Exclusive: Did Obama Violate the Logan Act During His Iraq Visit?

by PAM MEISTER September 17, 2008

The Logan Act (est. 1799): a single federal statute making it a crime for a citizen to confer with foreign governments against the interests of the United States. Specifically, it prohibits citizens from negotiating with other nations on behalf of the United States without authorization.

This week, New York Post columnist Amir Taheri made the claim that while in Iraq this summer, Barack Obama privately tried to convince Iraqi leaders to wait until a new administration is in place before beginning a draw-down of American troops.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

The Obama campaign issued a denial:

...Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial."

In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

Let's compare two key sentences from the articles linked above:

  • "He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington."
  • In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

It seems to me that the Obama campaign essentially confirmed what Taheri's public source said. Let's look at the Constitution.

Article Two, Section Two:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Article Two, Section Three:

Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Nothing in Article One, which covers the duties of Congress (both House and Senate), says anything about senators engaging foreign policy unbidden by the president - even those running for president. And somehow I doubt President Bush called him up and asked him to take over Condoleezza Rice's job for a day.

But my plebian education may be impeding my interpretation of both Obama's denial and the Constitution. See, I didn't go to Columbia or Harvard - like Sarah Palin, I graduated from a state university, so I may not be educated enough to figure it out. I do still have all my teeth, however, so that's one thing going for me.

Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Israel and then to Syria, where she told Syrian President Bashar Assad that Israel was ready for peace talks with that nation. It came as a huge surprise to Israel's prime minister, whose office said that "what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel's policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter."

At the time, critics suggested that Pelosi had violated the tenets of the Logan Act, which is a felony. But the mainstream media avoided the topic like a hot potato and nothing was ever done about it - President Bush being too nice a guy as usual?

The cynic in me can't help but believe that Obama wanted the Iraqis to hold off on sending American troops home until - presumably - he is in the Oval Office next January and can take credit for "bringing the troops home" as per his campaign platform. It's nice to know he's thinking of keeping one of his many campaign promises, but a little disconcerting to think that he'd try to undermine the current president in the process.

Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin if she'd ever met any foreign heads of state, to which she answered no. Will he ask Barack Obama what he talked about with the foreign heads of state he's met? Or is he satisfied with questions like whether Obama will debate with McCain at a town hall?

Not only should the media be making more of a fuss about this, but so should the Bush administration. Seals and fancy planes aside, Barack Obama is not yet President of the United States. And if this is how he thinks foreign policy should be conducted - on the sly - is he really the man we want officially directing such policy for the next four to eight years?

Pam Meister is the editor of FamilySecurityMatters.org.


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