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House Republican leader leaked classified information, government officials say
John Byrne
Published: Friday August 3, 2007


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House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) disclosed what government officials say was classified information when trying to defend President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program Tuesday on Fox News Channel.

"There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner remarked.

After leaking a secret foreign intelligence surveillance court ruling, Boehner went on to describe what he thought the ruling meant.

"This means that our intelligence agencies are missing a wide swath of potential information that could help protect the American people," he said. "The Democrats have known about this for months. We have had private conversations, we have had public conversations that this needs to be fixed. And Republicans are not going to leave this week until this problem is addressed."

The leak comes as a favorable one for President Bush. Two officials "privy to the details confirmed that his remarks concerned classified information," according to an article in Friday's Washington Post.

A federal intelligence court (FISA) judge secretly ruled earlier this year that the administration's wiretapping of communications between two countries overseas that are passed between the United States were illegal, according to the Post. After Boehner's leak, two other government officials confirmed the story to the the paper.

"The decision was both a political and practical blow to the administration, which had long held that all of the National Security Agency's enhanced surveillance efforts since 2001 were legal," the Post reporters write. "The administration for years had declined to subject those efforts to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and after it finally did so in January the court ruled that the administration's legal judgment was at least partly wrong."

"The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California," they add. "Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."

Kevin Smith, Boehner's spokesman, told the Post that his boss' remarks were based on a public Jan. 17 letter to Congress by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, "in which the administration announced that it would allow the NSA program to be reviewed by the intelligence court."

But that letter referred only to "approval" of a Bush surveillance request and not to the court's rejection of a specific element, the Post notes.

Remarked House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), "John should remember the old adage: Loose lips sink ships."

Read the full article here.