For the third year in a row the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to disclose data on its classification and declassification activity, in an apparent violation of an executive order issued by President Bush.
“The Office of the Vice President (OVP), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and the Homeland Security Council (HSC) failed to report their data to ISOO this year,” the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) noted in its new 2005 Annual Report to the President (pdf) (at page 9, footnote 1).
The Office of the Vice President has declined to report such data since 2002. Yet it is clear that disclosure is not optional.
“Each agency that creates or handles classified information shall report annually to the Director of ISOO statistics related to its security classification program,” according to ISOO Directive 1 (at section 2001.80).
This and other ISOO directives “shall be binding upon the agencies,” President Bush wrote in Executive Order 13292 (section 5.1). And an “agency” is not only a statutorily defined executive branch agency, but also includes “any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.”
Despite this straightforward language, a spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney told the Chicago Tribune in April that his Office is “not under any duty” to provide the required information.
On prior refusals by the Vice President to disclose classification and declassification data, see “Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material” by Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2006.
Historically, the OVP has “not reported quantitatively significant data,” according to ISOO. So the Vice President’s current defiance of the executive order does not greatly distort the overall presentation of classification activity.
But it signals an unhealthy contempt for presidential authority and undermines the integrity of classification oversight.