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Cheney's chief of staff rebukes Kerry on VP's secrecy oversight
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday June 26, 2007
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Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, issued a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) today defending the Vice President's interpretation of his office being outside the executive branch - only this time, he said it was because Cheney's office isn't an "agency."

A copy of the letter from David Addington to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was released to RAW STORY. Kerry said the "legalistic" response from Addington "raises more questions than it purports to answer."

"Dear Senator Kerry," Addington writes. "The executive order on classified national security information -- Executive Order 12958 as amended in 2003 -- makes clear that the Vice President is treated like the President and distinguishes the two of them from 'agencies.'"

No longer satisfied with the Vice President's office's claim that Cheney is actually an admixture between the legislative and executive branch, Addington now posits that the Vice President's office is not an "agency."

"The executive order gives the [Information Security Oversight Office], under the supervision of the Archivist of the United States, responsibility to oversee certain activities of 'agencies,' but not of the Vice President or the President."

Kerry said Addington was wrong on that point because the executive order governing the handling of classified material covers "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information."

Addington insists that the question of whether Cheney is in the executive branch does not apply to the discussion of classified materials.

"Constitutional issues in government are generally best left for discussion when unavoidable disputes arise in a specific context instead of in theoretical discussions," Addington adds. "Given that the executive order treats the Vice President like the President rather than like an "agency," it is not necessary in these circumstances to address the subject of any alternative reasoning, based on the law and the history of the legislative functions of the vice presidency and the more modern functions of the vice presidency, to reach the same conclusions that the vice president is not an 'agency' with respect to which ISOO has a role."

Kerry re-iterated his request that Cheney's office define its place in government. If Cheney intends to ignore two centuries of constitutional precedent in declaring himself outside the executive branch, Kerry asks that he at least provide a justification for that decision.

Read a PDF of the letter here.