Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Entity Unto Itself

[Posted by reader_iam]

That's pretty much how V.P. Cheney's office thinks of itself, since it is disavowing its connection to the executive branch and nothing on God's green earth, or in the transcendent cosmos, will ever make me believe it truly identifies itself with the legislative one, no matter how much it wants to claim the mantle of the latter to duck requirements for the former.
Officials at the archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events outlined in Mr. Waxman’s letter.

The letter said that after repeatedly refusing to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification of internal documents, the vice president’s office in 2004 blocked an on-site inspection of records that other agencies of the executive branch regularly go through.

But other officials familiar with Mr. Cheney’s view said that he and his legal adviser, David S. Addington do not believe the executive order applies to the vice president’s office because it has a legislative as well as an executive status in the Constitution.

Other White House offices, including the National Security Council, routinely comply with the oversight requirements, according to Mr. Waxman’s office and outside experts.

The dispute is far from the first to pit Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington, against outsiders seeking information, usually members of Congress or advocacy groups. Their position is generally based on strong assertions of presidential power and the importance of confidentiality, which Mr. Cheney has often argued was eroded by post-Watergate laws and a prying press.

But the National Archives is an executive branch department headed by a presidential appointee, and it is assigned to collect the data on classified documents under a presidential executive order. The archives’ division that oversees classification and declassification, the Information Security Oversight Office, is an obscure part of the federal bureaucracy.
Psssssstttt: Classified documents--even those considered state secrets--ultimately, and always--belong to the United States of America. Its people. And to history. I want them collected somewhere, and preferably not under the control of those who have the most personal, individual interests at stake.

That doesn't meant I think it's sensible to maintain continuous, in-real-time, self-defeating (no, I'm not referring to individual people here, much less V.P. Cheney) transparency. Given particular contexts, quite, quite the opposite, temporally speaking. Nor am I missing the political maneuvering here on the part of Rep. Waxman, as well--ooooohhhhh, no.

But the bottom line is that I don't want ANY branch, much less a single office, no matter which, of our government to consider itself an entity unto itself, detached from any and every branch (except when it's convenient to attach itself to one or another), with maverick pretensions that its work, and the documentation thereof--and this is the implication--only belongs to particular, individual, specific people at a particular, specific time. Which in turn implies that that the documentation could, and likely will, vanish along with those people, at a time of their choosing or upon their preparing to leave office, which ever is later most efficacious for them. As is right!--apparently, according to their estimation.

I say no: It's not right. It's wrong. It's dangerous. And it's cheating, on the contract with We the People, and of history.

Should I be giving the VP's office more of the benefit of the doubt? Sorry; at least for me, not at this point, and not for some time. Come on, we're talking secrecy here, and specifically in terms of V.P. Cheney and David Addington, God help us:
Remember Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), the creepy aide to Defense Secretary David Brice (Gene Hackman) in the 1987 movie "No Way Out"?

I couldn't help thinking of that Machiavellian (in the sense of "The Prince," not the author), blindly zealous political operator yesterday... .

I wonder if David Addington, former counsel and currently chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, has seen that flick? One could hope such a reference point might occasionally cross his mind (and those of others like him) when he looks in the mirror in the morning. But then, one could just piss in the wind, too.
These people are entities unto themselves, people. Beware.

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