No Comment — January 22, 2008, 8:26 am

The Emails that Dick Cheney Deleted

Late last week, right after official White House spokesmen made a series of either evasive or completely false statements about the mysterious case of the vanishing, then reappearing, then perhaps no really vanished White House emails, Henry Waxman and his Oversight Committee announced some of the conclusions they had reached. Dan Eggen and Elizabeth Williamson published an account of it on Friday in the Washington Post:

The White House possesses no archived e-mail messages for many of its component offices, including the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, for hundreds of days between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by a congressional Democrat.
The 2005 study — whose credibility the White House attacked this week — identified 473 separate days in which no electronic messages were stored for one or more White House offices, said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

Waxman said he decided to release the summary after White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday that there is “no evidence” that any White House e-mails from those years are missing. Fratto’s assertion “seems to be an unsubstantiated statement that has no relation to the facts they have shared with us,” Waxman said. The competing claims were the latest salvos in an escalating dispute over whether the Bush administration has complied with long-standing statutory requirements to preserve official White House records — including those reflecting potentially sensitive policy discussions — for history and in case of any future legal demands.

Waxman said he is seeking testimony on the issue at a hearing next month from White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, National Archivist Allen Weinstein and Alan R. Swendiman, the politically appointed director of the Office of Administration, which produced the 2005 study at issue.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has now posted a series of studies to help us zero in on just what’s missing. It will come as no surprise to most that the big offender is the man at the center of the most virulent scandals, and the missing email traffic relates just to those dates in which a federal prosecutor would have the most interest. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office destroyed its emails, in violation of the requirements of the federal records act and potentially criminal law, for the following days:

September 12, 2003: The day on which the headlines in the New York Times read “federal appeals court in Washington yesterday rejected the Bush administration’s effort to avoid releasing documents about Vice President Cheney Energy Task Force.”

October 1, 2003: The day on which the Solicitor General argued to the Supreme Court that Vice President Cheney was entitled to keep all the details concerning his meetings with oil executives and their influence in his formulation of national energy policy confidential, including the names of the participants.

October 2, 2003: The day on which senior Congressional Republicans began a rewrite of key energy legislation behind closed doors and without involvement of Democrats—but potentially with the involvement of Vice President Cheney and oil executives involved in his secret energy task force.

October 3, 2003: The Senate approved a requirement that all future contracts to rebuild Iraq be granted on an open and competitive basis after airing open criticism on the closed and controversial process that resulted in multi-billion dollar noncompetitive contract awards to subsidiaries of Halliburton, the company which Vice President Cheney headed before he assumed office, and from which, under a deferred compensation agreement, he continues to receive more compensation than he receives from the Treasury for his services as vice president.

October 5, 2003: Publication of the findings of a task force studying the development of the Iraqi oil industry and its potential for funding the costs of the occupation of Iraq.

January 29, 2004: David A. Kay, the former chief American weapons inspector in Iraq, called for an independent inquiry into pre-war intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs as skepticism about the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD grows.

January 30, 2004: President Bush opposes an independent investigation of intelligence failures surrounding Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction stockpiles despite increasing demands for one by some U.S. lawmakers.

January 31, 2004: Press reports focus on building speculation that an independent commission will be created to look into the White House’s basis for claims that Iraq had WMDs, accusations which were consistently led by Vice President Cheney.

February 15, 2005: Citing the threat exemplified by 9/11, President Bush urges Congress to re-authorize the Patriot Act.

February 16, 2005: An appeals court orders that two reporters who have refused to testify about their conversations with confidential sources regarding the leak that exposed the identification of CIA agent Valerie Plame should be held in contempt. It would later be revealed that both had conversations with members of Vice President Cheney’s staff.

May 23, 2005: Calls mount for the resignation of Tom Delay pending the outcome of an investigation into ethical violations. The Congressional and criminal investigation into Jack Abramoff widens to include long-time associate and fellow architect of the Republican takeover of the capital, Grover Norquist. The White House continues to obstruct efforts to identify who Abramoff saw in his hundreds of visits to the White House.

The missing Cheney emails fit a pattern that suggests intentional rather than accidental destruction. They all occur on days on which, considering contemporaneous press reports, the Vice President or his staff members were in the news and would likely have been communicating on the subjects relating to the press coverage. The most persistent themes are the outing of Valerie Plame and Cheney’s secret dealings with a group of oil and gas executives who were directly influencing national energy policy. The Empty Wheel has some excellent analysis of these points.

I keep wondering: have they checked that man-sized safe in Cheney’s office? Maybe he kept some copies there.

And in the meantime, Blimp TV offers a promotional videotape for the administration’s proposed new petroleum-based coinage.

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If necessity is the stern but respectable mother of invention, then perhaps desperation is the derelict father of subterfuge. That was certainly the case when I moved to Seattle in 1979.

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