There was a great scandal over the summer, with a bizarre fight between the White House and the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, a fairly obscure federal office responsible for supervising the handling of classified information. After having complied with the rules in 2001 and 2002, Dick Cheney decided he no longer wanted to cooperate, and exempted himself from ISOO oversight.
When the VP refused to even acknowledge the agency’s requests for information, the ISOO went to the Attorney General’s office, asking if Cheney’s office had the legal authority to exempt itself from the executive branch. Alberto Gonzales not only ignored the questions, Cheney and his team responded by trying to eliminate the Information Security Oversight Office from existence.
So how did matters escalate?
The challenge arose last year when the Chicago Tribune was looking at [ISOO’s annual report] and saw the asterisk [reporting that it contained no information from OVP] and decided to follow up. And that’s when the spokesperson from the OVP made public this idea that because they have both legislative and executive functions, that requirement doesn’t apply to them…. They were saying the basic rules didn’t apply to them. I thought that was a rather remarkable position. So I wrote my letter to the Attorney General [asking for a ruling that Cheney’s office had to comply.] Then it was shortly after that there were [email] recommendations [from OVP to a National Security Council task force] to change the executive order that would effectively abolish [my] office.
Who wrote the emails?
It was David Addington.
No explanation was offered?
No. It was strike this, strike that. Anyplace you saw the words, “the director of ISOO” or “ISOO” it was struck.
What was your reaction?
I was disappointed that rather than engage on the substance of an issue, some people would resort to that…
You mean, Dick Cheney would rather destroy a government oversight office than “engage on the substance of an issue”? You don’t say.