February 16, 2011 (REVISED March 7, 2011) U.S. Constitution and National Security Subject Of March 9 Panel Discussion


Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Susan Mordan (202) 707-9203

For nearly 200 years, America generally adhered to the constitutional system adopted by the framers: the nation could go to war only when Congress either adopted a declaration or enacted authorization bills. Beginning in 1950 with the Korean War, presidents began to assert unilateral authority to embark on war by seeking “authority” from outside organizations (the United Nations Security Council and NATO members) or claiming an “inherent” authority to protect the nation without any effective checks from the legislative or judicial branches. “The U.S. Constitution and National Security” is the subject of a panel discussion to be held at the Library of Congress from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9. The program, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Room LJ-119 in the Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. Reservations are not required. The program will be moderated by Law Librarian of Congress Roberta I. Shaffer. Panelists include David Cole, Georgetown Law Center; Louis Fisher, The Constitution Project; and Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins University. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will make opening remarks. The program will be tied into themes covered in the Constitution section of the Library’s ongoing exhibition “Creating the United States.” The exhibition, which opened in April 2008 as part of the Library of Congress Experience, explores how the nation’s founding documents were forged out of insight, invention and creativity, as well as collaboration and compromise. The exhibition and its programming are made possible by the generous support of Roger and Susan Hertog and the Xerox Foundation. Questions to be explored by the panel include:

  • Does the Constitution permit the president and the Senate, through the treaty process, to delegate the war power to international or regional organizations?
  • Under what conditions can a case can be made for emergency powers, such as those exercised by Lincoln at the start of the Civil War?
  • What is “inherent” authority and to what extent does that claim of power threaten constitutional principles?
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.


PR 11-034
ISSN 0731-3527