Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pelosi and the Logan Act

Some JinC commenters have suggested or outright said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi violated the Logan Act while cozying in Damascus with the brutal dictator Bashar Assad.

Those commenters got strong support yesterday from Robert F. Turner who served in the Reagan administration as an acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. Turner's also a former chairman of the American Bar Association’s standing committee on law and national security.

Turner writes in a WSJ op-ed:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president, to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The administration isn't going to want to touch this political hot potato, nor should it become a partisan issue. Maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose aggressive prosecution of Lewis Libby establishes his independence from White House influence, should be called back.

The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United States," to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government's behavior on any "disputes or controversies with the United States."
Turner goes on to provide detailed background on Congress’ intent in passing the Logan Act. That background, Turner says, “helps [us] understand why Ms. Pelosi may be in serious trouble. …”

Turner concludes:
[What Pelosi did] violates not just statutory law but constitutes a usurpation of the powers of a separate branch and a breach of the oath of office Ms. Pelosi took to support the Constitution.

Ms. Pelosi's trip was not authorized, and Syria is one of the world's leading sponsors of international terrorism. It has almost certainly been involved in numerous attacks that have claimed the lives of American military personnel from Beirut to Baghdad.

The U.S. is in the midst of two wars authorized by Congress. For Ms. Pelosi to flout the Constitution in these circumstances is not only shortsighted; it may well be a felony, as the Logan Act has been part of our criminal law for more than two centuries. Perhaps it is time to enforce the law.
The entire op-ed is here.

I doubt the Logan Act will be enforced, although I think it should be in this case.

A JinC commenter has said former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, has also violated the Logan Act. I don’t know the details of that situation but if Turner or someone with credentials similar to his were to say Hastert violated the Logan Act, I’d favor treating him the same way Pelosi should be treated.

At the least, Pelosi should be subjected to strong public condemnation and ridicule from “the people and the press.” Hastert too, if he did something as odious and partisan as Pelosi did.

Hat tip: Mike Williams


Cedarford said...

I would hope people get a grip.

On top of various Presidents, there are plenty of countries that American special interest groups do not want US citizens, or elected American leadership, talking to or even visiting.

Such policies by Cuban exile interest groups have "nearly driven Castro to his knees and effected rapid regime change"....over the last 46 years.
Israel's lobby has attempted to limit contacts with nations Israel does not want America in contact with. The Greek lobby almost suceeded in having it's US tools boot Turkey out of NATO. POW/MIA groups for almost 20 years enforced the "no talks, no contact" with Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia - until every US soldier is accounted for and brought home - something descendents of the Revolutionary War and Civil War missing are still waiting on. A completely unrealistic standard.

I'm no liberal. But I recognize the Constitutional need for elected leaders to visit leaders overseas - and not "just our friends and those who do as we demand as the New Rome". Especially with a President who has engaged in significant foreign policy errors.

I object to such leaders ever trying to cut their own deals or meddle with diplomacy. The worst case was Jimmy Carter. Ideally, we should speak with one voice, and foreign policy bipartisan. When foreign policy is captured by special interests of one Party pushing their own agenda, though, we should not be surprised when significant visible frictions develop on whether the right policy is to talk to the 120 of 193 nations on the planet that have some odious feature - or give them the "tested" Castro treatment. Foreign policy is not the sole prerogative of the President. Laws on economic interactions, trade, approving treaties, and funding certain international and UN ventures are Congress's sphere.

Prosecuting Pelosi for the Logan Act, along with the dozen or so Republican members of Congress and 10 Democrats that visited Syria in the last two years would likely trigger a bipartisan effort to impeach Bush for interfering with and attempting to usurp Congress's role in foreign policy.

JWM said...

Dear Cedarford,

Thank you for a well-organized and fact-based comment.

There's much in it I don't agree with but I'll follow the commentary regarding her remarks more closely now because of your comment.

I don't have time to give your comment the kind of careful response it deserves because:

1) I'm working this weekend on the last of the Addison Series posts which I hope to have finished by Monday;

2) I want to get off another letter/post to Moneta;

3) I'm writing posts now following up on my Goestenkors post and KC's 88 Mysteries post.

