copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Updated, June 25, 2007
Each day the Bush/Cheney Administration entertains us. They offer new twists and turns in what is seen as a “comedy of errors.” Possibly this latest report is classified as “comedy of the absurd.” This week it was revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney is not part of the Executive Branch. Indeed, he is above the law, at least that is what the Vice President's office claims.
Apparently, there are nuances within the definition of the Executive Branch that exclude the Vice President. Literally, the term ‘Vice President’ is not contained in the description of this arm of the government.
Executive BranchIf we seek further understanding and travel to the designated page, we cannot help notice there, under the heading Cabinet Rank Members we see the esteemed Executive Richard B. Cheney. If we journey further into the depths of cyberspace deliverance, we learn that the Vice President has been proudly proclaimed a policy decision-maker for decades. He has held numerous positions within the White House, and served under Presidents since 1969.
The power of the executive branch is vested in the President, who also serves as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The President appoints the Cabinet and oversees the various agencies and departments of the federal government.
. . .
To learn more about the Executive Branch please visit the President’s Cabinet page on the White House web site
Nonetheless, this exclusive and exceptional public servant claims he is not part of the Cabinet and therefore need not abide by rules governing this group. A man well-known for frequently invoking Executive Privilege when he does not wish to testify about the doings of his office claims he is not affiliated with the Branch of government that affords him rights under or above the law.
Cheney claims a non-executive privilegeNevertheless, there is information demonstrating that indeed, Mister Cheney and his cohorts wish to eliminate the Information Security Oversight Office. The two administrative centers have been in conflict for years. The Oversight agency, a division of the National Archives, in accordance with the President’s policy, has attempted to gather information from the Vice President pertaining to what documents his office has deemed classified. Mister Bush, in his infinite wisdom claimed the American people have the right to know what the “executives” representing them have are doing; albeit if not in the present at least in the future. Information must be preserved for posterity.
He asserts he's exempt from showing an agency how his office keeps secrets because he's not fully part of the administration.
By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
June 22, 2007
WASHINGTON — For the last four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has made the controversial claim that his office is not fully part of the Bush administration in order to exempt it from a presidential order regulating federal agencies' handling of classified national security information, officials said Thursday.
Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office's failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government's top secrets.
According to documents released Thursday by a House committee, Cheney's staff has blocked efforts by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office to enforce a key component of the presidential order: a mandatory on-site inspection of the vice president's office. At least one of those inspections would have come at a particularly delicate time — when Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and other aides were under criminal investigation for their suspected roles in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
In an eight-page letter to Cheney on Thursday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) also charged that Cheney or his top staffers tried to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office this year after its director tried repeatedly to force Cheney's office to comply with the presidential order.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride confirmed the vice president's position Thursday but said she could not discuss the matter in detail, including whether Cheney or his aides tried to abolish the information security office. "We are confident that we are conducting this office properly under the law," McBride said.
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to further amend Executive Order 12958, as amended, it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12958 is amended to read as follows:The President’s office has abided by the rules and done as required by his law. However, the Vice President never has. Dick Cheney has resisted all attempts to retrieve the required information.
"Classified National Security Information
This order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism. Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government. Also, our Nations progress depends on the free flow of information. Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required that certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, our homeland security, and our interactions with foreign nations. Protecting information critical to our Nations security remains a priority.
Ultimately, the Information Oversight Office appealed the issue to the Justice Department. That division has yet to rule on the case.
Nevertheless, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Henry A. Waxman took action. In the midst of this “comedy,” Representative Waxman, Democrat of California, disclosed that documentation from the Richard Cheney’s office validates that this Vice has long endeavored to close the Oversight Office.
Admittedly, Congressman Waxman, is prominent among those Democrats wanting to investigate the Bush administration. However, Representative Waxman states this issue is only one of many that cause him to question the practices of this Administration. His efforts towards resolving this quandary are separate from his other concerns.
On Thursday, June 21, 2007 Chairman Waxman sent an eight page letter sent to the Vice President stating his alarm and his desire to resolve what surely must be a misunderstanding.
Officials at the National Archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events cited in Mr. Waxman’s letter.Absurd, did Chairman Waxman say “absurd?” This is beyond ridiculous. This comedy is replete with the bizarre. On June 23, 2007 the President himself stated that he too is exempt from his own law.
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.”
The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.Oh my. I understand there is much inferred and implied in this writ. I never truly thought disclosure was the intent, only the claim. In this post-September 11 era, privacy for Federal officials is preserved. Records are rescinded. Nonetheless, I did see this small clause posited below repeated referrals to the Office of the President and his Vice.
An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.
Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations. (a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:My mistake. After re-reading that last line, I grasp the truer meaning. In the Bush Administration, every action is taken as an effort to secure the nation. Mister Bush often reminds us he and his Cabinet are protecting us, the people, from [a perceived] “evil.” Sadly or strangely, these Executives hear hatred in every utterance. They see malice in all endeavors, excluding those executed by them, the executives in the White House . . . or is it the Senate. I am so confused.
(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
(3) restrain competition; or
(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.
Mister Cheney is President of the Senate is he not, or is he a member of the Cabinet? Is the Presidential appointees part of the Executive Branch. Might Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney be a rogue, a rebel . . . What of Mister Bush? Where doe he stand, and does the law he wrote apply to him or his office?
Perhaps Assistant Press Secretary Dana Perino can help me understand. During a press conference on June 25, 2007 Miss Perino expounded.
Q Dana, as long as we're talking about branches of government, can you go back to Vice President Cheney again, the argument that he's not part of the executive branch. Does the President believe he's part of the executive branch?I understand; I think. Dick Cheney works for those that pay him. I thought the American public paid his salary. Perhaps I am wrong. Please help me dear reader. Did the people not place Mister Cheney in the Executive Branch; was he not elected to serve as an Executive? Tell me this all but a dream. It must be. For now I experience up is down, and down is out or above the law. Were this all not so tragic this truly would be a comedy.
MS. PERINO: I think that that is an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it. I think when we were talking about the EO from last week, we've gone over that several times. You probably don't want me to go over it again. But the Vice President -- any Vice President has legislative and executive functions.
Every Vice President has legislative and executive functions. The executive functions are given to him by the President. For example, the Vice President's paycheck comes from the Senate. So these are -- that's an interesting constitutional question. When we are talking about this EO, it is separate and apart from -- the President and the Vice President oversee the executive agencies. Supreme Court precedent shows that the Vice President and the President are not seen as an agency when it comes to executive orders.
Q I know that's your argument about an agency, but it's very separate from the argument the Vice President is making. And what is the President -- what is the White House's view of the argument the Vice President is making on whether or not he's part of the executive branch?
Q For one, I think -- I mean, the information is clearly –
MS. PERINO: I'm not opining on it, because the President did not intend for the Vice President to be subject as an agency in that section of the EO.
I as a citizen of this country, or correction, a person in the American audience can only hope I will awaken from this nightmare and discover the theatre is closed.
Bush and Cheney; Comedy of the Absurd, of Errors, of the Executives . . .