By late yesterday, the White House appeared to be backing down slightly. The president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said Bush would be meeting with congressional leaders this morning and was open to finding a method for both preventing leaks and keeping lawmakers informed.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said Bush told him in a meeting yesterday afternoon - after the Rose Garden remarks - that he might be willing to permit a broader dissemination of classified information.
Biden said Bush "understood fully a memo did not trump the law," which Biden said requires that some panels receive frequent updates on classified intelligence gathering by federal agencies.
"He was angry about the leaks," Biden said of Bush. "What you saw is a legitimate frustration on the part of the president."
Bush addressed his memo to the secretaries of State, Treasury and Defense, the attorney general, and the directors of FBI and CIA. In it, he said his new approach to briefing was important to "protecting American lives." He wrote that his policy would apply both to sensitive military intelligence and to information on continuing the terrorism investigations.
Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott agreed that members of Congress have "a responsibility to keep classified information," but he added that Congress "has a right to be briefed on what is happening."
Antony Blinken, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and member of President Bill Clinton's National Security Council staff, said he fully understands the president's desire to curtail the release of classified information at a time when lives are at risk. But he said that denying intelligence to committees with military or foreign policy responsibilities would be an overreaction.
"Members of the intelligence committees have a strong stake in being up to date," he said. "It is going to be awkward for them."
In explaining the president's policy yesterday, Fleischer said that "in a time of war, the usual rules do not apply."
In addition to limiting intelligence briefings, the White House continued to take another precaution yesterday. For the third day in a row, Fleischer said, Vice President Dick Cheney did not report to the White House.
He remained instead at a secure undisclosed location to ensure that, in the event of further terrorist attacks, he and Bush would not be in the same place.
Bush scolds Congress for endangering military
Leaks unacceptable, he tells lawmakers
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