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ISOO ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO RULE ON CHENEY'S ROLE
SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 14, February 6, 2007
In an extraordinary internal challenge to the unruly Office of
the Vice President (OVP), the Information Security Oversight
Office (ISOO) has formally petitioned the Attorney General to
direct the OVP to comply with a requirement that executive
branch organizations disclose statistics on their classification
and declassification activity to ISOO.
For the last three years, Vice President Cheney's office has
refused to divulge its classification statistics to ISOO,
despite a seemingly explicit requirement that it do so. Prior
to 2002, such information had routinely been transmitted and
reported in ISOO's annual reports to the President.
The disclosure requirement appears in ISOO Directive 1 (at
section 2001.80): "Each agency that creates or handles
classified information shall report annually to the Director of
ISOO statistics related to its security classification program."
Such ISOO directives "shall be binding upon the agencies,"
President Bush wrote in Executive Order 13292 (section 5.1).
Significantly, an "agency" here means not only a
statutorily-defined executive branch agency (which would not
include the OVP), but also refers to "any other entity within
the executive branch that comes into the possession of
classified information" (which would include the OVP).
Last May, the Federation of American Scientists urged ISOO to
press for the Vice President's compliance. (SN, 05/31/06).
"Since the Office of the Vice President has publicly staked out a
position that openly defies the plain language of the executive
order, ISOO now has a responsibility to clarify the matter," we
wrote at that time. "Otherwise, every agency will feel free to
re-interpret the order in idiosyncratic and self-serving ways."
This week ISOO indicated that it was actively pursuing the
"With respect to the question you raised, I was unsuccessful in
achieving a common understanding with OVP," wrote ISOO director
J. William Leonard in a February 5 email message.
"Accordingly, in early January, pursuant to section 6.2(b),
Executive Order 12958, as amended, I wrote the Attorney General
requesting that he render an interpretation on the issue," he
(Section 6.2(b) of the executive order states that "The Attorney
General, upon request by the head of an agency or the Director
of the Information Security Oversight Office, shall render an
interpretation of this order with respect to any question
arising in the course of its administration.")
"I have not received a reply to this request as of yet," Mr.
He declined to provide a copy of his January letter to the
Attorney General, explaining that it is pre-decisional.
The Justice Department has been asked at least once before to
resolve a dispute over implementation of the executive order on
In 1999, the Central Intelligence Agency refused to accept the
jurisdiction of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals
Panel over Agency classification activity. But the Justice
Department Office of Legal Counsel issued a ruling in October
1999 that the CIA classification decisions were indeed subject
to ISCAP review. That state of affairs was modified by
President Bush in 2003, when he effectively gave the Director of
Central Intelligence a veto over ISCAP decisions.