|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 1:30 pm: Edit Post|
Peace Corps as Independent and Autonomous as ever
|By Colin Gallagher on Saturday, April 20, 2002 - 1:37 pm: Edit Post|
To respond to our claims regarding the U.S.A. Freedom Corps, the Peace Corps has provided several statements, which can be refuted in turn with a short reflection upon their merits. I will begin by disproving the first statement of the Peace Corps' Director of Communications, Ellen Field. She states:
"Section 3(f) provides, "Members of the [USA Freedom Corps] Council shall remain responsible for overseeing the programs administered by their respective departments, agencies, and offices. Each such department, agency, and office will retain its authority and responsibility to administer those programs according to law."
In responding to this statement -- which is not so much of a statement from Mrs. Field as it is a quotation of Executive Order -- it is important to remember how the independent agency status of Peace Corps is addressed by statute. To wit, Title 22, Chapter 34, Section 2501-1 of U.S. Code states:
"Effective on December 29, 1981, the Peace Corps shall be an independent agency within the executive branch and shall not be an agency within the ACTION Agency, the successor to the ACTION Agency, or any other department or agency of the United States."
The question now becomes: Is Peace Corps truly independent, or independent in name only? Note that the U.S.A. Freedom Corps is not a department. Nor is it an agency. It is an "interagency initiative" -- a new and interesting animal created by the Administration. Interesting though it may be, it does not provide for a true independence of Peace Corps. The only way in which true agency seperation would occur would be if the above section of U.S. Code were amended (by your Congressional Representatives) to read as follows:
"(Peace Corps)... shall not be an agency within the ACTION Agency, the successor to the ACTION Agency, or any other department, agency, INTERAGENCY INITIATIVE, OR ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION of the United States."
Of course, the law doesn't (yet) have this language. As such, Peace Corps has been drawn well within the reach of all potential implications of the provisions of the Executive Order which created the U.S.A. Freedom Corps, and is the original mission which President Kennedy fought for is compromised. As Mrs. Field herself has pointed out, the Freedom Corps Executive Order states, in part: "Each such department, agency, and office will retain its authority and responsibility to administer those programs according to LAW." And the law does not provide for a true seperation between Peace Corps as an agency and Freedom Corps as an interagency initiative -- nor does it exclude Peace Corps from being subject to the actions of other agencies (those with police power and intelligence responsibilities) whose mission is contrary to that of the U.S. Peace Corps.
The President is quoted in Mrs. Field's statement as saying: "I look forward to working with members of Congress to strengthen the Peace Corps, to reassert its independence, and to create new opportunities in other nations..." As we all well know, Presidential statements have great impact due to their being broadcasted far and wide and the import and attention that is generally placed on what a President is saying. It is important to note here, however, that much of what Presidents say, be they Presidents-elect or Presidents-select, ranges the gamut -- from meaningless gibberish to outright lies. (The claim to "have not inhaled" comes to mind.) More importantly, mere verbal statements of a President do not create legal mandates, unless they are phrased as a "direct order of the President." They are, in fact, just words.
Let us move on to Mrs. Field's next statement -- again, more of a quotation:
"Section 5(b) provides, "This order does not alter the existing authorities or role of executive branch departments, agencies, or offices. Nothing in this order shall supercede any requirement made by or under law."
This is indeed an interesting remark -- not because of any imagination on Mrs. Field's part, but because it clarifies what we already know -- that Peace Corps is subject to the whims of the President. Would that she had stated nothing at all! Here are a few concrete examples:
1. Executive Branch -- Homeland Security.
Less than a month after the events of September 11, the Office of Homeland Security was established by executive order of the President (E.O. 13228). Section 7 of this Executive Order brings us back to the early days of 1952, when foreign intelligence became a national responsibility, by stating:
“All executive departments and agencies are directed to assist the Council and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security in carrying out the purposes of this order.”
(From the Homeland Security Executive Order.)
There is no clause in the Executive Order for Homeland Security that would exclude Peace Corps from its umbrella.
Allowances were also made for the creation of legal authorities in the absence of adequate capacity to implement the provisions of the executive order:
“When the Office (of Homeland Security) determines that such legal authorities are inadequate, the Office shall develop, in consultation with executive departments and agencies, proposals for presidential action and legislative proposals
for submission to the Office of Management and Budget to enhance the ability of executive departments and agencies to perform those
(From the Homeland Security Executive Order)
Compliance with this aspect of the Homeland Security Executive Order (E.O. 13228) is seen in section 3(f)(iii) of the more recent Presidential executive order establishing a U.S.A. Freedom Corps (E.O. 13254), which states:
“Upon the request of the Chair, and to the extent permitted by law, the heads of executive branch departments and agencies shall provide the Council with relevant information.”
