Christopher Dodd Q&A

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Charlie Savage
Globe Staff / December 20, 2007

1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

Absolutely not – I have been a very vocal and early opponent of this Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program and efforts to provide retroactive immunity for the companies who participated. The choice between national security and civil liberties is a false choice. Indeed, our adherence to the rule of law enhances our international standing and leverage, and accordingly enhances our national security. I’ve made it clear that I will return from Iowa and filibuster any bill that makes it onto the Senate floor including retroactive immunity language.

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

Only in the case of an imminent threat to the national security of the United States or the national security of its allies would the President have the right to act militarily without Congressional approval. However, he would be bound by provisions of the War Powers Act to notify Congress and get retroactive approval to continue any military action.

3. Does the Constitution empower the president to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops -- either by capping the number of troops that may be deployed to a particular country or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments? In other words, is that level of deployment management beyond the constitutional power of Congress to regulate?

The most effective way to force the president to redeploy US troops is to exercise the power clearly provided to Congress by the Constitution, namely the power of the purse.

4. Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

Never. If I thought it was unconstitutional, I would turn to the Courts, which is what our founding fathers expected and provided for in cases of Executive-Congressional differences.

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?


6. Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?


7. If Congress defines a specific interrogation technique as prohibited under all circumstances, does the president's authority as commander in chief ever permit him to instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

No, and I was absolutely shocked that Attorney General Mukasey, in his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, said that in certain circumstances could thwart the law. This, and his declaration that he could not say whether or not waterboarding was in fact torture, led me to believe that he would not be the kind of nominee I could support.

8. Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

He is bound by international treaties so long as the US remains a party to them.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the statement made by former Attorney General Gonzales in January 2007 that nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus, separate from any statutory habeas rights Congress might grant or take away?

I Disagree. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution confers the fundamental right of habeas irrespective of Congressional actions to statutorily expand or limit the federal role relative to the states.

10. Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?

The President's efforts to establish military commissions by executive order were unconstitutional. Holding detainees indefinitely without trial is clearly a violation of Geneva Conventions and Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution relative to Habeas.

11. Who are your campaign's advisers for legal issues?

Dodd has declined to answer this question.

12. Do you think it is important for all would-be presidents to answer questions like these before voters decide which one to entrust with the powers of the presidency? What would you say about any rival candidate who refuses to answer such questions?

I think it’s vitally important that Presidential candidates offer answers to voters’ questions on a wide variety of issues. I’ve run the kind of campaign in Iowa and in the other early states that has allowed voters to discuss with and ask questions of me.

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