Thursday, February 16, 2006
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer -- Thursday, 4 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Vice President says he has the power to declassify government secrets, raising the possibility that he authorized his former chief of staff to pass along sensitive prewar data on to reporters.
Cheney coupled his statement in a TV interview Wednesday with an endorsement of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his ex-aide. Libby is under indictment on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the about disclosing the identity of undercover officer .
"Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence," Cheney, left, told Fox News Channel's Brit Hume, 2nd left. "He is a great guy. I worked with him for a long time. I have tremendous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case, and it is therefore inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case."
In a recent court filing, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that superiors had authorized him to spread sensitive information from a National Intelligence Estimate. The administration used the NIE assessment on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction as part of its justification for going to war.
At the time of Libby's contacts with reporters in June and July 2003, the administration, including Cheney, who was among the war's most ardent proponents, faced growing criticism.
No weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and Bush supporters were anxious to show that the White House had relied on prewar intelligence projecting a strong threat from such weapons.
Fitzgerald did not specify which superiors Libby may have been referring to when he testified that higher-ups had authorized him to spread sensitive information.
But in the interview, Cheney said an executive order gives him, and , power to declassify information.
"I have certainly advocated declassification. I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said. Asked for details, he said, "I don't want to get into that. There's an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously it focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president."Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com
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