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奥巴马留给特朗普的五项危险权力

Elizabeth Goitein 2017年01月23日

特朗普已经就任美国总统,奥巴马在移交权力上做得很称职,但在这份值得称道的遗产中,却有着充满风险的另外一面。

当选总统唐纳德·特朗普在就职典礼筹委会主席全球晚宴上发表讲话,2017年1月17日(周二),华盛顿。

当选总统唐纳德·特朗普就行使权力表达了近乎独裁的观点,这让许多人担心他会玩弄保护美国人自由的法律。9.11之后,美国就领教过这样的行为方式——小布什总统宣称自己在保卫国家时不受法规和条约约束。贝拉克·奥巴马总统反对这种观点,他说和所有人一样,总统也得遵守法律。

但奥巴马这份值得称道的遗产也有另外一面。除了刑讯逼供这个显而易见的例外,奥巴马在恢复法制的过程中其实并没有和小布什格外宽广的权力视野划清界限。相反,奥巴马想巩固其法律根基,有时是在国会或法院的帮助下,有时则仅仅阐明了政府行为的法律依据。

实际情况或许会证明,这样的选择有着决定性的影响。奥巴马用法律认可了一些小布什主张的最令人窒息的权力,矛盾的是,这可能降低了特朗普滥用这些权力的难度。这种风险在以下四个方面尤其突出:

监听

美国国家安全局未经授权的监听活动是小布什政府最大的丑闻之一。但美国国会非但没有反对这项违法活动,甚至还从根本上使之合法化。《外国情报监视法》(FISA)2008年修正案允许国安局在未经授权的情况下收集美国人和外国人之间的通信资料,前提是国安局证明监听目标是外国人(不需要证明其存在不当行为),而不是美国人。

任参议员时,奥巴马对这项法案投了赞成票;当了总统后,他支持让该法案再次生效。2011年,奥巴马政府极大的扩展了此项法案的覆盖范围——经秘密的FISA法院批准,美国联邦调查局(FBI)探员可以在国安局收集的通信资料中搜索美国人的信息。

这次“后门搜索”授权可能让特朗普掌握监听无辜美国人的工具。他会怎样使用这样的工具呢?特朗普曾明确呼吁加强对穆斯林社区的监视。此外,他从不隐藏自己对政治对手的不满,他的代理人还质疑过和平政治抗议的合法性。人们或许很容易就能想象出特朗普治下的FBI在国安局的大量数据中挖掘信息的情景,而这些信息会被用于对付少数族裔、持不同政见者以及他自己的仇家。

无限期扣留

小布什政府率先在关塔那摩采取了未经审讯就无限期扣留恐怖嫌疑分子的做法。小布什宣称宪法本来就授权了这样的扣留,奥巴马没有采纳他的说法,而且承诺要关闭关塔那摩监狱。但奥巴马没有否认基于极宽松标准来无限期扣留“敌方战斗人员”的权力。对于被扣留者要求获释的案件,奥巴马持反对态度,他说2001年《军事力量使用授权》(AUMF)是关押这些人员的法律依据。

由于未能关闭关塔那摩监狱,奥巴马为无限期扣留所找的法律依据现在有可能为特朗普再次把人送进关塔那摩的计划开绿灯。虽然AUMF只针对参与9.11的人员和团体,但“敌方战斗人员”的宽泛定义得到了奥巴马治下司法部的支持,也得到了法院认可,这给了特朗普巨大的自由空间。被他关起来的可能不光是外国的基地组织或塔利班武装人员,还可能包括被指“支持”各色国际恐怖组织的美国人。

定点清除

小布什政府用无人机消灭海外敌对势力嫌疑成员时没有公布相关法律程序或依据。奥巴马政府虽然极大地扩展了无人机的使用范围,但也建立了错综复杂的内部审查体系,并且起草了支持此类行动的法律备忘录。然而,特朗普有可能彻底抛弃这个审核程序。至于奥巴马政府的法律解析,有学者批评说这样做扭曲了国内和国际法律。

