Dems, GOP Clash Over Meaning of Libby Testimony

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - Court documents filed Thursday indicate I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, testified that President Bush authorized the release of sensitive information to a reporter. By Friday, both Democrats and Republicans were charging each other of using the latest development in the Valerie Plame controversy for political gain.

The filing reportedly depicts Libby as being reluctant to share intelligence on the likelihood of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction with the press until Cheney told him that the president had declassified the information and authorized the disclosure.

While the documents did not indicate that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative, Democrats were quick to accuse the administration of using classified information for political purposes.

"I am troubled by news reports that President Bush may have authorized Mr. Libby to disclose intelligence information to support the administration's case for war in Iraq," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a press release.

"I served for 13 years on the House Intelligence Committee, and I know intelligence must never be classified or declassified for political purposes," Pelosi stated.

"One of the constants in the Bush administration's miserable record on Iraq has been the manipulation of intelligence precisely for political purposes," she added. "That has caused our intelligence -- which used to be accepted without question around the world -- to be viewed with skepticism by the international community.

"The requests of the American people for honest answers about Iraq have been met with shifting rationales and stonewalling by the Bush administration," Pelosi said. "It's long past time for the truth."

Also seeking the truth was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

"In light of today's shocking revelation, President Bush must fully disclose his participation in the selective leaking of classified information," Reid said in a statement. "The American people must know the truth."

"At the very least, President Bush and Vice President Cheney should fully inform the American people of any role in allowing classified information to be leaked," said Sen. Church Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"The fact that the president was willing to reveal classified information for political gain and put the interests of his political party ahead of Americas security shows that he can no longer be trusted to keep America safe," declared Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

However, Brian Jones, communications director of the Republican National Committee, saw the matter differently.

"Once again, Howard Dean, Harry Reid and other Democrats are putting partisan politics first and the facts second," Jones said in a press release.

"First off, under any circumstances, the president has the right to declassify information," he stated.

Jones pointed to a statement made by Cheney during an appearance on Fox News' "Special Report" on February 15: "There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and it, obviously, focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president."

Cheney was referring to Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003, which dealt with the handling of classified material, Jones added. That order was not an entirely new document but an amendment to Executive Order 12958, which was issued by President Bill Clinton on April 17, 1995.

"Secondly, as the press is reporting, there is no indication in the court filing that either the president or vice president authorized the disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity, and to insinuate otherwise is flat-out wrong," he added.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the indictment of Libby on Oct. 28, 2005, was the result of a 22-month investigation that had its roots in the buildup to the war in Iraq.

At the time, Democrats called the indictments "evidence of White House corruption," though President Bush said he was "saddened" to accept Libby's resignation as Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.

See Earlier Stories:
Lewis Libby Indicted, Resigns (Oct. 28, 2005)
Indictment 'Evidence of White House Corruption,' Dems Say (Oct. 28, 2005)
Bush 'Saddened' by Indictment, but Focused on Future (Oct. 28, 2005)
Chronology of Valerie Plame Controversy (Oct. 28, 2005)

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