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FBI, CIA, NSA

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I'm interested in learning the Objectivist position on the following agencies; FBI, CIA and NSA. Are they considered fully legitimate for government funding, and vital to national security? That's always been my opinion, though I've never heard an Objectivist intellectual comment on either before. Do you believe them to be operating as they should, or is there good reason to believe that they, too, are acting on a policy of self-sacrifice? Do you believe that either of them are infringing too much on our personal liberties?

Thank you.

Edited by JMartins
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I think the FBI and the CIA are perfectly legitimate qua their mission. However, they've behaved less than desirably, more often than not as agencies with so much authority and secrecy often do.

The NSA I don't know enough about, but I would take their domestic surveillance as of late to be indicative of how they operate, above the law.

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The proper role of government is to enforce the law and protect the country and the people from foreign attacks. (What the law should be is a long story, for another day.)

So, to the extent that these agencies are doing that, with proper oversight, there's nothing wrong with them. Obviously, there's a lot wrong with the laws, but that's a problem with the Government and the democratic system, not the agencies, their structure or employees.

In conclusion, if someone has a problem with these agencies, they should list the concrete instances in which they are breaking the law. If those violations are systematic, there is a problem with the agency. I'm however not aware of anything huge, that would warrant closing down any of these three, very useful, organizations. I must admit though, I'm not terribly informed on them.

If there proves to be something awry, I would suggest changing things, introducing oversight or eliminating certain positions, rather than closing down or weakening any of these three key (when it comes to protecting the country) agencies.

P.S. Maybe the CIA's role should be taken over by the military, but that's debatable. There are arguments for both scenarios.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I see no legitimate constitutional authority for thier existence. And, yes, they are infringing on our liberties.

Th Constitution allows the government to "provide for the common defense", which is the primary function of intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA. The FBI is a law enforcement agency, which is another legitimate function of government. Which of these three agencies is systematically infringing on our liberties?

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Th Constitution allows the government to "provide for the common defense", which is the primary function of intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA. The FBI is a law enforcement agency, which is another legitimate function of government. Which of these three agencies is systematically infringing on our liberties?

The phrase "provide for the common defense" is found in the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The preamble is not a source of power for any department of the Federal Government. - Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 22 (1905).

The preamble has been referred to by the SCOTUS "as bearing witness to the fact that the Constitution emanated from the people and was not the act of sovereign and independent States." - McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 403 (1819) Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419, 471 (1793); Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 304, 324 (1816)

''Its true office is to expound the nature and extent and application of the powers actually conferred by the Constitution, and not substantively to create them. For example, the preamble declares one object to be, 'to provide for the common defense.' No one can doubt that this does not enlarge the powers of Congress to pass any measures which they deem useful for the common defence. - J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: 1833), 462.

Now, if the preamble does not "provide a source of power" to establish a department, let us then examine the enumerated powers set forth for the Congress in the body of the Constiution itself:

Section 8 - Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

And the limitation on it's powers:

Section 9 - Limits on Congress

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

(No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.) (Section in parentheses clarified by the 16th Amendment.)

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

I see no authority granted therein to provide for the establishment of a national police force, or a forign intelleigence agency.

Let us examine the powers granted by the Constitution to the Executive:

Section 2 - Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Again, no authority to establish the aforementioned agencies. The Constitution is a document of negitive rights, i.e., it is a limitation on the powers of the Federal government.

The FBI was established by US Attorey General Charles Bonaparte (during the term of Theodore Roosevelt), and in 1909, the FBI was made a permanant part of the Dept. of Justice by Attorney General George Wickersham, Bonaparte's successor. From the FBI's own website, we read the following:

The impulse among the American people toward a responsive federal government, coupled with an idealistic, reformist spirit, characterized what is known as the Progressive Era, from approximately 1900 to 1918. The Progressive generation believed that government intervention was necessary to produce justice in an industrial society. Moreover, it looked to "experts" in all phases of industry and government to produce that just society.

Thus, we can see that the FBI had it's origins in the same "Progressive" timeframe that brought us other unconstitutional monstrosities, such as the Federal Reserve Act.

The CIA grew out of the OSS after WWII, as a reaction to the Cold-War, and is a relic of that period - when there was a commie behind every bush. It's abuses are well documented elsewhere, and are too numerous to be repeated here.

