On January 20 tricky Dick Cheney will execute his plan to escape Washington with records created during his tenure as vice president–unless he’s stymied by a court order. Cheney has long insisted that as president of the Senate he is not part of the executive branch. And the Bush administration has amended the Presidential Records Act (PRA)–a law passed by Congress in 1978 requiring the president and vice president to preserve and deposit their papers with the
National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA)–in a manner that may exempt Cheney from compliance.
To prevent this history heist, the
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
(CREW) filed a federal lawsuit September 8 seeking an injunction against Cheney’s intention to sequester eight years of government documents. I am one of seven plaintiffs, along with historian
Organization of American Historians,
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
, chief counsel of CREW, is our lawyer.
In addition to seeking a judgment against Cheney’s interpretation of the PRA, the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction requiring preservation of all documents pending resolution of the suit. Such a court order is needed in light of Cheney’s clear pattern of secrecy and obfuscation. In addition to being associated with the disappearance of e-mails related to the origins of the Iraq War, he has consistently refused to allow the NARA to inspect his office for compliance with classification requirements. He has also refused to provide information, as government ethics law requires, about travel funded by outside sources. He has even refused to provide Congress with a staff directory.
What is at stake is nothing less than the vitality of our democracy. After Bush and Cheney’s tenure has expired, it is the public’s right to know in a timely manner how they fulfilled their responsibilities. Their actions are not a privileged secret that they have the right to control. That is how dictatorships operate. It appears that the vice president, who purports to be the great champion of democracy abroad, cares little about sus- taining at home the openness that the democratic process requires. MARTIN SHERWIN
has confirmed to the New York Times what
revealed four years ago in
‘s HBO documentary: that
was at least peripherally involved in a secret effort to aid the Soviet Union when it was engaged in a death match with Nazi Germany. The Russians were then our allies and the Germans were our enemies. A few years later, that was no longer the case.
The sad thing is not what Sobell revealed but that he waited so long to say it. A lot of well-meaning people trusted his protestations of innocence and defended him. Imagine if he had said fifty years ago, “We came of age in the 1930s, when as Americans we suffered under the bankruptcy of capitalism and as Jews we experienced the evils of anti-Semitism. While GM was making engines for the Nazis, you bet we aided the Russians. Someone had to.” Maybe a few million GIs with vivid memories of places like the Ardennes and Arnhem wouldn’t have disagreed. Actually, the big news in the Rosenberg case was the release on September 11 of most of the grand jury minutes. They confirm that