I really shouldn't be surprised by now - I'm mean honestly. - but this latest revelation coming out of Henry Waxman's commitee that Vice President Dick Cheney has quite literally refused to abide by a Presidential Executive Order regarding the handling of sensitive National Security Information is truly stunning.
And what's really amazing is the reasoning they've provided. Ya see, it's simply the fact that the Vice President's Office - Isn't Part of the Executive Branch - and hence isn't subject to such Executive Orders from the guy down the hall - y'know what's his name - the non-Vice dude.
This particular claim - that the OVP isn't part of the executive - actually isn't a surpise, because I've heard of Cheney making it before. The theory goes that since the Vice President is also a voting member of The Senate - literally it's President - he exists in the unique position of being in two branches of government at the same time.
So it would naturally follow that he isn't beholden to the rules of either branch then right?
Yeah, ok - sure. That makes perfect sense On The Bizarro Planet!
Regardless of the excuses, what does this mean in practical terms? Well, here's what Paris Hilton's Congressman, Mr. Waxman has to say about it.
Executive Order 12958, "Classified National Security Information," was first issued by President Clinton in 1995. President Bush amended the executive order in March 2003. As amended by President Bush, the executive order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.
The executive order gives important responsibilities to the Information Security Oversight Office within the National Archives. This office was created in 1978 by Executive Order 12065, "National Security Information," issued by President Carter. Under the Bush executive order, the National Archives, acting through the Information Security Oversight Office, is directed to ensure agency compliance with classified information safeguards by issuing directives to agencies; developing and monitoring security education programs; receiving and responding to reports of security violations; and acting on complaints about the program’s implementation. In addition, the executive order and its implementing directive require executive branch agencies to provide data to the Archives about their classification and declassification activities, which the Archives then compiles to produce annual reports for the President.
The point here is that there are proceedures for classifying and declassifying data. From my own experience working a dozen years for a defense contractor in a classified environment with a Top Secret Clearance with Special Access - I know first hand that violating these procedures can send you on a one-way trip to Leavenworth for Life, because that's exactly what happened to a former co-worker of mine at Northrop named Cavanaugh. He got two - count 'em - TWO Life Sentences. Period. End of story. Bye bye.
Shorter version of Waxman from Thinkprogress.
– Since 2003, Cheney’s office has failed to provide data on its classification and declassification activities as required by Executive Order 12958, which President Bush has amended and endorsed.
– In 2004, Cheney’s office specifically intervened to block an on-site inspection by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which is a requirement of the executive order.
The amendment that Bush issued to the executive order - which was done right as the Iraq War began - was to grant the Vice President the authority to classify and declassify national security information in the exact same manner used by the President himself. Hm, ironic no?
The ISOO is essentially the watchdog, their job is to ensure that the system for classifying and declassifying isn't abused.
I mean, it's not like the President would ever use over classification to hide vital information from the public and the congress such as the fact that the Aluminum Tubes story most likely bogus (According to both the State and Energy Depts in the 2002 Iraq NIE), or that he would use classification to shutdown the OPR investigation into the NSA Warrantless Wiretaping, or that the Vice President's Office would Out a Covert CIA Operative to cover up their lies and bullsh*t or anything.