A senior administration official confirmed for the first time on Sunday that President Bush had ordered the declassification of parts of a prewar intelligence report on Iraq in an effort to rebut critics who said the administration had exaggerated the nuclear threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
But the official said that Mr. Bush did not designate Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., or anyone else, to release the information to reporters.
The statement by the official came after the White House had declined to confirm, for three days, Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony that he had been told by Mr. Cheney that Mr. Bush had authorized the disclosure. The official declined to be named, because of an administration policy of not commenting on issues now in court. The disclosure appeared intended to bolster the White House argument that Mr. Bush was acting well within his legal authority when he ordered that key conclusions of the classified National Intelligence Estimate, which was completed in the fall of 2002, should be revealed to make clear that intelligence agencies believed Mr. Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa.
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