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Cheney must keep records, judge orders

  • Story Highlights
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued over records
  • Defendants are Cheney, president's office, National Archives
  • Judge ruled against administration over visitor logs in December
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney must preserve a broad range of records from his time in office, a federal judge ordered Saturday, ruling in favor of a private watchdog group.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found that the records are not excluded from preservation under Presidential Records Act, which gives the national archivist responsibility over the custody of and access to the records at the end of a president's final term.

The Bush administration had sought a narrow interpretation of the act to allow for fewer materials to be preserved by the National Archives.

"Defendants were only willing to agree to a preservation order that tracked their narrowed interpretation of the PRA's statutory language," Kollar-Kotelly said in her order. This position "heightens the Court's concern" that some records will not be preserved without an injunction.

Cheney chief of staff David Addington has told Congress that the vice president belongs to neither the executive nor legislative branch of government, AP reported. Instead, he said, the office is attached by the Constitution to Congress. The vice president presides over the Senate.

The lawsuit -- naming among its defendants Cheney, the Executive Office of President and the National Archives and Records Administration -- was filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, commonly known as CREW.

In response to the ruling, Cheney spokesman James R. Hennigan said that "we will not have any comment on pending litigation," according to The Associated Press.

The judge's order is the most recent setback to the Bush administration's position on openness of executive branch records.

In December, a federal judge ruled in another CREW lawsuit that the White House cannot hide behind a shield of privilege over release of its visitor logs.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth concluded that the information was a public records request, subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure of "agency records."

The White House had claimed exclusive control of the documents, subject to the complete discretion of the president over their release.

CREW sought the visitor records of prominent conservatives James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women of America) and seven others, including the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

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