Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dick Cheney: The Fourth Branch Of Government?

Perhaps someone should check the water at the Naval Observatory, the residence of the Vice President of the United States. With a paranoia that might only be rivaled by the unwitting participants of the CIA's 1950s LSD experiments, the Vice President seems intent on hiding all traces of his activities. The point in question is whether he can legally do so.

It came to light in a letter from Representative Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that Mr. Cheney considers himself exempt from 1995 federal legislation that requires members of the executive branch to work with the National Archives to preserve classified documents. This law, by the way, was supported in an executive order issued by President Bush four years ago. The purpose of said law is to ensure that classified documents are preserved and that the information in them is kept safe. Although, the Vice President did comply during the first two years of the Bush administration, after that, he consistently failed to do so. When called to account for it, Mr. Cheney posited that his office "is not an entity within the executive branch," and went so far as to claim that he is a member of the legislative branch.

Um, excuse me?

Apparently the Vice President is not familiar with a little document known as the Constitution of the United States of America. Given his past and presumably current support for torture, detention without charge, and secretive overseas prisons, this should hardly come as a surprise. Nor should it be surprising that Mr. Cheney has failed to adequately protect classified materials. After all, his own Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby was convicted of numerous felonies around the leak of a classified CIA agent's identity.

The obsession with secrecy is pathological. In 2001 he chaired a task force on a national energy policy and fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep confidential the identities of energy industry officials who advised it.


It's a difficult question to answer, but this much is true: Whether it's psychotropic drugs, a personality disorder, or my personal favourite, demonic possession, Mr. Cheney's behaviour puts the country at risk AND calls into question whether it's secrets he's hiding or illegal acts.

It is imperative to our national security that Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, step up and investigate. They have given the President and Vice President a pass for too long and it's damn well time for it to change.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The 21st Century Equivalent Of Erasing The Tapes?

A good outcome from the demise of the Nixon administration was the Presidential Records Act, a law designed to preserve and make public the communications of a President and (to this date)his staff. The law clearly specifies what must be preserved, how it must be preserved and when and how the records are to be released to the public.

Reminiscent of the erased Watergate tapes, key members of the Bush administration appear to have attempted to skirt this law by establishing e-mail accounts through the Republican National Committee and then conveniently deleting them.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported on Monday that 88 administration staff members established e-mail accounts through the RNC, which the White House claims was to keep political and governmental work separate. They found, however, that not only did the account holders use their RNC accounts to discuss government business, but that 51 of the 88 individuals had missing records!
Chief among them was Presidential Advisor, Karl Rove.

Is there something rotten along the banks of the Potomac.

While the report does not assign intent to the missing e-mails, and the administration is claiming that no laws have been broken, several things stand out that seem to indicate it has:

* The committee found that then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered presidential staff to preserve official e-mails from outside accounts.

* Presidential staff failed to do so.

* Alberto Gonzales and President Bush failed to enforce the policy.

Also of note, is that RNC e-mail records from these accounts have turned up in both the Jack Abramoff case, as well as in the investigations into the firing of 8 U.S. Attorneys.

Have members of the President's staff broken the law and violated the public trust?
It certainly appears so and they should be called to answer for it.

Write your Congressional Representative and ask for a full investigation.