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Napolitano weighs in on Vice-president's authority to declassify information

Reported by Chrish - February 16, 2006

In his exclusive interview with Brit Hume yesterday Dick Cheney said that there is an executive order that grants him the authority to declassify classified information, and he has advocated for same and participated in declassification decisions. On today's Big Story 2/16/06, host John Gibson asked Fox Senior Judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano if Cheney was correct in his claim.

Napolitano (JAN) explained that there are two categories of classified information, that which the Congress has made classified and which Congress has made it a crime to reveal, and that which the present president or any of his predecessors has classified . In the second case, the president can declassify what (s)he or his/her predecessors has classified, or delegate to the vice-president or a group of advisors to declassify same, but none of them can declassify what Congress has classified.

Bush ahs signed a "very lengthy, well-reasoned, detailed" executive order that lays out specifically what his advisors and Cheney may declassify. Whether he's done it (declassified material) or not is another story.

Gibson asked if that explained why (if) Cheney told Scooter Libby that he could reveal that Joe Wilson's wife was a covert CIA agent?

No, said JAN, because the identity of undercover federal agents is in the category of information that Congress has classified. No one but Congress could declassify that.

That's why it's mysterious, continued JAN, that Cheney would have said that to Brit yesterday. He must have been referring to something else. He couldn't have been referring to the Libby issue because Valerie Plame's name is protected by Congress.

JAN goes on to say that there is still some wiggle room: Cheney could still say that it wasn't he who sent Wilson to Niger, it was that CIA agent, his wife, because "the nature of what agents do would fall under the president's power to keep secret or not to keep secret. It is only who the agents truly are that the Congress has made a crime to reveal. So there is wiggle room here. But the VP in his own inimitable way just teased us with it last night! I would love to know what he's talking about!"

Comment: So the stage is set for yet another "wiggle" out of legal trouble. The Republicans claim to loathe lawyers but it's only ones who represent folks vs. corporations. They use the law and lawyers and the courts to their advantage all the time, to the detriment of the country.

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