John Brennan Sworn in as CIA Director Using Constitution Lacking Bill of Rights

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 1.27.57 PMAccording to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a “first draft” of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.

Vice President Joe Biden swears in CIA Director John Brennan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 8, 2013. Members of Brennan’s family stand with him. Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution, dating from 1787, which has George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it.

That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments — or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.

I really don’t mean to be an asshole about this. But these vows always carry a great deal of symbolism. And whether he meant to invoke this symbolism or not, the moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens.

Update: Olivier Knox describes how the White House pushed the symbolism of this.

Hours after CIA Director John Brennan took the oath of office – behind closed doors, far away from the press, perhaps befitting his status as America’s top spy – the White House took pains to emphasize the symbolism of the ceremony.

“There’s one piece of this that I wanted to note for you,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters gathered for their daily briefing. “Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

Earnest said Brennan had asked for a document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.

“Director Brennan told the president that he made the request to the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA,” Earnest said.

Update: I’m assuming this copy of the Constitution is the one Brennan used.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

136 replies
  1. phred says:

    Well, at least he chose his document well. Bet ol’ George is none too pleased, though. I’m surprised it didn’t burst into flames when Brennan’s evil hand came into contact with it.

  2. der says:

    They know what they do. Centrists show how they have joined with Republicans choosing to do anything that pisses off liberals. It’s such cocktail chatter fun…

  3. phred says:

    @emptywheel: He couldn’t find an early enough draft that left out the awkward commandments about killing, bearing false witness, and coveting ; )

  4. What Constitution says:

    I’ll take Brennan swearing on a draft of the original Constitution — as distinguished from, say, a Bible. That act constitutes and affirms (a) agreeing to respect constitutional amendments, as the Bill of Rights subsequently was and is; (b)leaves him subject to the actual scope of executive authority contemplated by Article II and the rest of the Constitution, which is a far different thing than the fatuous “interpretations” posited by Cheney et al. We just need somebody to “check and balance” that stupid construct, which no president might ever again be motivated to do, for so long as the Congress lacks the will to do, and the courts haven’t yet done.

    Now, if any of the text in that “first draft” — or, for that matter, any of George Washington’s handwritten annotations — bears upon proposed present interpretations of the scope of executive power under the Constitution, I’d be fascinated to know that. But either way, I’d be quite amused (though, of course, terrified) to have somebody from DOJ, CIA or the White House argue that Brennan’s swearing on the draft somehow allows him to disregard any provision of the current United States Constitution, as amended. Wouldn’t we all?

  5. emptywheel says:

    @What Constitution: Actually, they don’t specify what they mean by “first draft,” which is why I have it quoted. Among other things, the “first draft” puts treason under Congressional, not Judiciary, purview, which still means the govt should attend to it before killing Awlakis, but makes their doing so slightly more permissible under their white paper arguments.

  6. Look closer, it's the Ermächtigungsgesetz says:

    CIA is trying to put it to you nicely: can you please stop harping on revoked outmoded crap from days of yore. And you should. It’s annoying, like flying the stars and bars. Nobody wants to hear about your antiquarian curiosities.

    You have real rights that John Brennan can’t revoke by decree:

    – American Convention on Human Rights, O.A.S.Treaty Series No. 36, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123, entered into force 18 Jul. 1978, reprinted in Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System, OEA/Ser.L.V/II.82 doc.6 rev.1 at 25 (1992) (“American Convention”);

    – American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, O.A.S. Res. XXX, adopted by the Ninth International Conference of American States (1948), reprinted in Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System, OEA/Ser.L.V/II.82 doc.6 rev.1 at 17 (1992) (“American Declaration”);

    – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force 23 Mar. 1976 (“ICCPR”)

    – United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”)

    and more. Brennan’s torture victims like Khalid Al Masri long ago stopped wasting their breath on the constitution. Al Masri won a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights and now has set the Inter-American Commission on Brennan’s torture squads. The established facts will keep – there’s no statute of limitations. Times change.

  7. scribe says:

    Not that anyone would have standing to enforce any of those rights in the amendments anyway. So, why bother with them?

    Betcha Scalia loved this.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @scribe: Speaking of Scalia, I probably should have included the Eighth Amendment among those that CIA has had a notable problem with.

  9. emptywheel says:

    And you know, if the symbolism is supposed to be a Nation of Laws, why don’t you swear on something that actually IS law, rather than an early rough draft that elected representatives have not voted through yet?

  10. SackoFrito says:

    I don’t get why are making a big deal about the “first draft” and making sure to put it in quotes. You may be unaware of this, but history has a very simple explanation. There was not any one “first draft” of the document per se. There were many people that worked on the constitution and provided their input. Not to mention as your update says, this was “an original draft”. Washington, Adams, Franklin and others had copies of the original draft and they all made their own notes and annotations and the document was being developed. The fact that Washington was asked to comment on it was because he was a hero of the country. His notes came 2 years before he was elected president. The document Brennan swore his oath on is one if the historical documents that is the backbone of our country, reading into and coming up with the conclusions you have overlooks historical facts about the writing of the Constitution. I will give you credit, I’m sure that viewership of you blog has increased dramatically since Yahoo! posted your story, I know it got me sucked in.

  11. lb+/ says:

    Mostly I’m terribly disappointed Brennan didn’t enter cowboy-style on a mini-drone blending the imagery of John Wayne & Dr. Strangelove as a facilitation to the next years of US Empire.

    Next time.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @SackoFrito: Thanks for your input. The reason I USED the quotations is because “draft” in historical documents is rather problematic to pin down. (My PhD is in CompLit where I worked on such things, on top of my history degree, where I also worked on such things.) I used quotation marks because it’s a suspect term given the drafting of our constitution.

    So thanks for the history lesson that I already knew.

    But as I’m sure you’re aware from history, you can’t make time go backward. Brennan could have easily picked a later incarnation. Hell, he picked one, purportedly to symbolize Rule of Law, that was not even law.

    It was at best a PR failure. Though Brennan is pretty crafty in all things so I don’t rule out this draft being a deliberate choice.

  13. Ben Franklin says:


    A Jesuit? Holy Illuminati. Opus Dei, beware.

    And it’s not just symbolism. It’s legal cover, like the famous ’16 words’ so carefully crafted by obedient lawyers.

  14. Frederic Venner says:

    Sounds a bit George Bushian in a Farenhite 851 way. (ie I didn’t so it ain’t)-ish

  15. Peterr says:

    Too bad the Archives didn’t send over the Magna Carta.

    From the National Archives’ website:

    Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. It is concerned with many practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system under which they lived. The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:

    “No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”

    “To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice.”

    Inspiration for Americans

    During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    Of course, maybe they did send it over and Brennan sent it back.

  16. Quicksand says:

    Do you have audio of the swearing-in, where he pledges to uphold “this Constitution right here, ha ha, not the one that everyone knows is being talked about when the word ‘Constitution’ is used, you know, the one with force of law”?

  17. Libslie says:

    At least George Washington was allowed to make some notations on the draft. Today, they’d have to pass it to know what was in it. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi would melt if she put her hand on the Constitution?

  18. Scott says:

    “I swear to uphold and defend THIS constitution from all enemies of the Administration, both foreign and domestic to the best of my technology and subversive abilities.”

  19. david says:

    I understand everyone getting all bent out of shape over the symbolism but whether he swore on the constitution, the Bible or his mother’s ashes, it’s really only for show. Brennan will do whatever he wants to do just like all the others did.

  20. Joey says:

    Is anybody really surprised?

    The Constitution and the Amendments are being trampled daily by our political heroes. These fascists politicians and international bankers are taking away the spirit,inherent character and wealth of the American people one day at a time. Using Orwellian statements and procedures, they hope to dupe American citizens into the poverty of the human soul devoid of hope.

    We can only pray that they will be Judged before the Almighty and found wanting. Maybe they can reorganize Hades when they get there. After all they’ll have an Eternity to do it.

    God Save America!

  21. JohnT says:

    They/He knew exactly what they were doing. It was all kabuki/stagecraft/marketing 101

    It was deliberate, because they know that ‘Mericans don’t know the first thing about how the Constitution was ratified. They knew that taking the oath on this version is jingoistic symbolism and most people wouldn’t recognize the draft he swore on for what it really is (a cementing of elitist control).

    And the fact that there’s no way in hell that it would have passed without the promise of the very same Bill of Rights they so blithely ignore. The Bill of Rights was a great, and huge compromise by the elites to the Anti-Federalists of the day to asuage popular opinion

    See: this

  22. Frank33 says:

    Are the CIA spies and Brennan part of another RICO conspiracy with their partner spies at NSA. It seems, the NSA is helping enforce Hollywood’s war against Kim Dotcom. The New Zealand spies help NSA. NSA is global, and all the spies of the Free World are spying on all the people of the whole world. We Americans are not alone. The NSA spies on everyone, except neo-cons.

    But the 100 police swat team attack on Dotcom, and the police dogs, and the live feeds to dee cee, and Holder’s goons, this prosecution must be costing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    “Based upon the public record and cases in the United States, and an understanding about how Echelon works, which is this global spying arrangement between United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain, we came to the preliminary view that in essence New Zealand was working with the United States to basically grab everything,” he said. “Not just against Kim Dotcom, but basically grabbing all email in relative real time and storing it so that one day if they need to they could datamine it.”

  23. David says:

    @david: Brennan would NEVER in a million years use a Bible for a swearing in. He is a Muslim convert who prays on a prayer rug. Ready for tough times America? You better be.

  24. ChessMom says:

    ! He did not have gloves on!! That is BS. These documents belong to ALL the American People & there are strict rules for preservation. U can take an oath in court or a swearing in w/ gloves on as this has been done for centuries when men & women wore gloves, later just women, & also when cold. He had NO RIGHT to physically make contact, adding his nasty acid & oils to OUR property. WTF National Archives!! These people R truly monomaniacal scum. They care nothing about the Bill of Rights & nothing about what is best for the American people.

  25. tom swift says:

    Whatever draft version he used, there are things in there he shouldn’t be swearing on, as well as some missing he should. The Bill of Rights, of course, is a biggie. Women’s Suffrage is another. And of course there was that thing about slaves counting as 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportioning state’s representation in the House and the Electoral College. Symbolism, indeed.

  26. Kevin says:

    @mspbwatch: Question: Does this mean that he isn’t legally sworn in because the Constitution hadn’t been ratified yet? Just a thought… I still believe that the sworn oath of office ends with “So help me God” and the Bible needed to be present.

  27. John Hill says:

    Interesting for his co-workers who insisted Brennan converted to Islam during his stint as CIA Station Chief in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, that he would eschew a Bible and go for this document instead.

  28. lisa millett says:

    If the founding fathers Could be heard over all of the noise in today’s society they would not be happy that the words that they took great pains and alot of time and arguments and discussions to craft and institute not only for themselves but for us and future generations yet unborn,they would not be happy and they would definitely be turning over in their graves repeatedly(spinning) and they will be questioning every one involved as to what they did with the documents and rules that were and are god inspired and god instituted and he will want to know what we did with what he gave us as well, there will be an accounting for everything in the end man and beast alike,how will we stand up to the scrutiny of every part of our life being in full view of everyone?

  29. Bill Cole says:

    Legalism: doesn’t Article 5 of the draft used moot the point of “missing” later Amendments?

  30. bilbo says:

    i don’t believe they knew what they were doing.The Obama spinners have dumbed themselves down,by aiming their nonsense at people who would vote for Obama and people in the press who would lead cheers for Obama.They throw out any garbage and it is eaten up by these morons ,but it seldom holds up under the least bit of scrutiny.

  31. RJP says:

    “trolling”? PJ, I think you made a wrong left turn. Try going back a bit and make a right. You’ll find yourself back at Facebook.

  32. emptywheel says:

    @Bill Cole: Which one are you thinking? One draft from 1787 is pretty different. The White House originally used “first” and then said “original” and I haven’t yet figured out which draft that would be.

  33. MLJ says:

    @Bill Cole: Not that this ridiculous article deserves a response, but you really need to read The Constitution – particularly Article V:

    “Amendments . . . shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof . . . .”

  34. Westcoastliberal says:

    Don’t want to sound too far off the deep end, but seems like there’s been lots of “symbolism” lately in the scene and I’ll bet the reason they dug up this version is just that-no Bill of Rights. Where the hell is this country headed? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. And congrats on being labeled a “troublemaking blogger”. I’d call that an honor!

  35. beowulf says:

    @emptywheel: i had the same thought as John Hill, swearing on the Constitution instead of the Bible does advance the theory he’s a Muslim convert (like the CIA honcho w. a prayer rug in Zero Dark Thirty).

  36. lefty665 says:

    @Frank33: “The NSA spies on everyone, except neo-cons.” Anything in particular make you think that about neocons? They don’t often have much to say that’s interesting, but ‘ya gotta listen to know that.

