There are probably a few riders on the R8 train this morning wondering about the crazy girl muttering under her breath in disgust as she read the newspaper (my apologies to the poor guy in the trench coat who had to sit next to me, by the way. Although I suspect the regular riders are used to this behavior by now). The headline on the article that prompted my reaction? “Bush asserts power to edit privacy files; He reserved the right to alter data on Homeland Security’s activities.” The law that Congress passed stated, according to the article, that “no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security Department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.”
But Bush, in one of those now-infamous signing statements, said that he would interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”
The position of Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) of the Dept. of Homeland Security is already a weak one. It was created in 2002 to serve as a watchdog over the agency to ensure that privacy was protected in the face of various anti-terror surveillance programs. However, they didn’t give the officer subpoena power. She or he is essentially limited to begging for information.
Nonetheless, the president found it necessary to make sure he could serve as a filter between the CPO and Congress – despite the fact that Congress explicitly included in the law the requirement that no one aside from the CPO had the authority to edit the annual report on privacy.
Will Congress stand up to the president’s blatant attempt to usurp its power? Sadly, I doubt it.
Sara in Philly