Even the Dick Cheney Fan Club is a little mortified to hear their hero placing himself above the rules within the Executive Branch – again.
Last week the V.P. restated his stand that his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government; therefore, he and his office are not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Under the order, executive branch offices are required to give the Information Security Oversight Office at the archives data on how much material they classify and declassify. Cheney’s office provided the information in 2001 and 2002, but then stopped.
This is Cheney’s excuse for refusing to file annual reports with the National Archives and Records Administration oversight office for the past four or five years? PLUUUEEEZZZEEEE!
From the NY Times:
The letter said that after repeatedly refusing to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification of internal documents, the vice president’s office in 2004 blocked an on-site inspection of records that other agencies of the executive branch regularly go through.
But the National Archives is an executive branch department headed by a presidential appointee, and it is assigned to collect the data on classified documents under a presidential executive order. Its Information Security Oversight Office is the archives division that oversees classification and declassification.
“I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview. “But this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, Megan McGinn, said, “We’re confident that we’re conducting the office properly under the law.” She declined to elaborate.
Other officials familiar with Mr. Cheney’s view said that he and his legal adviser, David S. Addington, did not believe that the executive order applied to the vice president’s office because it had a legislative as well as an executive status in the Constitution. Other White House offices, including the National Security Council, routinely comply with the oversight requirements, according to Mr. Waxman’s office and outside experts.
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said last night, “The White House complies with the executive order, including the National Security Council.”
Of course the While House is going to back him up.
It’s funny how Cheney has now decided that he is independent of the Executive Branch. Remember the whole Energy Task Force ordeal in 2001 and 2002? When others were questioning Cheney’s authority, he asserted that he was a part of the Executive Branch and therefore could censor details in reports concerning the task force.
You can read the Cheney Task Force Records and GAO Authority Report from 2003 here.