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Bush admits declassifying Iraq intelligence after question from student, not reporter

Published: Monday April 10, 2006

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President Bush, who admitted Monday to declassifying an Iraq intelligence report that was later leaked to the New York Times by Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff I. Lewis Libby, informed the American public of his declassification order after a question from a student, not a reporter. Of note: White House reporters asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan no questions about the leak the first day after it was reported. Bush spoke today at the The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, at The Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.

In fairness, one White House reporter told RAW STORY that they hadn't had opportunities to ask questions of Bush directly, and that the morning of the McClellan press briefings the wires had not moved a story about the leak until around the time the press conference began on Air Force One.

STUDENT: First let me say thank you very much for being here. And thank you for taking questions. I know we appreciate that. My name is Ben Dearing (sp). I'm a second-year Masters student studying international energy policy.

PRESIDENT BUSH: International -- ?

Q Energy policy.


Q Sorry. (Laughter.) My question, sir, is -- well, as Anthony eluded to earlier, and as you're aware, we have many students at SAIS who are currently working for or considering working for the State Department, the various intelligence agencies, and such. And how do you respond to the recent report by Prosecutor Fitzgerald that there is, in his words, "evidence of a concerted effort by the White House to punish Joseph Wilson," who himself has a distinguished record of government service.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. No. I -- this is -- there's an ongoing legal proceeding which precludes me from talking a lot about the case. There's also an ongoing investigation that's a serious investigation. I will say this, that after we liberated Iraq, there was questions in people's minds about, you know -- about the basis on which I made the statements, in other words going into Iraq. And so I decided to declassify the NIE for a reason. I wanted to see people -- people to see what some of those statements were based on. That's what I wanted to see. I wanted people to see the truth. And I thought it made sense for people to see the truth, and that's why I declassified the document.

...And I felt I could do so without jeopardizing, you know, ongoing intelligence matters, and so I did. And as far as the rest of the case goes, you're just going to have let Mr. Fitzgerald complete his case, and I hope you understand that. It's a serious legal matter that we've got to be careful in making public statements about it. (Chuckles.)

Yeah? Please.