Note the similarity in language above to the below excerpt from the Presidential executive
order establishing the Office of Homeland Security:
“Executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, make available to
the Office all information relating to terrorist threats and activities within the United States.”
How many Executive Branch agencies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? It does not take a universal genius to figure out that the as-yet undefined "relevant information" mentioned in the Freedom Corps Executive Order does not exclude "information relating to terrorist threats and activities within the United States."
In the broader and more lenient scope of interpretation (e.g., that sort of interpretation used by spooks with questionable scruples), the gate is opened by the current Administration's legislation to include "foreign intelligence" information as "relevant information." The National Security Agency definition of "foreign intelligence" is the following: "information that relates to the capabilities, intentions, and activities of foreign powers, organizations, or persons." We will say no more on that subject here.
2. Requirements Made By or Under Law.
Again, with ease we can show that Mrs. Field's argument is lacking in substance and quality. With respect to her quotation of Section 5(b) of the U.S.A. Freedom Corps Executive Order -- to wit, that "nothing in this order shall supercede any requirement (made) by or under law" -- we are now shifted from the murky world of Executive Orders to the clearer and more cogent realm of U.S. law. And to determine what laws threaten Peace Corps integrity, we need only look at Section 908(a) of the so-called "USA PATRIOT" Act, which states:
"The Attorney General shall, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, carry out a program to provide appropriate training to...
officials of the Federal Government who are not ordinarily engaged in the collection, dissemination, and use of foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, and officials of State and local governments who encounter or may encounter foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, to assist such officials in identification and utilization of foreign intelligence information."
The impact of this law on the ability of Peace Corps to shield the information it produces from being used by agencies with intelligence responsibilities has not been addressed by Mrs. Field's statement at all. We await a response addressing the import of the so-called PATRIOT Act, and what legislative language should be proposed to assure Peace Corps is not subject to the so-called PATRIOT Act's ubiquitous provisions.
Having deconstructed Field's argument, we move to her ambiguous conclusion.
Wit a sense of finality, Mrs. Field says, "Under "Establishing the USA Freedom Corps," the Corps is described as supporting the work of three services, including Peace Corps. It is explicitly stated there that, "…the Peace Corps will be run by its Director.""
Number one: Everybody knows that governmental organizations are run by their Directors. Number two: Mrs. Field seems to be claiming that because she has found a phrase somewhere that states "the Peace Corps will be run by its Director," this somehow means that the independence and integrity of Peace Corps is preserved. Number three: She is wrong.
It is readily apparent that _nowhere_ in the Freedom Corps Executive Order will you find any phrase stating that "the Peace Corps will be run by its Director." Mrs. Field is quoting from a _draft_ document indicating a general statement of purpose of the USA Freedom Corps and its relationship to previously existing agencies. This draft document _can not_ be relied upon as the letter of the law.
I must urge everyone to read the actual USA Freedom Corps Executive Order language for yourselves, which can be accessed via the following link as a PDF or text document.
http://www.gpo.gov/nara/nara003.html (Once the page loads up, type in 13254 in the text box and click the Submit button.)
As a note of guidance, Section 3(f)(iii) of the Executive Order is the section most relevant to this discussion. You may also wish to consider as you read this Order that the Attorney General is present in the Councils of the organizations that were the focus of this article (Freedom Corps and Homeland Security), in addition to serving his Central Intelligence Agency obligations under Section 908(a) of the PATRIOT Act.
As you consider this, ask yourself: Are these laws and Executive Orders consistent with the purpose of the U.S. Peace Corps (as per Title 22, Chapter 34, Section 2501 of U.S. Code)? It is this author's conclusion that they are not, and legislative action must occur to preserve both the integrity of the U.S. Peace Corps and its ability to carry out its intended mission. For future reference, the purpose of the U.S. Peace Corps as defined by statute is cited below:
"The Congress of the United States declares that it is the policy of the United States and the purpose of this chapter to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower, particularly in meeting the basic needs of those living in the poorest areas of such countries, and to help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served and a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people."
(Please direct any questions or concerns regarding this article to the e-mail address link provided at the head of this article with author's name.)
|By M Bunny Dalebout RPCV/Niger 83-85 on Saturday, May 04, 2002 - 12:48 pm: Edit Post|
I just want to say thank you to those who are keeping on top of this issue and are speaking out, for the sake of Peace Corps'autonomy. W and his friends scare me to death.
|By blackmon on Thursday, May 23, 2002 - 2:25 pm: Edit Post|
i consider it imperative that peace corps must remain autonomous, independent and unconstrained by USA freedom corps and all other governmental offices and agencies.
mary k. (highfill) blackmon