House investigators have learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from a presidential executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information.
According to a letter from House oversight chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA):
– 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 Office of the Vice President has asserted that it is not an “entity within the executive branch” and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders. Waxman writes, “To my knowledge, this was the first time in the nearly 30-year history of the Information Security Oversight Office that a request for access to conduct a security inspection was denied by a White House office.”
To resolve the matter, the ISOO wrote Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington on two separate occasions in summer 2006, disputing the claims made by Cheney’s office and requesting that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel settle the matter. Cheney’s office ignored both letters. Finally, in January 2007, the ISOO directly asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve whether the executive order applies to Cheney’s office.
In response, Cheney’s office has retaliated. It has requested changes in the executive order that would abolish the ISOO and eliminate the ability of the National Archives to appeal disputes to the Attorney General.
In his letter to Cheney, Waxman writes, “I question both the legality and the wisdom of your actions.” Specifically citing reports that Cheney personally instructed Scooter Libby to disclose classified national security information to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Waxman says it would be “particularly irresponsible” to give an office “with your history of security breaches” an exemption.