Is a President, on the eve of his reelection campaign, legally entitled to ward off political embarrassment and conceal past failures in the exercise of his office by unilaterally and informally declassifying selected — as well as false and misleading — portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate that he has previously refused to declassify, in order to cause such information to be secretly disclosed under false pretenses in the name of a "former Hill staffer" to a single reporter, intending that reporter to publish such false and misleading information in a prominent national newspaper?
The answer is obvious: No. Such a misuse of authority is the very essence of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States. It is also precisely the abuse of executive power that led to the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.
All this talk about "does he or does he have the right to declassify" is, as I’ve argued before, quite beside the point. Bush did what he did for political gain as Murray Waas’s article of March 30, 2006 makes clear:
Karl Rove, President Bush‘s chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush’s 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address — that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon — might not be true, according to government records and interviews.
Only dupes like Fred Hiatt are suckered into believing the duplicitous lies contained in this "leak" had anything to do with high-minded notions of public service. It was all about making sure George Bush got re-elected, no matter the cost.
How very Nixonian. From Wikipedia:
The White House Plumbers or simply The Plumbers is the popular name given to the covert Nixon White House Special Investigations Unit established July 24, 1971. Its job was to stop the leaking of confidential information (hence the "Plumbers" title) to the media during the Nixon administration. Its members branched into more nefarious projects working for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP, or the more derogatory CREEP) including the Watergate break-ins.
They’re using the Nixon playbook. It’s really quite simple once you boil off the bs.