THE WHITE HOUSE
February 2, 2018
The Honorable Devin Nunes
Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On January 29, 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (hereinafter "the Committee") voted to disclose publicly a memorandum containing classified information provided to the Committee in connection with its oversight activities (the "Memorandum," which is attached to this letter). As provided by clause 11(g) of Rule X of the House of Representatives, the Committee has forwarded this Memorandum to the President based on its determination that the release of the Memorandum would serve the public interest.
The Constitution vests the President with the authority to protect national security secrets from disclosure. As the Supreme Court has recognized, it is the President's responsibility to classify, declassify, and control access to information bearing on our intelligence sources and methods and national defense. See, e.g., Dep't of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 527 (1988). In order to facilitate appropriate congressional oversight, the Executive Branch may entrust classified information to the appropriate committees of Congress, as it has done in connection with the Committee’s oversight activities here. The Executive Branch does so on the assumption that the Committee will responsibly protect such classified information, consistent with the laws of the United States.
The Committee has now determined that the release of the Memorandum would be appropriate. The Executive Branch, across Administrations of both parties, has worked to accommodate congressional requests to declassify specific materials in the public interest. However, public release of classified information by unilateral action of the Legislative Branch is extremely rare and raises significant separation of powers concerns. Accordingly, the Committee's request to release the Memorandum is interpreted as a request for declassiﬁcation pursuant to the President's authority.
The President understands that the protection of our national security represents his highest obligation. Accordingly. he has directed lawyers and national security staff to assess the
- See, e.g., S. Rept. 114-8 at 12 (Administration of Barack Obama) ("On April 3, 2014 . . . the Committee agreed to send an revised Findings and Conclusions, and the updated Executive Summary of the Committee Study, to the President for declassification and public release"). H. Rept. 107-792 (Administration of George W. Bush) (Similar); E.O. 12812 (Administration of George H. W. Bush) (noting Senate resolution requesting that President provide for declassification of certain information via Executive Order).