Scholar: Cheney secrecy laying groundwork for possible 'history heist'

While they might not like to admit it, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are, at the end of the day, employees of the American people, and four generations of precedent -- not to mention US law -- require that the people be allowed to audit their performance once they leave office.

Scholars and open government advocates, though, are sounding the alarm that Cheney, perhaps the most secretive and influential vice president ever, who entered government service during Richard Nixon's administration, could be returning to Tricky Dick's disdain for open government. A lawsuit filed Monday would force Cheney to comply with the 1978 Presidential Records Act, one of an array of post-Watergate reforms meant to redress Nixon's abuse of the office.

The act requires outgoing administrations to hand over executive branch documents to the National Archives, where the records are preserved for future historians. Problem is, Cheney's crafty lawyers have argued he is not a member of the executive branch, and President Bush early in his tenure amended what could amount to a giant loophole to the act that would allow Cheney to simply toss his papers into the fireplace on his way out the door.

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