Monday, October 19, 2015

Let's Compare Clinton's Phony Email "Scandal" and Dick Cheney's Fetish for Secrecy

by Nomad

Clinton Cheney

After searching in vain since in March of last year, wasting time and spending millions, the Republican Party still expects to find something on about Hillary Clinton's emails. They've already admitted the investigation were politically-motivated.
Too bad these tireless and principled investigators were not around when Vice President Dick Cheney was fighting to keep his secrets classified.

Things have a dreadful habit of backfiring for the Republicans. The more they blustered about President Bill Clinton's adultery the higher his approval rating climbed. By and large, the public thought it was a case of too much about too too little. 

It seems like the party has learned absolutely nothing. Take the fruitless email investigation and the search for.. what are they searching for?. Does anybody remember?
We do know how it began.

Investigation Ad Nauseum

The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee Investigation started out, as we all know, as a search for culpability in the deaths of State Department officials in the Benghazi attacks, which left four dead. 

After two agonizing years (filled with unsupported but damaging leaks to the press) the committee found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.  (Presumably, that would include the appointed Secretary of State.)

On the Benghazi investigation, more than $3,500,000 was thrown away. That figure exceeds the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee. and does not include "significant expenditures made by the State Department and Defense Department to find and declassify material requested by the committee or the expense of witness travel for those who work for the government."

A miserable flop of a smear. So, what to do now, they asked? Why not a start a new investigation into Democratic candidate's use of a private email server? With the help of the media, the new so-called scandal investigation dragged on and on.
It didn't go smoothly. 
In October, false accusations by Chairman Trey Gowdy forced the CIA to step in with a rebuttal
Gowdy’s accusation was that Secretary Clinton had sent an email containing "some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.”
Totally untrue. No apology or clarification. The investigation pressed on as it does today. 
How much will be spent on this investigation is anybody's guess. It won't be cheap. As one source noted:
Rep. Gowdy now states the committee will continue its work into 2016 raising its cost to taxpayers to more than $6,000,000, casting his inaction as the result of the Obama administration’s slow pace at producing requested documents, a questionable premise.
Critics of the committee (and the numbers are growing) have called the investigation as nothing short of a taxpayer funded witch hunt of a leading presidential candidate. 

Supporters of the Republican-led investigations say Hillary must be guilty of something. However, many in the GOP seem to forget when it came to keeping secrets. nothing could surpass the overt duplicity of former vice-president Dick Cheney. 

Treat as Classified

While he held his position, Cheney gave himself the power to evade all oversight. Despite having no authority to do so, Cheney even developed a new classification stamp for his office, "Treat As Classified." 
It became a powerful tool. Before Cheney stepped into his post, that classification did not exist and the system of classification, which oversight agencies take very seriously, was thrown into confusion. 

Using that designation, Cheney sought to keep secret, not merely documents created by his office during his tenure, but he even classified documents that were already public, effectively sealing them off from the open scrutiny. 
And, with rumors of war crimes, approved torture, and what-not, he surely had plenty of reasons to keep his classification stamp in hand.

As one source pointed out, using this unprecedented innovation of Cheney's own design, all information so-marked was put off-limits to the public. 
He had no constitutional authority to do so and felt no need to explain. In doing so, Cheney's office declared itself "exempt from a yearly requirement to report how it uses its power to classify secret information."

When challenged by other governmental agencies, Cheney even went so far as to claim that the vice-president's position was not even a part of the executive branch and, therefore, was exempt from any regulating oversight.
Cheney's position on secrecy was maintained throughout the Bush presidency. In 2006, the media noted:
A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist that he is exempt.
Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office's failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government's top secrets.
In June 2007, a House committee released documents that suggested that Cheney's staff has blocked efforts by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office to enforce a key component of President Bush's executive order: a mandatory on-site inspection of the vice president's office. 

Mysterious Meetings of the Unmentioned

From the beginning of the Bush administration, Cheney's determination to keep absolute control of his emails, inner-office memos, and all other documentation was a frustration to agencies charged with oversight.

One incident, in particular, established the precedent. One of the first policy challenges that President Bush undertook was to establish a new energy policy for the country. 

By executive order in January 2001, Bush set up what became known as the "Cheney Energy Task Force"  composed of  Vice President Dick Cheney and the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy, as well as other cabinet and senior administration-level officials. 

According to the preface of the task force final report, it was supposed to bring together "business, government, local communities, and citizens." 
Its primary aim was to decrease American dependency on foreign petroleum. Over the course of three and a half months with petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists. 

Soon after the task force recommendation were published, the United States House of Representatives approved the measures and decided to legalize the new policy set forth by Cheney. 
All very well. 

The only problem was that none of the ten meetings were open to the public and no non-federal participants were involved. Initially, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, tried to make the records of the policy group public. When its legal action failed, the GAO dropped the attempt. 

Complying with an investigation of Enron, Cheney’s office released limited information revealing six Task Force meetings with Enron executives. But the rest of the documents remained classified.

