The news media is reporting a story that former Vice President Dick Cheny ordered the CIA to not inform Congress about a secret, and presumably controversial, program. While there are almost no details about what the program is, there are, nevertheless a few interesting items of note.
First and foremost, constitutionally, outside his personal staff, the vice president of the United States has no authority to order anyone to do anything. That doesn’t stop the president from delegating power to him or anyone else, and if all we are reading about is true, it demonstrates the enormous amount of trust President Bush placed in Mr. Cheney, and the disdain Mr. Cheney had for the democratic process, and for Congress. Perhaps he would say that he was protecting America’s security by withholding such information, but in the end we have to ask what sort of a government we had that he could do this and get away with it.
Supposedly, the program in question has to do with some form of surveillance. When the Director of CIA discovered the program, he reportedly terminated it immediately and reported its existence to Congress. Any such breathtaking speed within the halls of government indicates that someone didn’t want to be stained with illegal activity. And hence this calls for an immediate investigation of what the program was, who had the authority to authorize it, and if it was illegal, who had the responsibility to stop it.
And if the program was illegal, someone must go to jail, preferably multiple someones, both from the civil and appointed/elected ranks. This is important so that civil service employees can’t simply say that they were following orders, and so that current and future politicos know that they cannot get away with violating peoples’ civil rights, and that their day to face justice will come.