« Nir Rosen on CNN - 24 June, 2007 | Main | "Jefferson might not agree.." Peter Principle »

27 June 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

robt willmann

Col. Lang,

The fourth and fifth paragraphs of your discussion above about the article from the Nation magazine describe it well.

I wrote a comment, but I think it's much too long.

So I'll just say that I am concerned that the autocratic moves by the federal government will continue. The Psychological Warfare Operation (PsyOp) against the American people that began in earnest on 11 September 2001 was stunningly successful. The temptation to repeat it will be almost irresistible.

Congress has passed laws that have vested nearly totalitarian authority in the executive branch. This is extremely dangerous, because now the executive branch can do things that previously were illegal and harmful, and say they are "legal".

Congress and the mass media are just as much to blame as Bush-Cheney.

But the now-oppressive federal system, run by only a few persons and helped by some in the private sector, is remarkably weak, because it depends totally on the cooperation of the many.

Without our continued cooperation and consent, Bush-Cheney would have zero power. The former East Germany, a sophisticated surveillance and totalitarian State, collapsed almost from one day to the next. The once-feared Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, East Germany's Department of Homeland Security, suddenly found himself being mocked and laughed at by a crowd of people who decided to withdraw their consent and, without violence, took his so-called "power" away.

At such time as enough people inside or outside, or both, of what is called the federal system decide no longer to cooperate with Bush-Cheney and the insidious expansion of the central government, without regard to elections in 2008, and withdraw their consent, it will be over.


Aziz Huq's article -- while certainly informative -- may miss an angle of analysis, and it is one that I would like to offer for consideration. Huq refers to Executive Order 12958, and rightly so, as this executive order creates a "uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information", to quote from Rep. Waxman's recent letter to Vice President Cheney. In this letter, Rep. Waxman wanted to know why the VP’s office had not complied with requests from the Oversight Office to conduct an inspection in accordance with the executive order.

But to understand the rise of the Imperial Vice Presidency, it may help to delve deeper into the background of this executive order and, more importantly, to look at Executive Order 13292, which amended the one to which Huq and others refer.

Former President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12958 in 1995 and the purpose of the order was to create more transparency in government. The system that resulted not only made the classification of documents more difficult but also ensured that the declassification of information was much easier. And it worked. In the first five years, this executive order led to the declassification of over 800 million pages of records. http://www.freedomofinfo.org/foi/podesta_transcript.pdf

Eight years later -- and five days after the beginning of the Iraq Invasion on March 20, 2003 -- President Bush signed Executive Order 13292 which amended 12958, and the changes are stunning. Look for yourself and contrast the two. I suggest examining the final line-in / line-out version of Executive Order 13292, showing the changes made to the earlier EO 12958. http://www.fas.org/sgp/bush/eo13292inout.html

The first paragraph alone shows a glimpse of the spirit underlying the new executive order as it strikes earlier language from 1995. The earlier EO stated that US national interest requires that certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect, among other things, our "participation with a community of nations". In the new executive order it is now "interaction with other nations."

More than anything else, EO 13292 offers indisputable proof -- or if you prefer, is the "smoking gun" -- showing that the Vice President's Office assumed executive duties traditionally reserved to the US President. As Section 1.3 (a) (1) makes plain for all of history, the authority to classify information was expanded to include the US Vice President, acting "in the performance of executive duties".

"In the performance of executive duties". If you take the time to review EO 13292, you will see the phrase "in the performance of executive duties" six times, by my count. Each time the phrase is employed, it acts to expand the powers of the Vice President and give him authority which did not exist in the earlier order. To further illuminate this point, look at Section 6.1 (cc) where "original classification authority" is defined as an individual authorized to classify information in writing, including by, among others, the "Vice President in the performance of executive duties".

Once the VP and his office were granted the authority and power to classify documents relating to national defense, then essentially the role of commander-in-chief no longer belonged to the US President solely. After all, if Vice President Cheney has the authority to classify information, then he can call the shots. And just as significantly, the executive order was signed only few days after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began on March 20, 2003. So clearly the intent of this executive order, among other things, was to transfer more power to the Office of the Vice President and, ultimately, the chief operator himself -- VP Cheney. In other words, the executive order was the mechanism that allowed presidential powers to flow into the Office of the Vice President in ways never seen before.

Here's what's strange. Rep. Waxman and others appear, at least ostensibly, to want the VP's Office to comply with the oversight provisions of the EO in order to determine why certain information was declassified or "leaked". In particular, Rep. Waxman's mentions the disclosure of Valerie Plame in his letter to the Cheney. http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?p=507

But the real need for compliance by the Vice President's Office, at least in my opinion, is not to determine why the office has leaked some information but, instead, to determine if the office was warranted in classifying information. Addington's refusal to comply with the demands of the Information Security Oversight Office suggests that the Vice President does not want the public to know the information -- or lies -- that led to the invasion and the prosecution of the war itself. The EO may shine a bright line on some dark places, so the stonewalling and legal gymnastics have begun.

