27 June 2007

Cheney Claims He is Not Part of the Executive Branch

House investigators have learned that, over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted himself from an executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information.

Sec. 6.1(b) of the executive order clearly outlines that it applies to any “‘Executive agency…any ‘Military department’…and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.” To support his position, Dick Cheney and the White House are claiming that the Vice President is not part of the executive branch of government!

Vice President Cheney's office offered its first public written explanation yesterday for its refusal to comply with an executive order regulating the handling of classified material as it argued that the order does not make the vice president subject to the oversight system it creates for federal agencies.

In a letter to John Kerry, David S. Addington (Cheney's Chief of Staff) wrote that the order treats the vice president the same as the president and distinguishes them both from "agencies" subject to the oversight provisions of the executive order.

The reasoning given last time was that the VP's office is not strictly an executive branch agency but also shares legislative functions because the vice president presides over the Senate. (That's like me claiming I am not impacted by rules affecting all human kind because I am not just a human, but a redhead too.)

Last week, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) stated that since 2003, Cheney's office had failed to provide data on its classification and declassification activities as required by Executive Order 12958, which President Bush has amended and endorsed.

The National Archives and Records Administration polices executive branch compliance with rules protecting classified information. In 2004, Cheney’s office intervened to block an on-site inspection by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), a requirement of the executive order. Cheney's aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and blocked an inspection of their office by officials at the National Archives, according to documents released last week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Kerry rejected Addington's arguments. "This legalistic response raises more questions than it purports to answer," the senator said in a statement. "I . . . ask again for the Vice President's office to plainly answer the question of whether he considers himself outside the realm of agency scrutiny."

According to Waxman, this is the first time in the nearly 30 year history of the Information Security Oversight Office that a request for access to conduct a security inspection was denied by a White House office.”

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