Remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney to the American Society of News Editors

April 9, 2003

[excerpt on secrecy/openness]


Q [Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Douglas C. Clifton]: Mr. Vice President, there's a growing perception among librarians, academicians, researchers, historians, reporters, editors, publishers, broadcasters that the Bush administration is a foe of openness in government. Is that an unfair perception? And if it is, what can you do affirmatively to change that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do think it's an unfair perception; that it's not the way I view our approach. I think the -- some people have focused on -- Rena mentioned in her introduction the work of the energy task force that I chaired two years ago. The debate has now been settled, in effect. The court has ruled in favor of the administration that we did handle it in an appropriate way. And the dispute with the GAO and the Congress on that issue has now been resolved in favor of the administration.

The issue that was involved there was simply the question of whether or not a Vice President can sit down and talk with citizens about an issue and gain from them their best advice and counsel on how we might deal with a particular issue. The charge was made that I should have to tell the Congress, specifically a Congressman, Henry Waxman of California, every time I met with somebody, on what it is they told me and what kind of advice they gave me. That was the original request.

I said, no, I didn't think that was reasonable at all. In terms of what our policy recommendations and decisions were, none of that was secret. We published a 120-page brochure, passed out thousands of copies that laid out all of our policy decisions and recommendations, so everybody knew exactly what we believed and what kinds of policies we felt we ought to pursue. But the Vice President should not have to answer any congressman and say, well, at 2:00 p.m. last Thursday I talked to Joe and here's what he recommended. That would put an absolute chill on our ability to get good advice from private citizens or anybody else. We have to be able to have those kinds of conversation.

Some people may have taken that as a, "chilling" the information process. I don't. I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the Executive Branch, the President and the Vice President, to be able to conduct their business. And as I say, now the matter has gone to court. The GAO brought suit and the federal district court has now ruled that they were wrong, and supported the administration position.

In other areas, if we talk about openness, I can't think of anything that better demonstrates our commitment to the free flow of information about very important events than this whole exercise we're in the middle of right now, with respect to imbedding the press corps with U.S. military forces.

It's now possible, in part by virtue of technology -- 12 years ago, when we did Desert Storm, we weren't able to do it. We had a very different system for handling it that was frustrating for everybody, with pool coverage on a limited basis. I mean, if we were devoted to secrecy and trying to keep information from the press, we certainly wouldn't have taken 500 or 600 of them and put them out there with the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne and the 1st Marine Division to be right there, side-by-side with our troops, all the way into Baghdad. So I don't accept the criticism, or I disagree with it, anyway.