Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday told students at Georgetown University that a wartime president has the lawful authority to eavesdrop on Americans’ telephone calls and e-mail messages without court approval.
Even if that Gonzales’ statement was true (which it isn’t), the United States is not in a state of war, so the reasoning is completely specious. For the United States to enter a war, Congress must exercise their constitutional authority to declare war. They have chosen not to do so.
An Anonymous Coward on Slashdot wrote:
And just because you don’t know it, doesn’t make it so. Congress has approved the state of war we are currently in. If you would spend a little time looking, you’d know it.
Likewise, just because you are ignorant of the US Constitution doesn’t make it mean whatever you want it to mean.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking, and Congress has definitely issued no Declaration of War. They’ve passed some namby-pamby resolution that mentions the War Powers Act, but NOWHERE does it declare war. They did that knowing full well that they could have included wording in the resolution to declare war, but they chose not to.
For all those of you that think we really are at war (legally), why do you think Congress was unwilling to issue a simple declaration of war? It’s not like doing so is particularly difficult; it’s just a few words on paper with a few signatures. They could have dusted off any one of the last few they issued (back in 1941) and used it as boilerplate. If they can’t find a copy in the Capitol, I suspect that they could get one from the National Archives.
The fact of the matter is that Congress wanted to have a war, but didn’t want to accept any responsibility for it. “Go bomb Iraq, but don’t blame us for it.” So they issued an unconstitutional “authorization of force” instead, to push the responsibility onto the administration.
If the lack of a declaration of war was just some simple oversight (“Oh really? I thought we did that already!”), then as soon as the matter was brought up publicly they could have corrected it by issuing such a declaration. But they have continued to choose not to do that.
The US Congress is a bunch of “girly men” (and women). A good case can be made that the congresspeople that voted for that “authorization of force” should be charged with treason, as should the President for fighting an undeclared war.
And for those that think, “oh, well, a declaration of war is just a formality, we don’t really need it”, I would point out that apparently the Constitution and Bill of Rights are just formailities, and we don’t really need them. That’s certainly the stated position (in not so many words) of the current administration.
The point of even having a Constitution, laws, etc., is that we are supposed to abide by them. If we can ignore them whenever they happen to be inconvenient to our immediate needs (even the ill-defined “National Security”), then they are worthless. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, not the power to authorize force, and that is an important part of the balance of power of the US government.
If there is a declared war, certain restrictions on the powers of the government are lifted, but if there isn’t a declared war, they aren’t. That is but one reason why it’s very significant that Congress has not seen fit to declare war.