And there's more.

Easter weekend is a “low-traffic time” at most blogs but I'll bet others will give you thoughtful responses here.

One more time, thanks for the tip on Dean and Wasiolek's connections to Durham CS. It's already led to a lot and will lead to more.


straightarrow said...

I was living in Iowa when a group of corn farmers aspired to create a cooperative to store and market their corn to the largest importer (China) of their product. Up till that time the large agri-business entities were paying bottom dollars of around $4.85/bushel, then selling to China at a price 5 and 6 times that price.

As soon as their ambitions were discovered the corn producers involved immediately fell afoul of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of State.

As it happened,to avoid jail and confiscation of their lands these producers were forced to forego their plans to directly market their product to a foreign government. The State Department leaned very heavily on the Logan Act. The Agricultural Department leaned very heavily on their regulatory powers of all farm/ranch products. Bottom line. The producers were forced to allow the large agri-business concerns to continue to rip them off.

If we ignore the part the Department of Agriculture played in this, that still leaves us with the Department of State promising prosecution of the producers and confiscations of their farms because they were disallowed from negotiating with a foreign power without the blessing of the executive branch of government.

Even though the producers' coop were actually intent on negotiating with the importing business concerns, the State Dept. interpreted that as dealing directly with the Chinese government since the Chinese government owns or controls all transactions in China.

Pelosi, did far worse and is definitely in violation of the law and should be prosecuted.

I do not expect to see that happen, but it should.

Anonymous said...

Pelosi should be arrested for treason when she returns to American soil. Hopefully, this will assist in a new position for her. Cavorting with terrosist.

Ebony Bandera said...

Yep, the Logan Act of 1799 is without question an act of brilliant prescience, just like the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. Even if nobody else notices, at least one student of current events finds it darkly amusing to hear arguments in favor of 200 year old legislation based on historical precedent and arguments against same based on lack of foresight of the legislators.

Please remember that in 1799, "The United States" was a term generally used to refer to the individual States and not to the federal government. The Federalists then and now would disagree, of course.

As far as any freedom-loving person should be concerned, anyone has the liberty to speak to anyone else for any reason whatsoever. That includes comments from third parties about discussions between the first two. In other words, say what you will about Pelosi and Assad, but threatening incarceration is a sure sign of authoritarianism, and a surer sign of insecurity and the lack of more substantive reasoning.

JWM said...

Dear Straightarrow,

You keep knocking out first-rate comments.

I meant to get back to you on the one you wrote concerning citizens' rights to bear arms not being only a matter of self-protection but being also a matter of assuring a government won't go dictatorial because it faces an armed citizenry which can remove it.

Almost a year ago to this day you observed that if the DNA (first round) came back negative and Nifong pressed on with the case he would be going against the evidence and that would be our sign he was going for a frame-up. Remember?

I posted on your comment about two moths ago.

If I remember right, I deliberately “low-rated” you to counter Brodhead’s claim about things being “so complex:” “If a JinC commenter could get it right, what was so hard about it?”

Anyway, you’ve been a consistently “on target” commenter throughout the Hoax.

Not too long from now the state will drop the charges; but it won’t be over.

There’ll be criminal conspiracies to expose and enablers like the N&O and Durham CS to hold to account. (I’m hoping the accounting includes money for the real victims)

I look forward to your assessments as we move forward.

Please let me know you saw this message as I don’t often respond directly to your comments because of time constraints.



straightarrow said...

Yes, John, I saw the comment. However, I didn't feel "low-rated" when you asked your rhetorical question regarding my comments.

You were correct to ask it. I am not college educated, I am not a professional, I am not a resident of Durham or even North Carolina.

In view of all that I am not, if I could see it so plainly why could those with better credentials and a better seat in the coliseum not?

The answer, of course, is that they could. Which means some are emotionally incapable of accepting reality against their desires, that equates to mental illness.

Others knew and accepted the reality but decided it didn't matter, if it would advance their agenda. To this date those people still believe their only mistake was misjudging the temper of the society upon which they relied for emotion to carry the day against the evidence. That equates to evil.

The intentionally evil in this affair based their assumption of success on the fact that just such campaigns have worked innumerable times before. What they did not take into account were three very important factors.

One, is that people are becoming more aware that the shortcomings of man are not cured by the service to the state, but rather are incorporated into the workings of the state when such men are thus employed and/or elected. Most people would state it more simply, but the awareness is growing.

Two, the pleas to emotion and vicious public pillorying of these young men by the voices of "authority" and "media" are most successful against defendants without the wherewithal to mount an effective defense. Sad to say, but if these young men had been poor or in a lower economic class, they most likely would already be in prison. (just for the record, I do not deem that an excuse to ruin the lives of better off young men)

Three, the internet is coming into its own and information is disseminated almost immediately. What has been said and done is almost impossible to keep secret in any type of situation touching on public discourse. Which basically means defrauding the public is much harder than it used to be. A fraud on the public can still be committed, but now it must be done in the courtroom with the knowledge of the public that they have been cheated. That is a much more dangerous activity.

Unfortunately for us and the American people and Duke University the Duke 88, Brodhead, Nifong, the N&O, HS, et al, probably all truly believe their worst sin was in not recognizing the above three pitfalls and avoiding them. I suspect they feel no guilt about the public loss of honor, or their own withered characters, or their students. I believe their only lament is they misread their chances of success in advancing their separate but synergistic agendas.

Cedarford said...

Straightarrow -

I would argue that instead of saying Pelosi should be harassed like the corn co-op, the proper question is why the Logan Act is abused to suppress competition and erect barriers to market entry?

Your outrage should be steered at the "Pay-to-Play" system where fatcats and their K Street lobbies get the imperial permissions and monopolies in the Imperial City - whereas the little firm and the little guy is barred from the defense industry, agribiz markets, being export-import middlemen.

If not the Logan Act, then by not getting the tax treatment, access to Export-Import bank loan strings that steer foreign aid spending to wealthy people and corporations that are official Friends of Bill, patrons of Dubya...or both.

It's a racket.

Your Iowa farmers were screwed by special interests who paid top olitical dollar to screw them and have the China monolopy in corn export deals. The Founders would dry-heave at the situation of only certain firms getting the equivalent of the Tea Tax stamped gratis for bribes to the modern-day equivalent of bribes to courtiers and nepotic nobles granting dispensations from a tyrranical Crown.

The day an elected Speaker or Head of Arms Services is barred by any President only HE has any voice and control in matters of diplomacy or the global economy. When a Congressional leader is threatened with arrest for just meeting with foreign leaders, communicating a sense of Congress to the day the Constitution stops working.

Pelosi can indeed say something "stupid" and meddle. I expect her to. But she might surprise me. But she is only Speaker because the country had "had it" with Bush and his complacent cronyistic Republican Congress's policies and competency of implementation. Especially on foreign policy and the "economy for CEOs".

Congressional leaders and members of relevant committees - unlike mere US citizens - are free to travel to foreign lands to do Congress's job no matter what the Israel Lobby or Cuban exiles or POW/MIA lobbies demand about "no visits ever until those foreign bastards knuckle under / silent treatments".

As is with Pelosi, Israel lovers can breath easy. Her biggest donors are Hollywood and Cali Real Estate moguls that contribute based a good deal on what the Israel Lobby says is right as well as donate to advance the "Progressive cause agenda items".

Thanks for the nice words. I hope that I can give you new info on the posters or potbangers....but for now, the only info I have that is known, but not commonly known is that the Vigilante posters were distributed by members of the Duke Progresive Students Alliance...and that the creator of the poster is widely suspected to be one certain then-Duke employee guy within that group, but no name should be named.

I suspect the players lawyers know. I don't know about the "Castrate" banner carriers. Again, I suspect some people do know, because their faces are visible in the photos taken. I am a little disappointed in the passivity of the 43 unindicted players. Maybe they are following lawyers advice, but if I was them I'd be looking into who was involved in their lynch mob on campus..And writing every media I could think of, about what a total crock it was. But I'm not them. I assume they had good reasons for not doing more..

