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The secret government of Dick Cheney

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 27, 2007
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      World Socialist Web Site

      The secret government of Dick Cheney: US vice president claims to be
      outside the law
      By Patrick Martin
      23 June 2007

      The office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to comply with
      an executive order issued by President George Bush four years ago,
      requiring all executive branch offices to cooperate in regular
      reviews of their security procedures for handling documents.

      After the security office of the National Archives and Records
      Administration (NARA), charged with conducting the review, pressed
      the issue, Cheney and his aides tried to have the office abolished
      and sought to gag officials of the National Archives by barring them
      from appealing the dispute to the Department of Justice.

      Even more extraordinary than the fact of this conflict within the
      executive branch—made public Thursday with the release of documents
      by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—is the
      constitutional rationale advanced by the vice president.

      According to Cheney, the office of the vice president is not "an
      entity within the executive branch," as specified in the language of
      the executive order, because the vice president serves
      constitutionally as the presiding officer of the US Senate, with a
      tie-breaking vote, and therefore has legislative power as well.

      The sophistry of this argument is plain: in case after case over the
      past seven years, Cheney has invoked "executive privilege" or
      similar doctrines to shield his office from congressional
      investigations and Freedom of Information Act requests from the
      media and liberal pressure groups.

      The most famous case involved the energy task force, formed in the
      initial weeks of the administration, and engaged, among other
      activities, in poring over maps of the oil fields in Iraq and the
      concessions awarded to non-US oil companies—all subsequently
      canceled after the US invasion.

      Cheney refused to release any information about his energy task
      force after a request was filed by the Government Accountability
      Office, the investigative arm of Congress, citing the necessity for
      complete confidentiality in internal executive branch deliberations.
      He rejected similar requests from the media and environmental
      groups, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, and this
      position was upheld by a right-wing judicial panel.

      But after rebuffing Congress's request for information, on the
      grounds his office is part of the executive branch, Cheney in now
      refusing to comply with a similar request for information from an
      executive branch agency, on the grounds that he is really part of

      What underlies this apparent Catch 22 is a sinister political logic:
      Vice President Cheney is not to be held accountable to anyone—not
      Congress, not the executive branch—a position so unprecedented in US
      political history that reporters at a White House press briefing
      Friday were compelled to ask whether Cheney had now set himself up
      as a "fourth branch of government."

      The vice president's office has long been the focal point of the
      Bush administration's drive to utilize the 9/11 terrorist attacks as
      the pretext for establishing the framework for a police state in
      America. In the weeks after 9/11, Cheney virtually disappeared from
      public view, conducting his activities at an "undisclosed secure
      location," which turned out to be the headquarters of what became
      know as the "shadow government."

      Under the program, officially described as an exercise
      in "continuity of government," supposedly a precaution against a
      terrorist nuclear strike on Washington DC, dozens of top executive
      branch officials were designated for redeployment to bunkers in the
      Appalachian Mountains from which they would direct government
      operations without reference to the legislative or judicial branch,
      which were excluded from the effort. (See the WSWS editorial board
      statement, "The shadow of dictatorship: Bush established secret
      government after September 11".)

      Cheney's chief counsel, David Addington, now his chief of staff, is
      the principal proponent of a constitutionally spurious theory known
      as the "unitary executive," which claims that since the Constitution
      gives the president authority over the executive branch, he can
      direct lower-level executive branch officials to disregard
      legislative mandates.

      Addington was also the most hard-line defender of the "right" of the
      president to order the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq,
      Guantánamo Bay and at secret CIA prisons around the world, and he
      spearheaded the removal of military lawyers who objected to the
      policy of disregarding the Geneva Conventions for prisoners at US
      detention camps.

      So sweeping are the claims of the vice president's office that even
      the White House seemed to have difficulty absorbing them. At a
      Friday press briefing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino parroted
      the language of Cheney's aides in asserting that the vice
      president's office was in compliance with the law, but she gave an
      entirely different legal argument.

      The executive order on security procedures did not apply to the
      president himself, she claimed, and the vice president's office
      shared in that exemption. The vice president was not intended to be
      separate from the president in this regard.

      When reporters pointed out to her that Cheney's office was claiming
      something entirely different, that he was exempt because of his
      constitutional connection to Congress, not to the president, Perino
      simply declared the issue "interesting" and referred all follow-up
      questions to Cheney's office.

      Cheney's office actually complied with the requests for
      documentation by the National Archives and Records Administration in
      2001 and 2002. But since 2003, i.e., once the war in Iraq had begun,
      the vice president's staff has not cooperated with the NARA or even
      replied to its annual requests.

      The timing is significant, because in May-June 2003, in response to
      mounting criticism of the invasion of Iraq and the failure to find
      any trace of weapons of mass destruction—the pretext for the war—
      Cheney spearheaded a counteroffensive by the Bush administration
      that involved the systematic leaking of classified documents to
      journalists selected for their friendliness to the administration
      and willingness to serve as its conduits.

      Among these were Judith Miller of the New York Times, the principal
      fiction writer in the "Iraqi WMD" media campaign, and columnist
      Robert Novak, who made public the covert CIA identity of Valerie
      Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who
      emerged at that time as a public critic of the administration's case
      for war.

      It was revealed in the course of the trial of Cheney's former chief-
      of-staff, I. Lewis Libby, that Cheney had given Libby authorization
      to leak portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate on
      Iraq to Miller and other journalists. It is likely that Cheney gave
      direct orders to expose Valerie Plame Wilson in order to punish her
      husband, but Libby has kept his mouth shut on that subject despite
      his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice, and an
      imminent jail term of two-and-a-half years.

      Ultra-right-wing figures in the Republican Party and the media have
      launched a frenzied campaign for Bush to pardon Libby before he
      begins serving his prison term—likely to be in August—at least in
      part because of concern that Libby may feel compelled to turn
      against his former boss.

      Democratic Congressman Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of
      the House committee, referred to the Libby case in an eight-page
      letter to Cheney made public Thursday evening. "Your office may have
      the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified
      information," he wrote, citing also the case of a lower-level Cheney
      aide, a Filipino-American, who supplied classified documents to
      military officers in the Philippines who were plotting a coup
      against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

      Waxman's letter demands a response by Cheney to a series of
      questions, beginning with the basis for the claim that the office of
      the vice president is not bound by Executive Order 12958, the
      secrecy measure issued by Bush in 2003, and including this
      inquiry: "Is it the official position of the Office of the Vice
      President that your office exists in neither the executive nor
      legislative branch of government?"

      "He's saying he's above the law," Waxman told reporters. "I don't
      know if he is covering something up or not, but ... when somebody
      refuses to make this information available, you wonder what they
      don't want the inspectors from the National Archives to know."

      Waxman went on to describe Cheney's position as "very dangerous"
      and "ridiculous," but he did not suggest that any serious action by
      the Democratic-controlled Congress was warranted. Like the rest of
      the House and Senate Democratic leadership, Waxman put impeachment
      of Bush and Cheney off the agenda as soon as the Democrats regained
      control of Congress in the November 2006 elections.

      The refusal to cooperate with the NARA is a comparatively minor
      element in the flagrant lawlessness of the Bush-Cheney
      administration. This is a government that has defied international
      law by organizing the invasion and conquest of two sovereign
      nations, and that claims the right to arrest and detain anyone in
      the world as part of its "war on terror." Meanwhile, its definition
      of "terrorist" is so elastic that it has already been applied to
      unarmed American citizens arrested thousands of miles from any

      The House committee released the documents only two days after the
      Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on the White
      House practice of issuing "signing statements" when the president
      signs a bill into law, specifying what portions of the legislation
      he intends to enforce and what he will not. These statements are
      flagrant violations of the Constitution, which gives the president
      only the power to veto an entire bill, not pick and choose what he

      The GAO report examined 19 signing statements, finding that in 10
      cases the executive branch enforced the law, in six it did not, and
      in three the issue was moot because the law required no specific
      action. This included some major congressional mandates, including
      the provision in the 2006 military appropriations bill that the
      Pentagon give a detailed accounting of the cost of the wars in Iraq
      and Afghanistan in its 2007 budget request. The Federal Emergency
      Management Agency likewise defied a requirement that it submit a
      plan for housing assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and
      assess the failure of its previous efforts in that field.

      House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, who requested the
      GAO study, declared, "The administration is thumbing its nose at the
      law." But Conyers, like Waxman, has shelved the question of
      impeachment, although he himself introduced an impeachment
      resolution in 2005 citing the lies told to the American people in
      the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
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