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Tue May 28, 2019, 01:40 PM

William Barr's New Authority to Declassify Anything He Wants Is a Threat to National Security


William Barr’s New Authority to Declassify Anything He Wants Is a Threat to National Security
By Joshua A. Geltzer and Mary B. McCord
May 28, 2019
11:25 AM

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump suggested that he trusted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to “keep his promise” to Trump about the country’s nuclear program more than he trusted his own national security officials who have warned him about that program. It was just the latest example of Trump demonstrating disdain for the U.S. intelligence community and broader national security apparatus, but it came on the heels of a perhaps even scarier one. Trump’s decision last week to hand over unilateral authority to declassify America’s intelligence secrets to an attorney general who continues to act as if he’s Trump’s personal lawyer threatens to endanger intelligence sources, frighten our allies, and irreparably harm our national security.


This is just the latest manifestation of Trump’s dismal view of our nation’s intelligence community. Time and again, he has shown disregard and disrespect for the assessments of intelligence professionals. Recall the president’s Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when Trump publicly embraced the position of the Russian leader that no interference had occurred, over the contrary opinions of his own intelligence community. Or remember his bizarre personal letters exchanged with Kim Jong-un. To its credit, the intelligence community has generally stood firm in its views despite Trump’s preference for the promises of foreign dictators.

That history underscores what last week’s order reveals about Trump’s view of Barr. As a practical matter, the order gives Barr supremacy over the intelligence community by allowing him to declassify its secrets at will. As a conceptual matter, the order may be even more extraordinary by empowering Barr to “direct the declassification” of the intelligence community’s secrets. Trump is thus making one Cabinet member—Barr—superior to his fellow Cabinet members on the matters of their own agencies. If this involved the exercise of their statutory authorities, it would be clearly unlawful. However, because this is a delegation of the president’s own authority to classify and declassify—as implemented via earlier executive orders—it may be lawful. But it’s a terrible and dangerous approach to governance. Trump is rewarding the Cabinet member who’s been most political, most “loyal,” most obedient, by elevating him over other Cabinet members who have been providing nonpartisan intelligence assessments to keep our country safe.

As alarming as last week’s order must have been to the U.S. intelligence community, imagine what our foreign allies must think. On Friday, Trump made clear that he wants Barr to use his review to “look at” the role British and Australian intelligence services played in the Russia probe, “because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.” This represents an extraordinary threat to the intelligence these and other countries share with us and often help us to acquire and protect as well as to the people gathering that intelligence. It—quite reasonably—seems certain to decrease their trust in Washington’s will to protect sources, methods, and intelligence; in turn, it’s likely to decrease how much they share. Ultimately, politically driven declassification and a decrease in intelligence sharing by U.S. partners—and especially the combination—could endanger the lives of Americans. Although Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has expressed confidence that the attorney general “will work with the IC in accordance with the long-established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information that, if publicly released, would put our national security at risk,” it’s unclear if those standards will in fact be respected by Barr, given that the order requires him to consult with the intelligence community about declassification only, as noted above, if Barr himself deems it “practicable.”

To our closest allies, and to the women and men who have risked their lives—and in some cases, died—to acquire intelligence to protect our nation, the president’s order says a lot about his view of national security: not as a sacred responsibility of an American president, but as something that can be exploited for political advantage. That’s a terrible price for the rest of us to pay.

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Reply William Barr's New Authority to Declassify Anything He Wants Is a Threat to National Security (Original post)
babylonsister May 2019 OP
shraby May 2019 #1
bigbrother05 May 2019 #2

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue May 28, 2019, 01:50 PM

1. I never thought I'd see the day we'd have a treacherous, traitorous, irresponsible

president who would actively work to lower our safety. He is even proud of what he's doing.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue May 28, 2019, 01:51 PM

2. Based on his summary of the Mueller report, he'll cherry pick for Trump

Anything he releases will look like a kidnapper's ransom note with things assembled from random sources to spell out a false narrative.

The GOP is now a rotting carcass being ravaged by a pack of hyenas.

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