Friday, December 16, 2005

The President Owns The Intelligence, Not You

The Clog Almanac does not appreciate the repeated appeals to legal interpretations to which the current US administration seems to turn for justification of its actions. The newest example has to do with whether the President is obligated to supply Congress and its committees with intelligence of pressing national interest:

Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, to Senator Dianne Feinstein regarding just which intelligence is available to Congress, via memorandum:
"The President's position also affords him the restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community."
In other words, Congress may not necessarily be given access to all the intelligence, contrary to certain recent executive statements regarding the events leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq, which generally of late take the form of "What is all this fuss over? You had the same intelligence that we did". The letter continues:
"The President is able to control dissemination of intelligence information to Congress because the Intelligence Community is part of the executive branch. It was created by law and executive order principally to serve that branch of government in the execution of its responsibilities. Thus, as the head of the executive branch, the President generally is acknowledged to be 'the owner' of national intelligence."
In other words, take a hike, Congresswoman. But didn't Congress pass legislation in 2004 directing the Director of National Intelligence to provide Congress access to national intelligence? Mr. Cumming responds:
"Absent a court ruling more clearly defining executive and legislative branch authorities in this area, which most observers view as unlikely, the executive branch has contended that it is under no legal obligation to provide Congress access to all national intelligence."
In other words, until a federal court requires the executive branch to cough up the sensitive and perhaps damning information you request, you're just out of luck.

The memorandum continues on and on, with line-by-line specifics, and a good list of reference documents. More of the "our people researched the legal loopholes for this activity far in advance of our actions, and we hereby proclaim legality for all of our actions" meme.

Does anyone feel this is just another example of the thumb-in-nose, fingers-wiggling snub-to-detractors response of the Bush Administration?

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