cj#1142> Fresia: The Constitution and Secret Government


Richard Moore


                        Toward an American Revolution

                Exposing the Constitution and other Illusions

                                Jerry Fresia

                                 Chapter 5

              The Constitution and Secret Government

                   Early in 1934, Irene Du Pont and
                   William S. Knudsen [General Mortors
                   president] reached their explosion
                   point over President Roosevelt. Along
                   with friends of the Morgan Bank and
                   General Motors, certain Du Pont
                   backers financed a coup d'á’átat that
                   would overthrow the President with the
                   aid of a $3 million-funded army of
                   terrorists, modeled on the fascist
                   movement in Paris known as the Croix
                   de Feu...[Roosevelt] knew that in view
                   of the backing from high banking
                   sources, this matter could not be
                   dismissed as some crackpot
                   enterprise...On the other hand,
                   Roosevelt also knew that if he were to
                   arrest the leaders of the houses of
                   Morgan and Du Pont, it would create an
                   unthinkable national crisis...Not for
                   the first or last time in his career,
                   he was aware that there were powers
                   greater than he in the United States.
                   -Charles Higham1

              The bicentennial year was more than a
              celebration of the Constitution. It was a year
              of political crisis in which several
              congressional investigations and a widely
              followed law suit filed by the Christic
              Institute exposed what many have called a
              "secret team."2 It is through this secret team,
              we have learned, that the federal government
              continues to assassinate political opponents
              despite declarations and statutes to the
              contrary, collaborates with transnational
              criminal organizations in drug dealing for the
              purpose of covert financing, and systematically
              promulgates disinformation about its political
              opponents and its own policies.3 The general
              response to the dirty work of the secret team
              (which we shall detail below), from mainstream
              and progressive leaders alike, has been that
              these deeds are a direct violation of the
              Constitution.4 Only Congress has the power to
              declare war (Article I Section 8) we are
              constantly reminded. The message is clear: this
              crisis does not mean that it is time to depart
              from or transform our political economic
              structure; it means that it is time to get back
              to the Constitution.

              In light of the secret team revelations, how
              does one explain the rush to defend the
              Constitution on the part of many progressives?
              Perhaps it is this: it stems from the desire to
              protect the liberal ideal which the Framers used
              to cloak their defense of private power and
              their quest for private empire by separating it
              from the structures of private power and the
              reality of private empire. It emerges,
              ultimately, from a desire to protect the myth of
              innocence: we are a self-governed nation of the
              people, where individual freedom is extended to
              all, where no one is above the law, and where
              the right to dissent is guaranteed by the Bill
              of Rights. But in order to preserve the
              innocence of the liberal ideal, we must ignore
              the fact that the Constitution is more than a
              design for a political system; we must ignore
              that it is a design for a political economic
              system. As has been shown, the political system
              which the Constitution created was intended to
              support private power ("freedom") in a private
              economy ("free" enterprise) and that today its
              purpose is to support and protect a capitalist
              empire, indeed, the largest empire on earth. The
              vision of the Framers has been realized, and
              then some. That is the crux of the problem.

              The Constitution is not a neutral instrument, it
              is an active element within a political economic
              structure organized around private power within
              a private economy. For example, following Harry
              Magdoff, we can identify three distinct stages
              in the drive to empire and in each the state has
              played a crucial role: during the late
              eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the
              state was used to help private elites market
              food and raw materials to the rest of the world,
              assist the importation of capital, and protect
              maritime commercial interests. By the late
              nineteenth century, the state was helping a
              small number of industrial and financial giants
              compete internationally in the export of
              manufactured goods and capital. Following World
              War II, the function of the state was to protect
              and support what had become the major, dominant
              capitalist economy, the largest manufacturer,
              foreign investor, trader, the world's banker,
              and the dollar which in turn had become the key
              international currency.5

