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US Presidents and Congress Have Long Clashed Over War Powers

January 15, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

Congress has the constitutional power to “declare war,” but U.S. presidents have long initiated military action without it.

The United States Constitution is clear about which branch of government has the power to declare war. In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution states that “Congress shall have the power… To declare war.” But that simple statement has left room for interpretation, and centuries of American presidents have claimed the right to launch military attacks without congressional approval.

“The history of war powers has been a history of disputes between branches about what the meaning of ‘war’ is, what the meaning of Congress’s authority over war is, and what kinds of actions do and don’t count as war,” says Mariah Zeisberg, associate professor of law and politics at the University of Michigan, and author of War Powers: The Politics of Constitutional Authority.

When the Constitution was being written and debated, the framers clearly wanted to break from the British political tradition of investing all war powers in the executive (the king), but they also knew that legislatures could be dangerously slow to respond to immediate military threats. So instead of granting Congress the power to “make” war, as was first proposed, founders like James Madison changed the language to “declare” war.

Madison was no fan of executive overreach—“the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it,” he wrote to Thomas Jefferson—but that change of wording in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution implied that the president, as commander in chief (Article II, Section 2), retained certain powers to “make” war, if not declare it himself.

In the early days of the United States, the understanding was that the president could order the military to defend the country against an attack, but that any sustained military action would require congressional approval.

Presidential First Moves in Mexican-American War and Civil War

That constitutional compact didn’t take long to break down. In 1846, President James Polk ordered the U.S. army to occupy territory in the newly annexed state of Texas. Congress recognized Polk’s move as a de facto declaration of war with Mexico, which claimed the territory as its own and vowed to defend it against an American “invasion.”

Congress ultimately granted Polk an official declaration of war, but the House of Representatives later censured the president for …read more


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The UFO Sightings that Pushed the UK to Take 'Flying Saucers' More Seriously

January 15, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

The incidents interrupted Exercise Mainbrace, a massive set of NATO ‘war game’ maneuvers.

In late September 1952, only months after a rash of “flying saucer” sightings over Washington, D.C. made headlines around the world, dozens of military officers participating in NATO exercises in the North Atlantic were struck by their own UFO fever.

Exercise Mainbrace was the largest peacetime military exercise since World War II. The war-game-style maneuvers simulated NATO’s response to a mock attack on Europe, presumably by the Soviet Union. The Mainbrace operation involved 200 ships, 1,000 planes and 80,000 soldiers from multiple NATO countries—including large deployments from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a year dominated by news reports of UFO sightings, Pentagon officials half-joked with Naval Intelligence that they should keep an eye out for aliens during the NATO exercises, said Edward Ruppelt, the U.S. Air Force captain in charge of the top-secret Project Blue Book UFO investigations.

As it turns out, they weren’t off base. “[N]o one really expected the UFOs to show up,” Ruppelt wrote in his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. “Nevertheless, once again the UFOs were their old unpredictable selves—they were there.”

READ MORE: Interactive Map: UFO Sightings Taken Seriously by the U.S. Government

Not a weather balloon

The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, where one of the Mainbrace sightings was made.

The first Mainbrace encounter came on September 13 when the captain and crew of a Danish destroyer spotted a triangular-shaped object moving through the night sky at alarming speeds. The unidentified craft emitted a blue glow and was estimated by Lieutenant Commander Schmidt Jensen to be traveling upward of 900 miles per hour.

On September 20, an American newspaper reporter named Wallace Litwin was aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier participating in the Mainbrace exercises, when he saw a commotion on deck: several pilots and flight-crew members pointing at a silver sphere in the sky that appeared to be following the fleet. Litwin quickly shot four color photos of the round object, which he assumed was a weather balloon.

In a letter to a UFO investigator years later, Litwin recounts that he went below deck and joked with fellow newspaper correspondents that he had just “shot a flying saucer.” This caught the attention of the ship’s executive officer, who informed Litwin that no weather balloons had been released that …read more


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Fixing FISA after the Carter Page Report

January 15, 2020 in Economics

By Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held shortly after the release of his scathinging report on the FBI’s investigation of erstwhile Trump aide Carter Page, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz had a telling exchange with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn):


Blackburn:  Let me ask you this, how often do you find mistakes in a FISA Application?

