order does in fact speak to the authority the vice president has to declassify information. Now, if the question, or the followup, had been, "Is it you view that a vice president has the same authority as - or equal authority to - the president to declassify information?" it would have been tougher for Cheney to mislead his way through an answer. Obviously, if one could quote the amended order on the president's powers of declassification, and then note the non-parallel between how the vp is treated in the section on declassification and the section on classification, it would be even better. But the point is that Cheney himself is allowed to get away with a misleading answer because he knows what he's doing and what he's talking about better than the journalist.

As for Davis, it's flatout false. I'm sure he would just claim he misspoke.

And again, I agree it's entirely useful to illuminate all this stuff.

As for what we know of Cheney's story, it's true we only have reporting on it, and not the testimony itself, as with Bush. So it is entirely possible that the sources for that reporting have falsified what Cheney and Bush actually said, but I doubt it.

Worth noting that, as Fitzgerald noted in his 11-15-06 reponse to Libby's motion in limine regarding the NIE, he sent a letter on 9-7-06 to defense counsel setting forth all the information it had from witnesses' interviews concerning the timing of the de-classification and the relevant conversations - which I take to include, almost certainly, the information Fitzgerald gleaned from his interviews with Cheney and Bush.

But I presume there's no way that will ever be opened up like the other sealed stuff or could be FOIA'd or anything like that. So it is almost certainly unattainable. But it's out there.

Now we're finally getting to the point that Patrick Fitzgerald has been making all along (in his own oblique way). There's no IIPA violation (or Espionage Act violation, for that matter) if Bush authorized Libby's actions. But think about what it means. They never told Tenet.

By the way, if you think Cheney has broad classification/declassification authority, explain why David Addington doesn't agree. Go back and look at what he said about those "Treat as Top Secret/SCI" stamps they were using in the OVP.

Off topic - Human Events has an article poo-poohing the Libby trial. You and Christy have deconstructed this sort of thing so many times you could be forgiven for thinking you are done, but I would love it if you could take a whack at this -

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=19795

Amazing that you reached out to Leonard. Did no one else think to do it? I'm reminded of when I was in college in 1980 and learned former Red Sox great Smokey Joe Wood was alive and living in New Haven. He must have been ninety-five. I looked him up in the phonebook and called him. He picked up on the first ring. If anything, he was overeager. "Come on over, I'll be sitting on the porch."

Jeff

I don't have reason to doubt reports of GJ testimony. Though some of the reports are based on sources in WH. As we learned with accounts of Ari's and Libby's GJ testimony, those aren't always accurate.

More importantly, I'd like to see hte actual language involved. Libby's story here is pretty inconsistent. We know the interviews with Bush and Cheney were very contentious. I'd like to see the language involved.

pdaly's point deserves emphasis:

It also reflects poorly on Bush, who must know that Cheney overstepped the line.
First: I'm not so sure that Bush does know. That's not the kind of thing one ever hears him speak about. Best I can tell, Cheney leads, Bush follows.
Second: With all his talk about being 'the decider' and the 'commander in chief,' it rarely occurs to any of us that he exerts any influence on his underlings - the generals, the OVP, his cabinet. For all his pomp, he is, if anything, a non-leader extraordinaire.

This post is about Cheney's claims of omnipotence and their validity. I doubt he has looked into them before he says them. Cheney has David [no observable neck] Addington to scramble around for rationalizations for his most recent claims...

We know the interviews with Bush and Cheney were very contentious.

We do? How do we know that?

Man, every time you think the case is starting to fade into the background, there it is again - Sampson not only admitting that he suggested that Fitzgerald be fired to Miers and kelley in 2006, but unable to be unquivocal on whether on other occasions Rove was involved in discussions of firing Fitzgerald. Somebody's got to follow up that line of questioning. Note that Sampson made it appear that his conversation with Miers and Kelley was the one and only time he discussed it, but in fact he said no such thing, he just noted it as one time. How much you want to bet it was just one occasion among others? And that Rove was either involved in some of those other occasions or on some or other of those other occasions Sampson heard about Rove's interest in getting rid of Fitzgerald?

"We know the interviews with Bush and Cheney were very contentious."

Interesting, how do you know that (I'm guessing a book)? I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more attention, and hope that it will.

ew, I love you, but you're dead wrong here:

think Jeff is absolutely correct: That what Cheney is doing is drawing attention away from Bush, but that Bush in fact declassified Plame's identity. In fact, I'd go further and say he knew about it.

Which means the leak would not be illegal.

I've read the protocals for declaisfying classified information, and there are directly enumerated prohibitions against declassifications to avoid embarrassment of government officials

it might not violate the IIPA, but it ain't legal

Cheney overstates what his powers to declassify info are. Add in the Davis question, and there is a clear attempt to say he does have the power.

