Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vice Pres...No oversight....

From Secrecy News:


The Office of the Vice President is not an "agency" for purposes of the
executive order on classification and therefore its classification and
declassification activity no longer need be reported to the Information
Security Oversight Office, the Justice Department finally informed ISOO
Director Bill Leonard in a newly disclosed letter.


In a January 9, 2007 letter to the Attorney General, Director Leonard
had questioned the OVP's refusal since 2003 to submit to normal
oversight. He was following up on a complaint filed with ISOO by the
Federation of American Scientists, which was also forwarded to the
Attorney General.

The OVP's position is not consistent with a "plain text reading" of the
executive order, Mr. Leonard wrote to the Attorney General at that time.

Be that as it may, the President's intention is that the Office of Vice
President should not be considered an "agency" for purposes of
oversight, Steven G. Bradbury of the Justice Department Office of Legal
Counsel wrote to Mr. Leonard on July 20, 2007 on behalf of the Attorney
General. He cited another letter to that effect from White House
counsel Fred Fielding.

The Bradbury letter to ISOO was obtained by blogger Marcy Wheeler, who
disclosed it today on her blog EmptyWheel:


The Bush Administration's evident willingness to reinterpret -- not
revise -- the executive order and to deviate from what is commonly
understood as the order's "plain text" meaning illustrates the
unreliability of executive orders as a safeguard of public rights, Ms.
Wheeler stressed.

The move gave new resonance to a statement presented on the Senate
floor last week by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who described an
Office of Legal Counsel opinion which he said concludes as follows:

"An Executive order cannot limit a President. There is no
constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new Executive
order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous
Executive order. Rather than violate an Executive order, the President
has instead modified or waived it."


What the President is claiming, Sen. Whitehouse said, is that "I don't
have to follow my own rules, and if I break them, I don't have to tell
you that I am breaking them."

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