In all likelihood, the issue will end up in our justice system. In January 07, the Information Security Oversight Office requested that the US Attorney General render an advisory opinion as to whether or not the VP's Office had to comply with the requests for inspection. The USDOJ never responded. And it is interesting to note the VP Office did comply with the inspections in the years prior to the Iraqi invasion. But after the invasion...nada.

So the courts will weigh in. It is perhaps relevant at this point to mention the work of Roberto Unger. Unger -- a social theorist and law professor at Harvard Law School -- studied the judicial system that existed during the time of the Weimar Republic. In his book Law in Modern Society, he concluded that the inability of the courts to justify the status quo created a breakdown in the German society, and this disintegration of justice opened the floodgates that gave rise to Nazism.

"In the performance of executive duties." The devil is in the details.

Cold War Zoomie

"At such time as enough people inside or outside, or both, of what is called the federal system decide no longer to cooperate with Bush-Cheney and the insidious expansion of the central government...it will be over."

You touch on something I've been wondering about for a long time, robt willmann.

At some point policy must be implemented. That means worker bees in the civil service and military do the work. For any of you unfamiliar with civil service "rank," the top folks are the Senior Executive Service (SES) and below them are GS-15s down to GS-1s. The SESs and GS-15s are going to get the implementation ball rolling.

I've been hoping for years that these folks are providing some sanity check and firewall. My hunch is that we'll start hearing more from them after 2009 once their political appointee minders are gone. The civil service workers are the *constant* in the equation.

Colonel, these were your cohorts. What's your thought on the SESs and GS-15s who have been dealing with this administration for the last 6 years? Have they been providing some checks and balances of their own? Are my hopes all for naught?

For a lighthearted view of how the civil service actually runs the government regardless of who is elected, I recommend the "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" programs produced by the BBC in the 1980s. I can't attest for the series' accuracy, but it is definitely funny.

Yes (Prime) Minister


MarcLord: Paul Wolfowitz used the phrase "a Pearl Harbor-like event" three months before 9/11 during his commencement address to the graduating West Point class.

That would be 2001.

Pls note though, that _Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New century_, published in 2000 as a report of The Project for the New American Century, also uses "Pearl Harbor" in the same context:

p. 63:

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.


I wonder what will be Bush-Cheney's display of the iron fist of totalitarianism within their velvet glove of merely finagling the Constitution. With King Charles I of England it was when he sent armed soldiers into Parliament to arrest 5 members of the House of Commons and 1 member of the House of Lords. These worthies had the good sense not to be there at the time, so the King achieved nothing besides demonstrating that the time for words was past--now was the time for action.

The good Colonel may be interested in this anecdote. A group of people were touring one of the stately historic homes of Virginia with a very knowledgeable guide. She was giving them the history of the house when she happened to mention "the Civil War." This prompted an Englishman in the group to ask, "Which side was Virginia on in the Civil War?"

The guide replied heatedly, "Why Sir, Virginia was the heart and soul of the Confederacy!"

The Englishman replied, "No, I meant which side was Virginia on in the ENGLISH Civil War of the 1640s?"

That one completely stumped her.

Stephen Calhoun

With great respects to the expert company here, I'd like to contribute inexpert comments.

1. Should the shoes shift next year to the Democrat's 'foot,' I'd wonder if the Repubicans would be moved to support unitary claims by Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama or John Edwards. ...a thought problem.

2. No matter what the candidate's affiliation, each one should be asked what their personal views are on the radical prerogatives so introduced--and implemented--by the current administration.

3. I have to wonder how those radical gains could be consolidated in a handoff to a similarly disposed successor. It's almost as if Mr. Cheney doesn't really think there will be a handoff to any other kind of leadership.

(And, I'm not a conspiracy type at all, but giving up power is provided for except in what kinds of circumstances?)

Thank you Mr. Lang and to all the other Patriots here.

Eric Dönges


you write "America: the heartland that gave the men and women that defeated the Third Reich.". Bullshit. The Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union, at a cost the U.S. would not have been prepared to pay. Had the bulk of the German army not been bled dry in the East, no U.S. soldier would have set foot on mainland Europe (and the North Africa campaign would have likely ended in a total American disaster). What the U.S. did do is keep the Soviets from claiming all of Europe as their reward after WWII - for which this European at least is gratefull (though my gratitude does not mean I consider myself or my country an American vassal, as the current administration seems to expect of me).