              Furthermore, the expansion of our private
              economy may be viewed as the expansion of power,
              the imposition of the will and needs of those
              who own concentrated wealth upon the lives of
              those people who do not own land or factories
              and who live dependent lives (what Rosa
              Luxemburg has called "capital's blustering
              violence"). Therefore, the use of military force
              by the state in the service of private power has
              been a constant feature of the expansion of our
              economy. According to a 1969 study, the United
              States has been engaged in warlike activity
              during three-fourths of its history (in 1,782
              out of 2,340 months).6 To put this dynamic in a
              constitutional context, persistent acts of war
              have been sponsored by the federal government
              because in order to validate the state debt,
              protect private property, provide military and
              diplomatic representation abroad, suppress
              insurrections and do the other things that the
              Constitution requires the state to do to help
              property owners control productive activity and
              markets on a global scale, the state repeatedly
              has had to take the side of the few who seek
              control against the many who resist it. In this
              defense of "freedom," the probability of state
              sponsored violence and terror is always high.

              Here we come to the heart of the problem of
              secret government. The United States is nearly
              always at war because the United States is
              nearly always using violence to support the few
              who are rich against the many who are poor. It
              is the few who are rich (those who own vast
              amounts of wealth producing property), then, who
              have real power in our society because it is
              their private interests (the "national
              interest") that need to be served if economic
              expansion is to take place. Working through
              their own private organizations such as the
              Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral
              Commission, the Ford and Rockefeller
              Foundations, the Committee for Economic
              Development, and such "think tanks" as the
              American Enterprise Institute, these elites
              become an unaccountable governing force that can
              become a secret government if and when they
              acquire positions within the government which
              enable them to link military and intelligence
              capability with specific corporate needs.
              Fletcher Prouty, a former officer within the
              Defense Intelligence Agency, describes those who
              run the secret government this way: they are
              "security-cleared individuals in and out of
              government who receive secret intelligence data
              gathered by the CIA and the National Security
              Agency..." whose power derives from the "vast
              intra-governmental undercover infrastructure and
              its direct relationship with great private
              industries, mutual funds and investment houses,
              universities, and the news media, including
              foreign and domestic publishing houses." During
              the post-World War II era, states Prouty, "more
              and more control over military and diplomatic
              operations at home and abroad" was assumed by
              elites "whose activities are secret, whose
              budget is secret, whose very identities as often
              as not are secret..."7

              The fundamental issue which underlies secret
              government (and the secret teams which they
              field to carry out "special" covert operations)
              is injustice. The American people must not know
              that their government acts violently and
              unjustly on a regular basis. But there is an
              additional twist. The injustice in question is
              purposeful. It is a feature of economic
              expansion, privilege, and private empire. It is
              in the interest of private elites. All of this
              is quite consistent with the values of the
              Framers, the way they understood and explained
              inequality, and the purposes to which the
              Constitution was committed. To be sure, the
              Framers had no way of knowing the dimension of
              the political problem that would confront their
              descendants following 1945 when the empire was
              fully realized. They had no way of knowing that
              the checks and balances outlined within the
              Constitution might not be sufficient to protect
              private power against the rapid upward swell of
              political activism following World War II and on
              into the 1960s and 1970s. They had no way of
              knowing that the suppression of insurrections,
              shifted to a global scale, would take the form
              of virulent anti-communism, Nazi collaboration,
              and state sponsored terrorism. This set of sins
              was not especially more wicked than the acts of
              human enslavement and genocide committed by the
              Framers. But against the standards of decency
              that had emerged by the mid-twentieth century,
              the blustering and impersonal violence of
              capitalist expansion could not be legitimated as
              easily. Instead, new methods of insulating the
              policymaking of private elites from interested
              majorities had to be invented. Thus, the real
              issue today is not whether the dirty work of the
              secret team violates the Constitution, it is
              whether the work of the Framers is sufficient to
              protect corporate power from the people in the
              wake of yet another "crisis of democracy,"
              whether called feminism, Black Power, student
              protest, environmentalism, peace, the New Age or
              simply the "Vietnam syndrome."

