But there's a caveat, and an important one.
Having worked at the muzzle end of the national security establishment for the last nineteen years, I've been taught that information is classified when its release would cause harm to national security. And, generally, information is not declassified until that threat has passed, though sometimes things remain classified because the information is merely lost in the system. Surely there are an abundance of documents from the 1940s-1960s that remain classified because no one ever got around to reviewing them for declassification.
Occaisionally, information gets released, either publicly or through approved "leaks", because the President decides the benefit to national interest outweighs the damage to national security. The Administration is clearly taking that approach here.
"There is a difference between providing declassified information to the public when it's in the public interest and leaking classified information that involved sensitive national intelligence regarding our security," [White House Spokesman] Scott McClellan said.There is an important question that needs to be answered, though. Did the President choose to release the information believing it would benefit the national interest, or did he choose to release it believing it would benefit his poll numbers? The argument that the war in Iraq needed to be justified holds no water, in my opinion. When the information was leaked, Baghdad was already ours.
The string should be pulled to get to the bottom of the decision to declassify. And, if it's clear the President chose to release the information to save his reelection bid or job approval numbers, he deserves to get his rear end handed to him. In spades.
A. Upon reflection, there's another question that needs to be answered, too: was there any actual harm to national security by the release? To my knowledge, there were no sources or methods divulged, so it's tough to argue there was harm. And until someone can demonstrate that national security was damaged, this story is just political hay for partisan jackasses.
B. An unnamed attorney presses the "plausible deniability button:"
President Bush declassified sensitive intelligence in 2003 and authorized its public disclosure to rebut Iraq war critics, but he did not specifically direct that Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, be the one to disseminate the information, an attorney knowledgeable about the case said Saturday.
Bush merely instructed Cheney to "get it out" and left the details to him, said the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case for the White House. The vice president chose Libby and communicated the president's wishes to his then-top aide, the lawyer said.