At 9:15am on CNN’s American Morning, senior political analyst Bill Schneider reported that President Bush declassified national security information in order to discredit a critic of the administration. In doing so, he promoted Democratic attacks against the President for being "hypocritical" in "leaking" information from the National Intelligence Estimate [NIE]. Schneider did acknowledge that it was legal for the President to declassify this information, but then took this shot at him:
Bill Schneider: "Well, the White House doesn't really want to get into a discussion of this issue. For one thing, it makes the President look a little, well, shall we say, hypocritical?...It was not a crime for the President to do that because, as the attorney in the White House said, anything he authorizes is instantly declassified. But it does make the President look a little foolish and deceptive, because this leak was authorized, again, according to Mr. Libby, to discredit a political critic of the administration. It was authorized for political reasons, and that’s a little bit embarrassing."
From Schneider's reporting, one would believe that President Bush had authorized the disclosure of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity in order to discredit her husband, Joe Wilson, a critic of the administration. The Republican National Committee points to this quote from an April 6 Associated Press story that demonstrating that, according to the court documents, this is not the case.
"There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's CIA identity."
Since the President has the legal authority to declassify information, does the release of portions of the NIE concerning Saddam Hussein's intention to acquire weapons of mass destruction constitute a leak? Schneider compared that debate to the now-infamous argument over semantics under the Clinton administration:
Schneider: "...Because if they did start to debate the issue of, when is a leak not a leak, then they’re going to be sounding very much like the debate, that you may remember, over ‘it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.’"