Leigh and Colonel Lang,

to me the key differences between Queen Elisabeth II and GWB are that the Queen has been diligently attending to her duties ever since becoming Queen, is smart enough to know when to speak and when to be silent, and generally shows the kind of dignified behaviour considered fitting for a head of state.


Speaking of Cheney, observe how he/the US turned a blind eye to the Iraqi opposition groups (fundamentalist Shiites, e.g. al-Da'wa, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and think about why the Iraqi Paliament vis-a-vis Maliki has been able to sustain a stiffened middle finger aimed squarely at Cheney's/the US fat bald head:

1) Bush warns Iraq on chemical arms U.S. fears use of weapons against rebels. Chicago Tribune. March 10, 1991 [snip]

Jawad al-Maliki of the Dawa Party said in Damascus, Syria, that mustard gas was used against protesters in al-Haleh, al-Kifil, Najaf and some areas of Basra, in southeastern Iraq.

Precisely what is going on inside Iraq is difficult to determine since Western reporters have been expelled. Most information is coming from refugees and opposition leaders in Iran and Syria.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney described the situation as "volatile" but said it appears Hussein will be able to keep the unrest in check for now.

The Iraqi leader is using his loyal Republican Guard to quell the

2) Iraq Warned on Using Gas. Newsday. March 10, 1991 [snip]

An exiled Shiite Iraqi opposition figure, Jawad al-Maliki, said in
Damascus that mustard gas had already been used to kill hundreds of rebellious civilians, mostly in southern Iraq. But Pentagon officials said they were skeptical.

3) U.S. Feels Out Iran Groups Trying to Oust Iraqi Leader. Wall Street Journal. July 31, 1998 [snip]

Hamad Al-Bayati, a Sciri representative in London, says his group doesn't want U.S. funds, and, "We have doubts about the seriousness of the administration."

Dr. Al-Bayati, who met with Mr. Indyk last month in Washington, says the U.S. should crack down on Iraqi human-rights violations as hard as it cracks down on Iraq's weapons programs.

For example, he says, when two Shiite religious leaders were assassinated in southern Iraq, the U.S. was silent.

A State Department official says the U.S. had prepared a condemnation, but the issue never came up in news briefings.

4) Iraqi Shi'i Opposition Leader Visits Syria and Lebanon, Praises
Kuwaiti Support BBC. February 27, 2000 [snip]

Hakim, meanwhile, criticized the American plan to remove Saddam Husayn
from power.

"This plan is vague and lacks support to thefield issue," he said.

The plan, said Hakim, did not considerthe protection of the Iraqi
people, the opposition operationsnor the field and practical issues.

He said the Iraqi people were doing "a wide and active" operations but they were facing relentless oppression.

"Among the obstacles facing the Iraqi people to remove their regime is the international position which does not care with the humanitarian side, oppression and the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Keywords: Iraq, President Saddam Hussein, Cheney, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Jawad al-Maliki, Maliki, Da'wa, al-Dawa, Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Haleh, al-Kifil, Najaf, Iraqi Shi'i



Thanks, yes thanks for reminding me. They knew it as a requirement for mobilization since the early 90s.



Stephen Calhoun said: "3. I have to wonder how those radical gains could be consolidated in a handoff to a similarly disposed successor. It's almost as if Mr. Cheney doesn't really think there will be a handoff to any other kind of leadership."

I don't think it was Cheney's goal to permanently establish an impenetrable unitary executive. It is as if he's performed the ultimate Daffy Duck trick where Daffy swallows the gasoline, lights the match, and says, 'but you can only do this once.' This is from the last part of an article about his absolute control of Bush:

"Despite the recent round of punditry that Cheney's influence has waned, he remains a formidable force. These are Cheney's final days; this is his endgame. He will never run again for public office. He is freed from the constraints of political consequences. He now has no horizon. He lives only in the present. He is nearly done. There are only months left to achieve his goals. Mortality impinges. Next month, he will have his heart pacemaker replaced. He disdains public opinion. He does not care who's next. "We didn't get elected to be popular," he said on Fox News on May 10. "We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party." "


Serving Patriot

Cold War Zoomie,

You write about the govt bureaucrats who actually run things ("SESs and GS-15s are going to get the implementation ball rolling") and why they are not apparently helping stop/slow this seemingly inevitable slide towards monarchy.

