Blogged by Brad from Atlanta...
Following on subpoenas issued to both Dick Cheney and the White House earlier today on the warrantless wire-tapping issue, the Summer of Accountability continues as the heat grows on both Cheney and Gonzales in the matter of the refusal by Cheney's office to provide reports on the handling of classified information.
A statement just sent to The BRAD BLOG (posted in full at the end of this article) by the offices of Representatives Conyers, Waxman, and Clay calls on Gonzales to explain his position on the National Archives request for Cheney to comply with an Executive Order requiring all Executive Branch offices to detail their handling of classified material and his subsequent refusal.
Cheney has claimed, in his failure to file appropriate reports for the last three years, that he didn't need to because the Office of the Vice President is not a part of the Executive Branch (that, despite their having complied with the order in years prior to 2003, when it seems they leaked the classified identify of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame).
In the statement, Waxman says Cheney's response is "absurd," Conyers calls it "highly dubious," and Clay characterizes the matter as "a breathtaking act of arrogance" in which Cheney is making a mockery of the law and our system of checks and balances."
The complete statement from Waxman, Conyers, and Clay follows in full below...
WASHINGTON, DC - Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Oversight and Government Reform Information Policy Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) today called upon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to explain his role in the Vice President's extraordinary attempt to remove his office from executive branch oversight and the subsequent refusal to comply with procedures to protect classified information in the Office of the Vice President (OVP). The Chairmen specifically called on Gonzales to report on the status of his long-overdue response to the National Archives' request to rule on the legality of VP Cheney's actions.
An Executive Order signed by President Bush in 2003 directs the National Archives to oversee a uniform, government-wide system for protecting national security information. For six months, the National Archives has sought unsuccessfully to receive clarification from the attorney general regarding the OVP's contention that it is exempt from the order because it is not an entity within the executive branch of our government
"The Vice President's claims are absurd, and they're part of a pattern of efforts to evade needed oversight of his office and actions," said Rep. Waxman.
"Once again, we appear to have an attorney general who is too close to the White House for his own - or the people's - good," said Rep. Conyers. "The Vice President's refusal to allow meaningful oversight of the handling of government secrets is very troubling. That this decision was apparently based on the highly dubious legal theory that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch is alarming. The handling of classified information, especially in a time of war, is a matter of the utmost importance, and those who are entrusted with our nation's secrets bear extraordinary responsibility to use and handle those materials in the best interests of the American people."
"It is a breathtaking act of arrogance for the Vice President to thumb his nose at and retaliate against an agency charged with enforcing an Executive Order from his own Administration," said Rep. Clay. "In my opinion, the Vice President is making a mockery of the law and our system of checks and balances by suggesting his office is outside of the executive branch. I hope Attorney General Gonzales will summon the will to treat this very serious matter with the objectivity it deserves."