按照奥巴马政府的法律解释,特朗普对无人机的使用就不会限于仍在交战的地区,而且目标或许会包括美国公民——奥巴马时期已经有了先例。虽然只有带来“迫切威胁”而且逮捕方案“不可行”的美国人才有可能成为目标,但或许基于目标参与恐怖活动的程度就可以将其视为迫切威胁,而且如果逮捕具有“过大”安全风险,就可能认为逮捕方案不可行。

这些解释可能让特朗普拿到对美国人使用致命武力的特别许可证。奥巴马显然没有大量使用这张许可证,但特朗普会不会像他一样自律还非常不明朗。

《反间谍法》指控

小布什政府用过《反间谍法》,后者旨在惩罚间谍和叛徒,同时威慑并在某些情况下起诉向媒体泄露国家安全事务的政府雇员。让许多人感到意外的是,奥巴马政府在这方面变本加厉——它提起的泄密诉讼超过了此前历届政府的总和,而且在其中的几起案件中,被告是为了曝光滥用权力的行为;同时,奥巴马政府还让这种不寻常的法律手段常态化。

此外,在获取福克斯新闻记者詹姆斯·罗森的电子邮件以确定泄密源头的过程中,奥巴马治下的司法部采取了前所未有的行动,那就是指控罗森密谋违反《反间谍法》。虽然司法部后来表示绝没有打算用法律来对付新闻记者,但它的做法为指控那些曝光政府不当行为的记者打开了大门。

特朗普对媒体的敌意众所周知,人们有充足的理由担心他可能会闯进这扇大门,小布什和奥巴马为《反间谍法》配备的宽广视角以及法院对此的认可则会为特朗普铺平道路。

有风险的赌博

上述事例的教训显而易见。小布什政府对行使权力的看法很危险,这不光是因为他们试图为明显违法的行为辩护,还因为他们赞成把行使大权置于公民的生命和自由之上。从法律上认可这些权力时,奥巴马政府、国会和法院都相信总统可以明智地予以使用。这样的赌博存在风险。

今后,只问特朗普是否守法还不够,我们还得问问他对自己继承的这些无上权力的使用是否符合我们的权力、自由和价值。在后9.11时代占据上风的权力使用观点影响深远,我们则必须启动一项早就应该开始的审查,看一看在特朗普政府及其后继者治下,这种观点能否竭诚服务于我们的宪政民主。

作者伊丽莎白·戈伊坦是纽约大学法学院布伦南司法研究中心自由和国家安全项目联合负责人。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington.

President-elect Donald Trump has expressed a near-autocratic view of executive authority, leading many to worry that he will play fast and loose with the laws that protect Americans’ freedoms. After 9/11, USA had a taste of this approach, as President George W. Bush claimed he was not bound by statutes or treaties when acting to protect the nation. President Barack Obama rejected that view, maintaining that the president, like everyone else, must obey the law.

But there is another side to this admirable aspect of Obama’s legacy. With the notable exception of torture, in restoring the rule of law, he did not actually renounce Bush’s extraordinarily broad vision of executive power. Instead, Obama sought to put it on firmer legal footing—sometimes with help from Congress or the courts, sometimes simply by articulating a legal justification for government actions.

This choice may prove to have fateful consequences. By buttressing with legal authority some of the most breathtaking powers asserted under Bush, Obama paradoxically may have made it easier for Trump to abuse them. This risk will be particularly acute in the following four areas:

Surveillance

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program was one of the Bush administration’s greatest scandals. Yet instead of decrying this lawless conduct, Congress essentially legalized it. The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act of 2008 allows the NSA to collect communications between Americans and foreigners without a warrant, as long as the agency certifies that the foreigner—not the American—is the “target” of the surveillance (a designation requiring no showing of wrongdoing).

As a senator, Obama voted for the law, and as president, he supported its reauthorization. In 2011, his administration greatly expanded its reach by obtaining permission from the secret FISA Court for FBI agents to search the communications collected by the NSA for information about Americans.

