Conyers Seeks Answers From Cheney and Bush on Libby Leaks
Rep. John Conyers has sent this letter today (no link yet, received by e-mail from his office) to Bush and Cheney seeking answers about Murray Waas' reporting yesterday that Cheney or others authorized leaking classfied information to reporters.
Dear Mr. President and Mr. Vice President:
Yesterday, the National Journal and AP reported that the Vice President's former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, had testified to a federal grand jury that as part of an effort to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and defend your Administration's use of prewar intelligence, he had been authorized by the Vice President and other White House superiors to leak classified information to journalists.1 Moreover, correspondence filed by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald also reveals that Mr. Libby has asserted that he had been authorized to disclose to the media a still-classified portion of a National Intelligence Estimate about alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons to the media.2
If this is true, I am concerned that it constitutes an abuse of power at best, and may be outright unlawful at worst. As I understand the applicable declassification regulations, they provide that "[i]nformation shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standard for classification under this order."3 Under these standards, it would appear that neither classified nuclear information nor Valerie Plame's status as a covert agent or the name of her employer warranted declassification. This is why Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has stated that these leaks were "a serious breach of public trust"4
As a result of these reports, I would like to ask you the following questions:
1. Is the report in the National Journal accurate? Have you or your staffs authorized Mr. Libby or other personnel within the Administration to declassify and leak information to the media relating to the Iraq war and the use of pre-war intelligence on any occasions? If so, please describe.
2. What is the legal basis for authorizing such declassifications and disclosures?
3. On September 30, 2003, the President declared, "[l]isten, I know of nobody - I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information ... If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action."5 Do you still stand by the President's pledge and, if so, what action are you planning to take against any individuals who may have authorized the leaks described in the National Journal article?
To the extent you believe any of the information needed to respond to the above questions may be classified or sensitive, I am happy to meet with you or your staffs directly on these matters. I may be reached through my Judiciary Committee office at 202-225-6504, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. Thank you.
John Conyers, Jr.
1 Murray Waas, Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information, National Journal, Feb. 9, 2006 available at http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2006/0209nj1.htm#.
3 Executive Order No. 12958, 68 Fed. Reg. 15,315 (Mar. 28, 2003).
4 Peter Slevin and Carol D. Leonnig, Inquiry as Exacting As Special Counsel Is, Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2005, at A3.
5 President George W. Bush, President Discusses Job Creation with Business Leaders, Remarks at University of Chicago (Sept. 30, 2003) (transcript available here.
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