The NSA was founded in 1952:

President Harry Truman on Oct. 24 signed a secret 8-page memo that created the National Security Agency (NSA) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense. Gen. Ralph Julian Canine was first director. The agency was located in Arlington Hall VA and the Naval Security Station in DC until moving to new HQ at Fort Meade MD in 1956. The NSA began as a secret agency that specialized in code-breaking and signal intelligence. From its predecessor, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the NSA inherited the Shamrock program of monitoring international cables that Herbert Osborne Yardley's Black Chamber had started in 1920. http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/20th/nsa.html

I see nothing that gave President Truman the constitutional authority to create this agency, as it's function was already being handled by the Military under other guises. Again, as in the establishent of the Dept. of Homeland Security, a crisis (The Korean War, was used as an excuse to further expand the power of the Federal Government.

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I see no legitimate constitutional authority for thier existence. And, yes, they are infringing on our liberties.
I think your concern with constitutional authority is misguided. The Necessary and Proper Clause is sufficient constitutional authority. The question that we should be focusing on is whether these agencies do or do not fall within the rubric "proper function of government". You dismiss the CIA because their "abuses are well documented elsewhere, and are too numerous to be repeated here", and yet it is exactly the concrete abuses that have to be discussed. They are in fact fully legitimate government agencies vital to the function of government, just as a local police force is a fully legitimate government agency vital to the function of government. The abuses by police are well documented elsewhere, and are too numerous to be repeated here. When they occur, they should be identified and eliminated. The fact that there are some abuses does not mean that there is something wrong with these agencies per se, it means that some government agents -- Hoover, for example -- abused their position in government. It means that the fault lies in the law itself which enables the NSA to unnecessarily violate property rights in performing searches.
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Maximus,

There isn't any specific Constitutional authority to establish an air force, nor is there any specific authority to engage in the electronic surveillance of this nation's enemies. Certainly you wouldn't say that these are not legitimate functions of a government charged with protecting this country, would you? The function of the subject agencies (CIA and NSA) is to defend the country and in the case of the FBI, to apprehend criminals and rights violators. As David said, the past problems with these agencies isn't a reason to eliminate them, it's a reason to watch them closely and to make sure that they are properly regulated and controlled.

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One problem seems to be in oversight of these entites, and the potential for the abuse of power. Who investigates the Dept. of Justice? The Dept. of Justice. Who has oversight of the CIA and NSA? Congress. But Congress has only limited acess to the goings-on of these entities due to "National Security." The black-ops activities of these agencies is entirely off-budget and out of sight of the legal entiy charged with oversight. The result being, when things go wrong, we discover the fallout from thier mistakes years or decades later. Case in point: the overthrow of Iran's Parlamentary democracy, and the installation of the Shah. Look at the result of that CIA action today.

When one of the Federal government's alphabet soup agencies oversteps it's bounds, and there are no consequences for it's actions, what then? Does this not violate the very spirit of the priciples of limited government and individual rights that are integral to our Republic? Or does expediancy nessesatate the violation of those principles?

In the defense of Liberty, is it nessesary to destroy it?

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When one of the Federal government's alphabet soup agencies oversteps it's bounds, and there are no consequences for it's actions, what then?
This is a general problem with administrative law, not specific to the FBI, CIA or NSA. Congress has broad power to create agencies which may act and even write law, with no oversight. I understand that the purpose of delegating power to an agency is to delegate, but the effect of unregulated regulating is the Europeanization of US law. A good first step would be to revisit the Administrative Procedures Act, to limit the power of government acting through agencies.

In fact, there is congressional oversight of the CIA, FBI and NSA, and has been for 30 years. If you feel that Congress has been lax in performing its job, maybe this means that we need to identify specific committee members, and expose their role in this business.

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In fact, there is congressional oversight of the CIA, FBI and NSA, and has been for 30 years. If you feel that Congress has been lax in performing its job, maybe this means that we need to identify specific committee members, and expose their role in this business.

It seems the same members are firmly entrenched in thier positions. The problem is that no-one seems to think there is anything wrong with thier particular congress-critter, and keep re-electing them. Term limits?

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It seems the same members are firmly entrenched in thier positions. The problem is that no-one seems to think there is anything wrong with thier particular congress-critter, and keep re-electing them. Term limits?

We imposed term limits in Michigan a number of years ago. The limits apply to the state house, senate and the governor. Unfortunately, this hasn't resulted in any better representation, just a new group of fresh-faced nitwits running the government. Ignorant people elect ignorant politicians and we have plenty of both here.

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