May I offer a solution? This administration has taken political appointments into the SES ranks to an unprecedented level (just like every thing else they do). For instance, nearly every (if not all) DOD deputy and assistant secretaries (including at the service levels) were made into political appointee SESs (vice professional, career govt executives). These dogmatic (dare I say beholden?) officials proceeded to enforce political mandates against the advice (and sometime with the collusion of silent cheerleaders in senior GS ranks) of long-term govt professionals. Similar story at State Dept, Intel community, Justice (need we say more about that politicization?) and every other dept of the Executive Branch.

Those professionals not forced out directly work in an exceedingly hostile environment - not to mention under the gaze of minders spread out in the Exec Branch who work for the OVP. Many, many long serving government professionals found themselves on the outside looking in; worse yet, many found themselves serving those clearly inferior in intellect, experience, integrity and dedication to govt service (CPA ring a bell?). Many of them simply had enough and left (forever) for greener pastures of industry and retirement.

Any wonder we are where we are? I wonder how we are not further down the road to an oblivious authoritarian state!

Now that the "elected" reign is fast approaching its end, the watchers ponder the long-term impact and whether the professionals will ever rise again. A recent article in Govt Exec journal discusses this issue:

I just hope that "civil service workers" remain "the *constant* in the equation" over the next few years. It is not so clear that they will be the salvation of our Republic.



There's an interesting story about the Free City of Danzig, which was set up by the Treaty of Versailles after WWI. Danzig was given this peculiar status because it was predominantly German, while constituting Polands only port. So the 357,000 inhabitants were given their own government on Jan. 10, 1920. A British diplomat, Sir Reginald Tower, was appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for the new government to get things started. But the experienced and efficient German civil servants in the city simply adapted to the new regime and administered the city so well that there was little for Tower to do except negotiate the Convention on the relationship between Poland and the Free City, which proved to be a real headache.


John Dean brandishes a constitutional sword at the Office of VP.

Cold War Zoomie


Thanks for your response. That makes sense. I thought these SESs were promoted mostly from the GS-15 ranks rather than "appointed" although I have known a few to be brought over from the high tech industry. But those guys seemed to be there more for their skills than their politics.


Who remembers this:

"CHENEY: Well, we're getting close to that moment. Governor Bush, at this point, still prefers Governor Bush, and that's the way we're referring to him and that he's asked the staff to address him. We have not yet crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, to the point where we feel comfortable using the other title.

By the way, did you notice the feather in Trent's hat yesterday? "


This was an astonishing thing to say in the context of that grotesque election and its aftermath.

Not sure if this MTP program aired before or after Bush was trotted out with a battered face to give the Texas press conference in which he used the word "responsibility" over and over and over and over. Cheney stood on his right side slightly behind and when Dubya faltered he moved slightly closer. At the time it seemed more menacing than supportive.

The collective memory problem may be related to our mass [media-induced] ADD. Both are aggravated by information overload and the habitual suspension of disbelief.

Anybody have a map showing the Rubicon? Where exactly is it and does it by any chance have an oxbow?

W. Patrick Lang


SESs come in two types, career and politically appointed. These are distinct from political appontees under the various schedules. The politically appointed SESs are supposed to leave when their "masters" leave office, but part of the program for partisan survival of the period when your group is out of office its to "burrow" a number of politicals into the career SES force where they are harder to get rid of by the incoming party and they can act as a kind" of "5th column" until "the return."

I was a career SES in the intelligence series but had never been a civil servant before that. I was appointed when I retired from the Army. pl

Martin K

Laugh out loud, as a representative for the younger generation, y´all sound like you need to put on a skimask and hurl some bricks at inanimate objects as therapy. I feel like doing it myself now and then.

Cheney is like a nightmare, an evil vision across humanitys future. Cheney is defacto minister of black ops, now that is a position taken straight out of El Salvador. Negroponte, Wolfowitz, the merry deathsquad crew..


By the way, what is Cheney’s Borg Identity? FUtus of Borg. In Borg lore FUtus is often depicted as offering the Borg symbol of unity to the masses.

Who else in the administration has a Borg identity? Why there’s Alberto Gonzalez whose Borg identity is Refutus which means: It’s not my fault.

What about Bush himself? He is known as BigDoofus of Borg. Well actually BigDoofus of half wit because the Borg refused to give Bush a Borg identity. Even the Borg failed to find a brain in that head. Since they could find no brain, the Borg implants failed to take root in BigDoofus of halfwit. Nevertheless, the Borg in an uncharacteristic show of compassion allowed Bush to glue “falsies”—fake Borg implants onto his person after he let it be known that he thought Borg implants “looked cool.”

Note there are other Borg identities out there.

Rush is known as BigGlutus of Borg.

Ann is known as ShrillShrewtus of Borg.

All of those senators who are crying over their recent losses in the immigration battles are collectively known as BooHootus of Borg.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad