Nick Langewis – “Lawsuit: Prevent Cheney from withholding, destroying documents on his exit from office”

Lawsuit: Prevent Cheney from withholding, destroying documents on his exit from office

Nick Langewis | September 8, 2008

Historians and scholars are among those joining a lawsuit aimed at preventing the Bush administration from destroying or withholding documents related to the role of the “most influential vice president in U.S. history,” Dick Cheney, in forming public policy, the Washington Post reports in its Monday edition.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is expected to file the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday to assert the requirement to preserve the documents in question under the post-Watergate Presidential Records Act of 1978, contrary to loopholes engineered and statements made during Cheney’s time in office.

Expected to be named as defendants are Vice President Cheney, the executive offices of Cheney and President Bush, the National Archives and chief archivist Allen Weinstein.

“I’m concerned that they may not be preserved,” said Stanley Kutler, constitutional scholar and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Law School. “Whether they’ve been zapped already, we don’t know.”

“I think you’d have to be very worried about it,” added former vice president Walter Mondale. “Under Bush and Cheney, they’ve used every opportunity to assert executive privilege.”

“The Office of the Vice President currently follows the Presidential Records Act and will continue to follow the requirements of the law, which includes turning over vice presidential records to the National Archives at the end of the term,” Cheney spokesperson Jamie Hennigan said. One worry on the part of Kutler and organizations such as the American Historical Association and the Society of American Archivists, however, is that Vice President Cheney’s famous assertion that his office is not part of the Executive Branch, along with a 2001 executive order that seemingly narrows the scope of documents subject to the 1978 law to possibly exclude legislative records and others deemed “non-executive,” will cause some documents to be withheld.

“It horrifies me as a citizen to think our government can operate in total secrecy during the administration and then, after the administration, remain in secrecy,” said George Mason University professor and expected plaintiff Martin J. Sherwin.

“When a vice president is sitting there in the West Wing and participating at the highest levels in the work of the executive branch,” added constitutional scholar Joel K. Goldstein, “it’s a little bit anomalous to say you’re not part of the executive branch.”

More can be read at the Washington Post.

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 9:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

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