Shortly after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation of a “limited” national emergency. This proclamation cited no statutory or inherent authority. Alden Fletcher looks to the historical record to suggest Roosevelt’s proclamation was relying on ambiguous statutes that provided for executive power to declare emergencies or take emergency action.
Fletcher finds that even as Roosevelt acted independently to issue an emergency declaration, his administration recognized that such a declaration could be regulated by Congress or reviewed by the courts. Indeed, Fletcher finds historical memos, papers, and briefings showing that the theories advanced by Roosevelt’s Justice Department implicitly accepted a flexible doctrine in part because inter-branch checks were presumed to remain open. This historic approach stands in contrast to today’s Executive Branch practice—and Fletcher concludes that today’s practitioners would do well to remember it.
Legal scholars have theorized three models of Article II’s Executive Power clause, otherwise known as the Executive Vesting clause: first the cross-reference theory, which points to specific powers under Article II, such as the appointment power; second, the Royal Residuum theory, which interprets Article II as granting wide-ranging powers possessed by the eighteenth-century British Crown; and finally, the Law Execution theory, which holds that the Executive Power Clause grants nothing more that the power to execute the laws passed by the legislature.
When applied to emergency powers, political and doctrinal consensus has coalesced around the Royal Residuum theory, granting the executive broad power to deal with emergencies so long as the executive does not run afoul of existing Constitutional or statutory prohibition. Recent scholarship, however, suggests that the original meaning of the Executive Power clause supports a “Law Execution” understanding of the clause. Building on this scholarship, Jerry Dickinson suggests that applying the original meaning of the Executive Power clause can revive a concept of liberal constitutionalism that places Madisonian checks and balances back at the center of emergency powers.
Since its implementation in 1981, Executive Order 12,333 has served as a general charter governing the structure and operations of the Intelligence Community. While legislation has imposed a degree of added judicial and congressional oversight, the executive branch continues to retain sole discretion over large swathes of foreign intelligence activity today.
Over the past several decades, and in accordance with E.O. 12,333’s mandate, members of the Intelligence Community have each created internal agency manuals to guide their foreign intelligence operations. These manuals identify and define a range of technical terms critical to determining the scope of agencies’ intelligence-gathering authority, including what information is gathered, how long that information is retained, and the uses to which it may be put. But over time, the dispersion of authority to make decisions within and across intelligence agencies has enabled drift in the meaning of these terms. Together, the manuals have created a thicket of often conflicting and unclear definitions that are difficult for Congress, the courts, and even committees within the executive branch to understand.
In this article, Diana Lee, Paulina Perlin, and Joe Schottenfeld provide the first sustained analysis of these definitional inconsistencies, their consequences, and efforts to address the problem from within and outside the executive branch. In particular, it focuses on three terms that determine when the intelligence cycle “officially” begins: “collection,” “acquisition,” and “targeting.” By analyzing these three terms, this Article demonstrates the lack of clarity that executive discretion and dispersal create. This lack of clarity, in turn, makes it difficult for meaningful oversight, such as congressional hearings, to occur. The Article concludes by offering recommendations to clarify the parameters of the government’s intelligence-gathering authority. As technological advancements continue to expand the Intelligence Community’s capacity to gather information, it is imperative that the government adopt measures to facilitate effective oversight over the executive’s foreign intelligence operations.