Cheney Spies On White House Staffers

This post, written by Faiz Shakir, originally appeared on Think Progress

Today, the Washington Post unveiled the first in its lengthy four-part series on the unprecedented influence and power of the vice president.

Shortly after Bush was elected, "Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to 'every table and every meeting,' making his voice heard in 'whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in.'"

According to the article, Cheney used that influence to bypass key presidential aides and thwart any dissent about Bush's authorization of the unconstitutional military commissions to try detainees. The Post reports "almost no one" had seen the legal draft establishing the commissions, except Cheney's closest aides. Cheney then took astonishing measures to ensure that internal objections would not reach the President, even resorting to spying on White House staff:
At the White House, [White House national security lawyer John] Bellinger sent Rice a blunt -- and, he thought, private -- legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. ...
One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.
Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney's office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed "Fredo." Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department's talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.
A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney's lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.
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