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Tag Archives: Congress

Congress Plotting to Cut a Hole in the 4th Amendment, Again, by Andrew P. Napolitano

You’ve got to wonder if there will be a Bill of Rights left by the end of Trump’s time in office. From Andrew P. Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

Hidden beneath the controversy stirred up last week by the publication of a book called “Fire and Fury,” a highly critical insider’s view of the Trump White House that the president has not only denounced on national television but also tried to prevent from being published and distributed, are the efforts of the Trump administration and congressional leadership to bypass the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Here is the back story.

After the excesses of the Watergate era, during which the Nixon administration used the FBI and the CIA unlawfully to spy without warrants on the president’s real and imagined domestic political opponents, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA prohibited all domestic surveillance except that which is pursuant to warrants signed by federal judges.

The Fourth Amendment — which guarantees privacy in our persons, houses, papers and effects — permits the government to invade that privacy only when a judge has signed a warrant that authorizes surveillance, a search or a seizure. And judges may only issue warrants when they have found probable cause to believe that the government surveillance or invasion of the target’s privacy will produce evidence of criminal behavior. The Fourth Amendment further requires that the judicial warrant describe specifically the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.

All these requirements are in the amendment so as to prevent any court from issuing general warrants. Before the Constitution, general warrants were issued by British courts that met in secret in London. They were not issued based on probable cause of crime but issued based on the government’s wish to invade the privacy of all Americans living in the Colonies to find the more rebellious among them. This was the king and Parliament’s version of protecting national security.

General warrants did not describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized. They authorized the bearer — usually a British soldier physically located in the Colonies — to search where he wished and seize whatever he found.

 

To continue reading: Congress Plotting to Cut a Hole in the 4th Amendment, Again

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Yemen Proves US Needs to Get a Handle on War-Making Powers, by Jason Ditz

There was no authorization whatsoever for the US’s current misguided war effort in Yemen. From Jason Ditz at antiwar.com:

With the Yemen War fast approaching its third anniversary, Afghanistan well into its 17th year, Iraq and Syria seemingly permanent US wars, and escalations ongoing across Africa, the US has seemingly more wars than ever going on. President Trump has been giving the military increasing autonomy in those wars, and the feeling of loss of control is palpable.

It’s been years since Congress has willingly asserted its authority on war-making in any serious way, and the president too is now delegating much to the generals. The American public’s ability to give meaningful input on America’s wars is far more limited.

Recent polls suggest that’s a position the American voters aren’t necessarily all that comfortable with. A November poll from J. Wallin Opinion Research showed the vast majority of Americans, over 70%, want Congress to impose at least some specific limits on overseas conflicts and exercise more direct oversight. It also showed a majority favor withdrawing US forces from the Yemen War.

While there are no shortage of reasons for America’s war-weariness to be skyrocketing, the Yemen War seems to be the tipping point for a number of reasons. The Yemen War was never debated even a little within the US, and is rapidly settling into one of the worst humanitarian crises in a generation.

The Yemen War cut aid off almost entirely to 15 million in the country’s north, led to what has been called the single worst cholera outbreak in human history, with over a million patients, and has been killing civilians by the thousands both in US-facilitated airstrikes and through mass starvation and lack of medicine.

The American public never signed up for doing that to Yemen, nor indeed did Congress. There is no legal pretext of an authorization for the use of military force in Yemen, even with the vague interpretations of the 2001 AUMF that have been used as a pretext for every other war.

To continue reading: Yemen Proves US Needs to Get a Handle on War-Making Powers

Congress’s Romance with Cowardice War Without War Powers (the Not-So-New American Way), by Danny Sjursen

Congress abdicated it’s constitutionally mandated war powers long ago. This is a history of congressional cowardice. From Danny Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

On September 1, 1970, soon after President Nixon expanded the Vietnam War by invading neighboring Cambodia, Democratic Senator George McGovern, a decorated World War II veteran and future presidential candidate, took to the floor of the Senate and said,

“Every Senator [here] is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave… This chamber reeks of blood… It does not take any courage at all for a congressman or a senator or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed.”