Anonymous said...

I think no name is in Tennessee - using the sam e name.

Anonymous said...

I think the only people who have had it with President Bush is the left left MSM wingers, dumb hollywood stars(who have convinced themselves that Americams care about their dumb opinions) and the Democratic party. Most people I know want the troops supported and no cutting and running. Pelosi should be arrested for treason when she returns from cavorting with the enemy. If any fairness left in polotics, she should lose her new position over this.

straightarrow said...

Cedarford, did you not notice this statement in my example,"Bottom line. The producers were forced to allow the large agri-business concerns to continue to rip them off. "? Does that sound like I am happy with it or even ambivalent about it?

The difference here is that the farmers were wanting to negotiate for themselves, promising nothing of the nation or its policies, which stance is within their rights to do. By the way this was on Clinton's watch. Which had to resort to the tortured extension of logic that this purely economic activity was a form of negotiating with a foreign political power in the name of the American government. Did you miss that,also? It was still an abuse of the Logan Act.

My point being that if such was done in that case then certainly Pelosi has provided enough cause to 'properly' apply this law, since she did make promises and representations she is forbidden by law to do and which she has not the right or power to do with a foreign power in the name of the American government. Nor does any other non-agent of the White House.

Perhaps you should look at the other thread that deals with the issue. MY comments there might clarify my position. Or are intentionally misunderstanding the issue?

straightarrow said...

anon 4:44, I am pretty fed up with Bush and I fit none of those categories. However, my reasons are usually different from those that must lie to lowrate him.

And I voted for him twice. And given the same lame choices, I would do it again.

Doesn't mean I'm, happy with his performance. I suspect he is a nice guy, but I would rather have a guy with guts in the White House. One who isn't afraid to risk losing in an effort to win.

Fighting not to lose, is not the same thing as fighting to win. President Bush is entirely too "reasonable" for me. I prefer people that don't quit just because the issue may be in doubt.

It never actually is in doubt, if people know you will quit. They know you will lose. NO Doubt.

That is why those who are trying to make political hay on time limits, defunding the war, redeploying, phase out with a time certain, etc. are considered by me to be traitors.

None of those people had any trouble or doubts about sending our young to do this, but now that there is profit in abandoning them and mooting their sacrifice they will ensure their defeat. No thank you.

The thing I most dislike about Bush is that had he established a reputation for fighting hard for his policies, he would not be being contested on this so vigorously. But everything he has done in office has encouraged the other side to believe enough pressure will get him to "compromise". Then of course, you only have to "compromise" him from his new position.

Remember McCain/Feingold? He said he thought it was unconstitutional, yet he signed it.

Those are the flaws I see that make me dislike his performance.

HumboldtBlue said...

What partisan political actions did Pelosi espouse? Anyone? Any details at all? As for Hastert, you all know how to google, just google up Hastert and Colombia and see what you find.

Is Pelosi a private citizen or a representative of our government? Seems that the Logan act has no standing here, and what about Rep. Issa, or is it because Pelosi is a Democrat, therefore solely to be singled out?

I guess we can rely on a former official from the Reagan administration to be forthcoming, heck, they certainly knew how to go behind the nation's back and negotiate with our enemies, or do the words Oliver North, John Poindexter and Iran Contra no longer mean anything?

Other than overheated rhetoric from the diehard defenders of Bush, can anyone point out anything Pelosi said or did that was contrary to this administration's position regarding Syria, the Middle East or in any way undermined foreign policy, or do we just go with whatever FOX news says and leave it at that?

straightarrow said...

humboldtblue, why didn't you just say your stance is based on your politics and not on what is right or lawful? No need to pretend principle.

HumboldtBlue said...

My position is based on the hypocrisy of those commenting on Pelosi, not a political position.
Then again, I guess we can let the State Dept. put the straight back in your arrow.

So let's use some legal precedent.

