Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why It matters

From the Church Committee Report:



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Historian Henry Steele Commager assessed the Committee’s legacy. Referring to executive branch officials who seemed to consider themselves above the law, he said, “It is this indifference to constitutional restraints that is perhaps the most threatening of all the evidence that emerges from the findings of the Church Committee.”


Our Presidents should not be able to conduct secret operations which violate our principles, jeopardize our rights, and have not been subject to the checks and balances which normally keep policies in line. - Morton Halperin, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs


In its consideration of covert action, the Committee was struck by the basic tension--if not incompatibility--of covert operations and the demands of a constitutional system. Secrecy is essential to covert operations; secrecy can, however, become a source of power, a barrier to serious policy debate within the government, and a means of circumventing the established checks and procedures of government. The Committee found that secrecy and compartmentation contributed to a temptation on the part of the Executive to resort to covert operations in order to avoid bureaucratic, congressional, and public debate. - The Church Committee


And remember that once violated, the rule of law is itself in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its mistakes and reveal errors, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police its activities. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws. - Al Gore, address for Martin Luther King Day, January 16, 2006


[posted on 12/17/07]

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