Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sole organ
You learn new things every day.
The Bush administration today offered its fullest defense of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying that congressional authorization to defeat Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks "places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the N.S.A. activities."

In a 42-page white paper, the Justice Department expanded on its past arguments in laying out the legal rationale for why the N.S.A. program does not violate federal wiretap law and why the president is the nation's "sole organ" for foreign affairs.

I thought the other branches of government did have some influence on our conduct of foreign affairs. Apparently I was wrong. It seems that our founding fathers, after their experience with the British crown, were fearful of the power vacuum that would result from an overly weak executive. For that reason, they kept the powers of the president completely undiluted and not subject to the approval or oversight of the other branches. If they had, for example, have desired the legislative branch to have a voice in the conduct of foreign affairs they might have added clauses to the Constitution that said:
Article I, Section 8
The Congress shall have Power...To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Or they might have added:
Article II, Section 2

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States...

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls...

Fortunately, they had no reason fear a strong executive or an abuse of executive power. They knew that no matter how long the republic lasted--even if we had more than forty-two presidents--that we would never elect someone who might be tempted to overreach his power. That's why they never said any of these things. Oh, how wise those sweaty white guys in Philadelphia were.

Ezra is slightly less sarcastic. That's why he's a star.

No comments: