THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't believe I've ever talked about the unitary executive. Others may have suggested that I talked about that.- sounds like he cut and run, doesn't it?
But I clearly do believe, and have spoken directly about the importance of a strong presidency, and that I think there have been times in the past, oftentimes in response to events such as Watergate or the war in Vietnam, where Congress has begun to encroach upon the powers and responsibilities of the President; that it was important to go back and try to restore that balance.
I participated in the Iran-Contra investigation in the Congress. For those of you who are bored and don't have anything else to do, there are minority views we filed with that report that lay out a view with respect to how we think the balance ought to exist between the executive and the legislative in the conduct of national security policy. So I do believe there is a -- it's very important to have a strong executive.
What are the limits? The limits are the Constitution. And, certainly, we need to and do adhere to those limitations. But I think if you look at things like the War Powers Act, for example, adopted in the aftermath of the Vietnam conflict, that that was an infringement on the President's ability to deploy troops. It's never really been tested. I think it's probably unconstitutional. There are a series of events like that that we believed needed to have the balance righted, if you will, and I think we've done that successfully.
Q This comes as no surprise, this being a press club, I do have several press questions for you. The Bush administration worries that disclosures of classified information may have damaged national security. Can you cite a time in U.S. history when a press disclosure has genuinely damaged national security?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I do believe that there need to be secrets. I think there are things that the federal government does in the national security arena that need to be off limits. And I think the fact of the matter is that there have been stories written that are damaging, if you will, from the standpoint of national security.
I would -- obviously, I can't get into any operational details. One of the frustrations that exist with this debate is that you cannot go out and talk about current operations with the press in order to try to explain to everybody why that particular piece of information needs to say secret.
Let me just say that there have been examples that I am aware of where we've had discussions of ways in which al Qaeda communicates, for example, and because of those conversations they no longer communicate that way, and we've lost the ability in some cases to be able to intercept important communications.
I can think of one situation recently that had to do with a story that appeared in one of our major newspapers. It dealt with certain technical countermeasures that we were considering with respect to how we would deal with a certain type of a problem. And within five days of the publication of that story, there were posted ways to deal with that and to neutralize our activities on one of the jihadist websites. That was about five days from publication in a major U.S. news outlet until it was on a jihadist website -- advice, in effect, on how to counter what our military wanted to do in a particular area.
Now that strikes me as a pretty straightforward, direct example of why it is important that there be secrets. I think oftentimes in the past, there's no question, the executive branch has probably overdone it with respect to classification. On the other hand, the assumption on the part of some of the press that it doesn't matter if it's classified, they have every right to print absolutely anything they want, and they are the final judges, I think that's a mistake.
I think if somebody is asked by the -- say, the President of the United States or a senior administration official who is in a position of authority and has some knowledge in the area to withhold on a particular story, they need to give that serious thought. And I think that we are -- one of the problems we have is that oftentimes as a government we're perceived by other governments overseas, people we have to work with, intelligence services who need to have confidence in our ability to keep a secret, find it difficult to work with us because the United States has oftentimes demonstrated an inability to maintain the security of classified information. So it's the problem.
Q Mr. Vice President, I've been advised by your staff that you need to cut the program off early. So I wanted to ask a final question to you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Why is that? (Laughter.) Something is going on I don't know about. (Laughter.) Or maybe the President is watching.
Q I hope he's not watching, because of this question. (Laughter.) President Bush will be 60 on July 6th. What gift do you plan to give him?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Maybe a shotgun? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He's got one already. What gift do I plan to give him. Well, we usually don't exchange birthday presidents, we exchange Christmas presents. And I'd have to give serious thought. It's probably -- it's one of those things that need to be secret. (Laughter and applause.)
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Why Do You Suppose The Veep's Staff Cut Off The Q & A Just As the Questions Were Getting Good? Did The Big Dick Cheney Cut And Run?
Just yesterday, the Big Dick Cheney actually took some questions and provided answers, but the session got cut off just as the questions were getting tougher: