Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 4.1.2 Importance of Statutory Law [HTML-Only]

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4.1 Introduction to Statutory Law

4.1.2 Importance of Statutory Law

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4.1.2 Importance of Statutory Law

So, let’s get started.

As you learned in the last lesson that the Constitution is the most powerful form of law there is.

It’s the supreme law of the land.

Nothing beats it.


Still, you might be surprised to learn that despite the fact that it’s the supreme law of the land, it’s actually not where most of the action is in U.S. intelligence law.

The bulk of the action comes from the last two legal categories:

Ø  Statutory law; and

Ø  Administrative law.

They regulate the specific activities that are part of intelligence agency operations in far greater detail.


As we’ve discussed, the Executive Branch’s constitutional powers are spelled out in Article II of the Constitution, but these powers are far from plenary.


Ø  Statutes as a Primary Sources of Presidential Power: The bulk of the President’s power comes from Congress.

o   This is because his job is to execute the law, and he wouldn’t have much power without any laws to execute.

o   Congress enacts a statute creating a law that the President and his Executive Branch have to execute.

o   As a result, much of the President’s power comes from statutes passed by Congress, which are then often codified in the U.S. Code.


Ø  Organic Statutes as a Source of Agency Power: In addition, all agencies are created by statute, and the powers of all agency heads are likewise spelled out in statutes enacted by Congress.

o   The jurisdiction of federal courts is spelled out in statutes enacted by Congress.

o   And all national security crimes and criminal penalties are established and defined by statutes.


So, while the Constitution will always be your starting place for understanding powers exercised by the government and the rights of individuals, statutory and administrative law will usually be what you’ll spend most of your time analyzing when trying to determine if an intelligence agency has exceeded its lawful authority.



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© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.