MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR news, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. There's a new court document regarding former vice presidential aide Lewis Libby, and the leak of classified information.
Libby told the grand jury that his leak to a New York Times reporter was authorized by President Bush, acting through Vice President Cheney. Libby is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to the grand jury, which was investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity to the media.
NPR's David Greene reports from the White House.
DAVID GREENE reporting:
The new document released today prompted major media attention, but on a careful read it's not certain what it means. It does not allege that either President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney committed a crime. But Libby's testimony does raise questions about what President Bush means when he says he doesn't approve of leaking.
Mr. Bush said in 2003, on a visit to Chicago, that he wanted to get to the bottom of who, if anyone in his White House, leaked the name of CIA operative Valeria Plame to reporters.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: 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. And this investigation is a good thing.
GREENE: But according to a new 39-page court filing written by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, there was quite a bit of leaking from the Bush White House in 2003. Fitzgerald wrote that Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, told a grand jury last year that he was granted approval from President Bush, giving him authority to speak to reporters about classified intelligence on Iraq. The specific document involved was called the National Intelligence Estimate and it was Cheney, Libby said, who verbally conveyed to him the authority granted by Mr. Bush. And with that authority, in July, 2003, Libby spoke to Judith Miller, a reporter from the New York Times.
In making his case for the pre-war intelligence, Libby may have brought up the war critic, Joe Wilson, a former ambassador married to a CIA operative named Valerie Plame. And that action prompted the investigation that led to the perjury charges Libby faces today.
Reacting to all this, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York suggested that when it comes to leaks, Mr. Bush is a hypocrite.
Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): This administration has been very, very strong against leaks. Now, if the president leaked for whatever purpose, we ought to know that, and then we ought to know what distinguishes his leaking information from all the others who leaked information and were condemned by the president.
GREENE: Today's court release did not specify whether the president or the vice president gave Libby any express direction to leak Plame's identity. Still, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, who specializes in national security, said it was irresponsible if the president was condoning any leak of classified material.
Professor JONATHAN TURLEY (Law Professor, George Washington University): At a minimum, it is grossly improper for the president to order a subordinate to disclose a highly classified document to an uncleared reporter and then have that document treated as continuing to be classified.
GREENE: Turley did say that a president has the power to declassify material if he wishes. It is a power that Mr. Bush extended to Vice President Cheney in an executive order shortly after taking office. Cheney was asked about the issue during an interview on Fox News in February.
Mr. BRIT HUME (Reporter, Fox News): Is it your view that a vice president has the authority to declassify information?
Vice President DICK CHENEY: There's an executive order to that effect.
Mr. HUME: There is?
Vice President CHENEY: Yeah
Mr. HUME: Have you done it?
Vice President CHENEY: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions.
Mr. HUME: Have you ever done it unilaterally?
Vice President CHENEY: I don't want to get into that.
GREENE: The White House today said it would not comment on the new document because Libby's case is an ongoing legal matter. President Bush ignored shouted questions on the subject at an appearance in North Carolina.
David Greene, NPR news, the White House.
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