Sunday, June 24, 2007

As they crawl further into the bunker

And so, the Executive Order issued by George Bush requiring that all government entities that are a part of the Executive Branch to submit to oversight on the handling of classified information has produced yet another crease in the wrinkled fabric of Bush administration wrong-doing.

First we have Vice President Dick Cheney deciding that he is not actually a part of the Executive Branch and not subject to the order.

Now, Bush himself has decided that his office is not subject to his own direction.
The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information. An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said. [...] "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," the executive order said. But from the start, Bush considered his office and Cheney's exempt from the reporting requirements, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in an interview Friday.
Let's get something clear. When an order is issued to include an entire organization or functional body, it includes all elements of that organization, unless specifically exempted. If Bush's Executive Order 13292 was written with the intention that the offices of the President and Vice President would be exempted from such oversight, it would have been a simple matter to add, perhaps right at the end, words to the effect, "The office of President and the office of Vice President are exempted from the provisions of this order."

Bush, and of course Cheney, are making it up as they go along.

J. William Leonard of the National Archives asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to have the Justice Department, Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) solve the impasse that had developed with Cheney. This last Friday, Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said, "This matter is currently under review in the department.”


Steven Aftergood, a researcher who tracks government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists discovered the truth. It appears Gonzales has been ignoring the issue.
Why didn't Gonzales act on Leonard's request? His aides assured reporters that Leonard's letter has been "under review" for the past five months—by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). But on June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had "no documents" on the matter, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NEWSWEEK. Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter "puzzling and inexplicable"—especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap.

So now Gonzales enters the picture as being party to an attempt to prevent oversight.

While all that was happening Bush's White House spokes-people were trying to erect a smokescreen which MSNBC's Keith Olbermann took on. Olbermann dispatched the original assertion that an exemption existed for Cheney because of the language on page 18 of the EO. No such exemption exists, and when Olbermann pointed this out, the White House sent him to two other references in the EO, both of which made no mention of the Vice President's office at all.

In short, it would appear that, aside from trying minimize the magnitude of the constitutional violation, Bush and, in particular, Cheney, are desperately attempting to hide something extremely damaging to their administration.

Like a dog with a bone House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman has no intention of letting any of this go unchallenged and has stated his intentions to investigate Cheney and Gonzales.
Waxman told NEWSWEEK he now plans to investigate the handling of the issue by Justice as well as Cheney's refusal to comply with the executive order, which he called part of a "pattern" of stonewalling by the veep.
That has been met with this kind of response from both Cheney and Bush spokes-people.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said, "We're confident we are conducting the office properly under the law." She also pointed to comments by White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said that Bush, not the National Archives, was the "sole enforcer" of the executive order relating to classified information.
Umm... No. Part 5 of Bush's Executive Order 13292 delegates enforcement, including the issuing of reports leading to sanctions, to the Archivist and the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office. Bush is not the "sole enforcer". He handed that job off to somebody else.

These guys are trying to hide something.

Why do I always get the sense that PNAC's great American Century and the working and machinations of the Bush administration are based on this?

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