Questions About Cheney CIA Story

Okay, I have a few non-political, that is non-partisan, questions about an alleged Bush Administration cover-up of a CIA program that, if implemented, would have authorized killing foreign leaders.

My questions go beyond the legality of such a program or about whether it was right for the former administration to conceal it from the Congress.

I hope that those more steeped in constitutional law than I am can answer my questions.

First, this question: How did Vice President Dick Cheney, who reportedly ordered the cover-up, come to exercise such authority? As a practical matter and one of history, I understand, of course, that Cheney, at least for much of George W. Bush’s first term, exercised tremendous influence in the White House and in the administration. But so far as I know, except when the President is incapacitated, the Vice President possesses no executive (or operational) authority. If these reports are true though, Vice President Cheney exercised power which, I believe, belongs only to the President. Am I reading the Constitution correctly?

My second question then, is this: If Mr. Cheney exercised executive power, what would that do to his argument that he wasn’t required to maintain records of his activities as the law stipulates for members of the executive branch because, he said, the Vice President is not part of the executive? (Cheney’s position was rejected by at least one court.) If not a member of the executive branch, by what possible authority could a Vice President claim to be able to exercise executive authority?

As I say, these aren’t partisan questions. If Joe Biden, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Spiro Agnew, or Richard M. Johnson were found to have exercised executive authority, it would lead me to the first question, at least, and had any of them asserted, as Cheney did, that he was not a member of the executive branch, it would also raise the second.

Any ideas?

[This has been crossposted at my personal blog.]

[UPDATE: My use of the term "foreign leaders" was a faux pas. I apologize.]

Author: MARK DANIELS

24 Comments

  1. How did Vice President Dick Cheney, who reportedly ordered the cover-up, come to exercise such authority?

    Easy, we elected a doofus who was barely qualified to be the mayor of a small town. Somebody had to run the day to day operations of the US Government, Cheney was there, he knew where all the cadavers and levers of power were and he used them.

    A slightly more cynical take, why would you expect Charlie McCarthy to make any decisions…

  2. I am not a Constitutional lawyer.

    But as to your first question, I believe the President is able to delegate his executive authority to others.

  3. While I think there are valid questions here to be explored and I don't want to “poo-poo” the whole thing away, there is one point I'd ask to to look at again. Your quote:

    an alleged Bush Administration cover-up of a CIA program that, if implemented, would have authorized killing foreign leaders.

    We don't have all the details, of course, so this may remain to be seen, but from the leaks thus far, it was my understanding that the proposed targets were the heads of AQ and other terrorist cells. Your phrase, “foreign leaders” could lead one to believe that we were talking about heads of state. Were that the case, even if we were talking about Chavez, or the president of Iran, then I think the intelligence committee would have had to be in on it immediately and shut it down. But if we're talking about the leaders of terrorist organizations, um… isn't that the whole idea? Isn't “foreign leaders” a bit of a misleading phrase here?

  4. “……..authorized killing foreign leaders.”

    Mark,

    Is this an audition for the role of executive editor of the NY Times or Huffington Post?

    Was it your intention to write a sentence that left the impression that Dick Cheney was involved with a program designed to kill “foreign leaders”?

    Foreign leaders? Is that the description your education and experience tells you to use to best describe top Al Qaeda terrorists? Although technically correct – these people are “foreign” and in the terror organization they belong to they are “leaders” – so you felt the best way to convey that thought was to put the two words together?

    Is it any wonder why people who limit themselves to reading left wing inspired sources are so miserably misinformed on the matters of the day?

  5. “leaders” was an unfortunate faux pas on my part. Mea culpa.

  6. None of this makes much sense so far…

    Why would Cheney request a cover up of a program designed to kill terrorist leaders? Normally they would be on Fox News bragging about it. Did Cheney, or anyone for that matter, believe that Congress or the American people wouldn't be behind such a program?

    I think the obvious real question is….who were they authorizing to kill?

  7. “Was it your intention to write a sentence that left the impression that Dick Cheney was involved with a program designed to kill “foreign leaders”?”

    Certainly Cheney was involved with a program designed to kill “foreign leaders”… Does Saddam Hussein ring any bells?

  8. I agree with Shannonlee.

    They managed to kill several AQ leaders. Nobody tried to hide it. Nobody called it illegal.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions.

  9. SteveK –

    Certainly Cheney was involved with a program designed to kill “foreign leaders”… Or doesn't Saddam Hussein ring a bell anymore?

    Except for the one, small, tiny inconvenient fact for your bogus argument – we DIDN'T kill him, we captured him and turned him over to the Iraqi's. Make any moral argument you want about that last action, but it doesn't change the legal fact that we handed him over to another government alive, and unharmed. What they did subsequently is their issue, not ours.

  10. GS -

    I am not a Constitutional lawyer.

    But you did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express!

  11. AustinRoth wrote: “Except for the one, small, tiny inconvenient fact for your bogus argument – we DIDN'T kill him…”

    You're correct AustinRoth… technically correct anyhow BUT one has to either have a very short memory or a desire to intentionally fog matters to believe Cheney/Bush didn't conceive, and implement plans to kill Saddam Hussein.