"Department of State References
A search of statements issued by the State Department concerning the Logan
Act from 1975 to the present has found two opinions in the DIGEST OF UNITED
STATES PRACTICE IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, continued, beginning in 1980, with a
column in the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW. In these instances the
Department did not consider the activities in question to be inconsistent with the
Logan Act. One opinion concerned the questioning of certain activities of Senators
John Sparkman and George McGovern with respect to the government of Cuba. The
Department stated:
The clear intent of this provision [Logan Act] is to prohibit unauthorized
persons from intervening in disputes between the United States and foreign

How about this?

"Nothing in section 953, however, would appear to restrict
members of the Congress from engaging in discussions with foreign officials in
pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution."

It continues ...

"In the case of
Senators McGovern and Sparkman the executive branch, although it did not in
any way encourage the Senators to go to Cuba, was fully informed of the nature
and purpose of their visit, and had validated their passports for travel to that

Is that "legal" enough, or shall we continue?

Or are you going to continue to aver that Pelosi somehow undermined any official position, because if you need to be corrected on that note, I'll be happy to oblige.

HumboldtBlue said...

And just to make sure you didn't miss the point ...

Rep. Cantor Launches Partisan Smear Campaign Against Pelosi For Syria Visit

cantorRep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the chief deputy minority whip in the House, has launched a partisan smear campaign against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for visiting Syria. He writes in the National Review:

The Speaker and many of her Democratic allies have become so drunk with grandiose visions of deposing Bush that they break bread with terrorists and enemies of the United States. The Speaker’s words and actions carry consequences for U.S. policy, and they certainly did our allies no favors last week. Instead of standing united with the president and Congress against the Syrian menace, Mrs. Pelosi chose to needlessly divide us.

Nowhere in his 700-word diatribe does Cantor mention the fact that five Republicans “broke bread” with Assad last week: Reps. Frank Wolf, Joseph Pitts, Robert Aderholt, David Hobson, and Darrell Issa.

Meanwhile, on his blog, Cantor is conducting a campaign to “Stop Pelosi.” He writes that Congress has “remained silent on Pelosi’s misrepresentation of Israel’s position. They have remained silent on her assistance to Syrian propaganda efforts.”

Unsurprisingly, Cantor is falsifying the record. Here are the facts:

Pelosi Was Asked To Communicate A Message And She Did. Before she left for Syria, Olmert’s spokeswoman Miri Eisin said “Pelosi is conveying that Israel is willing to talk if they (Syria) would openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism.” And that’s what Pelosi did: “We conveyed to him Prime Minister Olmert’s overture for peace talks when Syria openly takes steps to stop supporting terrorism.”

Pelosi Communicated A Consistent Message. Republican Congressman David Hobson said Pelosi “did not engage in any bashing of Bush in any meeting I was in and she did not in any meeting I was in bash the policies as it relates to Syria.” Republican Congressman Joseph Pitts noted, “Ms. Pelosi contacted us while we were in Israel, and we told her the message we gave. The message she gave Syria was similar to the message we gave.”

Again, I ask all of you, what has Pelosi done, said or inferred that would lead to specious, partisan attacks of "treason"?

Because if she's a traitor, then so are the others.

straightarrow said...

repeat what I said last.

reread your own post to prove my point.

reread mine to assure yourself that I am in favor of prosecuting ALL, ALL, GODDAMMIT! ALL that do such. Can you not read?

Sorry John, but sometimes one cannot be polite with the disingenuous.

Or are you just so partisan that you will hide in that same lame shit your putting out?

HumboldtBlue said...

"reread mine to assure yourself that I am in favor of prosecuting ALL, ALL, GODDAMMIT! ALL that do such. Can you not read? "

SA, there are no grounds for prosecution, that's the point, so save your ranting. Pelosi in no way violated Logan. Now that may be partisan to you, but I don't identify myself through political affiliation, so save your petulance and foot-stomping.

straightarrow said...

That is simply a lie humboldblue.

You have been using the "others did it too, so she should get a pass because your guys did it." defense of her throughout the discussion of the issue.

She did break the law, and should be prosecuted. Foreign policy is not to be undertaken by any but the executive branch or at the request of same. You can deny that is what she engaged in if you want, but her own words put the lie to you.

