Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Monday, June 25, 2007
The secret world of Dick Cheney
The Washington Post on Sunday lifted the veil on the separate branch of government that is Richard B. Cheney, vice president of the United States, and apparently, a law unto himself. Issue one, Cheney's extreme secrecy:

So clandestine is the Vice President's work that he has created a new secret document designation: "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

That's not all: the piece also reveals that Cheney keeps 'man-size' Mosler safes on hand for "workaday business" and has destroyed all Secret Service visitor logs, in addition to already refusing to comply with a national security directive issued by President Bush, which RAW STORY first reported earlier this week.

Not only does he refuse to give the names of his staff, Cheney won't even disclose how many people he employs.

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency," the Post article says. "Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs."

"Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools," the piece adds. "Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

"Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets," the Post adds. "By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

The Post intimates that Cheney's office is like a black hole -- everything goes in, but nothing comes out.
On the torture of detainees in U.S. custody:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'" if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.

A backlash beginning in 2004, after reports of abuse leaked out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, brought what appeared to be sharp reversals in courts and Congress -- for both Cheney's claims of executive supremacy and his unyielding defense of what he called "robust interrogation."

But a more careful look at the results suggests that Cheney won far more than he lost. Many of the harsh measures he championed, and some of the broadest principles undergirding them, have survived intact but out of public view. ...

...David S. Addington, Cheney's general counsel, set the new legal agenda in a blunt memorandum shortly after the CIA delegation returned to Langley. Geneva's "strict limits on questioning of enemy prisoners," he wrote on Jan. 25, 2002, hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."

No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk? Cheney's lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives "difficult to predict," might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials. ...
Is it any wonder he won't let the Inspector General's office any where near the office of the vice president?

Meanwhile, Democrats are finally taking Cheney's absurd claims of not being a part of the executive branch to their logical conclusion:

Following Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that his office is not a part of the executive branch of the US government, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) plans to introduce an amendment to the the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to cut funding for Cheney's office.

The amendment to the bill that sets the funding for the executive branch will be considered next week in the House of Representatives.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch," said Emanuel in a statement released to RAW STORY. "However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments."

... On Thursday, Emanuel suggested that if Cheney feels his office is not part of the executive branch "he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill."
So what will it be, Mr. Vice President? The money or your secrets?

Last but not least ... Mr. Blue Dress, otherwise known as Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, reports that there may be an interesting nexus between the Secret Fourth Branch of Government, Dick Cheney, and America's most useless attorney general ... ever ... Alberto Gonzales:

July 2-9, 2007 issue - A new battle has erupted over Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to submit to an executive order requiring a government review of his handling of classified documents. But the dispute could also raise questions for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For the past four years, Cheney's office has failed to comply with an executive order requiring all federal offices—including those in the White House—to annually report to the National Archives on how they safeguard classified documents. Cheney's hard-line chief of staff, David Addington, has made the novel argument that the veep doesn't have to comply on the ground that, because the vice president also serves as president of the Senate, his office is not really part of the executive branch.

Cheney's position so frustrated J. William Leonard, the chief of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which enforces the order, that he complained in January to Gonzales. In a letter, Leonard wrote that Cheney's position was inconsistent with the "plain text reading" of the executive order and asked the attorney general for an official ruling. But Gonzales never responded, thereby permitting Cheney to continue blocking Leonard from conducting even a routine inspection of how the veep's office was handling classified documents, according to correspondence released by House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman.

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. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response "was and remains accurate" because Leonard's letter had generated no "substantive work product."

Well there you go.

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posted by JReid @ 9:11 AM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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