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Cheney's office implies it has executive privilege of its own
Michael Roston
Published: Wednesday July 18, 2007
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Weeks after claiming that it was not a part of the executive branch, the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be readying an independent assertion of executive privilege.

The move emerged in an exchange of letters with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which granted an extension for the White House to comply with a subpoena on documents related to President George W. Bush's domestic spying program.

Counsel to the Vice President Shannen Coffin appeared to imply that Cheney's office may assert executive privilege after it finishes reviewing documents that are responsive to the committee's subpoena. The documents are due today.

"While the Office of the Vice President reserves legal protections that apply in this matter, we look forward to working to meet the Committee's needs for information and on legislative matters to protect the Nation," Coffin wrote.

Coffin's letter to the committee came with a similar letter from White House Counsel Fred Fielding. In contrast, Fielding's letter made no reference to any kind of 'legal protections' or executive privilege.

Cheney's attorney also seemed to suggest the President and Vice President's offices were on the same plane.

"We continue our efforts to identify documents responsive to the subpoena and request an extension of time for response to the subpoena parallel to that afforded to the Office of the President," she wrote.

Fielding, who is Bush's attorney, contacted Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to inform him that an extension on compliance was needed because of the wide variety of documents that needed to be reviewed.

"Since June 27, we have been working diligently to assess your requests and identify and collect documents responsive to the subpoenas," he wrote. "However, it has become clear that we will not be able to come close to completing our review process by the July 18 return date."

Leahy said he was willing to grant the extension.

"The Judiciary Committee is willing to accommodate reasonable requests and to work with the Administration on its response to these subpoenas," Senator Leahy said in a statement responding to the request. "I hope the White House uses this additional time constructively to finish gathering the relevant information and then works with us in good faith on ways to provide it so that we will have the information we need to conduct effective oversight at long last."

The committee issued subpoenas late last month to the President, Vice President, and the National Security Council for the legal authorizations underlying the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping efforts, known also as the 'Terrorist Surveillance Program.' When the committee authorized the subpoenas, they passed on a 13-3 vote.

Leahy did not appear to set a subsequent deadline for compliance.

The letters, and Leahy's full statement, can be accessed at the Senator's website.