Checks and balances slipping in America

So many good and direct questions were launched in my lifetime. So few replies seem to have been heard.

I enjoyed the wisdom and candor of a panel titled “Who’s Watching the Spies: Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans — A Look Back at the Church Committee Report” Walter Mondale, Vice President of Jimmy Carter, quipped about younger George Bush, “No administration has celebrated a lack of understanding such as this administration.”, 9/21/06 CSpan.

Walter Huddleston, Senator from Kentucky, says Iraq is the most misguided effort in US history; “How do we get a discourse among people who want a solution?” Mondale said what is missing in America is honest debate because the checks and balances of the American government is slipping. Frederick Schwarz, who served as chief counsel to the Church Committee, repeated Madison’s warning that men are not angels, therefore the first obligation of government is to restrain overbearing control of its people and the second to control itself; “A reasonable and lawful policy is to be based on our good work and the ideas we derive from faith, confidence and strength. But our current administration seems to interpret the response to ugly terrorists only under the War Powers Act as if, “If I have the power, you have the emergency.” An informed American public would not allow this to be our dominant policy.

The members continue. As well as a short sighted policy in the Executive, we have another broken branch of government. Congress. Congress is compliant. Congress operates with the appearance of power but not the substance. It fails us in our communities, and fails us globally because its oversight is exceedingly weak.

The University of Kentucky reunited members of the Church Committee, featured on CSpan as “Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans”, with former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, former U.S. Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston of Kentucky, and Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., chief counsel to the committee, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity (1975-1976).

The Church Committee revealed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was destabilizing foreign governments and conducting illegal intelligence operations against U.S. citizens. The 11-member committee, which faced great criticism and opposition, was given nine months and a staff of 150 to investigate the nation’s intelligence agencies and their activities.

During the investigation, the committee interviewed 800 individuals, and conducted 250 executive and 21 public hearings. Among the Church Committee’s 14 submitted reports were such surprising recommendations as barring assassination as a tool of foreign policy and setting limits on the spying of Americans. The committee’s two-foot-thick final report issued in 1976 verified the need for continuous surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted in the creation of the Senate’s permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

My thoughts about a lack of discourse and oversight:

In the last several years, the character of Congress has changed. Perhaps because of the influence of political parties that are too powerful. The parties are larger than most organizations in the world. We have seen greater power in the rivalry between the parties than between the branches of our government.

I’m certain that the Founders did not imagine a time when the political parties would build organizations able to influence the branches of government more than the power of the Constitution itself.

As the ‘party’ has become a major player in the execution of our Constitution, we endure our changing Representative, from statesman to politician to fund raiser to a local broker of polling and earmarking on behalf of marketing the political party.