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September 15, 2008

The Audacity of Dope: Did Obama Violate Logan Act?

Via Betsy Newmark, an allegation from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that Barack Obama was meddling in foreign policy during his trip to Iraq:

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

"However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open." Zebari says.

Though Obama claims the US presence is "illegal," he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the "weakened Bush administration," Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

Obama's alleged meddling wasn't limited to conducting unauthorized negotiations with the Iraqi foreign minister:

While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a "realistic withdrawal date." They declined.

If these disturbing allegations are true, Barack Obama joins the list of Congressional Democrats who have violated the Logan Act:

Let’s be clear from the start: There isn’t much question that Speaker Pelosi has committed a felony violation of the Logan Act. This two-century-old law, codified at Section 953 of the federal penal code, bars Americans who are “without authority of the United States” from conducting relations “with any foreign government … in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States[.]”

It is settled beyond peradventure that the authority of the United States over the conduct of foreign relations rests exclusively with the executive branch. As John Marshall, later to become the nation’s most important Chief Justice, famously observed, “The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external affairs, and its sole representative with foreign nations.… The [executive] department is entrusted with the whole foreign intercourse of the nation.” In 1936, the Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged in its Curtiss-Wright Export decision, the “delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations[.]” And, as convincingly explained in the Wall Street Journal by the eminent Professor Robert F. Turner, the congressional debate over passage of the Logan Act demonstrates that the law was understood to bar legislative interference with the president’s management of American diplomacy.

So the Bush administration is in charge of foreign relations. It has a policy of attempting to isolate the rogue Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. Far from authorizing Speaker Pelosi’s visit with Assad, the president asked her not to go. Pelosi went anyway, and proceeded to embarrass herself and our nation by meddling ineptly in the Syrian/Israeli conflict, concurrently giving the despicable Assad just the lifeline our policy has sought to deny him. As the Logan Act goes, it doesn’t get more black-and-white than that.

The question then becomes, what do we do about this kind of thing?

It is becoming impossible to enforce the most elementary national security measures. As McCarthy points out, there are times when expediency dictates turning a blind eye to violations of the law:

Must the fact that a statute is inevitably implicated always mean we should delegate our political and national security issues — our policy disputes — to the federal courts for resolution?

Lawsuits, of course, have become as American as baseball, apple pie and You Tube. But hard as it may be for so litigious a culture to get this through its thick skull, not every problem in life is a legal problem. In a dynamic, confident society, policy disagreements are a sign of good health. They are not grounds for convening a grand jury — and if that’s what they become, confident dynamism is certain to shrivel into diffident paralysis.

It took us nearly a decade and thousands of dead to learn that Islamic terrorism is not, essentially, a legal problem, even though it always involves violations of federal law. The best hint might have come in spring 1998 when a federal grand jury indicted Osama bin Laden. So chastened was al Qaeda’s emir that he responded by … bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa, nearly sinking the U.S.S. Cole, and ordering the 9/11 attacks. Yes, laws were violated; but that was beside the point — and adding counts every time something went boom did not seem to stop things from going boom and innocents from being slaughtered. We needed to find more apt means for dealing with jihadist terrorism because the law, though ubiquitous, is neither effective nor the main consideration.

Still, the lesson has failed to take hold even in the life-and-death matter of our security. In December 2005, the New York Times disclosed the existence of the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program. There ensued for over a year a heated national debate over a complete sideshow: namely, whether the warrantless penetration of potential enemy electronic communications — something the United States has done in every war since it has been technologically possible to do so — violated a statute, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

Should we be trying to intercept al Qaeda’s messaging? How much of our privacy is really compromised if we know there might be government eavesdropping on our international phone calls and e-mails — especially when we know foreign intelligence agencies may be listening anyway? Was the NSA program making us safer? These were the crucial policy questions. But they got no oxygen. The air, instead, was sucked out of the debate by dueling constitutional law scholars holding forth on the question whether the president’s constitutional power excused a clear transgression of FISA. Consumed by whether a national security program was legal, we forgot to probe whether it was effective — even as the paramount issue of effectiveness was underscored by the absurdity of legislators nattering about “gross illegality” while continuing to fund the program, which polls showed the American people solidly favoring.

The NSA controversy was not alone. Cognate “scandals” erupted over secret CIA prisons for al Qaeda captives and monitoring of the international banking system to track terror funds. Did these programs contribute to our security? Who knows? We, after all, were too busy mulling the ramifications of international law and domestic financial privacy statutes to spend much time on anything so mundane as the safety of Americans or success in the war.