More than six years had passed since Congress all but rubber-stampedPresident Lyndon Johnson’s notoriously vague Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which provided what little legal framework there was for U.S. military escalation in Vietnam.  Doubts remained as to the veracity of the supposed North Vietnamese naval attacks on U.S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf that had officially triggered the resolution, or whether the Navy even had cause to venture so close to a sovereign nation’s coastline.  No matter. Congress gave the president what he wanted: essentially a blank check to bomb, batter, and occupy South Vietnam.  From there it was but a few short steps to nine more years of war, illegal secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia, ground invasions of both those countries, and eventually 58,000 American and upwards of three million Vietnamese deaths.

Leaving aside the rest of this country’s sad chapter in Indochina, let’s just focus for a moment on the role of Congress in that era’s war making.  In retrospect, Vietnam emerges as just one more chapter in 70 years of ineptitude and apathy on the part of the Senate and House of Representatives when it comes to their constitutionally granted war powers.  Time and again in those years, the legislative branch shirked its historic — and legal — responsibility under the Constitution to declare (or refuse to declare) war.

And yet, never in those seven decades has the duty of Congress to assert itself in matters of war and peace been quite so vital as it is today, with American troops engaged — and still dying, even if now in small numbers — in one undeclared war after another in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and now Niger… and who even knows where else. 

To continue reading: Congress’s Romance with Cowardice War Without War Powers (the Not-So-New American Way)

US Administration Defends Its Right to Start Wars on a Whim, by Andrei Akulov

Forget that separation of powers of stuff that if you’re old enough, you may have learned in an American Government class somewhere. If the president wants to make war, he just makes war. From Andrei Akulov at strategic-culture.org:

US Administration Defends Its Right to Start Wars on a Whim

The US Constitution says that only Congress can declare war for an extended time but there is a workaround. Congress approved the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), giving the president the authority to track down and destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The resolution stipulates that “The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” The resolution’s 2002 version gave President Bush the authority to invade Iraq. Only 25 percent of the current members of Congress in the House and Senate were present when the current AUMFs were passed.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and several other Democrats are asking whether a new law authorizing the use of military force should be written. They are planning to introduce legislation that would prohibit Trump from starting a pre-emptive war against North Korea, absent an imminent threat or without express authorization from Congress. They call for one without a sunset date, saying that Congress needs to have a voice.

The deadly incident in Niger last month ignited a push among many members of Congress to update the legal parameters for combat operations overseas. The revelation that the US is at war in Niger, without Congress even knowing, was startling. This is the perfect illustration of the US’s permanent war posture around the world, where battles are waged with little or no public scrutiny and no congressional authorization. All previous attempts to ditch the old authorization and force Congress to craft a new one have failed. For years now, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to debate and vote on US wars.

This time lawmakers mentioned the possibility of using military force in crises involving North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, as well as the ongoing efforts against multiple militant groups that did not exist at the time the AUMF came into force. The AUMF authorized military actions only against al Qaeda, the Taliban and other perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

To continue reading: US Administration Defends Its Right to Start Wars on a Whim

Rand Paul’s Senate Vote Rolls Back the Warfare State, by Ron Paul

The last thing Congress wants to do is assert its own constitutionally granted war powers, but Ron Paul sees some reason for optimism. From Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) reminded Congress that in matters of war, they have the authority and the responsibility to speak for the American people. Most Senators were not too happy about the reminder, which came in the form of a forced vote on whether to allow a vote on his amendment to repeal the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions of 2001 and 2002.

It wasn’t easy. Sen. Paul had to jump through hoops just to get a vote on whether to have a vote.

That is how bad it is in Congress! Not only does Congress refuse to rein in presidents who treat Constitutional constraints on their war authority as mere suggestions rather than as the law of the land, Congress doesn’t even want to be reminded that they alone have war authority.

Congress doesn’t even want to vote on whether to vote on war!

In the end, Sen. Paul did not back down and he got his vote. Frankly, I was more than a little surprised that nearly 40 percent of the Senate voted with Rand to allow a vote on repealing authority for the two longest wars in US history. I expected less than a dozen “no” votes on tabling the amendment and was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Last week, Rand said, “I don’t think that anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty believes that these authorizations from 16 years ago and 14 years ago … authorized war in seven different countries.”

Are more Senators starting to see the wars his way? We can only hope so. As polls continue to demonstrate, the American people have grown tired of our interventionist foreign policy, which burns through trillions of dollars while making the world a more dangerous place rather than a safer place.

