CHENEY’S ‘REMARKABLE’ ARGUMENT….Over the summer, Dick Cheney solidified his legendary reputation for lunacy when he and the OVP aides rationalized his opposition to executive-branch oversight rules by deciding that he’s not really part of the executive branch.

It stemmed from a bizarre fight the White House had with the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, a fairly obscure federal office responsible for supervising the handling of classified information. After having complied with the rules in 2001 and 2002, Cheney decided he no longer wanted to cooperate, and exempted himself from ISOO oversight.

When the OVP refused to even acknowledge the agency’s requests for information, the ISOO went to the Attorney General’s office, asking if Cheney’s office had the legal authority to exempt itself from the executive branch. Alberto Gonzales not only ignored the questions, Cheney and his team responded by trying to eliminate the Information Security Oversight Office from existence.

J. William Leonard, head of the ISOO for 34 years, is stepping down now, and chatted with Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff about the ordeal. (via Spencer Ackerman)

So how did matters escalate?
The challenge arose last year when the Chicago Tribune was looking at [ISOO’s annual report] and saw the asterisk [reporting that it contained no information from OVP] and decided to follow up. And that’s when the spokesperson from the OVP made public this idea that because they have both legislative and executive functions, that requirement doesn’t apply to them…. They were saying the basic rules didn’t apply to them. I thought that was a rather remarkable position. So I wrote my letter to the Attorney General [asking for a ruling that Cheney’s office had to comply.] Then it was shortly after that there were [email] recommendations [from OVP to a National Security Council task force] to change the executive order that would effectively abolish [my] office.

Who wrote the emails?
It was David Addington.

No explanation was offered?
No. It was strike this, strike that. Anyplace you saw the words, “the director of ISOO” or “ISOO” it was struck.

What was your reaction?
I was disappointed that rather than engage on the substance of an issue, some people would resort to that…

You mean, Dick Cheney and David Addington would rather destroy a government oversight office than “engage on the substance of an issue”? They’d claim to be a fourth branch of government just to avoid compliance with a presidential executive order on handling government secrets?

You don’t say.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.