Horowitz: This is actually the first time my office has done a deep dive into a particular application. We’ve done higher level reviews on the FISA process and have found various issues at a higher level, but this is the first time we’ve been able to delve in this way.

Blackburn: It’s a fairly fairly unusual occurrence?

Horowtiz: Let me put it this way, I would hope so.


Presumably Blackburn had expected a rather different response: That the embarrassing catalog of omissions, errors, and misrepresentations that the IG’s office found in applications for FISA surveillance of Page were extraordinary and unprecedented—suggesting some special vendetta against the Trump campaign.  Horowitz’s discomfiting, candid reply deserves to be unpacked, because it implies at least three important points worth bearing in mind.  

First, while surveillance of an advisor to a presidential campaign is certainly an unusual use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, there is no reason to suppose that Page’s case is some sort of extreme outlier. On the contrary—as common sense would suggest and Horowitz’s report confirms—investigators were acutely aware that this was an enormously sensitive case certain to draw intense scrutiny. Thus the initial FISA application targeting Page, at least, was unusually detailed, and received additional layers of review before being submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). It’s reasonable to infer, then, that many of the thousands of FISA applications filed each year have defects as bad or worse than those Horowitz identified here.

Second, if we want an explanation for those errors, Horowitz’s answer suggests one more systemic than a cartoonish anti-Trump vendetta: Nobody is doing the kind of thorough investigation that would find and correct those problems. In a criminal investigation, the purpose of a so-called Title III wiretap order is to obtain evidence for a criminal prosecution. While the initial application is submitted in secret, defense attorneys will be entitled …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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It’s Time to Make Congress Great Again

January 15, 2020 in Economics

By William Yeatman

William Yeatman

In contemporary American government, the presidency is dominating Congress in our system of separate-but-competing branches. This constitutional imbalance is a growing threat to liberty, and the only solution is to make Congress great again.


Let’s start with first principles: The Constitution sets forth our governmental structure in its first three Articles.

Article I of the Constitution establishes Congress. Article II creates the presidency. And Article III renders the Supreme Court.

Did you notice that Congress is number one?

That’s not by accident. The Founding Fathers took it for granted that Congress is first among equals within our tripartite government.

Indeed, the Founders feared Congress most of all. In Federalist 47, James Madison worried that Congress’s “impetuous vortex” would swallow up the authority wielded by its coordinate branches.

Ultimately, the Founders feared most the concentration of power, which Madison described as being the “very definition of tyranny.”

For most of its history, Congress has lived up to these expectations. Now, however, our once-grand legislature is a shell of its former self.

With respect to current events, the best evidence of Congress’s fall is the ongoing impeachment debacle.

The Founding Fathers intended impeachment to be Congress’s ultimate weapon in a permanent competition with the presidency. In Federalist 66, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachment is Congress’s “essential check” on “encroachments” by the executive branch.

In accordance with these expectations, past impeachments have been part and parcel of structural battles between Congress and the presidency.

Consider President Richard Nixon. Sure, Congress put him through the impeachment wringer, but lawmakers also enacted reforms to shift the balance of power towards Congress. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, for example, beefed up congressional staff and resources. And the Budget Impoundment and Control Act of 1974 attempted to reassert Congress’s power over the purse.

Similarly, the 19th century impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was emmeshed within a larger struggle between the elected branches of government.

Today’s impeachment of President Donald Trump, by contrast, has nothing to do with checking executive power. Instead, it’s all about winning the presidency on behalf of the two political parties.

Getting two-thirds of the Senate to go along with removing President Trump was never going to happen, so instead House Democrats are using the impeachment inquiry to sway next November’s vote.

For their part, Senate Republicans are embracing a trial, reportedly in the hope that a drawn-out …read more

Source: OP-EDS