Earlier this month, British international lawyer Philippe Sands revealed in his new book that Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington personally traveled to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, witnessed an interrogation, and sent approval back to Washington.
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has requested that Addington “testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay.” But the Guardian notes that in a response today, Counsel to the Vice President Kathryn Wheelberger claimed that “Congress lacks any authority to examine [Cheney or Addington’s] behaviour on the job”:
Ruling out voluntary cooperation by Addington, Cheney lawyer Kathryn Wheelbarger said Cheney’s conduct is “not within the [congressional] committee’s power of inquiry.” “Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by law what a vice-president communicates in the performance of the vice president’s official duties, or what a vice president recommends that a president communicate,” Wheelberger wrote.
As the Guardian notes, the “exception claimed by Cheney’s office recalls his attempt last year to evade rules for classified documents by deeming the vice-president’s office a hybrid branch of government – both executive and legislative.” “It is hard to know what aspect of the invitation [to you] has given rise to concern that the committee might seek to regulate the vice president’s recommendations to the president,” Conyers told Wheelberger.
The lawyers for former Office of Legal Counsel chief John Yoo and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, key players in the torture program, have also rejected Conyers’ invitation to testify. In a statement yesterday, Conyers provided a May 2 deadline for response or, he said, “I will have no choice but to consider the use of compulsory process.”