This “backdoor search” authority gives Trump a potent tool for surveillance of innocent Americans. How might he use it? Trump has expressly called for more surveillance of Muslim communities. Moreover, he makes no secret of his grudges against political opponents, and his surrogates have questioned the legitimacy of peaceful political protests. One could easily imagine a Trump FBI mining the NSA’s massive data haul for information to use against vulnerable minorities, political dissidents, and personal enemies.

Indefinite detention

The Bush administration initiated the indefinite detention without trial of terrorist suspects at Guantánamo Bay. Obama abandoned Bush’s claim that the Constitution inherently authorized such detention, and he pledged to close the facility. But he did not disclaim the authority to hold people indefinitely as “enemy combatants” based on extremely loose criteria. He opposed lawsuits by detainees seeking release, citing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as legal justification for their imprisonment.

Having failed to close Guantánamo, Obama’s legal defense of indefinite detention could now serve as a green light for Trump’s plan to repopulate the prison. The broad definition of “enemy combatant” espoused by Obama’s Justice Department and endorsed by the courts—notwithstanding the AUMF’s narrow focus on people and groups involved in the 9/11 attacks— gives Trump enormous leeway. He could potentially imprison not merely foreign Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, but Americans who are deemed to “support” a wide array of international terrorist groups.

Targeted killings

The Bush administration employed drones to kill suspected members of enemy forces overseas without disclosing its legal process or justification. The Obama administration, while vastly expanding the use of drones, created an intricate system of internal review and crafted legal memoranda to support the practice. But Trump could abandon this review process altogether. As for the Obama administration’s legal analysis, scholars have criticized it for distorting domestic and international law.

Under the Obama administration’s legal interpretation, Trump’s use of drones will not be constrained to active theaters of war. His targets may include American citizens—a precedent set under Obama. Although Americans may be targeted only if they pose an “imminent” threat and capture is “infeasible,” an imminent threat may be assumed based on the target’s level of involvement with terrorism, and capture may be deemed infeasible if it would pose “undue” safety risks.

These interpretations could give Trump extraordinary license to use lethal force against Americans. Obama appears not to have made extensive use of that license. It is far from clear that Trump will exercise the same self-restraint.

Espionage Act prosecutions

The Bush administration used the Espionage Act, a law intended to punish spies and traitors, to intimidate and occasionally prosecute government employees who leaked information about national security matters to the media. To the surprise of many, the Obama administration doubled down on this practice, prosecuting more media leak cases than all former administrations combined—including several cases in which the defendants had sought to blow the whistle on executive abuses of power—and normalizing this unorthodox use of the law.

Moreover, in seeking access to Fox News reporter James Rosen’s e-mails to determine the source of leaks, Obama’s Justice Department did something unprecedented: It accused Rosen of conspiring to violate the Espionage Act. Although the department later renounced any intent to use the law against journalists, its actions opened the door to the prosecution of reporters who disclose leaked information about government misconduct.

There is ample reason to fear that Trump, who is openly hostile toward the media, will charge through that door. The expansive view of the Espionage Act put forward by Bush and Obama and endorsed by the courts will smooth his path.

A risky gamble

A clear lesson emerges from these examples. The Bush administration’s views of executive authority were dangerous, not only because they purported to justify conduct that was plainly illegal, but because they countenanced the exercise of enormous powers over the lives and freedoms of citizens. In giving these powers legal sanction, the Obama administration, Congress, and the courts were trusting that presidents would exercise them wisely. That was a risky gamble.

Going forward, it is not enough to ask whether Trump is obeying the law. We must also ask whether he is exercising the formidable authorities he will inherit in a manner that is consistent with our rights, liberties, and values. And we must begin a long overdue examination of whether the far-reaching view of executive power that has triumphed in the post-9/11 era will best serve our constitutional democracy under the Trump administration and administrations to come.

Elizabeth Goitein is the co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

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