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For the week of Jan 30 - Feb 5, 2002

  Opinion Columns

Is it now ‘Tricky Dick’ Cheney?

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Imagine this: the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and the scandalous boom-and-bust energy giant Enron both have something in common.

Both were triumphant heroes in their own worlds — Hoover, to law enforcement and tough-on-crime anti-communist politicians; Enron, to Wall Street.

Now Hoover’s name and Enron both are splattered with the muck of scandal and possible criminal wrongdoing — and linked in separate congressional struggles to get to the bottom of possible wrongdoing.

And guess who’s doing his level best to prevent facts from being revealed? The President of the United States, George W. Bush.

Here’s what’s going on.

Bush has instructed Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice President Dick Cheney to invoke "executive privilege" and refuse to cooperate with Congress in investigating several decades of FBI corruption in its Boston office and the possible wrongful Enron influence on Bush energy policies.

The White House limply claims that high-minded "principle" is at stake — to open up FBI files and to share documents from Cheney’s closed-door energy meetings that included Enron executives would cripple the executive branch’s ability to seek confidential advice.


When President Nixon attempted to use "executive privilege" in his cover-up of Watergate, the Supreme Court rebuked him. Ditto for President Clinton, when he tried to use the office of the president as an excuse to evade investigations into perjured testimony in the Monica Lewinsky mess.

In the FBI case, various government officials and a Massachusetts court already have concluded that the FBI, presumably with director Hoover’s approval, conspired with a hoodlum now on trial for 10 murders to keep an innocent man, Joe Salvati, in prison for 30 years on the pretext of protecting confidential sources.

Unbelievably, the Justice Department refuses demands of Republican Congressman Dan Burton for files that would reveal abuses by the FBI Boston office — which once was manned by today’s FBI director, Robert Mueller, which may be why the White House is stonewalling: to protect its FBI director from an inquiry that could put his job at risk.

The same is true of Cheney’s stonewalling: if Congress gets access to notes on Cheney’s secret sessions with business executives, it might prove political insider help to Enron in shaping public energy policy in exchange for generous contributions to the Bush father-son political campaigns.

This White House claim of "executive privilege" is a sham and no more noble than Nixon’s attempt to hide criminal wrongdoing behind presidential exemption.

Rep. Burton plans to sue the FBI for the documents in the Salvati case. And the General Accounting Office (whose chief served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations) plans to sue Cheney for papers connected with his secret energy task force.

If the suits are filed, the spectacle of the supposedly squeaky clean Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft fighting to conceal possible evidence of corrupt behavior inside government will do noting to bolster presidential privileges of confidentiality.

The beneficiary of a cover up will be those who thrive on secrecy in government to conceal blunders and repay political IOUs.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.