Article II, Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
— Constitution of the United States .
I’m not going to repeat the big news story of the day, except to note that documents released today, in a filing by the defense in the I. Lewis Libby case, indicate that Scooter Libby had the president’s permission to release to the press information contained in a certain previously classified National Intelligence Estimate.
The Left was jumping for joy today. The ebullient Andrew Sullivan ran the story under the headline, BUSH NAILED.
One so hates to spoil the little rascals’ fun, but the left’s joy, and fondly imagined hope for future legal havoc based on all of this, rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the US Constitution.
There is no such thing as classified information which the President of the United States could potentially be prosecuted for publishing on the front page of the New York Times.
The president is the chief executive, the head of the entire Executive Branch. The Executive Branch of the US Government has no power to do anything, but by the will of the president. If any document or information is classified, it is classified by presidential authority extended down a chain of command.
The only purpose for information to be classified is to assist the president in defending the United States and in implementing his own policies. In a circumstance in which it were to the advantage of the president to declassify some document, or piece of information, in order to defend his policies in domestic political debate, it is completely within the competence of the president to classify or declassify either at will. And it would not be in the least surprising, if a president delegated the same authority on some occasions, at least, to the vice president, or even to the vice president’s chief of staff.