McConnell Admits It Was A ‘Judgment Call’ To Selectively Declassify Intelligence To Media

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"McConnell Admits It Was A ‘Judgment Call’ To Selectively Declassify Intelligence To Media"

In an August interview with the El Paso Times, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell “raised eyebrows” by “pulling the curtain back” and revealing several previously classified details of government surveillance. As Spencer Ackerman observed, McConnell declassified more that day than he did during “the entire Congressional debate.

Under questioning from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today, McConnell claimed that declassification is “a responsibility of the President,” but admitted that this case was based on a “judgment call” by him. McConnell also admitted that there was no “specific” record on when the information was declassified:

SCOTT: Does it come declassified just because you said or is there some process to declassify?

McCONNELL: There is a process but it is ultimately a judgment call. [...]

SCOTT: So we know when something was declassified. The moment of time it was declassified. Is there some record of that?

McCONNELL: Not specifically. I’m sure it can be recovered some way if there is some if there’s a specific concern or question.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/mcconnell2345.320.240.flv]

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) explained recently that McConnell divulged secrets to the media while previously claiming “in litigation that confirmation of such involvement cannot be permitted under the state secrets doctrine.”

While declassifying intelligence may certainly be McConnell’s “judgment,” the timing of the declassification is notable. The interview with the El Paso Times occurred on August 22, just weeks before Congress would return from summer recess to consider whether to reauthorize the Protect America Act.

McConnell has claimed that “Americans are going to die” with continued public discussion of wiretapping. Unfortunately, he is willing to sacrifice his own principles for a “judgment call” to expand President Bush’s spy authority.

Speaker Blog has more on the hearing.

Transcript:

SCOTT: We’ve had some confusion on when something is classified and when it is not. Is there some process that delineates when something is classified and when it is not classified? We’ve had testimony here that things have been classified, but then you read it in the paper. Does it come declassified just because you said or is there some process to declassify?

McCONNELL: There is a process but ultimately it is a judgment call.

SCOTT: Well it’s a judgement call but when does it become declassified? Is that when you decide on the spot to blurt it out to a reporter?

McCONNELL: No not at all.

SCOTT: Is there some process?

McCONNELL: There is a process. But, as I say, it’s ultimately it is the responsibility of the President to decide on classified information.

SCOTT: So we know when something was declassified. The moment of time it was declassified. Is there some record of that?

McCONNELL: Not specifically. I’m sure it can be recovered some way if there is some if there’s a specific concern or question.

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