From Woodrow to FDR to 43

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The American heroes over at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reminded us last week that:

Last July, President Bush issued a broadly-worded executive order authorizing the government to seize the assets of "any person" who threatens the stability of Iraq and, more controversially, any person who provides assistance to such a person.

How did such an order—which theoretically allows for property seizure of U.S. citizens who had no idea they were supporting someone who was supporting the destabilization of Iraq—come to be? The non-partisan Congressional Research Service last month provided an interesting legal history and analysis; the Reader's Digest version is that it began with Woodrow Wilson during wartime, got expanded by FDR during peacetime, expanded further still during FDR's war, then rolled back by the post-Watergate Congress, but in such way that allowed for a new kind of expansion, which was accomplished by the PATRIOT Act. Now, the FAS' Steven Aftergood argues, President Bush's latest derivation of the Trading With the Enemy Act "appears to be technically unlimited."

FAS here, CRS here; examples of how residents of oppressed countries often bear the brunt of such legislation here and here. And Prescott Bush's scrape with the Trading With the Enemy Act is detailed here.

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  1. How long before they start arresting people for illegal software?

    (Sorry to keep referencing the Russian elections, but damn people, 150 million human lives took a big step toward tyranny.)

  2. Did they at least define what constitutes “threatening the stability of Iraq”?

  3. I’m not worried. The GW Bush administration would never abuse it’s exceutive powers. You guys are a bunch of worry warts.

  4. Obviously, Blackwater Inc. needs ALL of its assets siezed. Get on it, Mukasey. Chop, chop.

  5. As a rule of thumb, if the government is doing something asinine either at home or abroad, it had its roots in something that lovable racist scumbag Woody Wilson started….

  6. Taktix?,

    At least Venezuelans seemed to have decided not follow Chavez over the cliff (although it remains to be seen whether Chavez decides to push them over the edge anyway).

  7. You know, the beef I have with the Federation of American Scientists is that they primarily answer questions in the political realm, not scientific realm. Not saying they’re necessarily wrong, just saying they use the word ‘scientist’ in the same way as other use ‘the childrens.’ I mean, who can be against what a scientist thinks? They’re so smart and learned and rational and emotion-free and only desire to serve the public and a higher purpose and all.

  8. At least Venezuelans seemed to have decided not follow Chavez over the cliff (although it remains to be seen whether Chavez decides to push them over the edge anyway).

    Now, if only we here in the U.S. stopped following our leaders over said cliff…

    (to get back on topic)

    I mean really, how much more power do they really need before it’s game over for our frail, frail republic.

    I still think FDR was secretly a communist, and I don’t care how crazy that makes me look…

  9. Although I could be getting FAS confused with the Union of Concerned Scientists

  10. David – you know better than that. Definitions limit power.

    “When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

  11. Having looked it up, while UCS is worse, FAS mission statement per their CFC webpage is

    “Celebrating 60 years of science in public policy for nuclear non-proliferation, government secrecy, biosecurity, small arms — and now learning technologies and energy efficient housing”

    Except for the ‘energy efficient housing,’ these are all entirely political questions, not scientific. Again, I think these guys are right on some things, I just have a distaste for their marketing angle.

  12. You know, this makes it seem like the administration knows about a whole lot of obscure legal powers that they either have or want to expand. Like they did research on their own power or something. Nah, no way. That would require a lot of work.

  13. Episiarch,
    I bet you all administrations have a handful of policy wonks that do nothing but look for technicalities and obscure powers. All you really need is a couple of legal historians on the payroll to figure this stuff out for you.

  14. I bet you all administrations have a handful of policy wonks that do nothing but look for technicalities and obscure powers. All you really need is a couple of legal historians on the payroll to figure this stuff out for you.

    Or else just make shit up like Yoo.

  15. The following are questions for congresscritters –

    Has any administration had its powers/authority reduced since that of Jerry Ford?

    Why the hell not?

  16. I think it’s obvious that Bush threatens the stability of Iraq. I think I’ll seize his ranch.

    But not until he’s cleared some more brush. I want a clean ranch.

  17. I bet you all administrations have a handful of policy wonks that do nothing but look for technicalities and obscure powers. All you really need is a couple of legal historians on the payroll to figure this stuff out for you.

    Yeah, that was basically my point, but it seems like Bush’s wonks went into hyperdrive after 9/11. Not surprising.

  18. Yeah, we shouldn’t jack this thread into a discussion of Venezuela.

    We should have a separate thread about yesterday’s demonstration of the health and vibrancy of democracy in Venezuela.

    Can we have one? Please.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it would be a lot of fun.

  19. joe,

    49% of Venezuelans oppose a healthy and vibrant democracy.

  20. This whole thing is clearly Bush’s method of dealing with the deficit. Here’s how it works:

    1. Declare that assets of those threatening the stability of Iraq will be seized.

    2. Notice all the news coverage of these people dropping shitloads of bombs all the fuck over Iraq.

    3. Seize the offenders’ assets – in this case, the entire government of the United States.

    4. Declare that all creditors of the United States were supporting terrorism, and that thus their loan expectations are now null and void.

    5. Go right back to the status quo, but debt free!

  21. Or else just make shit up like Yoo.

    How did that fucker get a job at Berkeley? And then there’s Feith, who wound up at Georgetown after making shit up about WMDs.

    Meanwhile, I’ve never made shit up in a publication, and I’m at a school that’s very good but not quite in the lofty ranks of Berkeley and Georgetown.

    Well, by the time some of my projects come to fruition, we’ll have students turning down Berkeley and Georgetown to study here. Just you wait and see!

  22. Yeah, that was basically my point, but it seems like Bush’s wonks went into hyperdrive after 9/11. Not surprising.

    Oh ok. I misinterpreted your comment that the apparent idiocy of the current administration means that they probably picked a lot of shit out of there ass and this is probably just after the fact shaping to a historical context*.

    *Though I’m sure a lot of it is just that.

  23. Meanwhile, I’ve never made shit up in a publication,

    Physicists rarely do.

  24. Well, by the time some of my projects come to fruition, we’ll have students turning down Berkeley and Georgetown to study here. Just you wait and see!

    Hopefully, it’s not cold fusion research. 😉

  25. I love how it starts “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America..”. I may be wrong but I believe the President doesn’t have the authority under the Constitution to deprive citizens of their property. That right belongs to the Congress. That’s why the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. At the time slaves were legally considered property, Congress had to change the laws to free them.

  26. I thought this was old news; but it’s always good to shine a light on this kind of bullshit. I expect to see this sort of thing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

    Hahahahaha- I crack myself up.

  27. Hmmm… Would bombing Iran threaten stability of Iraq? I would say hell, yes.

    Maybe we should support this?

  28. J sub D | December 3, 2007, 11:24am | #

    thoreau | December 3, 2007, 11:18am | #

    Meanwhile, I’ve never made shit up in a publication,

    Physicists rarely do.

    Hey, mathematicians don’t do that either! Come on, I want some love for my field!

    *crickets*

    AWWW…. :o(

  29. Physicists rarely do.

    And when they do, it’s still worth reading.

  30. Does love from fellow mathematician count? Come on, we should stand against the cruel world together…

  31. Mathemeticians are nerds.Does love from fellow mathematician count? Come on, we should stand against the cruel world together…

    Mathematicians are nerds lacking in language skills. 😉

  32. Mathematicians are nerds lacking in language skills. 😉

    Wha?! Sputter! Harumph!

  33. Is this order retroactive to March 2003? If so, dib’s on Bush’s ranch.

  34. Well, FDR and Wilson are two of the worst, most likely the two worst US Presidents in history. A least Dear Leader is in good company.

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