1. President

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > List of Amendments > President

1.1 Executive Privilege

All presidential documents, including electronic media, films, e-mails. and voice recordings, shall be made open to the public within 10 years from the time a chief executive leaves office.

Explanation: This Amendment allows the Supreme Court to grant extensions of up to an additional 10 years for national security reasons. However, unauthorized disclosure of executive secrets at any time while a president is in office, or during the 10 years thereafter, or an extension period, shall be treated as a felony crime. The purpose of this Amendment is both to prevent abuse of Executive Privilege and to prevent so-called “leaks” since they can damage the national interest. This refers to any leak of information which effects national security as reasonably defined, as opposed to a loose interpretation. Normal political conduct should not be understood as falling under provisions of this Amendment.

Additional Provisions: The Director of any Federal intelligence agency has the right to appeal a negative extension ruling by the Supreme Court in this kind of matter and may request, beyond a further 10 years, an additional 5 year extension in a closed hearing, viz., to be decided in camera.

The Intelligence Committee of either the House or Senate shall have the right to read or otherwise review records of all in camera courts, by whatever designation or description these courts may be identified. Committee members who discover evidence of criminal wrong-doing are under no obligation to maintain secrecy. However, “criminal” means exactly that, not ideological use of the term to promote a social agenda no matter how well-intentioned. The penalty for disclosure of national security secrets shall be the same as for comparable acts of treason.

Exempted from provisions of this amendment are records of any and all kinds which exclusively concern a president’s personal life, for instance, voice recordings of a conversation with a spouse about medical or intimate matters, e-mails or equivalent to a brother or sister about personal finances, correspondence with a son or daughter about family issues, and so forth.

1.2 Presidential succession in case of catastrophe

Section 1: In the event that the office of the President and the Vice President are simultaneously vacant, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be the Acting President. While serving as Acting President, the Speaker shall not exercise or discharge any duty in Congress. The Speaker shall then set a date for a special election to fill the remaining term of President and Vice President as soon as is practicable, and unless the United States is involved in a declared war, that election shall be no later than 90 days after the Speaker assumes the duties of Acting President.

The special election shall proceed according to the laws as set forth by Congress and the several states for regular elections of Presidential electors, excepting only the date of the election The Electors shall meet within one week of the conclusion of the special election, and the results of their voting shall be transmitted to Congress, where the results shall be counted, within one week thereafter.The Speaker shall not be eligible to run for the office of President for this special election.

The winner of the Electoral College shall become President, and thereafter shall take the oath of office, within one week’s time of Congress counting and announcing the results of the Electoral College vote. Upon the newly-elected President’s assumption of office, the Speaker shall no longer be Acting President and shall resume service in Congress.

The President and Vice President thus elected shall serve the balance of the remaining term of office to which the previous President had been entitled to serve. If the newly-elected President’s term of service in office is less than two years in duration, the President thus elected shall be eligible to run for re-election as if the forthcoming term was his (or her) first term.

Section 2: Within ten days of assuming the office of President by any manner other than election, the President shall then nominate a new Vice President, who shall immediately assume the office of Acting Vice President and shall become Vice President unless a majority of the Senate shall object to the nomination within thirty days of the President’s nomination.

This section shall not be operative if the President assumes office within 150 days of the date set for the regularly scheduled election of President of the United States.

Explanation: This Amendment is intended to provide for orderly transition in Government in case some event, such as a terrorist attack or virulent epidemic disease, kills or incapacitates both the President and Vice President at the same time, or nearly the same time.

While this Amendment leaves intact the possibility of the Speaker of the House becoming president, it does so only for extraordinary circumstances when a special election simply cannot be held, for instance because of effects of war. As the original author explained: ” My objective in this proposed amendment is to not allow the Speaker of the House — who was elected by only a fraction of the citizens of a single state and who assumed this position of Constitutional prominence by virtue of doing whatever it takes to get ahead in Congress, which seems to be bringing home public largesse to particular localities… and appealing to parochial rather than national concerns — to execute the power of the Presidency for a significant period of time.” This criticism is clearly be based more on bad faith than anything else, but the point made has serious merit and real safeguard is necessary to protect the public from being governed by someone who may well put local interests far above what they should be.

Note: The wording of this Amendment is taken almost verbatim from a recommendation found at the website, “Not A Potted Plant,” for July 1, 2009. There have been modifications which seemed necessary given the fact that other Amendments being proposed here sometimes are based on other priorities than the unnamed author of the original Amendment.

1.3 Presidential Pardons

Executive pardons are the prerogative of the President on the condition that the person pardoned fully discloses any and all relevant illegal activity he (or she) has been implicated in. If, at some time after a pardon has been granted it is discovered that the individual has not disclosed all such illegal activity, the pardon is revoked and may not be restored.

This shall apply retroactively regardless of all previous provisions of the US Constitution. This is necessary because of abuse of the pardon privilege by recent Presidents, most notoriously G H W Bush and William Clinton. This suspension of the principle of no ex post facto laws is not intended to apply to any other law or subject except as covered in a separate Constitutional Amendment.

While the practical effect of discovery of law violation by those granted a pardon may only be upon the living, this allows historians and responsible journalists and legal scholars to examine relevant records so that post mortem judgements concerning reputations of recipients of pardons can hold such persons accountable for their crimes. If their reputations suffer consequences, that would be all for the good, as deserved in the name of justice.

1.4 Recess Appointments

No recess appointment shall be made by the President under section 2 of Article II unless the Congress shall have adjourned for at least thirty days — or in cases where the Congress has not acted on recommendations for appointments to federal offices after receipt of a recommendation for 30 days. However, in time of declared war, this restriction does not apply, nor does it apply in time of national emergency as declared by the President, the declaration not formally objected-to by the Speaker of the House.

Modified Amendment; original version suggested by Rich Vail.

1.5 Line Item Veto

The President shall have the option to veto clauses of any bill brought before him (or possibly her) for signature. This does not mean “editing” of bills, a word or phrase at a time, only clearly identified clauses. Generally speaking, a clause is a numbered paragraph.

Any clause which receives a veto shall require the President to set forth in writing his specific reasons –and to propose a solution to any problem which he (possibly she) regards as so problematic that a signature cannot be given.

The President shall not have this prerogative if a bill has passed with a super majority of House or Senate votes. In that case the bill as a whole must be signed or not-signed.

A presidential veto may be over-ridden by provisions of the Constitution as already allowed for.

1.6 Covert Actions

The President shall have the power to allow covert actions at his discretion but with the understanding that he (or she) assumes full responsibility for those actions, with the knowledge that they will eventually become public record.

A President shall be responsible for actions of his subordinates, including, for example, a Secretary of Defense or a director on an intelligence agency. Acts of gross irresponsibility are as culpable as wilful criminal conduct, for instance the irresponsibility of Donald Rumsfeld during the early 2000s in his decisions concerning Iraq during which lawlessness was rampant in the streets, when priceless archaeological sites were looted, when government offices were looted, when the Iraqi military was denied possibility of gainful employment as a security or construction force as pre-planned by the Iraq Future group, resulting in many thousands of soldiers who became insurgents. Such irresponsibility deserves to be penalized as equivalent to treason.

The wording of the first paragraph follows closely a statement found at Rich Vail’s website.

1.7 National Security Secrecy Restrictions

The President shall be empowered to declare selective information as sufficiently sensitive that its disclosure to the public would represent a danger to our national security. However, to prevent abuse of this privilege each such secret shall be accessible to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at his (or her) discretion, with the option of sharing the information with the other Justices. If a secret document is interpreted as NOT being so classified because of national security needs, and only then, the Court may also use its discretion in determining who may also have access to the material.

Explanation: It is presumed that the President will provide the Court with a summary of each item of secret information no more than one year from the time of its classification and that the Court will rarely seek to inspect any such document, and generally presume the good intentions of the President, and only seek to examine secret documents at times of national interest. However, as Watergate should have taught us all, exceptions can be very important and the country needs a safeguard against a chief executive who bends the law, or ignores it, for reasons of self-interest.

This Amendment shall not be taken to mean that the principles implied here shall extend to other matters of official secrecy, with the major exceptions of military secrets in time of war, and peace negotiations with foreign nations through the duration of those negotiations but within a time frame not to exceed an administration’s term of office.

It is no secret that as of this writing the US Government and its agencies hold warehouses filled with classified documents of many kinds. This is unacceptable and serves no useful purpose. Therefore —

Top Secret and other high classifications, as well as lesser classifications, shall be accessible to appropriate Courts who will have the responsibility of overseeing declassification of present-day documents such that, when the process is completed no more than 10 % of current documents will be allowed to remain secret. This Amendment also has the purpose of establishing new secrets classification rules such that, in the future, official secrets of any and all kinds will never again reach levels more than 10 % of what they are at this time. A 10 year period is hereby allowed to fully implement this requirement, with no less than 10 % of all documents effected to be declassified each year for the decade following ratification.

The intention of this Amendment is to restrict all classifications of secrecy to a minimum, those that are objectively extremely important. This does not restrict informal secrecy, and it allows for a category of temporary secrets which automatically become public domain after a limited period of time not to exceed two years in most cases, or up to four years by Executive order. Only the appropriate Court may extend the tome limit for a temporary secret, and then only two or four years, as appropriate.

Only the Supreme Court may reclassify a temporary secret and place it in a permanent secrets category.

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > List of Amendments > Congress (next)


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