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More Questions Raised About Alleged Bush Iraq Disclosures

The White House is defending President Bush's alleged disclosure of pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that Mr. Bush has the authority to declassify information. He argued there is a distinction between declassifying information that is in the public interest, and leaking secrets that could hurt national security.

Federal court documents released Thursday say former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to a grand jury that Vice President Dick Cheney told him the president approved giving reporters the intelligence on Iraq.

McClellan said he could not discuss the apparent contradiction between his statement that the material was declassified on July 18, and Libby's testimony that the alleged permission to disclose occurred more than a week before.

The special prosecutor in the Libby case says he has evidence that suggests the administration wanted to use the information to discredit a critic of the war, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

Administration critics have been quick to question Mr. Bush about the alleged disclosure, pointing out that the president has repeatedly denounced the disclosure of classified information. Democrats are calling on Mr. Bush to fully explain his involvement in the case.

McClellan Friday called the Democrats' questions "crass politics." He said releasing the information was in the public interest, provided at a time of what he called "wild accusations" about the use of pre-war intelligence. McClellan acknowledged that the information was wrong, but argued that it was not "misused."

Libby's testimony is part of an investigation into the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. Plame is Wilson's wife. Wilson accused the administration in 2003 of exaggerating Iraq's nuclear threat to justify toppling Saddam Hussein.

Libby is scheduled to go on trial next year on charges of lying to investigators and the grand jury in connection with the disclosure of Plame's identity.