    Echelon goes back 50 years, It and its data sharing arrangements are not exactly secret

    Think how much of kimdotcoms business traffic has been into or out of the US. NSA’s got all of that. Think also about how the web routes things, it does not have much to do with geography. A lot of foreign traffic passes through our switches, it gets swept up too.

    Once you get offshore, all bets are off, and everything’s fair game. Sorta like it is domestically, but without even the pretense of privacy. Which gets back to the first item. I wouldn’t bet anyone gets a free pass.

  37. Nell says:

    I’m getting a kick out of Olivier Knox’s Yahoo piece on this post; Knox, in what I have to hope is tongue-in-cheek pearl clutching, calls our host a “troublemaker” and warns of her “strong language”.

    {Oh, mercy me, I must fan myself, it’s that woman — the one who said “blow job” on teevee!!}

  38. Carroll F. Gray says:

    What annoys me (in addition to the fact that this version of the Constitution lacked the Bill of Rights, is the fact that Brennan has his bare hand on a page of this precious historical document. When I have visited the National Archives and the Library of Congress and Air & Space Archives, I have sometimes not been permitted to touch documents and objects and when I have, I have worn cotton gloves. Where was the National Archives staff person to make certain proper procedures were followed ? Believe me, none of us posting here could ever be permitted to actually touch this document with our bare hands. Let’s show a little more respect, please, and not be so cavalier about our national treasures.

  39. beowulf says:

    @P J Evans:
    Nor is it a requirement that family members attend the ceremony but its customary whenever possible. Its just unusual to see a public official not swear their oath on a holy book (even atheists tend do so on “Paris is worth a Mass” grounds).

  40. What Constitution? says:

    @P J Evans: So true. You can swear on a dill pickle to uphold the Constitution of the United States and it means the actual Constitution of the United States. The pickle is — like all pickles — for solemnity and emphasis, but the oath applies to what the oathee recites. So that Brennan would opt for a dill pickle, a bible, a draft of an unadopted document with G. Washington’s handwriting on it, the collected quotations of Sir Thomas More (“I would give the Devil himself the benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake”), or a take out menu from a Capitol Hill noodle joint, it’s still the Constitution of the United States he’s stuck having agreed to obey as a condition of being allowed to have this job.

    A fascinating sideshow at every level, not the least of which is as an exposition of the grandstanding hubris of John Brennan.

  41. Magnus Biblicus says:

    Like it really makes a difference anymore?!?!
    BHO swore into his position WiTH the Bill of Rights AND a Bible…didn’t seem to hold him back from treasonous behavior.

    Maybe its just me though (?)

  42. AD says:

    A “Draft” of the constitution…means nothing. a draft, a preliminary form is no form at all…that it did not include the Bill of Rights seems symbolic as well.

    Symbolism: There is no constitution and you have no rights. All while dissing the Bible and Christianity …How prophetic.

  43. P J Evans says:

    I suppose it’s what their constituents seem to expect from them. (I’d be inclined to take an oath on a copy of a good science-fiction novel.)

  44. pdaly says:

    Well, after trashing the Constitution, I suppose a draft of it was all that was left to swear an allegiance to.

  45. orionATL says:

    You are not being an asshole, ew.

    This disgraceful charade is an end piece to the entire “we love and revere the constitution” kabuki that brennan, with the whitehouse’s obvious backing, has been dancing throughout his confirmation hearings.

    It is disgustingly disingenious and completely amoral,


    That is how this administration operates.

    That is how it has operated from january,2009.

    That is how it will be operating in december,2017.

    The obama presidency is not a presidency; it is a mayoralty – as morally bankrupt as one would expect of your garden variety chicago mayoralty.

    Short-sighted, distrusting of citizens’ ability to be educated and to learn from a caring leader, and too fck’n lazy to get out into the countryside and talk to citizens and teach them.

    It’s all admin-PR, as brennan’s repeated bald-faced confirmation lies about how the constitution would be his guide indicate.

    If you want to see the obama admin at its worst, study the brennan evasions and lies to the congress, the evasions and lies about the legal culpability of major bank leaders, about mortgage refinance, about the persecution of whistleblowers and dissident leaders, and about the doj’s persecution of american muslims.

