DECEMBER 14, 2012
In an ironic twist—or just plain hypocrisy—the Obama Administration is embracing an irrational secrecy policy fabricated by Republican Vice President Dick Cheney who famously shielded his office from congressional oversight by claiming it wasn’t part of the executive branch.
However, like a good politician, the former vice president conveniently invoked executive privilege to protect his office from troublesome public-records requests and congressional scrutiny. For instance, he hid behind it to avoid releasing information involving a task force that met in secrecy to develop the nation’s energy policy. This violated federal open meetings law and Judicial Watch sued for information on the task force’s inner workings, which were supposed to be open for public scrutiny. Thanks to JW, nearly 40,000 pages of documents have been released into the public domain.
When Cheney shunned an order (signed by President George Bush, no less) requiring all executive branch offices to comply with regular reviews of their procedures for classifying and declassifying documents, he asserted that he was not part of the executive office. His reasoning, in this case, was that the vice president serves constitutionally as the presiding officer of the United States Senate, with a tie-breaking vote, and therefore has legislative power as well.
Incredibly, this crazy logic has been adopted by President Obama even though the White House web site lists the vice president under the executive branch. The vice president is elected along with the president by the Electoral College, the official site explains, and the vice president has an office in the West Wing of the White House as well as in the nearby Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
But check out the latest edition of the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (Plum Book), published every four years after the presidential election to identify presidentially appointed positions within the federal government. It’s alternately published by the Senate and the House. The newly released 2012 edition says that “the Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter.”
It’s unlikely this will receive any mainstream media attention. The discovery was made by a group of scientists that specializes in reporting developments in government secrecy. In a piece titled “Cheneyism Preserved But Attenuated in New Plum Book” the group writes; “somewhat unexpectedly, this conception of a Vice Presidency that transcends the three branches of government reappears in the 2012 edition of the Plum Book….”
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