Have you not the courage to engage in a real insult? Petulance and foot stomping do not play a part. I just don't have any patience with the dishonest.

straightarrow said...

from the other thread on this issue. You can forego answering my question at the end you have sufficiently answered it. More's the pity.

straightarrow said...
I suppose Humboldtblue the difference between us is, if what you say is true about "You would be surprised, considering that a Republican group also met with Assad, but hey, it's Pelosi, so it must have been illegal.", is that if they did, in fact, negotiate with and make representation to Assad that they were not specifically charged with doing as per presidential assignment, then they should be put on trial also.

My position has not a damn thing to do with which political party an usurper and violator of our laws belong.

As I have stated, if you are correct, and I will grant you that assumption, though you haven't said whether they actually negotiated or made unauthorized representations, Pelosi is still not excused. But rather,all unauthorized agents acting as false representatives of our nation should be prosecuted. We know that Pelosi did both. Ergo, she has destroyed any possibility of our speaking with one voice. If the others you say have done the same thing, and I am not at all sure they have, they should share the same fate.

If Pelosi had merely visited and gathered information without making unauthorized representations or unauthorized negotiations, she would be within her rights and powers. But we know by her own press conference, that such is not the case, don't we?

Your position seems, to me, to be "your guy did it, so our guy gets a freebie". I am in favor of prosecuting all of them that did such. I am not in favor of excusing one criminal because others may have committed the same crime.

One more time, I am in favor of enforcing this law against all, repeat ALL, its transgressors.

Why are you not? Or is that an inference I have drawn that you did not intend?

straightarrow said...

Cedarford said "......I object to such leaders ever trying to cut their own deals or meddle with diplomacy. The worst case was Jimmy Carter. Ideally, we should speak with one voice, and foreign policy bipartisan."

I think I must disagree. I will always believe the worst case to be one that we have not been able to prove. I believe that Iran held the hostages to add what weight that issue could to swing the American election the way it went. I will always believe there was a deal in place with the eventual winners of that election. Whoever heard of Vice-Presidential candidate under Secret Service protection having days "missing" in which no one can find a record of where he was or what he did, especially during a hard fought election? Just one reason I don't accept the official denials.

Unfortunately I must content myself with what I think happened. And yes, I think if my belief is correct and they were caught out with the evidence to prove it the utmost penalty should have been theirs. Of course, not all the players are still among the living.

straightarrow said...

Where in the constitution is Congress given a role in foreign policy, except for votes of whether to ratify or not the treaties the executive branch has negotiated?

HumboldtBlue said...

"Nothing in section 953, however, would appear to restrict
members of the Congress from engaging in discussions with foreign officials in
pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution."

That's the State Dept. How much clearer can it be said?

"Have you not the courage to engage in a real insult? "

Would you like me to refer to you as a nappy-headed-ho? Or should I find some third grade insults to call you?

You have made up your mind that Pelosi violated the Logan act, I have offered evidence that she didn't, so now we're supposed to insult one another because we disgaree?

You have repeatedly claimed that Pelosi misrepresented our government without one shred of evidence other than "I believe."

If Pelosi negotiated with the Syrians please provide some evidence. If she undermined in any way this administrations policies regarding Syria, please provide some evidence.

I have yet to read anywhere (other than the Professor's editorial) that she has done anything to violate the Logan act.

You are arguing that by merely going to Syria Pelosi violated the Logan Act, and I see no evidence for that claim.

And finally ...

"You can deny that is what she engaged in if you want, but her own words put the lie to you."

Please provide some evidence.

straightarrow said...

"You are arguing that by merely going to Syria Pelosi violated the Logan Act, and I see no evidence for that claim."

No, I am not, nor have I ever. However, in order to excuse her, you must lie about what I said.

No, I will not provide you any more proof. I don't need to. Just look at the news tapes and interviews of her on this issue.

Your argument is not with me on whether or not she did it, it is with her. She says she did, you say she didn't. So you try to cast doubt on my veracity or judgment to kill the message that originated with her. That is lame.

Lacey said...

Great work.