And has anything been more reviled on the Right in recent years than the prosecution of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff? Here you had political issues of the utmost importance: the nature of the intelligence which prompted the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the administration’s interpretation of that intelligence, and the state of Saddam Hussein’s capacity and intentions regarding nuclear weapons development. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson scandalously misled the nation about these matters, and the Bush administration, quite properly, sought to correct the public record and undermine Wilson’s credibility — pointing out, among other things, that he had been chosen for his infamous trip to Niger not because of any special expertise but at the suggestion of his CIA-insider wife who, herself, was predisposed to reject the possibility (which turns out to be the high likelihood) that Iraq had been seeking to stockpile uranium.

So what did we do? We spent three years not on these crucial matters of policy but obsessed over whether there had been a technical violation of statutes barring disclosures of classified information (viz., the fact of Valerie Plame Wilson’s employment by the CIA) … under circumstances where there had plainly been no intent to violate the law and the disclosures at issue had palpably done no damage to national security. Finding no violations, moreover, we were then riveted by Libby’s indictment and ultimate conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice. These were not unimportant matters, but were they worth the price paid? As public support for the war flagged, the administration was chilled from explaining itself for fear of accusations that it was interfering in a criminal investigation; and the investigation raised the powerful specter of our politics being criminalized.

Do we really want to do this all over again?

It's a valid question. What's more, in a political climate where our major newspapers seem to spend more time illegally releasing classified documents and shilling for the authors of tell-all "exposes" that undermine the administration than they do reporting the news, there may be some value in the specter of yet another prominent Democrat demonstrating that unique form of patriotism which Must Not Be Challenged to the American voter.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Update: Elise comments: "I really hope Zebari's account turns out to be false. I don't think well of Obama but I very sincerely hope he didn't do this."

I agree. But at the time, I didn't think it was appropriate for Obama to be discussing troop withdrawal timelines with the Iraqis:

Obama will arrive Tuesday afternoon in Jordan from Iraq, where top leaders reportedly voiced support for the idea of withdrawing U.S. troops by 2010, a timetable that aligns roughly with one that Obama has advocated.

He sat down Monday in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi leaders.

In a statement issued Monday night, Obama said al-Maliki told him that “now is an appropriate time to start a plan” for withdrawal, and “stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq by 2010.”

“Iraqis want an aspirational timeline, with a clear date, for the redeployment of American combat forces,” Obama said in a joint statement with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who accompanied him on the four-day tour through Iraq and Afghanistan. “Prime Minister Maliki told us that while the Iraqi people deeply appreciate the sacrifices of American soldiers, they do not want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces.”

Their account was echoed earlier in the day by Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who told the Associated Press after his meeting with Obama that they share “a common interest … to schedule the withdrawal of American troops.”

Yet, Obama and his Senate colleagues suggested the United States, if not the military, would retain a role in the country.

How generous of President Obama.

Obama acknowledged gains in the country, but suggested the surge has failed to meet key goals, saying political progress, reconciliation and economic development “continue to lag.”

“There has been some forward movement,” the statement said, “but not nearly enough to bring lasting stability to Iraq.”

The senators said they raised various issues with the Iraqi leadership, “including our deep concern about Iranian financial and material assistance to militia engaged in violent acts against American and Iraqi forces.”

Obama said little to reporters as he walked to and from his meetings.

“Very constructive,” he said after finishing talks with al-Maliki.

And then there's this:

Face to face with Iraq's leaders, Barack Obama gained fresh support yesterday for the idea of pulling all U.S. combat forces out of the war zone by 2010. But the Iraqis stopped short of actual timetables or endorsement of Obama's pledge to withdraw troops within 16 months if he wins the presidency.

Obama was over there directly undermining the White House's current negotiations:

The White House expressed unhappiness about Iraqi leaders' apparent public backing for Obama's troop-withdrawal plans and suggested the Iraqis may be trying to use the U.S. presidential election as leverage for negotiations on the United States' presence and future obligations in the country.

“We don't think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said after al-Maliki was quoted in a magazine article supporting Obama's proposed 16-month troop withdrawal timeline. Al-Maliki's spokesman, al-Dabbagh, initially appeared to try to discredit the magazine report but yesterday expressed anew hopes that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq by 2010.

The Bush administration has refused to set specific troop-level targets but last week offered to discuss a “general time horizon” for a U.S. combat troop exit.

Update II: It doesn't get much clearer than this folks. Convicted by his own words:

Among the issues being discussed with the two presidential candidates is the long-term security accord between Iraq and the United States. While the Bush administration would like to see an agreement reached before the summer’s political conventions, Mr. Obama said today that he opposed such a timetable.

“My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it’s my administration or Senator McCain’s administration,” Mr. Obama said. “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made.”

So it's not just Taheri saying it. Obama is convicted out of his own mouth.

