Step Away From That Shredder …

The AP, via FDL:

“Dick Cheney’s lawyers are asserting that the vice president alone has the authority to determine which records, if any, from his tenure will be handed over to the National Archives when he leaves office in January. (…)

“The vice president alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained, managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law,” according to a court filing by Cheney’s office with the U.S. District Court on Dec. 8.

Cheney is being sued by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group that is trying to ensure that no presidential records are destroyed or handled in a way that makes them unavailable to the public.

The 1978 Presidential Records Act requires all presidential and vice presidential records to be transferred to the National Archives immediately upon the end of the president’s last term of office and gives the archivist responsibility to preserve and control access to presidential records. The law ended the tradition of private ownership of presidential papers, opening White House records to the public and historians. (…)

But the law is unclear on how disagreements will be decided about the preservation of disputed records, said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists.

“Decisions that are made in the next couple of weeks may prove irrevocable. If records are held from the archivist now they may never be recovered,” Aftergood said.

A judge in September ordered Cheney to preserve all his records while the suit continued.”

Someone needs to make sure that Cheney carries out that order. Cheney is exactly the sort of person who could decide to shred his documents and say to a judge: Go ahead, hold me in contempt. I dare you.

If he is not prosecuted, that will be bad enough. But if he destroys the record of his time in office, then we may never learn what he was actually up to when he claimed to be serving us, at our expense. A crucial part of the record of how our government was systematically perverted will be lost, and we will not be able to learn from it how to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. We cannot let that happen. Too much depends on it.