Mr. HAMILTON. The committees have heard about 240 hours of testimony over
the last 11 weeks from over thirty witnesses. They have examined
well over 200,000 documents.
Several themes emerged.
There was too little accountability for decisions and actions
taken in the name of elected officials.
There was too much secrecy and deception in government. Information was withheld from the Congress, other officials, friends and
allies, and from the American people. Information provided was
misleading and evasive. Critical decisions were taken by a handful
of people. The Congress and responsible officials, even the President, were cut out of the process.
There was too little regard for the rule of law. False statements
to the Congress are violations of law, as the Attorney General reminded us. Key decisions were made and carried out without written legal analysis, and without written notice to Congress as the
There was too much reliance on private citizens, foreign nationals, and foreign governments to execute American policy, which
contributed to policy failure.
There was too much use of covert actions which contradicted
public policies, and too little accountability for covert actions.
There was too much confusion at the highest levels of government. In the words of the Attorney General, "There appeared to be
considerable confusion as to what occurred when." The President
did not know what his own staff was doing; stall did not keep
senior officials informed; policies were often contradictory.
These hearings have been about how the United States governs
itself, and particularly how it runs its foreign policy. For this inquiry, the key question now is how we make our system of government work better.
The conduct of foreign policy in a democracy is difficult, because
the Constitution gives important powers to the President and the Congress. The scholar Edwin Corwin said the Constitution "is an
invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy."
The Congress is a check on the executive, but also a partner. The
Congress is sometimes a critic, yet its support is essential if policies
are to succeed. The Congress sometimes has divisive foreign policy
debates, but when debate ends, the country needs decisiveness and
Some believe that a decisionmaking process that calls for shared
powers and public debate just will not work in a dangerous world.
They argue that sometimes bypassing normal checks and balances,
through procedural shortcuts and secrecy, are necessary to protect
our freedoms. They argue that the President, and those who work
for him, must be given near total power. Their views have been
stated here with great force and eloquence.
But these hearings make another point: shortcuts in the democratic process and excessive secrecy in the conduct of government
are a sure road to policy failure. These hearings show us that policies formed under democratic scrutiny are better and wiser than
policies formed without it.
Policies formed by shortcuts and excessive secrecy undermine a
President's ability to make informed decisions, lead to confusion in
his administration, and deny him the opportunity to gain and sustain congressional and public support for his policies.
Shortcuts that bypass the checks and balances of the system, and
excessive secrecy by those who serve the President, do not
strengthen him. They weaken him and our constitutional system.
Properly conceived, the Constitution is not a burden in the
making of policy, but a source of strength, because it specifies a
process for making policy through informed consent.