Posted by Cassandra at September 15, 2008 07:20 AM

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I really hope Zebari's account turns out to be false. I don't think well of Obama but I very sincerely hope he didn't do this.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2008 10:56 AM

About the update: Agreed, Cassandra. That was out of line also. What's being alleged now seems worse but you are, of course, quite right that it's actually all of a piece.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard this exchange about the Russia/Georgia conflict on the McLaughlin Group:

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the way out of this crisis? What should Bush do now? What's the way out of the crisis, Pat Buchanan?

After thoughts from Buchanan, McLaughlin turned to Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I think the president should shut up and go away. He's a lame duck.

I almost fainted.

Obama's admitted actions, his now alleged actions, Clift's remark, the murmurings about war crimes trials don't quite add up to a Constitutional republic where power is transferred legally and as scheduled and where everyone respects the office if not the occupant, do they? It all seems - and I know this is a totally inadequate description - very sad.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2008 11:28 AM

And if he did, so what? I mean really, how many people have ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act? Zero.
Ramsey Clark and Jimmy Carter are two that come to mind that should have been prosecuted. But Obama? Really?

And Hoshyar Zebari might be just be gaming us, too.
You could amass evidence from here to Christmas, and the chances of handing down an indictment are.....zero.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 15, 2008 11:32 AM

I am neither inclined to believe it, nor immediately disbelieve it. I was shocked that he talked to Maliki about troop levels at all when he was over there.

That seemed presumptuous to me.

Posted by: Cass at September 15, 2008 12:37 PM

I don't think there would ever be an indictment.

Given the contemporary news accounts though, does it really seem that unlikely that he did it? I mean what on earth did he think he was doing with Hagel and Reed anyway?

Posted by: Cass at September 15, 2008 12:40 PM

"And if he did, so what? I mean really, how many people have ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act? Zero."
That's a very brief list Mr. Brouhaha. But naming those who deserve an honorable mention if not inclusion [Madam Speaker] on the list might take a while, so your point is, at least in my opinion, spot on...

I wish I could bring myself say more but with the mention of Jahmy Cahtah, I've gotta go out back for a little chainsaw therapy before I can trust myself to any other comments.

[Slowly he turned, inch by inch, step by step...]

Posted by: bthun at September 15, 2008 12:47 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 09/15/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at September 15, 2008 12:55 PM

The Obamamessiah moves in mysterious ways. It is not for us to question his actions or inactions, but merely have faith that the day of election draws nigh, and he will bring blessed Change. Amen.

Posted by: a former european at September 15, 2008 03:03 PM

Kerry-esque, but as a Democratic politician, he's got more privileges, I suppose.

Posted by: htom at September 15, 2008 03:19 PM

There are many people in this country that will vote for Obama no matter what he does or doesn't do. They just hate Bush - they are haters!

Nothing excuses this... NOTHING!

If Obama tried to delay US negotiations with Iraq he has gone against everything he has stated to the public.

The big news was that Iraq was now suggesting Obama's timetable - but if he was trying to delay it until a new administration it would take at least 9 months from the time he was there just to get the new administration in and ready to negotiate.

Does that make him a liar, reckless or just willing to do whatever it takes to be the first black president

Posted by: outraged at September 15, 2008 08:00 PM


Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at September 15, 2008 09:00 PM

Not to suggest it's "OK", I would observe that there is some evidence to suggest that Reagan (well, Bush I as VP-nom and man-with-many-intel-contacts) may have interceded in the Iranian Hostage Situation, to Jimmy Carter's detriment.

Just so we realize that it might be a good idea to be careful with the degree of righteous indignation that gets applied.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at September 16, 2008 08:18 AM

Well, I would agree that whoever does it, it's wrong.

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 08:21 AM

Oh my goodness! In my haste yesterday I failed to point out that BO is willing to do whatever it takes to become the second black president.

Oh, how quickly we forget...

Posted by: bthun at September 16, 2008 11:38 AM

Reagan was worried as early as June in that election year that Carter was delaying the negotiations in order for the release to be an "October Surprise".

After Carter lost the election, the Reagan transition team became involved in the negotiations with Carter's team. The Reagan team told the Iranians there would not be a better offer from Reagan.

Reagan and Carter both wanted the release to take place before the inauguration. They were both accused in some fashion of manipulating the hostage release date and time for political gain. Neither were guilty.

Posted by: Donna B. at September 16, 2008 04:07 PM

Obama got a little ahead of himself with his entire overseas trip, didn't he? The British press began calling him "His Expectancy." This is believable because it is entirely consistent with his narcissism.

Posted by: Jasmine at September 16, 2008 06:17 PM

So the McCain sending a delegation to Georgia to talk about Russia's invasion was completely appropriate?

