Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cheney's secret pass

No answer on why VP breaks rules on classified documents


WASHINGTON - The White House struggled to explain yesterday why President Bush complies with rules and oversight on secret documents but Vice President Cheney doesn't.

There were also no answers about why Cheney followed the rules in 2001 and 2002 but began stonewalling on documents in 2003 as the CIA leak case was breaking and weapons of mass destruction were not to be found in Iraq.

"I will check into it," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. "I don't know when - I don't know why the change, and I'll see if there was any different interpretation."

But Perino denied that Cheney tried to abolish the government office charged with safeguarding documents, which was hounding him for access.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, disclosed Thursday that Cheney was refusing what had been routine requests from the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives about his handling of classified data.

Bush's order requires executive agencies to report the number of times they classify material and the number of pages they declassify.

Perino said Bush fully meets the requirements of his own executive order on disclosure to the Archives, but she suggested that Bush had given Cheney an exemption.

"The President gets to decide whether or not he [Cheney] should be treated separately, and he's decided that he should," Perino said.

Cheney has often cited executive privilege stemming from his office in the Bush administration to reject requests from Congress.

But the vice president's office has also claimed that because Cheney is president of the Senate in the legislative branch, he is exempt from a request by an agency in the executive branch.

Perino said Cheney is "not exempt from following the laws of the U.S. He's exempt just from this reporting requirement in this particular executive order."

The Archives has asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to order Cheney to comply, but the Justice Department has yet to rule.

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