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Context of 'December 19, 2007: Fire Breaks Out in Cheney’s Office'

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National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is escorted toward the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the White House, by Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 11/1/2001; Felix, 2002, pp. 227] Rice was in the White House Situation Room when the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m., according to her own later recollections, and had subsequently looked up and seen the television footage of the burning building. [White House, 11/1/2001; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii]
Rice Told She Must Go to the PEOC - “[T]he picture had just come up on television of the plane lodged in the side of the Pentagon,” Rice will recall. “And no one had told me. I literally turned and looked at the picture and saw it.” She will say: “And then there were incoming reports that there had been a car bomb at the State Department, that there was a large fire on the Mall near the Washington Monument, and [I was] just trying to sort through the information when a Secret Service agent [i.e. Truscott] came and said: ‘You have to go to the bunker. The vice president is already there. There may be planes heading for the White House.’” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Rice will say Truscott is “quite firm” when he talks to her. [White House, 8/7/2002]
Secret Service Agent Is Heading to the PEOC from Nearby Building - Truscott has just come from his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, where he was meeting with other Secret Service agents to discuss security matters. One issue the agents discussed was providing protection for Rice (see (9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During the meeting, Truscott learned that a suspicious aircraft was flying toward Washington, DC (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and instructed a “security representative” to evacuate the White House. He then left his office and headed toward the PEOC, meeting Rice on his way there. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]
Rice Is 'Pushed Along' toward the PEOC - Rice briefly talks on the phone with President Bush and warns him not to return to Washington before she leaves the Situation Room (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Felix, 2002, pp. 227; White House, 8/2/2002; White House, 8/6/2002] She is then escorted down toward the PEOC. [White House, 11/1/2001] She will recall being “pushed along” the corridors by Truscott as she heads there. [White House, 8/2/2002] Truscott and Rice will encounter Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC, and then enter the PEOC shortly before 10:00 a.m. (see (Shortly Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii] White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will contradict Rice’s account, however, indicating that Rice headed to the PEOC significantly earlier, roughly around 9:15 a.m. (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 3-4]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Carl Truscott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney unilaterally exempts his office from Executive Order 12958, which established government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. [White House, 4/17/1995; Congress Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, 6/21/2007] It was amended by President Bush’s Executive Order 13292 (see March 25, 2003) to require that all agencies or “any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information” regularly report on their activities to the Information Security Oversight Office. [White House, 3/25/2003]
Vice President Not Part of Executive Branch, Cheney Argues - Cheney’s argument is that the vice president’s office is not part of the executive branch, and therefore has no legal obligation to report on its classification decisions as mandated by the order. Cheney justifies his position by noting that the vice president has a role in both the executive and legislative branches—the vice president is also president of the Senate—and the vice president’s office is not an agency. In May 2006, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride will say, “This has been thoroughly reviewed and it’s been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to [the office of the vice president], which has both legislative and executive functions.” (McBride does not say who reviewed the claim.)
Criticism - Others, such as government secrecy expert Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, disagree. “It undermines oversight of the classification system and reveals a disdain for presidential authority,” he says. “It’s part of a larger picture of disrespect that this vice president has shown for the norms of oversight and accountability.” Around 80 agencies and entities must report annually to the National Archives; besides the Office of the Vice President, only the president’s Homeland Security Council and the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board have as yet failed to report on their activities. Aftergood will say: “Somebody made a decision that they don’t want to do what they used to do.… They have to explain why they stopped doing it, and they haven’t done that.” [ABC News, 6/21/2007] Law professor Garrett Epps observes: “The vice president is saying he doesn’t have to follow the orders of the president. That’s a very interesting proposition.” And Judicial Watch’s Paul Orfanedes says Cheney’s claim “seems most disingenuous.” [Cox News Service, 6/21/2007]
Retaliation For Attempt To Force Compliance - The National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) will attempt in 2004 to conduct an inspection of Cheney’s offices pursuant to the executive order; Cheney’s staff will block the inspection, the first time since the ISOO’s inception in 1978 that one of its inspections has been thwarted. The National Archives will protest Cheney’s decision (see June 8, 2006 and January 9, 2007); Cheney will respond by attempting to abolish the ISOO (see May 29, 2007-June 7, 2007). [Henry A. Waxman, 6/21/2007 pdf file; ABC News, 6/21/2007] In June 2007, President Bush will announce that he never intended for either his or Cheney’s office to have to comply with the directive. [USA Today, 6/24/2007; Newsweek, 12/27/2007]
Issue Nothing More Than 'Kerfuffle' - In December 2007, Cheney will call the entire issue a “kerfuffle… is he or isn’t he; is he part of the executive branch, part of the legislative branch? And the answer really is, you’ve got a foot in both camps. I obviously work for the president. That’s why I’m sitting here in the West Wing of the White House. But I also have a role to play in the Congress as the president of the Senate. I actually get paid—that’s where my paycheck comes from, is the Senate. So I try to keep lines open to both sides of the Congress, both the House and the Senate.” [White House, 12/6/2007] However, Cheney sometimes asserts executive privilege, a function of the executive branch (see June 26, 2007 and June 29, 2007).

Entity Tags: Information Security Oversight Office, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, National Archives and Records Administration, Homeland Security Advisory Council, Lea Anne McBride, George W. Bush, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Garrett Epps, Steven Aftergood, Office of the Vice President, Paul Orfanedes

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Three Democratic congressmen ask Vice President Dick Cheney to testify in the upcoming trial of his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, even as Libby pled not guilty to five felony counts stemming from the Plame Wilson CIA identity leak investigation (see November 3, 2005). Henry Waxman (D-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), and John Conyers (D-MI) send a letter to Cheney asking why Cheney’s office gathered information on Valerie Plame Wilson in 2003, whether Cheney directed Libby to leak Plame Wilson’s name to reporters, and whether Cheney knew Libby was leaking that information. “[T]here are many wide-ranging questions about your involvement,” they write. The three congressmen also ask more general questions, such as if Cheney knew the administration’s claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger were false even as the White House was using those claims to justify its war with Iraq. Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride says that Cheney will cooperate with the Justice Department as the criminal investigation of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald moves forward. Cheney and other White House officials could be called to testify if Libby goes to trial. [Associated Press, 11/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Bush administration (43), Henry A. Waxman, Lea Anne McBride, Maurice Hinchey, US Department of Justice, John Conyers, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

A fire erupts in Vice President Dick Cheney’s ceremonial offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building while White House press secretary Dana Perino is answering questions about the destruction of CIA interrogation videos, at approximately 9:15 in the morning, next door at the White House. White House spokesperson Emily Lawrimore says she is unaware of any documents or artwork lost in the fire. DC fire department spokesman Alan Etter says that smoke came from an electrical closet on the second floor, which may have been the location of the fire’s cause. Perino says the fire may have originated in the electrical closet or a phone bank. The vice president’s working office is located in the West Wing of the White House, whereas the Eisenhower Executive Office Building houses the Office of Management and Budget, staff of the National Security Council, other agencies, and the ceremonial offices of the vice president. The adjacent office of the vice president’s political director Amy Whitelaw is heavily damaged in the fire, according to Cheney spokesperson Lea Anne McBride. [CBS News, 12/19/2007; Associated Press, 12/19/2007; Los Angeles Times, 12/20/2007]

Entity Tags: Eisenhower Executive Offices Building, Alan Etter, Amy Whitelaw, Dana Perino, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, White House, Emily Lawrimore, Lea Anne McBride, DC Fire and Emergency Department

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

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