              The Power of the President and the Role of

              Much has been written about the increasing power
              of the presidency vis-áŠá-vis Congress since
              World War II. This is not quite right. What
              should be said is that the power of the
              Executive branch vis-áŠá-vis Congress has
              increased. The distinction is an important one
              because it suggests that what is increasing is
              not necessarily the power of the president as
              much as are the various agencies (primarily
              military and intelligence) within the Executive
              branch to which private elites have ready access
              and insulation from popular pressure (often
              expressed through Congress). In other words, as
              the government has been drawn into the economy,
              private power has been protected from direct
              public interference from the Congress and from
              the president, if need be, through the
              construction of layers of bureaucratic
              insulation within the Executive branch. Pundits
              have looked at the Iran-Contra affair and have
              cried foul play: a private foreign policy has
              been conducted behind the back of Congress (and
              possibly the president). What they should have
              said is that the dependent status of public
              officials generally with regard to private power
              and the specific distrust of Congress is nothing
              new. From the point view of the Framers, it is
              the correct relationship between public and
              private power.

              Article II states that Executive power is
              invested in a president. That power is not
              defined but John Locke in his Second Treatise on
              Government argued that in the conduct of foreign
              affairs, the executive does not simply execute
              laws passed by the legislature, rather the
              executive exercises a wholly separate function,
              particularly with regard to the "power of war
              and peace." Thomas Jefferson similarly stated
              that "foreign affairs are executive altogether."
              In one instance, Jefferson, by executive order
              and without consulting Congress, returned to
              France certain "prizes" taken at sea by American
              warships. Discussing this action in a letter to
              Madison, Jefferson stated that "the executive,
              charged with our exterior relations, seems
              bound, is satisfied of the fact, to do right to
              the foreign nations, and take on itself the
              risque [sic] of justification."8

              Does this mean that something like the
              Iran-Contra affair could have happened with
              someone like Jefferson as president? The answer
              is yes, because it did. In 1803, the United
              States found itself at the mercy of
              fundamentalist Muslims who were holding U.S.
              citizens hostage. In addition, they were asking
              and getting ransom from the U.S. government.
              Jefferson's response was a covert plan to
              secretly overthrow the government (a state in
              the region near present day Libya) and replace
              it with one which would be more congenial to
              U.S. interests. On December 10, 1803, Jefferson
              held a secret meeting in the White House with
              with Captain William Eaton. They worked out a
              plan in which Eaton would be given $40,000 from
              the State Department and 1,000 rifles. Eaton was
              then detached from the State Department and
              loaned to the Navy where he was given the title
              "Agent for the United States Fleet in the
              Mediterranean," a post never heard of before.
              Covertly and behind the back of Congress, Eaton
              eventually was sent to Egypt with eleven Marines
              where he organized a mercenary army and achieved
              some military success but was unable to
              destabilize the government in question.*

                   *This information was reported by
                   National Public Radio's "All Things
                   Considered" on July 7, 1987. The piece
                   was entitled "Barbary Coast Wars."

              The essential differences between the "secret
              team" of 1803 and the secret team of 1987 have
              less to do with violations of constitutional
              principles than with the way those principles
              must be expressed, given the very different
              stages (from fledgling nation to declining
              empire) of economic development.

