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Cheney role as power broker in spotlight again

Reuters | June 26, 2007
Caren Bohan

Vice President Dick Cheney was back this week in a place he intensely dislikes: the spotlight.

Cheney's penchant for secrecy and his unprecedented role within the Bush administration have dominated recent White House news briefings, drowning out discussions of everything from Iraq to immigration to the Middle East.

A newspaper series on how Cheney wields his power and his feud with an obscure record-keeping agency have stirred the latest controversies.

Cheney, a master at the Washington power game, is depicted as operating behind the scenes and pushing his hard-line views on issues such as the treatment of terrorism suspects in a four-part series in the Washington Post that began on Sunday.

The series portrays Cheney as bypassing top officials at the State Department, Justice and the National Security Council to gain the upper hand in battles over the handling of terrorism suspects at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and other issues.

"Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden 'torture' and permitted use of 'cruel and inhuman or degrading' methods of questioning," the Post said.

Cheney also is facing scathing criticism from lawmakers for refusing to comply with a record-keeping request from an office in the National Archives.

Democrats accuse the vice president of trying to cast himself as a "fourth branch of government" because of his legal argument in resisting the record-keeping request. His office told the National Archives that it was not an "entity within the executive branch."

"It comes as no surprise that the 'imperial president' and his vice president are once again trying to dodge scrutiny with a ridiculous claim that Dick Cheney is not part of the executive branch of government," said Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives leadership, proposed cutting funding for Cheney's office unless he clarifies which branch of government he is part of.

Cheney's critics have drawn a link between his resistance to providing the information and his past refusal to disclose the list of participants in his 2001 task force on energy policy.

That dispute ended up in the Supreme Court and Cheney won.

The White House has backed Cheney's insistence that he is exempt from the requirement of providing data to the archives office, although Bush's aides have stopped short of fully embracing his argument that his office is not part of the executive branch.

"I think that that is an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "I'm not opining on it."

She said, however, that the question about the nature of Cheney's office was not relevant to the flap over the record-keeping request.

The procedures for record-keeping were detailed in an executive order that Bush himself issued and the president never intended for Cheney to be covered by the reporting requirement, Perino said.


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