Kerry: Sealing Cheney Visitor Logs is Latest Attempt to Dodge Transparency
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to David Addington, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, asking for answers about reports that the Vice President's office demanded control of the visitors logs of the Office of the Vice President from the Secret Service.
"This episode raises another serious question about the Vice President's determination to rewrite the rules to avoid accountability and transparency at all costs," Senator Kerry said. "I want answers to these very straightforward questions, and there are still outstanding questions about whether the Vice President considers himself outside the Executive Branch and about the handling of classified information."
On June 25th, Kerry questioned Addington about the Vice President's claim that he considers himself outside of the Executive Branch. After a response from Addington on June 26th that failed to answer the question, Kerry again asked Addington if the Vice President considers himself outside the Executive Branch and what the Vice President's office is doing with regards to classified information. Kerry has not yet received a response.
Below is a copy of today's letter:
July 12, 2007
David S. Addington
Chief of Staff
Office of the Vice President
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501
Dear Mr. Addington,
It has come to my attention that there is another issue with regards to record keeping in the Office of the Vice President which causes me great concern. It has been widely reported that an attorney from your office by the name of Shannen Coffin sent a letter in September of 2006 to the Secret Service claiming exclusive control over the visitor logs from the Office of the Vice President. The letter also requested that the Secret Service return all visitors logs in their possession.
The basis of the claim by the Office of the Vice President was that the visitor logs fell under the Presidential Records Act and are therefore privileged until the administration of President Bush is no longer in office. This classification also shields the logs from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) even though they are created by and cast light on the activities of the Secret Service, an executive branch agency. As you undoubtedly are aware, it was a FOIA request from the Washington Post that initiated the letter from the Office of the Vice President which has only now come to light though court documents.
The contention that visitor logs fall under the Presidential Records Act is just one in a series of assertions from the Vice President and his staff that serve to undermine accountability and transparency with regard to the Office of the Vice President. As you know, I have previously corresponded with you in reference to the Vice President's statement that he is not subject to Executive Order 12958 because of the legislative function of his position. This new assertion seems to be in direct conflict with those statements.
A claim that the Vice President is not subject to Executive Orders, but is covered by the Presidential Records Act - which applies exclusively to the executive branch - strikes me as incongruous and inappropriate. For that reason, I respectfully request answers to the following questions:
(1) Who authorized the letter to the Secret Service?
(2) On what basis is the Vice President claiming refuge under the Presidential Records Act?
(3) Did the Office of the Vice President consult with the Justice Department or the National Archives on this matter? If so, what counsel did they receive?
I never received a reply to my letter to you dated June 26th. I will assume that the White House has spoken for your office when they asserted that the Office of the Vice President does indeed fall under the executive branch. I do however expect a reply to this inquiry. A response would be appreciated by July 23rd. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.