White House: Trust the "sole enforcer"

Dana Perino on Dick Cheney's secrets.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 22, 2007 6:51PM (EDT)

If Dick Cheney won't cooperate with National Archives personnel assigned to ensure that classified national security information is being kept secure -- if, indeed, he has tried to abolish the government agency assigned to that task -- then shouldn't we be a little worried that the vice president's office isn't doing everything it's supposed to be doing to protect sensitive information?


At least that's the word from the White House, where spokeswoman Dana Perino responded to questions from reporters today by saying, essentially, that Americans will just have to trust the president and his vice president to do what's right.

Perino declared Bush the "sole enforcer" of the executive order setting forth the classified-information procedures, and things went downhill pretty fast from there.

Reporter: So [the vice president] is exempt from reporting; you support that?

Perino: Under the E.O., the president, in the performance of executive duties, and the vice president are treated separately from agencies. The president did not intend -- and I went back and looked into this -- the president did not intend for the vice president to be treated separately from how he would treat himself. Agencies are to report to ISOO [Information Security Oversight Office], and they do. I don't think there's any suggestion that no one else is complying. And the vice president was not intended to be separate from the president in this regard ...

Reporter: So, Dana, what are you saying? So the president supports the vice president saying that he doesn't want these inspections?

Perino: I don't think that he doesn't -- it's not a matter of wanting; it's a matter of who is subject to them. And I think that it's important to remember, it's -- the vice president, his office yesterday said that they are in full compliance with all laws regarding classified materials, as is this president. And the president expects that of everyone here at the White House, and of all the agencies across the executive branch that handle classified information.

Reporter: So he's supporting what the vice president is doing, saying he's not part of the executive ...

Perino: If you would go back and you read the E.O., it's -- the president's intention was never to separate the vice president out from himself. The president, as the sole enforcer of the E.O., is instructing agencies on how to handle classified material on a range of issues. The issue that we were talking about yesterday -- that Chairman Waxman was talking about in his letter yesterday -- is a very narrow one.

Reporter: But the people at the National Archives say that they are meeting with resistance from the vice president's office, and only the vice president's office, not from the White House, not from the Office of the President.

Perino: That's what I just said. I don't think that there's any -- think there's been any complaint about compliance except for, in this regard, to the vice president's office ... All of the president's documents and all the vice president's documents are safeguarded. They are held. They are held in the archives as part of the Presidential Records Act. And all of those rules and regulation are followed. The small section, regarding just the reporting requirements to this group, ISOO, that's out of the National Archives, is different.

Reporter: Why? [Cheney]'s a public servant, paid by us. He's accountable.

Perino: And all the laws and regulations regarding classified materials are being complied with. And that's what you as a taxpayer should expect.

Reporter: How do we know that?

Perino: Because I think that if they weren't, there are other ways where people could challenge him ...

Reporter: Does the president think the vice president is too secretive?

Perino: I think the president thinks that the vice president is a great representer of the United States, and that he complies with all the laws regarding secret documents, classified documents, and that he's someone who truly believes in the institution of the presidency and in keeping that intact.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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