Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is conducting a hearing of the Armed Services Committee. In the first minute of the video he chats with General Dempsy, then moves on to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Panetta tells him that no Congressional authority will be need to take action in Syria, as none was need in Libya. Panetta says the President has the authority after he receives permission giving him legal basis either from NATO or the United Nations.
Sessions responding to General Dempsey says:
I want to make sure you understand, and I know you do that, that we are not dependent upon a NATO or U.N. resolution to execute policies consistent with the national security policies of the United States.
Then he turns to Panetta, and they discuss how we joined a coalition to take action in Libya, and what will happen if we take action in Syria.
Panetta asserts several times that the President has the authority under the Constitution to defend the United States (intimating that Congress is not necessary).
What is never said is that any action taken in Libya had nothing to do with defending the United States, and any action we take in Syria will have nothing to do with defending the United States.
What we are hearing here is an in-your-face denial of the Congressional branch of our Government’s authority to deploy our Military. This is, in my opinion, the result of Congress letting Obama go around them, over them, behind them and under them to get things done without them. They have all too often willingly abdicated their authority and their sacred obligation to the people they represent. With a Globalist in the Oval Office the fruit of Congress’ foolishness is in harvest.
Here’s a portion of the transcript beginning at about 1:50.
SESSIONS: We worried about International Legal Basis but no one worried about the fundamental Constitutional legal basis that this Congress has over war. We were not asked, stunningly, in direct violation of the War Powers Act, whether or not you believe it’s Constitutional, it certainly didn’t comply with it.
We spent our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO and too little time worrying about the elected Representatives of the United States.
Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a No Fly Zone in Syria, without Congressional approval?
PANETTA: Again, our goal would be to seek international permission and we would come to the Congress AND INFORM YOU and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues I think we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.
SESSIONS: Well, I’m almost breathless about that, because what I heard you say is, we are going to seek international approval and then we’ll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek Congressional approval.
I want to say to you, that’s a big deal, wouldn’t you agree? You served in the Congress. Wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty breathtaking for the average American, so would you like to clarify that?
PANETTA: I’ve also served with Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents who have always reserved the right to defend this country if necessary.
SESSIONS: But before you do this you would seek permission of the international authorities?
PANETTA: If we are working with an international coalition and we’re working with NATO we would want to be able to get appropriate permissions in order to be able to do that. That’s something that all of these countries would want to have – some kind of legal basis on which to act.
SESSIONS: What kind of legal basis are you looking for? What entity?
PANETTA: If NATO made the decision to go in, that would be one. If we developed an international coalition beyond NATO then some kind of U.N. Security Resolution…
SESSIONS: So you are saying NATO would give you a legal basis…and an ad hoc coalition of the United Nations would provide a legal basis?
PANETTA: (blather – more about coalitions and justifying being a part of a coalition)
SESSIONS: Well who are you asking for the legal basis from?
PANETTA: If the U.N. passed a Security Resolution as it did with Libya, we would do that. If NATO came together as it did in Bosnia, we would rely on that, so we have options here IF WE WANT TO BUILD THE KIND OF INTERNATIONAL APPROACH for dealing with the situation.
SESSIONS: I’m all for having international support but I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States Military to be deployed in combat.
I don’t believe it is close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that is required to deploy the United States Military is the Congress and the President and the law and the Constitution.
PANETTA: Let me for the record be clear again…when it comes to the national defense of this country, the President of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country and we will.
If it comes to an operation where we are trying to build a coalition of Nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia, for that matter Afghanistan, we want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.
End partial transcript.
UPDATE: 3-8-12: To clarify, the War Powers Act gives the President the authority to send troops into combat situations, without the immediate granting by Congress for 30-60 days, ONLY in a national emergency. If a President goes to the dark side on this issue, Congress can defund the mission. When a Congress has staked it’s claim on unconstitutional acts, the Constitution is rendered impotent.
Jeff Sessions and Leon Panetta on Deploying U.S. Military (video)