Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.I'm sure in the minds of White House officials, this statement that Libby had secured approval from his masters in the executive branch -- which, as they like to remind us, is the most equal of the three branches of government -- means that he has a bulletproof defense. As long as his Dark Lord Cheney stamped the wax with his royal signet, what more authority could he need?
... Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
Now, I'm not a lawyer and, worse, I don't even play one on TV. But I have a hunch that the Vice President of the United States does not have the authority to declassify National Intelligence Estimates on his own, or leak government secrets to selected reporters, just because he thinks it might help out with the public relations campaign. If Libby is going to insist that Cheney told him to break the law, that seems to be less an exoneration of Libby and more an implication of Cheney.
Kos has called this the Oliver North Defense. Me, I'm reminded of the argument made in defense of another patriot.