Feds Oppose Release of Cheney Testimony in Colorado Suit

Secret Service agents and aides to Vice President Cheney who gave statements for a Colorado lawsuit have asked a judge not to release videos of their testimony, saying they might wind up on YouTube or "Comedy Central."

The arguments Wednesday came as a federal magistrate ordered the government to present its reasons why Cheney should not be subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit by a Denver-area man who claims comments he made to the vice president about the Iraq war led to his arrest in June 2006.

David Lane, an attorney for Steve Howards, said that Secret Service agents and Cheney's employees all provide different versions of Howards' actions, which raises questions that only Cheney — the alleged victim of the assault — could answer.

James Gilligan, an attorney representing the Office of the Vice President and the Secret Service, told Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer that Lane had not "crossed the bar" showing how he could interview a high level official under oath.

Attorneys for both sides have until Feb. 27 to file briefs on the subpoena. Oral arguments on the motions are scheduled for March 6.

Howards, 55, was questioned by Secret Service agents, arrested and told he would be charged with assault after making comments about the Iraq war to Cheney in the Colorado mountain resort of Beaver Creek, where Cheney was attending a conference. Howards said he "lightly touched" Cheney.

Howards was never charged with assault and the district attorney later dismissed a harassment charge against him.

Descriptions of the encounter in depositions of aides to Cheney and at least three Secret Service agents range from a tap on the shoulder to a slap. Lane has said the assault charge was a pretense to silence Howards and the testimony indicates that there was no real basis to the original charge.

During arguments, Lane told Shaffer that the videotapes of the depositions should be released to show the American public how "agents are accusing one another of committing crimes and of covering up what happened."

Gilligan told Shaffer that Cheney's employees, who voluntarily testified, asked if there was anything that could be done to keep the videotapes from ending up all over the Internet and cable television. Gilligan requested that Lane provide 10 days notice before the release of any videotape to the media, so the government could file an objection.

"He wants a heads up when you decide to release this videotape to `Comedy Central," Shaffer told Lane.

"Deciding which media gets it first is like deciding which part of the forest you're going to light first," Lane said. "It's going to be a forest fire. I could release it to the most responsible media organization in the world but where it goes from there is anybody's guess."

Shaffer granted Gilligan's request. He also ordered Lane and attorneys for the Secret Service agents, Richard Westfall and Dugan Bliss, to find out how much it would cost to release the videotapes of the agents with the their faces obscured.

Transcripts of the depositions, which had been sealed, were released by Lane. He said he wanted the videotapes released because they catch the agents' voices cracking and muscles tightening in their faces as they answer questions under oath.

Howards, an environmental consultant, claims the Secret Service agents violated his constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

Lane also represented former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill who gained notoriety after comparing some Sept. 11 victims to Nazis. Churchill was later fired after a plagiarism investigation the he called fraudulent.