Exactly. Davis didn't say 'Prez-and-Veep' in one breath without good reason, and the reason is to make 'factesque' the notion that Cheney can declassify at will. I'd agree with Jeff that there's some careful parsing going on with the '...to that effect' reply, to avoid an outright lie, but the tenor of discussions on classification since the EO was revised to upgrade Dick's powers has been that Cheney has the power to declassify whatever he likes.

Yeah but Free, if the Preznit's power to declassify is absolute, it ain't illegal.

Marcy, I thought at one time I read that Executive Order 12958 had been amended, so I have just spent some time looking up that amendment. Executive Order 12958 was amended on March 25, 2003, by Executive Order 13292, to read as follows:
(snip)
Sec. 1.3. Classification Authority.

(a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:
(1) the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President;

I was wondering how this amendment of the original order affects your theory? You can read it in the following link:
http://www.archives.gov/isoo/policy-documents/eo-12958-amendment.html#3.1

Props to Emptywheel for connecting the dots between leak case evidence, Cheney's assertions about his own authority to declassify information (NIE? Plame's identity?) under EO 12958, Davis attempt to equate Cheney's authority to Bush's, and how this series of events could lead a sharp-thinking analyst to conclude Cheney, if he was forced to admit it, would claim he had the authority to "insta-declassify" Plame's CIA NOC identity because if he doesn't have the authority, he would have had to get Bush's permission or Tenet's. Tenet won't back Cheney up and Bush can't.

Why would Fitz investigate if Cheney or Bush claimed, during their interviews with Fitz, that they had not only declassified the NIE but Plame's NOC status? Sorry ney-sayers. I don't buy it.

Ann

NO, he wsa dealing with the amended EO. That is, 13292.

EW - Only been to your site a couple of times before; very nice work you have here. I saw Ann in AZ's question over at FDL and started thinking about the ambit of the EO, whether 12958 or 13292. It reads "in the performance of executive duties, the vice-president". I am probably full of it here, but isn't the VP acting as the "executive" only when he is acting in place of the President, i.e. death, disability or some other extraordinary reason. There must be something I am forgetting here, but I thought I recall learning in Constitutional Law that the executive was the President. If that is so, Cheney is full of shit for more reasons than the many you have already listed. I am interested in the answer, because this seems to simple. Thanks.

"Ann
NO, he wsa dealing with the amended EO. That is, 13292."


EW, you're being coy with me and Jeff. That's not fair!

kx-

thanks for the cite.

i had no idea there was such an organization.

isn't the VP acting as the "executive" only when he is acting in place of the President

It's an odd phrasing, isn't it? I suppose one reading would be 'as opposed to his legislative duties as President of the Senate', but there's no real reason why that might apply. While constititution 101 ascribes one executive duty to the veep -- that is, to remain breathing while the president is in office -- but in reality, covers a lot more, especially with Dick around. It basically means acting 'in loco praesidentis'.

I wonder how that squares with the 'unitary executive' idea that all executive power is presidential power.

Pseudonymous in nc - Well, I guess that would make two "loco" presidents we have then wouldn't it? But seriously, I think that there are all kinds of things and duties that a president can assign to a VP; however where specific statutory language indicates a power restricted to the "executive", I think that language must control absent some other authority of record. Under Article II, Sections 1 and 6 of the Constitution, I simply do not see how some cute, off the record, workaround could accomplish this. I am not aware of any on the record explanation either, that is why I am so interested in EW's thoughts on this; she certainly knows this stuff better than any lawyer I know.

bmaz

I think I'd buy your argument--though I suspect David ADddington wouldn't.

kim

Maybe I'm confusing it with the 9/11 testimony. Not sure.

If Bush or Cheney declassified Ms. Plame's identity in order to avoid legal liability for revealing it, but intentionally failed to tell the CIA, so that they in turn were unable to timely roll up Brewster & Jennings, then Bush or Cheney would be responsible for the unnecessary "collateral damage" her network suffered.

The CIA's damage assessment report seems to be among the rarest documents in Washington. Why? What might that damage include. Deaths, imprisonments, loss of jobs, careers, safety, citizenship, etc., over several countries, not to mention loss of data and the network itself.

This damage was done during a war purportedly started because Iraq might have loose nukes, among other WMD's, which were the kind of WMD's that Plame's network was designed to track. What if one of those loose nukes went off? For what are Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney liable then?

Nice article, nice points, and nice work. I'm surprised you even got a response back!

I think its pretty clear at this point what happened and who's to blame. Do you think Cheney will ever go down for this?

Maybe I'm confusing it with the 9/11 testimony. Not sure.

Yes, that must be it. Because you become confused so frequently. Yes, that must be it. I'm persuaded.

"Yes, that must be it. Because you become confused so frequently. Yes, that must be it. I'm persuaded."

My reaction exactly.