Posted by: Doug at September 18, 2008 10:33 PM

So the McCain sending a delegation to Georgia to talk about Russia's invasion was completely appropriate?

Posted by: Doug at September 18, 2008 10:34 PM

Gee, I don't know.

Which official U.S. government negotiation did he attempt to undermine? Or did I miss something?

Posted by: Cass at September 18, 2008 10:53 PM

If you believe Obama violated the Logan act go to this link. It’s so easy to voice your concern.


Note: use the “send for free” option.

Posted by: Miller at September 20, 2008 02:12 PM

Not only has Barack Obama and the Democratic Party compromised the security and stability of our country but they have been the cause of the worse national and international financial crisis we are facing today.

If he couldn’t secure the birth certificate when he was in Hawaii recently,
that alone shows his defiance and belief he cannot be touched. On the basis of principle alone, the candidate did not present valid documents before the election and therefore did not qualify. His intention to dodge the issue one day before the deadline should be looked upon as a underhanded means of gaining his objective by, failing to recognize our constitution, to suit his needs. As a lawyer he fully understands the process and his attempts to manipulate the court to gain it’s sympathy as well as that of the American people is very obvious. An individual who sees himself as being untouchable due to the power and financial support he has secured throughout this campaign and his Senate position is dangerous to our country.

By providing Obama with additional time we have given him the green light to secure the necessary documentation by whatever means necessary thus promoting more corruption. I am sure any other documents in additional to securing the national security clearance which he previously could not qualify for, (with all the campaign funds he has), should now be a piece of cake to obtain.

In addition to the above I submit the following areas that concern me:

• Barack Obama violated the stated intention of his 2006 official government visa to Africa by publicly protesting and campaigning on foreign soil, (for his cousin, Railla Odinga) against the US democratic ally of Kenya. Apparently no sanctions or reprimand by the US Congress has been filed against him.
• The Democrats (including Obama) defended Fannie Mae and Freddie Max and accused those (Bush and McCain) who raised alarm bells of being too tough. Even the 10.6 billion accounting scandal that occurred at Fannie Mae which McCain called to their attention which resulting in their profit growth being deliberately mistated, the Democrats still took no action. To add more insult to injury, is the willingness by Obama and the Democratic Party to pass full blame on to the Republican Party for the financial crisis in order to save face with the American people and to discredit McCain in the eyes of the voters. A deliberate action to gain edge in the election.
• Obama plus Dodd and Kerry being signaled out to received over $100,00 contributions each from Fannie Mae/Freddie Max should raise sufficient concerns due to the national and international disaster it created.
• On his World Tour in July, Obama interfered in the Bush Administration’s negotiations with the Iraqi Government about US troop withdrawals. For his own selfish political gain. Not only is this a Logan Act violation, which is a felony, it is an act of deception and political manipulation at the expense of American lives. Obama assumed authority not yet conveyed to him by the American public before he was even assured of his success in the election. According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July so he could get credit after he was sworn in. It is a blatant attempt to undermine American troops in Iraq. This is a federal offense and SHOULD BE PROSECUTED.
Since I believe Obama is not an idot, I can only assume he is dangerously intelligent to the determent of our country. It may be cynical but I would think Obama is deliberately attempting to undermine our country and make us look bad in the eyes of our foreign allies. These type of tactics I would expect of a Muslin Terrorist. While he states no involvement with the Muslim – Islamic group, him appearing in Muslim garb when he was approximately 18-20 years old tells me a different story.
There has been so much conspiracy around Obama to make me question as to why he was chosen in the first place. Anyone else that committed this type of fraud, would have been disqualified right away yet because of his race he is allowed to continue on without interruption. Before he is even sworn in, we are providing him with top secret information and he is taking over the Presidency.
Racism which is the excuse used generally by the Black American voter, can be the excuse used by the White American voters as well if this type of injustice is not punished adequately.

If Congress chooses to look the other way, then we know how far the corruption has gone. We have the right to require a non-bias and independent investigation be accomplished against Obama. Since the possibility of bribery may be involved, I hope whoever does the investigation, looks into his finances, both personal, business as well as campaign contributions, to be assured no payouts were made. There should be no acceptable excuse for such disregard for the safety of our country. I trust justice will be done and I believe the American voters will accept nothing less.

The 2008 election will go down in history as one of the most corrupt throughout the history of the United States of America .

It amazes me the witch hunt by the news media that was accomplished against McCain and Palin, but hardly anything negative was said about Obama . I guess they didn’t want to lose that advertising money.

It would support clearly that Obama is not the person he professes himself to be and in desperation by accomplishing this type of cover up, both the Obama campaign group and the Democratic Party are involved in the worse form of conspiracy for which all those involved should be severely punished.

Posted by: JoanofArc at November 18, 2008 06:33 PM