Friday, April 07, 2006
SPINNING CLASS Scott McClellan can dodge and weave with the best of them:
Q Back when the NIE was released on July 18, 2003, you were asked that day when that had been actually declassified. And you said in that gaggle that it had been declassified that day. And if that's the case, then when the information was passed on to the reporter 10 days earlier, then it was still classified at that time.More:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're referring--a couple of things. First of all, it was publicly released that day, so that's when a portion of the National Intelligence Estimate that we were making available to the public was released. The second part of your question is referring to an ongoing legal proceeding, and referring to a filing in that legal proceeding. We have had a policy in place, going back to the October time period of 2003, that we are not going to comment on an ongoing investigation or an ongoing legal proceeding. That policy remains unchanged...
Q I understand the reason why you thought it needed to be declassified, because of the debate at the time. The question was, when was it declassified. And you were asked that day, when--the question was, "When was it actually declassified?" And you said, "It was officially declassified today."
If it had been officially declassified on July 18, 2003, then 10 days before, when the information was given out, it was still classified at the time.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're going back to an assertion that is made in a filing related to an ongoing legal proceeding when you talk about the second part of your question. There is no way for me to separate that question and talk about this issue without discussing an ongoing legal proceeding. And I can't do that. We have a policy that's been established, and I'm obligated to adhere to that policy.
Q But answer the question, it's a factual question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but you can't separate that question from the legal proceeding--
Q Was it declassified that day--
MR. McCLELLAN: --because of one of the assertions that was made in the filing.
Well, you can go back and look at comments that were made at that time. That was when it was--
Q Those were your comments.
MR. McCLELLAN: --that was when it was publicly released at the time. I haven't looked back at exactly what was said at that time.
Q Well, let's be really clear about this. It says right here on July 18th, "When was it actually declassified?" Mr. McClellan, answer, "It was officially declassified today." Is that correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're asking me to get into the timing. I'm not backing away from anything that was said previously--that's when the document was released, so that's when it officially --
Q They don't say "released." They say "declassify."
MR. McCLELLAN: I know, Jim. Let me tell you. That's when it was officially released. So I think that's what I was referring to at the time. I'd have to go back and look at the specific comments, but I'm not changing anything that was said previously, so let me make that clear.
Q But if you were--
MR. McCLELLAN: Now, secondly, the question you're going to, again, relates to the timing of when certain information was declassified--
Q I'm not going to that question --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but there's no way you can separate that question out from the ongoing legal proceeding--
Q Scott, you are very careful with your words here. I think if you wanted to say "released," you would have said "released." You said, "declassified."
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q Well, what does that tell--
MR. McCLELLAN: That's when the information was released publicly.
Q Scott, did you not know--
MR. McCLELLAN: But there was--
Q That's not what--
MR. McCLELLAN: Now, for the National Intelligence Estimate, Jim, it did go through a declassification process; you are correct. And the information was carefully looked at by the intelligence community before the portions of the National Intelligence Estimate were made available to the public--
Q But, Scott, you said, "declassified." If it's declassified on that day, it wasn't declassified before. And you're saying you're sticking to--you're not taking back anything you said before, and what you said that day is it was officially declassified.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd be glad to take a look at exactly what I said, and I'll do that.
Q You didn't say--I mean, we've got that here--
MR. McCLELLAN: I can't do that here in this room right now, but I'll be glad to take a look at it--
Q Then why are you saying you're not backing up from anything if you--
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what I'm saying is that--I think what I was referring to is the fact that that was when it was made available to the public. So all that information is officially declassified at that point.
Q Then why are you saying you won't back off anything you said before if, in fact, we have transcripts here where you say that's when it was officially declassified? Are you still saying that's when it was officially declassified?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's when it was made available to the public. So it's officially--
Q When was it officially declassified?
MR. McCLELLAN: --so it's officially declassified at that point. I think we're talking past each other a little bit. I'll have to go back and look at the specific transcript--and I'll be glad to do that--and we can talk about it further later.
Q Okay. When was it officially declassified?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, in terms of the timing of when information may have been declassified, that gets into a question relating to the legal proceeding in a filing that was made by Mr. Fitzgerald earlier this week.
Q What were you referring to on July 18th, then? Was that the official release, or official declassification?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I'll have to check. I'll have to go back and look. But my sense is, and my recollection is--while we're sitting here talking about it is -- I was referring to the fact that was when it was officially declassified for the public.
Q What was the President's reaction to this story? What has he said?
MR. McCLELLAN: "This story"?
Q The story, as it's published.
MR. McCLELLAN: "The story as it's published"? Which story as it's published?
Q You sound like Donald Rumsfeld. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: "This story" -- I'm just asking you to specify what the story is.
Q I'm talking about the filing --
MR. McCLELLAN: The filing by Mr. Fitzgerald, okay.
Q -- I'm talking about what we found out --
MR. McCLELLAN: The filing by Mr. Fitzgerald. I can't get into talking with you relating to an ongoing legal proceeding.
Q I'm not asking you to. I'm asking, did the President say anything about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I can't get into talking about an ongoing legal proceeding. That relates to an ongoing legal proceeding. I just can't do that.