4/21/2017

Declassify, no?

John Schwarz at The Intercept:

Because Reuters says that its knowledge of the alleged documents is based on descriptions by seven anonymous U.S. officials, and that the documents are classified, the story will inevitably become a political football with furious claims and counterclaims on all sides based on no public evidence.

But there’s a simple solution to this problem: Donald Trump can use his power as president to order the government’s intelligence agencies to declassify any such documents and let Americans judge for themselves.

Curiously enough, almost none of the government’s labyrinthine classification system has any basis in laws passed by Congress. Instead, it’s all based on presidential executive orders and, as the Supreme Court has held, “the constitutional investment of power in the president.”

This means that Trump — and only Trump — can declassify anything he wants at any time. In theory he could obtain any documents like those described by Reuters and immediately put them on the White House website.

To date, however, Trump has declined to use his power to make any evidence on this general subject public. During an April 5 interview, the New York Times asked whether he would “declassify some of the information” regarding his claims that former Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice improperly obtained surveillance involving Trump campaign and transition officials. Trump responded, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

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