              And what has been the role of Congress with
              regard to covert action? As we noted earlier,
              Veron L. Parrington has stated that the
              Constitution represented the first written
              safeguard against tyranny, "but it was aimed at
              the encroachments of agrarian majorities rather
              than at Tory minorities...An honest appeal to
              the people was the last thing desired by the
              Federalists..." Allen Smith similarly adds that
              "[I]t was the almost unanimous sentiment of the
              Convention that the less the people had to do
              with the government the better."9 The Framers
              would have been pleased, then, if they had
              watched the congressional investigation of the
              Iran-Contra affair this summer. Congress limited
              the scope of the investigation, provided a
              platform for anti-communist ideologues, covered
              up the most controversial acts such as
              drug-running, and effectively kept the public
              misinformed.10 This is what Madison meant when
              he said that the purpose of a representative
              system was "to refine and enlarge the public
              views by passing them through the medium of a
              chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best
              discern the true interest of their country...and
              if pronounced by the people themselves..." The
              Constitution states that only Congress shall
              declare war. But notice it does not say which
              branch of government can or cannot make war nor
              does it say that acts of war must be declared.
              Congress, in defining the true interest of the
              country, has seen fit to declare war only four
              times despite nearly 1,800 months of fighting
              and nearly 200 known instances of United States
              armed interventions abroad.11 In addition to
              formal declarations, however, numerous
              congressional acts have been intended to
              legitimize acts of war. The Gulf of Tonkin
              Resolution which permitted the prosecution of
              the Vietnam war is one. The repeated funding of
              the Contras is another. But the task of covering
              up "capital's blustering violence" since the
              empire gained world dominance has become
              considerably more difficult than it was during
              the early nineteenth century when Congress
              could, without widespread public protest, open
              the West to economic penetration and the Native
              Americans to genocide by passing legislation
              which called for measures that would lead Native
              Americans to "agriculture, to manufactures, and
              civilization." After more than a century and a
              half of varied social movements, Congress in
              1947 felt compelled to create a new level of
              government that better insulated private elites
              from the public pressures of policy making. The
              National Security Act of 1947, which gave birth
              to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the
              National Security Council (NSC) among other
              agencies and departments, enabled corporate
              elites to more directly and more secretly
              control war making policies essential for global
              economic expansion and stability. It was the
              stronger centralization, the more severe set of
              checks and balances against public power that
              many of the more conservative members of the
              Constitutional Convention such as Hamilton had
              argued for in 1787. Moreover, the act created a
              new kind of transnational army within the CIA
              suitable for suppressing insurrections and
              overthrowing governments ("such other functions
              and duties") on a global scale just as the
              Framers had created a national army in 1787 to
              suppress insurrections on a state or regional

              Funding measures have also kept pace with the
              Framers' original intentions. Although the
              Constitution states that "All bills for raising
              revenue shall originate in the House of
              Representatives" (Article I Section 7) in the
              interest of ensuring "perfect secrecy," the
              Framers provided George Washington with a secret
              slush fund (see Chapter 6). Thus covert
              financing originated with the Framers. As the
              government became more deeply involved in
              economic matters (a situation the Framers could
              not foresee), the overriding need to insulate
              key economic decisions from public pressures
              forced Congress to pass on revenue
              decisionmaking to the executive and beyond.
              Following the "Red Scare" in 1921, the Bureau of
              the Budget was created which permitted the
              coordination of departmental funding requests.
              The Bureau was moved to the Executive Office of
              the President in 1939 and later became the
              Office of Management and Budget, enabling
              private elites and the president to originate
              revenue bills and use the budget to control
              executive bureaucracies. Moreover, the NSC sets
              budgetary guidelines for the Defense Department
              and in 1949 Congress gave permission to the CIA
              to "transfer to and receive from other
              government agencies such sums as may be approved
              by the Office of Management and Budget, for the
              performance of any functions or activities
              authorized...and any other government agency is
              authorized to transfer or receive from the
              agency such sums without regard to any
              provisions of law limiting or prohibiting
              transfers between appropriations." In other
              words, much of the actual U.S. war making
              agencies are above the law because Congress has
              so stipulated. Indeed, the CIA's real charter,
              its "secret charter," was not shown to
              Congressional "oversight" committees until July
              1973. The public has no way of knowing if the
              CIA is exceeding its mandate because there is no
              way of knowing what the mandate is. We see here
              that Madison's insight that "the danger of
              disturbing the public tranquility by interesting
              too strongly the public passions is a still more
              serious objection against a frequent reference
              of constitutional questions to the decisions of
              the whole society," is one that is shared by
              elites today. Taking added precaution,
              presidents have "regularly enlarged the
              functions of the CIA by executive fiat...And
              sometimes...have acted without informing...[the]
              normally indulgent congressional `watchdogs.' "
              Periodically members of Congress complain that
              they are not really involved in the secret
              government in the way that they should be. But
              most congressional watchdogs share the view of
              Senator Leverett Saltonstall who in 1966 said,
              "It is not a question of reluctance on the part
              of CIA officials to speak to us. Instead it is a
              question of our reluctance, if you will, to seek
              information and knowledge on subjects which I
              personally, as a Member of Congress and as a
              citizen, would rather not have."12 Statements
              such as these capture well our collective need
              to deny what we have become. But what is it that
              our government does that citizens, because they
              are members of that government, would prefer not
              to know?

Coming next:
              The Secret Government and the Rise of Nazi