To continue reading; Rand Paul’s Senate Vote Rolls Back the Warfare State

Rand Paul Takes a Stand Against Unconstitutional War, by Michael Krieger

Congress has virtually ceded its power to declare war to the president. Kudos to Rand Paul, who may be starting to push the pendulum in the other direction. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential run was extremely disappointing. Rather than take it hard to the establishment, he seemed more interested in playing footsie with neocons and establishment Republicans. That strategy didn’t work and it never will. Rand Paul is best when he’s acting like a statesman and not a politician — that’s what people who like him, like about him. His campaign advisors were clearly incompetent, but at the end of the day the buck stops with him.

That being said, life is all about learning from your mistakes and Rand has truly started coming into his own in the age of Trump. With much of the party fractured and bickering, Paul seems to have found the space to push forward on key issues such as civil asset forfeiture, prison reform and endless war. He’s serving a very important function within a elitist and crony U.S. Congress and we should all take the time to thank him for his efforts.

His latest stand relates to the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has been consistently abused for 16 years by multiple presidents in order to start endless military interventions against new enemies without forcing Congress to uphold its constitutional duty to wage war.

As Senator Paul explained in a recent Rare opinion piece:

As Congress takes up the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will insist it vote on my amendment to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.

Why?

Because these authorizations to use military force are inappropriately being used to justify American warfare in 7 different countries. Sunsetting both AUMFs will force a debate on whether we continue the Afghanistan war, the Libya war, the Yemen war, the Syria war, and other interventions.

Our military trains our soldiers to be focused and disciplined, yet the politicians who send them to fight have for years ignored those traits when developing our foreign policy.

The result? Trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe, while we find ourselves 16 years into the war in Afghanistan wondering what our purpose there even is any more, or if we’ll ever bring our troops home.

To continue reading: Rand Paul Takes a Stand Against Unconstitutional War

Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam, by Andrew J. Bacevich

Fortunately, there are a lot fewer dead in Afghanistan, among both the US military and the native population, than in Vietnam. That is the only positive thing you can say about the US’s engagement in Afghanistan. From Andrew J. Bacevich at theamericanconservative.com:

Does any member have the courage and vision to take responsibility?

20th Century “Angel of Mercy.” D. R. Howe (Glencoe, MN) treats the wounds of Private First Class D. A. Crum (New Brighton, PA), “H” Company, 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, during Operation Hue City, Vietnam, 1968. (Public Domain/USMC)

Just shy of fifty years ago on November 7, 1967, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, met in executive session to assess the progress of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of State Dean Rusk was the sole witness invited to testify. Even today, the transcript of Rusk’s remarks and the subsequent exchange with committee members make for depressing reading.

Responding to questions that ranged from plaintive to hostile, Rusk gave no ground.  The Johnson administration was more than willing to end the war, he insisted; the North Vietnamese government was refusing to do so. The blame lay with Hanoi. Therefore the United States had no alternative but to persist. American credibility was on the line.

By extension, so too was the entire strategy of deterring Communist aggression. The stakes in South Vietnam extended well beyond the fate of that one country, as senators well knew. In that regard, Rusk reminded members of the committee, the Congress had “performed its function…when the key decisions were made”—an allusion to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution,  a de facto declaration of war passed with near unanimous congressional support. None too subtly, Rusk was letting members of the committee know that the war was theirs as much as it was the administration’s.

Yet Fulbright and his colleagues showed little inclination to accept ownership. As a result, the back-and-forth between Rusk and his interrogators produced little of value. Rather than illuminating the problem of a war gone badly awry and identifying potential solutions, the event became an exercise in venting frustration. This exchange initiated by Senator Frank Lausche, Democrat from Ohio, captures the overall tone of the proceedings.

Senator Lausche:  “The debate about what our course in Vietnam should be has now been in progress since the Tonkin Bay resolution. When was that, August 1964?

Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tenn.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Fulbright:  “Oh, yes, but that was the Tonkin Bay.”

Senator Lausche:  “For three years we have been arguing it, arguing for what purpose? Has it been to repeal the Tonkin Bay resolution? Has it been to establish justification for pulling out? In the three years, how many times has the Secretary appeared before us?

To continue reading: Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam 

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