Dick Cheney has decided that the Vice President’s office is not part of the executive branch, thus allowing him to flout a presidential order governing protection of classified information. Not only that, he apparently thinks he has the authority to abolish the office that is tasked with providing oversight. Goodness, I didn’t realize the US had become an absolute monarchy.
Bill Leonard, head of the government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), told [Rep. Henry] Waxman’s staff that Cheney’s office has refused to provide his staff with details regarding classified documents or submit to a routine inspection as required by presidential order, according to Waxman.
In pointed letters released today by Waxman, ISOO’s Leonard twice questioned Cheney’s office on its assertion it was exempt from the rules. He received no reply, but the vice president later tried to get rid of Leonard’s office entirely, according to Waxman.
Oddly enough, Cheney didn’t realize that he wasn’t part of the executive branch until 2003; up to that point, he had complied willingly with the order, which requires executive offices to supply statistics on the number of documents classified and declassified. Whatever could have brought him to this revelation? John Aravosis at Americablog notes the “coincidence” that 2003 is also the year that Scooter Libby leaked Valerie Plame’s identity.
I thought this argument sounded familiar, and it turns out Dick has used it before — back in 2005, he claimed his office was not an agency of the executive branch and therefore not required to follow travel disclosure rules. Oddly enough, 2005 was the same year Cheney and the Bush administration won an appeal of a court decision to force disclosure of the members of Cheney’s 2001 energy task force.
…the court declared that the president and vice president have no duty to tell the public when they seek advice from outsiders.
In other words, executive privilege.
So. If the VP is not part of the executive branch, where exactly does he belong? I’ve seen a couple of Cheney apologists trying to claim that the VP is actually part of the legislative branch because the VP serves as president of the Senate. Sorry, but I don’t think that one will fly. Article I of the US Constitution says the Senate “shall be composed of two Senators from each state”, with each Senator having one vote. The VP has no vote and is only there to break ties. Article II states, “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected…”
The Vice President is elected to be available to serve if something happens to the President, and the office is also assigned the additional responsibility of breaking ties in the Senate. Claiming that this makes it part of the legislative branch is like claiming the President’s designation as Commander in Chief somehow makes him a military officer.
Cheney has an obsession with secrecy. This is not news to anyone, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore his egregious and unconstitutional attempts to avoid oversight and accountability. He’s not king, or even crown prince. He works for us, and we invest him with his power. We can’t continue to allow him to abuse it.