Wednesday, February 20, 2013
How Dick Cheney Buried the Truth of His Iraq War
Dick Cheney has buried the truth of America's conquest of Iraq so deep that he will himself be long dead and buried before the facts are ever exhumed.
It might have something to do with the annoying fact that the invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression waged on the flimsiest of pretences and, hence, the sort of war crime for which people have danced at the end of a rope. People with that sort of problem like to keep the details quiet.
Cheney's office, according to [William Leonard, former director of the Information Security Oversight Office] took secrecy to excessive lengths -- attempting to classify as much as possible, and often bypassing the system altogether by inventing classification markings. Even documents as ordinary as Cheney's talking points were marked Treated as Top Secret/SCI or Treated as Top Secret/Codeword.
"That's not a recognized marking," said Leonard. "I have no idea if it was the intent, but I can guarantee you what the consequences of those markings are. When any of this material eventually does end up at a presidential library and access demands are being made, or it's being processed for release, when some poor archivist sees material marked Handle as SCI, it's going into the bottom of the pile, and it is going to get much more conservative review. Whether it was the intent to retard the eventual release of the information, I know that's going to be a consequence of it."
In one instance, the marking appeared on notes from a 2003 meeting of Cheney and his staff. They were discussing Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat, who had just written an editorial in the New York Times. In the piece, Wilson argued that there was no evidence that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. That same year, Cheney's office stopped filing annual reports on its classification activities. When the ISOO moved to inspect his office -- as it was authorized and compelled to do by executive order -- Cheney's people argued that because the Office of the Vice President has duties with both the executive and legislative branches, the executive order on classified material doesn't apply. (The White House counsel, unsurprisingly, concurred.)
As Leonard told us, "Putting aside the constitutional position of the vice president, the very concept that non-elected government officials working in the White House, accessing the most highly sensitive information, and weren't obligated to follow the rules set forth by the president, I found chilling, to tell you the truth."