    Hells fire man the start of the 'War on Iraq' and Cheney's “Shock and Awe” program was started a day earlier than planned because he thought he knew where Hussein was and could take him out.

  12. Attempts were made to kill Saddam… they just weren't quite on target.

  13. This whole episode will prove to be nothing more than a manufactured distraction. Because:

    1. The program was exposed by the New York Times back in 2002
    2. The program was never implemented, so congress would not have to be briefed on a non-existent program.
    3. By leaking the details of the program recently, Congress demonstrated very clearly why they were not briefed and why they can not be trusted with sensitive informatino

    This is all a ploy to distract from the failing domestic agenda and the foreign policy mis-steps. Sad.

  14. PWT…I thought the head of the CIA started this, not Congress?

  15. Exactly. Panetta started this whole mess to distract from his boss' recent stumbles.

  16. The program DID get off the ground with Saddam….. Bush wanted the world to believe that Saddam was harboring terrorists.

    The reason the program didn't take off was because Bush and cheney bogged us down in Iraq. We had to send every available troop there, including National Guard members, whose mission is not to act as an invading army… But the US needed the bodies in Iraq.

    If Bush had not invaded Iraq then he would have had resources to implement the program and go after the terrorists who DID attack us here in our own country.

    Cheney may have kept it a secret because if it had been revealed he and Bush would have been forced to explain why it was not implemented. It would have given their critics even more ammunition that Bush/Cheney dropped the ball in going after the terrorists when they chose to go into Iraq and pull troops from the real fight on terrorists in Afghanistan.

    COuld you imagine the American public wanting to know why Bush/Cheney made going the hunt for terrorists their number noe priority (at least publically) and yet didn't fully implement plans to do so?

  17. Why would Cheney request a cover up of a program designed to kill terrorist leaders? Normally they would be on Fox News bragging about it. Did Cheney, or anyone for that matter, believe that Congress or the American people wouldn't be behind such a program?

    I don't have a good handle on this whole thing either but it sounds like this was a formation of a Tom Clancy type special ops force designed to take out terrorist leaders, as opposed to the traditional shooting of cruise missiles at them. Maybe it was supposed to be one of those organizations that doesn't officially exist like Delta Force?

    But you're right I don't see why Cheney would hide it from congress, why Cheney would have primary authority here as opposed to Bush, and why Panetta is acting like this is a huge issue.

  18. How did all these violations of the constitution and the rule of law happen? Where were the checks and balances? Where were the people, the professional, non-political appointees who know the difference between right and wrong? I have heard that anyone who dared to object to Cheney’s methods faced the end of their career long before they were ready to retire. If that threat was enough to guarantee the silence of those who knew better, the end of the empire may well be near.

  19. al-Qaeda excuse again.

    How can so many literate people be so ignorant?

    Fuhrer wannabe Cheney has a history of lying, cheating, stealing and, I believe, blackmail. This program was undoubtedly planned to kill americans on american soil. Anyone who associated with Cheney should be investigated for treason. All of them.

    I think that some patriots in the CI lying A, actually prevented Cheney from setting up his own Gestapo. There may have been some patriots at the Pentagon that actually prevented Cheney from forming his own private SS. Notice how many thugs are coming to light in the military, notice how many rightwing religious types are showing up.

  20. Why did Cheney order the CIA not to reveal the information? Well, according to former CIA director Hayden, Cheney didn't:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/07/for

    “The man who ran the CIA from 2006 through January says he wasn't told by then-vice president Dick Cheney not to brief Congress about a covert program aimed at members of al-Qaida, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.”

    So it looks like there's no beef in this burger.

  21. joeinhell,

    You know you shouldn’t be anywhere near a keyboard, let alone an operational computer. You’re going to hurt yourself playing with electrical equipment and using words you can’t possibly understand.

    Go back to bed. Take your meds and do what the attendants tell you to do.

    If you disobey, Dick Cheney will come to see you when the lights go off at night. You don’t want that to happen, do you?

  22. OMG – something WAY more important may be happening!!

    It is too early to say for certain, but it appears as of 4:30 Eastern that this may be the day of days, the event we have all anticipated COULD happen, but didn't think WOULD happen.

    THERE HAS BEEN NO SARAH PALAN POST ON TMV TODAY!!!!!

    Stay tuned for further developments in this truly unbelievable and unprecedented turn of events.

  23. THERE HAS BEEN NO SARAH PALIN POST ON TMV TODAY!!!!!

    Her speech on Cap and Trade was the lead on memeorandum for some time – there is still plenty of time for one of the contributors here to run over to firedoglake or ThinkProgress and copy something.

  24. A big reason why Cheney would have wanted to keep this a secret (that is if this program was actually implemented) was Operation Uphold Democracy. Navy Seals invaded Haiti in 1994 and when they stormed the beach they were blinded by the lights on the camera that the media had set up. They went to the Senate Intel Committee to get approval for the operation, and some dumb ass politician leaked it to the press. Luckily no one got killed because of it.

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