Cheney knows full well that he doesn't have the power of declassification - look carefully at what he says, and at all points it's a non-assertion assertion of vice presidential declassification power.

I'll undermine Jeff by agreeing with him - Cheney is phrasing his assertions very carefully, but is *not* claiming the President's broad power. Or (following William of O here), *IF* Cheney claimed the broad power to Russert, why didn't he claim it with Addington and Libby, both of whom seemed to think that Bush needed to be involved?

What sort of underlings is Cheney employing, anyway?

I feel bad now; I had not even realized there was a controversy about Cheney's obviously limited power over a year ago when I wrote "Cheney is not quoted as specifically addressing his de-classification authority. But that said, I expect he has enough influence in the White House that if he tells his staff that something will be declassified, they believe it, and he can get it done.".

Since Libby was quite clear that he told Cheney himself to check it with the real boss, this latest spin that Cheney has been claiming the authority everywhere but to his own staff has never really grabbed me.

Here is Libby to the grand jury:

But I made a note and talked to the Vice President before July 8 and told him about this -- that I could talk to her about the NIE, but he would have to get the President to declassify it in effect before I could talk about it.

Where's the respect?

Well. I'll grant that Cheney blew some smoke to confuse the unwary, but I don't have the impression anyone has been fooled.

As to this from the post:

Which means that if Libby leaked Plame's identity the NIE based on just Cheney's say so, the leak would be illegal.
Which means that if Libby leaked Plame's identity the NIE based on just Cheney's say so, the leak would be illegal.

Do we all agree that Cheney would have to the the criminal here, not Libby? All throughout the Executive Branch folks rely on the orders of their superior in the chain of command without double-checking with the President personally.

So if Cheney is the crook, why did Fitzgerald forget to indict him, or refer a file to Congress for possible impeachment?

From an EW comment:

...since acknowledgement that Plame needed to be declassified would be acknowledgment that she was covert.)

Rep. Davis could take lessons from you - such an admission would be an acknowledgment that they were aware that her status was "classified". Whether they also had a sense that she was "covert" under the IIPA is a separate issue, as you know.

They couldn't get the CIA to do it because that would be like cutting off their own arm. They couldn't do it themselves because that'd be grounds for treason. So they had owe of their own OUT her on a piece of official document from a competitive(in-house) intelligence branch within the State. It gave them the grounds to bring her "status" into question.

Brilliant play in politics unless you were the target of such an action.

Politics is a dirty business! You've got to love it to appreciate it!!

YOU'LL NOT HEAR THIS LINE OF TRUTH from her publishers nor Warner Bros. if they've not been bought, wined and dined by interests linked to the conservative party, or even from the democratic one they've called their own.


Google "invest_mavin"

The World's Greatest Detective!
The Odyssey. The Revolution!

I'll undermine Jeff by agreeing with him

Is it getting back at you by noting that on that old thread you link to, your commenters from your side didn't seem to get the point you now claim, but seemed by and large quite confident that Cheney could declassify whatever he wanted, perhaps because he was everybody's supervisory official (except maybe the president's)?

I'll grant that Cheney blew some smoke to confuse the unwary

Ok, but why?

I certainly think part of it is that it is pretty clear that some of Libby's leaks of the NIE were at the authorization of the Vice President but before the authorization from the President. And maybe they're a little anxious about that. Plus just in general it's good practice for a vice president to distract attention away altogether from the role of the president so close to the blowing of Plame's cover and the selective leaking of the NIE.

By the way Tom, am I mistaken in getting the impression that the emerging view among smart righties is that Cheney probably did order Libby to leak Plame's CIA identity, but it was on the verge of okay, because goddamn it she was part of the story, and a relevant part of the pushback on the merits against Wilson?

I'll love it if that's true.

Has anyone considered the possibility that Cheney *and* Rove escaped indictment (and perhaps conspiracy charges) because Pat Fitzgerald was afraid of losing his job?

Raw story has a top item of interest:

National Nuclear Security Agency can't account for 20 computers with sensitive information

"This is the 13th time in a little over four years..."

Hmmm... that would make it 2003.

In 2003, 1 agent tracking nuclear material was outed and hounded and perhaps killed himself. Another agent was outed and is fighting back. And all these computers tracking nuclear materials and countering proliferation have been vanishing since then? DESKTOP computers!!! I can understand a laptop or two snatched in a crime of opportunity, where the thief might not know what they have, but dozens of desktop computers implies a deliberate series of raids hunting for specific information.

This is not the first time that computers involved in tracking nuclear information have gone missing. The current incident involves computers used in "tracking and countering efforts to steal bomb information."

http://rawstory.com/news/2007/National_Nuclear_Security_Agency_cant_account_0401.html

(I had trouble following their link)

I have to wonder if our secretive agencies are guarding anything, or value what they are entrusted to guard.

I also wonder if the information on those computers is sourced. Are other agents or their operations at risk?

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