Environmental advocacy groups demanded that records of the task force meetings, in their entirety, be made public. They claimed that the administration had shut environmental groups out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were well represented.
In July 2001, Judicial Watch filed suit on the grounds that the administration was not "in compliance with the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which mandates that certain documents, task force members, meetings, and decision-making activities be open to the public."
Judicial Watch alleged that energy lobbyists were not simply giving input but were, in fact, working members of the task force. The energy policy was being written by the very people who the most to gain.

The group claimed that lobbyists "regularly attended and fully participated" in the task force meetings held behind closed doors. This was an unreasonable blurring of the line between government and private industry. 
After all, Cheney's connections to Haliburton had already created concern of conflict of interest and based on the recommendations of the final task force report, somebody would stand to profit in a large way.

It was, critics of the administration argued, imperative that these documents be unsealed so that the public could learn how decisions were made. Who was included and who was not.

The legal battle continued until in 2003 a federal judge ordered the administration to release documents. Even after that release, many things about the task force meetings remained a mystery, presumably due to Cheney's classifications. 
It was until the last years of Bush's second term that more information reached the public.

In 2007, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, castigated the White House and Dick Cheney's love of locked-down government. The fact that it took six years to see who attended the 2001 meetings, supposedly open to the public, Waxman called "ridiculous."  
Yet Waxman wasn't exactly surprised either.
"Six years later, we see we lost an opportunity to become less dependent on importing oil, on using fossil fuels, which have been a threat to our national security and the well-being of the planet."
But there was more to it than that.

The Motivation

The list of participants' names and when they met with administration officials provides a clearer picture of the task force's priorities and bolsters previous reports that the review leaned heavily on oil and gas companies and on trade groups -- many of them big contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party.
The Washington Post reporter added that it is still a bit of mystery why the Bush Administration fought so hard to keep the details of the meetings private.

One writer for the think-tank Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) may be able to offer a piece of the puzzle. 

Michael Klare wrote that documents turned over to Judicial Watch by the Commerce Department in the summer of 2003 contained a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” 

It's important to remember that all of the meetings took place before the September 11 attacks.

To the conspiracy-minded public, that might seem like evidence of a plot, a smoking gun. Admittedly it's hard not to see premeditation for a false flag operation. However, there's a (slightly) less sinister explanation.   

The release of these documents just prior to the invasion would have made it next to impossible to convince the American public of the validity of the Iraqi invasion. 
If the March 2003 invasion had only been about guaranteeing a free flow of oil it is difficult to see how the Bush administration could ever have convinced Congress or the American people that an invasion was better than simply allowing inspectors to do their jobs.
According to U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."
These secret documents about the discussion of Iraqi oil fields with oil companies would certainly have heightened public suspicion that U.S. policy was driven primarily by the orders of the energy industry and that national security was merely a facade. 
The documents finally made to the public forum but by then the invasion of Iraq was already well underway. And the press were much more interested in the war footage. 
Had this information emerged before or even just after the 911 attacks, history might well have taken a different course. 

We shall never know. Cheney on his own volition decided that the Congress and the public didn't need to know everything.

By 2007, most people weren't buying the Bush rationale for the invasion. This doubt was confirmed by none other than Alan Greenspan,  an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  
As reported by the UK Guardian in September 2007, Greenspan said that he believed that the invasion of Iraq was aimed at protecting Middle East oil reserves:
"I thought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the excuse was utterly beside the point."
In an interview, Mr. Greenspan said that
it was clear to him that Saddam Hussein had wanted to control the Straits of Hormuz and so control Middle East oil shipments through the vital route out of the Gulf. He said that had Saddam been able to do that it would have been "devastating to the west" as the former Iraqi president could have just shut off 5m barrels a day and brought "the industrial world to its knees".
The national security issue was a camouflage and fooled only the most naive. The true motive was oil for the profit of oil industry, who happened to be friends of Cheney and heavy funders of the Republican campaigns. 

The end result of the lies? 
The American public and Congress were talked into an illegal war that resulted in nearly bankrupting the richest nation in the world, destabilized the entire region, and left nearly half a million people dead.
 *   *   *   *
So here we are with Congressman Trey Gowdy complaining that the Obama Administration and Clinton's office are purposefully delaying divulging documents. Before that, he and Darrell Issa were implied with no evidence that Hillary's incompetence was responsible for the deaths of the consulate staff in Libya. 

Today the Republican party is all about demanding absolute openness from the White House and getting the truth out to the American people. 
Isn't it fair to ask: where was all this Republican outrage when Vice President Cheney was diligently stamping his possibly incriminating documents with his own private classification? 

Where was this attitude when he was using every legal means to keep Congress out of his business. And most importantly, didn't the American public deserve to know what Cheney and his oil industry friends were discussing months before the invasion of Iraq?

In 2013, in an effort to justify the Benghazi investigations, Gowdy attempted to shame reporters:
Congress is supposed to provide oversight, the voters are supposed to provide oversight. And you [the media] were supposed to provide oversight. That’s why you have special liberties and that’s why you have special protections.
Ten years before that, Republicans thought very differently about oversight. They were making excuses for a vice president who had arrogantly thought he was above all oversight by Congress, by other government agencies, by the press, and by the American people.