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What did Cheney start doing in 2003 that gave him reason to prevent executive branch oversight? [View All]

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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-22-07 09:43 PM
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What did Cheney start doing in 2003 that gave him reason to prevent executive branch oversight?
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Edited on Fri Jun-22-07 09:43 PM by ProSense
Friday, June 22, 2007

Dick Cheney and the Not-So-Unitary Executive


Vice President Dick Cheney and his consigliere David Addington have long been associated with the doctrine of the "Unitary Executive," the notion that all executive functions are vested in the President of the United States of American and hence that the President has the right to direct all executive officers, who, in turn are required to obey his orders.

All except the Vice-President, apparently.

The New York Times reports that Cheney now takes the position that he is not bound by an executive order requiring all entities within the executive branch to report on how they obtain and use classified information because he is not just another part of the executive branch. The Vice-President's office, he contends, is unique. As President of the Senate, he exercises legislative functions, including the right to cast tie votes in the Senate. (Of course the President also has legislative functions-- he can veto bills-- but that has never stopped him from claiming that he is the chief executive officer.). The Times explains:

For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his offices handling of classified information, and when the office in charge of overseeing classification in the executive branch objected, the vice presidents office suggested that the oversight office be shut down, according to documents released today by a Democratic congressman.

For years Cheney and Addington pushed the theory of the unitary Executive in order to avoid anyone looking into what they were doing. Once it became clear that the executive branch wanted to know what they were doing, they decided they were no longer part of the executive branch.

It is by now obvious, if any further proof were necessary, that Cheney and Addington have never been particularly interested in defending constitutional principles. They do not seek to preserve executive power. They seek to preserve their own power. They discarded the canard of the unitary executive as soon as it became inconvenient. (NB: The basic idea of a unitary executive, by contrast, is not spurious; some versions of the theory are quite plausible, just not Cheney and Addington's version. I discuss some of the different conceptions here).

The New York Times article leaves a tantalizing tidbit: Cheney's office complied with requests for data on classified documents in 2001 and 2002. "But starting in 2003, the vice presidents office began refusing to supply the information. In 2004, it blocked an on-site inspection by (the Information Security Oversight Office), routinely carried out across the government and intended to check whether documents were being properly labeled and safely stored."

So the question is this: Why did Cheney change his mind at the end of 2002? What did his office start doing in 2003 that gave him reason to prevent oversight even by other parts of the executive branch?

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