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In March, something happened in Congress that all Americans who love the rule of law need to hold in our teeth.

Senator Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

To which Clapper responded, "No, sir ... Not wittingly."

In light of what NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has revealed about the NSA's domestic data-gathering, Clapper has now admitted that his answer in Senate testimony was "untruthful" - what ordinary people call a "lie."

Lying to Congress in testimony is, literally, a crime - it's a violation of federal law.

Raise your hand if you think that Clapper is going to serve any time in federal prison for lying to Congress.

Regardless of what one thinks about Clapper as an individual human being, if government officials can lie to Congress without consequence, we're in big trouble in terms of democracy and the rule of law, especially as these apply to the reform of U.S. foreign policy. If senior government officials can lie to Congress about the NSA's domestic surveillance of millions of Americans without consequence, what can't they lie to Congress about?

There's a culture in much of Washington that believes that government officials can do and say whatever they want, so long as it's in the service of the Empire. It's the foreign policy version of Nixon's "if the President does it, it's not illegal." That may be useful for running an Empire or it may not, but it's not the rule of law. If it's illegal for Joe and Mary Schmoe to do it, it's illegal for the President and his or her lieutenants to do it - that's the rule of law.

The Obama Administration has announced that the U.S. is going to arm Syrian rebels, and is considering imposing a "no fly zone" over Syria, which means bombing Syria. The public - Democratic, Republican, and Independent - is overwhelmingly opposed. Congress has neither authorized arming Syrian rebels or imposing a no-fly zone. Under the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, in the absence of an armed attack on the United States, Congress, not the President, has the power to authorize the use of military force.

The Administration says that it will make sure that U.S. weapons won't fall into the hands of people who want to hurt Americans, or people who execute Catholic priests. Many independent observers think this assertion is bunk.

What basis would we have for believing that the Administration's assertion is not likely to be a lie, if there are no consequences for Clapper's lie about the NSA's domestic surveillance? If Clapper can lie to Congress about the NSA's domestic surveillance without consequence, what incentive does he have to hold back from lying to Congress about Syria? Or Iran? What confidence can we have about Administration statements about Syria or Iran, if there is no Congressional debate or scrutiny?

Like the Fourth Amendment, the War Powers Resolution is not going to enforce itself. If we want the War Powers Resolution to be enforced, Members of Congress have to speak up and take action. That means members of the public have to speak up and take action, because that's what gets Members of Congress to move.

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives has started to stand up. They've introduced legislation that would expressly prohibit the Obama Administration intervening militarily in Syria's sectarian civil war without explicit Congressional authorization.

Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Walter Jones (R-NC) have introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2494) to block U.S. military intervention in Syria without an affirmative vote of Congress. Identical legislation (S. 1201) has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

Sending military assistance to Syrian rebels, or any direct military intervention, would lead to Americanization of Syria's sectarian civil war. Congress and the American people should be part of a vigorous debate before any such military escalation takes place. Urge your Senators and Representative to support legislation that would require Congressional authorization before any military escalation in Syria.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.


I think Members of Congress should assert Congressional war powers to block military escalation in Syria without Congressional authorization.

93%28 votes
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Comment Preferences

  •  Not wittingly. just halfwittingly nt (3+ / 0-)

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 09:07:06 AM PDT

  •  what can't they lie to Congress about? (7+ / 0-)

    We are so far down the rabbit hole as to accountability, and yes, we are certainly in big trouble.

    if government officials can lie to Congress without consequence, we're in big trouble in terms of democracy and the rule of law, especially as these apply to the reform of U.S. foreign policy.

    If senior government officials can lie to Congress about the NSA's domestic surveillance of millions of Americans without consequence, what can't they lie to Congress about?

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

    by allenjo on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 09:16:08 AM PDT

    •  When the people stop obeying.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OldDragon, ColoTim, cynndara

      that will be the tipping point.  I see little signs everywhere.  The other day eight cars refused to stop when an officer waved then over for speeding.  They just kept on going and dared the officer to come get them.  It was a speed trap and the police were obviously very occupied issuing tickets, so people simply ignored the waving officer.  He just got madder and madder, but there was nothing he could do.  What happens when people stop obeying?  When they lose the respect of law and no longer respect those in authority?

      Energy is neither created nor destroyed; it only changes form.

      by SME in Seattle on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 09:39:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was starting to suspect (0+ / 0-)

        that anarchy was what the Snowdenites were building towards wanting here undet the cover of the NSA issue (and with Julian Assange as their patron, that would make sense), and here you go and openly and helpfully admit it.

        "It's almost as if we're watching Mitt Romney on Safari in his own country." -- Jonathan Capeheart

        by JackND on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 12:40:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •   If people are so in love with Snowden (0+ / 0-)

    They should fly to Russia and stand by him as a human shield,I am not happy with the  allegation of the government spying on American citizen,but  it was not Snowden place to be so self righteous by  releasing the information the way he did,now he find himself like a caged rat ,with no escape route

  •  They already did lie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, cynndara

    it was called Iraq.

    •  re: They already did lie (0+ / 0-)

      Indeed they did.

      But I take it as a premise that we should be working to prevent that from happening again. Don't you?

      •  I take it as a premise (0+ / 0-)

        that that horse left the barn so long ago that the manure is ripe for the fields.  "Working to prevent" is ludicrous at this point; it's ingrained and systemic behavior.  Working to entirely change the system might be a positive goal.  But a timid attempt at reform will get you nothing but more lies and sweetheart's promises.  You can't believe a serial offender when he promises "never again".  Not if you have any sense.

  •  Of course they can lie. (0+ / 0-)

    Of course they DO lie.  Remember the Gulf of Tonkin Incident?  The babies tossed out of their incubators in Kuwait?  The Nigerian yellowcake that was supposedly being purchased by Saddam Hussein?  American leaders have been lying us into war for the past fifty years.  Personally, after some research I've had to do for my novels, I have my doubts about WWII.  Roosevelt was planning to get into war with both the Japanese and the Germans YEARS before Pearl Harbor.  Pearl Harbor was just his excuse, like 9/11 was GW Bush's.  Government, especially the Executive, increases in scope and power during wars.  It provides a constant incentive for the ambitious to seek out new hostilities and concoct provocations, real or not.

    No adult in this day and age should trust the Government.  There's too much proof of its untrustworthiness.  And there you have one basic fact that the Tea Partiers are better at recognizing than Democrats.  Those who want to rule over others are almost NEVER worthy of their trust.

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