Liberty’s Easy Slide into Tyranny
by Prof John Kozy
February 23, 2011
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Robert Burns – 1785
No matter how hard we try, no one can control the future, and we cannot assume the future will be like the present.
Woodrow Wilson signed the law that established the Federal Reserve. He later rightly lamented having done so. He writes, “I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” Oh, how right he is, and oh, the mischief the FED has wrought! But establishing the FED must have seemed right to Wilson when he signed the law.
Harry Truman had similar qualms about the CIA.
[I]t has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency. . . .
assuming the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs . . . the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots. . . .
every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many intelligence agencies already in existence. . . .
But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established positions of a given department. . . .
Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department “treatment” or interpretations.
I wanted and needed the information in its “natural raw” state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical. . . . But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions—and I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating. . . .
For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.
I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue. . . .
I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment . . . and that its operational duties be terminated. . . .
We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.
Of course, nobody paid any attention. And oh, the mischief the CIA has wrought!
The problem is that what seems like a good idea to someone with pristine motives turns into something horrid when placed in the hands of someone else. Those pristine motives Gang aft agley.” So it is with what has come to be known as executive privilege.
Executive privilege is the claim made by members of the executive branch that they can refuse to comply with certain subpoenas and other requests from the legislature and courts, but executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution. Some claim the privilege is a form of the common-law principle of deliberative process privilege whose roots are often traced to English Crown Privilege. Viewed that way, it is clearly a monarchial attribute that is distinctly antidemocratic. But the Supreme Court has validated it.
In US v. Nixon, Chief Justice Burger writes: “Whatever the nature of the privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in the exercise of Art. II powers, the privilege can be said to [emphasis mine] derive from the supremacy of each branch within its own assigned area of constitutional duties. Certain powers and privileges flow from the nature of enumerated powers; the protection of the confidentiality of Presidential communications has similar constitutional underpinnings.” No one, it seems, noticed that “can be said to” is not synonymous with “is.”
Chief Justice Burger further writes,
“In United States v. Reynolds . . . the Court said: