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No Defense for Evading Oversight

July 20, 2002

Re "Defense Seeking Greater Latitude," July 15: The Bush administration's efforts to eliminate or bypass congressional oversight of many of the Department of Defense's activities should be seen for what it is: a shocking power grab that if accomplished by force would be considered a coup d'etat. It is no less dangerous because it is being attempted quietly by gray bureaucrats wearing gray business suits. In fact, these nonelected officials (including the president) are on the verge of imposing a form of government radically different from the one the framers of the Constitution envisioned.

According to your article, they even admit engaging in "a larger administrationwide effort to fundamentally alter the relationship between executive branch agencies and Congress"; in other words, to single-handedly rewrite (or trash) the Constitution. Unfortunately for them, doing so constitutes subversion, possibly even treason. All of the patriotic rhetoric in the world, and all of the rationalizations based on the boogeyman of "terrorism," can't mask that simple fact.

Constitutional checks and balances, such as congressional oversight of the executive branch, exist for a reason. In fact, they exist precisely to prevent rogue politicians, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his cronies in the Bush administration (including the president), from becoming laws unto themselves. Rather than acceding to Rumsfeld's demands, Congress must exert its constitutional prerogatives and retain full oversight of Defense and other federal agencies. Indeed, in light of the fact that Congress is the only branch of the government that is constitutionally authorized to declare war, Congress should increase its scrutiny of Defense during this so-called "war on terrorism" rather than abdicating its responsibilities and allowing the Pentagon free rein.

J.G. Berinstein

Northridge

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Last week, our military establishment demanded and got, for its soldiers and generals, immunity from criminal prosecution in the International Criminal Court ("U.S. Granted Immunity for Peacekeepers," July 13). This week officials are asking for immunity from many congressional oversights. I see these moves as leading to an absolute power that is certain to corrupt. Worse, the civilian authority residing in the president is rewarding every step.

Frank D. Amon

Los Angeles

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