Friday, June 22, 2007

Cheney’s Rules

This morning, the Washington Post’s lede paragraph in “Cheney Defiant on Classified Material“ tells the whole story: “Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.” Not only did Cheney try to eliminate the office in National Archives that offended him (and failed in that attempt) but also he claims that he is both in the executive branch and legislative branch of government. Ergo, if he opts to wear his legislative hat he is exempt from having to comply with orders governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch. The fly in that sticky argument is that only Cheney’s actions in the executive branch are involved with classified info. WaPo says, “The standoff disclosed yesterday stems from an executive order establishing a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified information. The order was first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and was updated and reissued by President Bush in 2003. Under the order, an "entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" must report annually how much it is keeping secret.” As the New York Times observed, “In the tradition of Washington’s semantic dust-ups, this one might be described as a fight over what an ‘entity’ is. The executive order, last updated in 2003 and currently under revision, states that it applies to any “entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.” The Federation of American Scientists filed a complaint against Cheney after the Chicago Tribune published an article last year about Cheney failing to report classification data. Steven Aftergood directs the federation’s Project on Government Secrecy. WaPo quoted Aftergood who said, "By refusing to comply with these trivial instructions, the vice president undermines the integrity of the executive order," he said. "If it can be violated with impunity on a trivial point, then it can also be violated on more important matters." Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus. But where Cheney is concerned, that old law saw would have to be changed to: Sempre falsus in omnibus.

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