Executive Privilege

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Executive Privilege|
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Virginia Commonwealth University
November 14, 2012|
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In the past, the power of executive privilege has been used by Presidents to conceal information that has to do with foreign affairs and negotiations, military, national security issues as well as deliberations and policy making that is done between the President and his top aides. This power is only used when Congress asks the President or one of his top aides to produce all of the information pertaining to an event or situation. If the President then feels that parts of this information needs to be kept secret to protect the best interest of the public, or the other issues listed previously, then he will use executive privilege in order to not give that information to Congress. A huge part of executive privilege is to protect the deliberations and advice given by the President’s aides. When the President’s advisors give him advice, they need to be able to give him the best advice possible and if there is a chance that everything they said could be made public. For instance if the President and advisors are discussing what needs to be done in relation to a foreign power and one suggests to nuke them, one suggests a covert attack and one suggests a peaceful resolution. If the final decision is a peaceful resolution, and Congress asks for all of the information on the subject, then the President should use executive privilege to keep those other possible outcomes from going public, both to keep the public from getting out of control or uneasy and to keep the other country from finding out the other options and retaliating. This power ensures that the President’s advisors can be completely honest and say what needs to be said without being worried about their words being taken the wrong way or too harsh or hurt their image.

A big argument for those against executive privilege is that there is nothing in the constitution about it even though there is something about Congress keeping secrets. Article I states that “Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy” (US Constitution, Article 1 Section 5). Their argument is that the Constitution states that each House can withhold information that they think should be kept secret and there is nothing about secrecy when it comes to the President’s powers, however just because the words are not explicitly in the constitution does not mean that this power was not intended for the President. Even our founding fathers appreciated the importance of executive privilege and that is highlighted by this passage taken from The Works of Alexander Hamilton. In 1794, the Senate asked President George Washington, "'to lay before the Senate the correspondences which have been had between the Minister of the United States at the Republic of France, and said Republic, and between said Minister and the office of Secretary of State." Washington consulted his cabinet members, Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph. Alexander Hamilton later wrote: General Knox is of the opinion that no part of the correspondences should be sent to the Senate; Colonel Hamilton is of the opinion that the correct mode of proceeding is to do what General Knox advises; but the principle is safe, by excepting such parts as the President may choose to withhold; Mr. Randolph is of the opinion that all correspondence proper, from its nature, to be communicated to the Senate, should be sent; but that what the President thinks is improper, should not be sent. Washington later told the Senate "After an examination of [the correspondence], I directed copies and translations to be made; except in those particulars, which, in my judgment, for public considerations, ought not to be communicated.” (Hamilton 1851) Three of these men signed the constitution and contributed a great deal towards it...
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