Cheney On Secrecy: ‘If You Don’t Want Your Memos To Get You In Trouble, Don’t Write Any’

On Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke in Grand Rapids, MI to pay tribute to his former boss, President Gerald Ford, telling the audience that he learned “early on” how to evade oversight:

This Museum, and the Ford Library in Ann Arbor, mean a great deal to me — not just personally but from the standpoint of history, because I was chief of staff in the Ford White House.

I’m told researchers like to come and dig through my files, to see if anything interesting turns up. I want to wish them luck — (laughter) — but the files are pretty thin. I learned early on that if you don’t want your memos to get you in trouble some day, just don’t write any.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/cheneysecrecy.320.240.flv]

Cheney was referring to attempts to gather information using the Presidential Records Act (PRA), passed in 1978 after Watergate “to underscore the fact that presidential records belong to the American people, not to the president.” His admission on Friday reflects the great lengths he has gone to under President Bush to avoid record-keeping and deflect oversight:

Cheney lawyer told Secret Service not to keep visitor logs: A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September 2006 “to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence.”

Exempted himself from executive order protecting classified information: 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 endorsed. “Cheney’s office provided the information in 2001 and 2002, then stopped.”

Attempted to dodge Information Security Oversight Office: 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 an executive order from the President.

Sidestepped travel disclosure rules. Cheney and “his staff have been unilaterally exempting themselves from long-standing travel disclosure rules followed by the rest of the executive branch, including the Office of the President,” reported the Center for Public Integrity in 2005.

Ditching the rule of law is no joking matter, despite what Cheney would like to think.