Trump gives William Barr unchallenged authority to declassify any document from any agency
In a move that represents a massive threat to the institutional and operational integrity of America’s intelligence agencies, Donald Trump has granted Attorney General William Barr sweeping powers to conduct investigations into those agencies and release intelligence documents. This includes forcing agencies to release documents that have been judged to represent a threat to national security.
Trump’s order allows Barr to review both processes and documents at 16 agencies, then to select documents and force their reveal. It’s an order that gives Barr the ability to create a carefully curated set of declassified documents containing only those that support the idea that the agencies began the Russia investigation out of political motives, while discarding any information that doesn’t fit that narrative. And it’s absolutely no coincidence that the announcement of Barr’s new position as starshy politruk comes immediately after Trump had declared that the Department of Justice and FBI had committed treason in opening the investigation.
As The New York Times reports, Trump has ordered the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies to surrender to Barr’s review, and has granted Barr the unique authority to unilaterally declassify any document he chooses. Documents that could reveal sources still in place, or secret techniques, or technical abilities not yet revealed are all fair game for Barr’s new and unprecedented authority.
Barr has already demonstrated that he knows the game he is playing by using the word “spying” to describe lawfully authorized surveillance. And Barr has suggested in congressional testimony that agencies acted improperly, and that more “spying” occurred, even though he presented no evidence to support these claims. Barr has his own very special prosecutor, in the form of U.S. attorney John Durham, already engaged in a review of government actions. But now Barr has the authority to open the door for his operative at any agency, turning over every stone to find what Trump wants.
Imagine a Barr report in which the only things made available are declassified texts or emails making it appear that agency officials were prejudiced against Trump, with everything else remaining neatly classified. It won’t be imaginary for long.