Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Congress can't usurp the President's powers to spy on our enemies

By Aussiegirl

Tiny Tommy Daschle's comments notwithstanding -- all power does not flow out of the Congress. The Constitution grants the President the power to perform intelligence operations in persuance of our enemies. He would be derelict in his duties if he didn't. Perhaps a re-reading of the founding document of this nation and a look into the Federalist Papers is in order for these Democrat politicians who seem to value the rights of our enemies over the necessity of protecting our citizenry.

I have just finished reading the phenomenally interesting "1776", written by David McCullough. If anything is made clear in that astonishing book its how similar things were then to the way they are today. In addition to the many acts of bravery and personal courage, on the whole, people in general, and Congressmen and politicians in particular, were just as feckless , untrustworthy and cowardly in many instances then as they are today.

In the bleakest days when it looked like the Revolutionary war had been all but lost and it appeared that the British would march on Philadelphia, hordes of Americans rushed to sign on to a British declaration of amnesty and fealty to King George and the Congress, which had only so recently boldly proclaimed the Declaration of Independence fled to the relative safety of Baltimore. It was only the steadfast hand and unyielding belief of Washington in the cause of freedom which kept the nation and the war effort together.

The Founding Fathers in their wisdom, foresaw that Congress could never be entrusted with secrets. And we see the case today as Democrat senators on the intelligence committee think nothing of revealing and leaking the most vital secrets in order to further their own venal political ambitions of damaging the Bush administration. You'd think that the motto of the Democrat party might just as well be something like this:

"It would be better for thousands, or tens of thousands of Americans to die in a terrorist attack, than for one terrorist to have his privacy invaded by a telephone tap as he chats with an Al Qaeda operative overseas. Better dead, but morally superior." Crackpots!

Read Robert Turner's great take in today's WSJ:

OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Congress can't usurp the president's power to spy on America's enemies.

In the continuing saga of the surveillance "scandal," with some congressional Democrats denouncing President Bush as a lawbreaker and even suggesting that impeachment hearings may be in order, it is important to step back and put things in historical context. First of all, the Founding Fathers knew from experience that Congress could not keep secrets. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and his four colleagues on the Committee of Secret Correspondence unanimously concluded that they could not tell the Continental Congress about covert assistance being provided by France to the American Revolution, because "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

When the Constitution was being ratified, John Jay--America's most experienced diplomat and George Washington's first choice to be secretary of state--wrote in Federalist No. 64 that there would be cases in which "the most useful intelligence" may be obtained if foreign sources could be "relieved from apprehensions of discovery," and noted there were many "who would rely on the secrecy of the president, but who would not confide in that of the Senate." He then praised the new Constitution for so distributing foreign-affairs powers that the president would be able "to manage the business of intelligence in such manner as prudence may suggest."

In 1790, when the first session of the First Congress appropriated money for foreign intercourse, the statute expressly required that the president "account specifically for all such expenditures of the said money as in his judgment may be made public, and also for the amount of such expenditures as he may think it advisable not to specify." They made no demand that President Washington share intelligence secrets with them. And in 1818, when a dispute arose over a reported diplomatic mission to South America, the legendary Henry Clay told his House colleagues that if the mission had been provided for from the president's contingent fund, it would not be "a proper subject for inquiry" by Congress.

For nearly 200 years it was understood by all three branches that intelligence collection--especially in wartime--was an exclusive presidential prerogative vested in the president by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Marshall and many others recognized that the grant of "executive power" to the president included control over intelligence gathering. It was not by chance that there was no provision for congressional oversight of intelligence matters in the National Security Act of 1947.


At 3:05 PM, Blogger Michael Morrison said...

"America's enemies" too often becomes a phrase to include those of us who are, instead, "the government's enemies."
Lyndon Johnson, competing for the "worst president ever" award, sent CIA operatives into the headquarters of Barry Goldwater's campaign.
Now anyone with ANY sense knows Barry Goldwater was a better patriot, a more decent human being, than Lyndon Johnson ever even thought of being. (Just their respective war records testify to that.)
Richard Nixon's staff (probably John Dean) formulated a plan to send government agents into the headquarters of the Democrat Party in 1972, again under the pretense of spying on "America's enemies."
Well, OK, perhaps it is reasonable to consider the Democrat Party as "America's enemy," but the specific claim the McGovern campaign was receiving contributions from Cuba was (much like the excuses to try to justify invading Iraq) not true.
(Dean's actual motivation is still not known definitively.)
At the time of George Washington, "spy" was a very dirty word.
There are elements of sneakiness, dishonesty, even cowardice that made the word an insult.
Today we consider "intelligence" to be something else ... but to "spy" on fellow Americans without a court order or legal warrant IS dirty -- and violative of the Constitution and, in fact, of everything we supposedly, as Americans, hold dear.
There MUST be the so-called paper trail of such acts so there can be accountability.
When governments, when politicians, when bureaucrats can act against presumed-innocent Americans -- or anyone else -- then corruption is inevitable.
Please, just remember how Infernal Revenue "Service" agents have behaved, certainly in the past, and likely even now, trading private information about individuals and gossiping.
Such nefarious acts are, as I said, inevitable without very careful control of spying.


Post a Comment

<< Home