Congress Explicitly Said War Resolution Did Not Expand Executive Power

President Bush claimed at yesterday’s press conference that he did not have to secure warrants because “after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda.”

And Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a lengthier legal explanation:

Our position is, is that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes that other authorization, that other statute by Congress, to engage in this kind of signals intelligence.

It might be news to Congress that they authorized the President to carry out what might be illegal spying on American citizens. Many members of Congress specifically said the resolution did not expand Presidential powers:


Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK):

Some people say that is a broad change in authorization to the Commander in Chief of this country. It is not. It is a very limited concept of giving him the authority to pursue those who have brought this terrible destruction to our country and to pursue those who have harbored them or assisted them and conspired with them in any way. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. James McGovern (D-MA):

The body of this resolution is appropriately limited to those entities involved in the attacks that occurred on September 11th…It reiterates the existing constitutional powers of the President to take action to defend the United States, but provides no new or additional grant of powers to the President. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

More below:Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE):

In extending this broad authority to cover those ‘planning, authorizing, committing, or aiding the attacks’ it should go without saying, however, that the resolution is directed only at using force abroad to combat acts of international terrorism. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ):

The resolution is not a blank check. We do this with our eyes open and in fervent prayer, especially the prayer that President Bush and his national security team will be lavished with wisdom from God above to use only that force which is truly necessary and only that force which is truly appropriate. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX):

The tension that we face tonight is to provide the President with enough authority to eradicate wrongdoing without wronging the carefully crafted systems of checks and balances so essential to our democracy. “¦ As we vote for this important resolution with the lives of so many at stake in this important endeavor against terrorism, we cannot let the executive branch become the exclusive branch. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]