Saturday, 23 June 2007

Zero presidential oversight

This week there were revelations about how both the president and vice president of the United States have managed to remain clear of any sort of accountability or oversight.

First Vice President Cheney's story:

For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed Mr. Cheney’s effort to shut down the oversight office. Mr. Waxman, who has had a leading role in the stepped-up efforts by Democrats to investigate the Bush administration, outlined the matter in an eight-page letter sent Thursday to the vice president and posted, along with other documentation, on the committee’s Web site.

Officials at the National Archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events cited in Mr. Waxman’s letter.

The letter said that after repeatedly refusing to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification of internal documents, the vice president’s office in 2004 blocked an on-site inspection of records that other agencies of the executive branch regularly go through.
“I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview. “But this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.”

Bush too has declared himself exempt:
The White House says the president's own order on classified data does not apply to his office or the vice president's.
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.

Changing the rules — even the ones you wrote — by distorting them. That's the White House's message. So does that mean it's OK if/when Congress ignores it's own laws?


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