    This is fearful, short-sighted, controlling, low-level mayoral politics practiced in the oval office and surrounds. It is the essence of this presidency.

  46. orionATL says:


    One other thing,

    Anyone notice something missing in the swearing photo?

    Right! No prez!

    The sob and his advisers ducked and covered.

    In case you were wondering,

    THAT is presidential leadership, obama admin style:

    Si, puedemos correr veloz.

  47. Stu Wilde says:

    wondering why Yahoo! called you the “troublemaking blogger” — you [Marcy] probably have thick skin, but it pissed me off because it is completely unnecessary and pejorative.

  48. Rod Silver says:

    Remember when Judge Roberts misread the Oath of Office to President Obama? Well, we got a redo. So how about a redo for Director Brennan America?

  49. Scared of my governement says:

    Does it really matter what he put his hand on? Laws are really just writing on a piece of paper. The government has no fear of the people if it violates the writing on a piece of paper that is portrayed as “law”. The checks and balances in place mean nothing because the legislative, executive, and judicial branches are all part of the same monopoly. Even the most extreme of the federalist founding fathers of this country would never have accepted a federal government with this much power. This country will never be the same – it’s time to move to Antarctica. Very Sad.

  50. Anna Gibbs says:

    Just goes to show that all Federal employees are dumb asses, bar none. What else did you expect from such consumate professionals?

  51. Jim White says:

    @Stu Wilde: Calling Marcy a troublemaker was actually praise coming from Knox. As a sometimes blogger, sometimes straight reporter on the White House beat, Olivier does his best to inject humor where he can and his entire piece here is written with tongue firmly in cheek. By calling Marcy a troublemaker, he is undoubtedly referring to her famous incident of saying “blowjob” on MSNBC, which has gotten her banned from appearing there again. Knox is saluting her for getting herself banned and then continuing her work without changing it one bit to reacquire access to the insider’s beat. Olivier is in one of the best positions in DC to appreciate the integrity in the decisions Marcy has made and is saluting her in the best way he can.

  52. Max Conservative says:

    Look, lets be honest for a minute. We Conservatives screwed the pooch, we screwed up. We jumped on the asinine PATRIOT ACT bandwagan in an effort to make sure that another 9-11 never happened again. But in the process, we created a monster, one we could not control during the Bush Presidency, and one we have given up hope of ever controlling again. The Department of Homeland Security.

    Sure there is symbolism in Brennan swearing in on a Constitution without a Bill of Rights. We have already seen so many abuses of Civil Liberties under the PATRIOT ACT and nobody does anything to reign them in. Obama campaigned that he would get rid of it, then he found out how nice it was to have a Secret Police that had unlimited authority.

    So now we’re upset about the symobol, while we have been complacently quiet about the actual abuses of individual liberties and warn of the future. To all of you I say, the Future is here today.

  53. GOP KICKS ASS says:

    Is it true that Brennan is a Muslim convert? (hence no Bible!) I can’t get anyone to confirm this that I read somewhere. His Wiki bio states no religious affiliation. Just wondering since the left was soooooo concerned about Mitt Romney’s religion.

  54. Mary Baldwin says:

    The document is encased in mylar; and, from the photo, you can see that his hand is on the case, not the document. Relax.

  55. Bill Cole says:

    @MLJ: I guess you missed my point. There’s no such thing (symbolically) as the Constitution lacking the Bill of Rights as long as it has Article V.

    Also understand that my comment was made in the spirit of jovially disingenuous pseudo-legalistic nitpickerry that is key to this non-story. The selection of objects to touch while taking the oath of office is just a tiny step above the word choices for the text of the Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon.

  56. Pfusand says:

    Oh, for pity’s sake! Stop whinging about all the work the Founding Fathers put into the Bill of Rights.

    The version withOUT the Bill of Rights was good enough for the first twelve states (and good enough for the ACLU to mail out for free). It wasn’t until the honorable state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (my home state) refused to join without its protections (Google “Touro.”) that it was added.

  57. P J Evans says:

    AFAIK, he isn’t a Muslim: it doesn’t matter what his religion is. (I don’t think he believes in anything except power and money, but that’s a different problem.)

  58. JSH says:

    He’ll defend the constitution alright of its physical documernt, but not for which “it stands”? Like in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America AND to the Republic for which it stands, as in reprresents. But too many politicians today take their marching orders from attorneys to only defend the physical possessions of government but not the people and their rights!

  59. samswitch says:

    People are so concerned with the CIA, yet just a tiny bit of research will show you that they don’t really deal with Americans. Our internal intelligence gathering and investigation is done by the FBI, NSA, and DHS. These are the agencies that should be most concerned with the bill of rights. Get smart people.

  60. EUGENE HAUBER says:

    Let’snot make too much of his phony symbolism, IT MEANS EXACTLY NOTHING!!!!! THE BILL OF RIGHTS IS STILL IN EFFECT. BRENNAN DID NOT CHANGE THAT!!!!!!

  61. Bernie says:


    Thank You! Citzens like you and Matt Drudge with knowledge and courage will eventually save the constitution preventing tyranny.

  62. Marie says:

    Marcy, someone needs to start a white house petition and demand he also swear to uphold the bill of rights. If one studies ‘oaths’ they will clearly see the significance of what he did. He knows exactly.

  63. Ron Crocker says:

    I’m sure somewhere above, it has been mentioned but to restate…no one in this administration gives a flip about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Their creed is much akin to, if not the same as the communist of the old ussr. An oath is a PR stunt and always, the means justifies the end. This clown is no different than any of the others.

  64. emptywheel says:

    @samswitch @Dean Mc: As the posts on this site make clear, I’m well aware of what NSA and FBI and so on do in this country.

    But you might want to consider this: When John Brennan was asked what role his was in setting up the NYPD’s intelligence division, which had a CIA dual hat employee working on it and NYPD detectives sent to CIA training at THe Farm, he said he thought CIA had an important role in JTTFs. I don’t think that means CIA is conducting the spying–FBI has gotten quite good at it. But Brennan, at least, believes that CIA does have a role in partnering with these domestic spy agencies.

    Furthermore, one of the big questions about the Awlaki killing is whether he was unduly deprived of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. For Samir Khan, there’s the question of whether he was killed for First Amendment protected hateful speech. In every CIA related trial of late, the government has successfully argued that defendants can’t face their (former colleague) accusers about leaks, which in part serves to prevent them from arguing that those colleagues leaked too.

    So right there, there are really big questions about whether CIA ops are infringing on the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment.

    As I said upthread, I should have added Eighth, because it plays a role in ill-considered legal opinions about whether CIA could legally use torture or not.

  65. The Free Ranger says:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here. ” Dr. Dealgood – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

  66. Mary says:

    In my humble opinion all public officials should swear their oaths of office on a CURRENT copy of the Constitution, which would naturally include EVERY amendment ratified thus far.

  67. Barbara Attaway says:

    If one swears on something other than the Holy Bible, then WHO are they swearing an oath to? To WHAT deity are they beholden to uphold their duties?

  68. JohnT says:

    @Max Conservative:

    So now we’re upset about the symobol, while we have been complacently quiet about the actual abuses of individual liberties and warn of the future. To all of you I say, the Future is here today.

    You don’t actually read this website do you? First time here?

  69. Suzanne says:

    @phred: Boy, if that was to happen everytime someone was disingenuous in this administration, then Washington, D.C. would constantly be in flames!

  70. JohnT says:

    Another, not so ironic thumb in the eye, is the fact that he took the oath on a version with George Washington’s notes (which again, most people would never notice). Take into account Brennan’s record, and the thumb in the eye is at this order by Washington

    Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.

    George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

  71. P J Evans says:

    I suspect most of this lot has never been here before, since they clearly haven’t been following the posts on Brennan and the OLC memos.

  72. Monica says:

    That is a warning of times to come, I think Mr. Brennan needs to know that law is dictated by the society governed and just because he is director of our lousy CIA, I said lousy because they had many accounts of intelligence error, funny how he preaches there are laws, but acts as if they don’t apply to them! You know everyone needs to realize these folks in the government and any institutions set up by this government need to understand they when born were common human beings just like you and I. The reason they had to ratify the Bill of Rights was to keep our representative democracy intact! There was more resistance to the original Constitution than the government admits, only tyrants of society would classify themselves as better than humankind itself, I see much to dismay that this style of beliefs does implode on itself as most tyrants throughout history have experienced! I am so proud if Dr. Rand Paul, it is awesome to see some government officials are still true to themselves and their convictions. There has been so much decay on society interaction absurd really! These officials wage wars on false pretenses all the while making a panic in our country creating violence from a pseudo-paranoia! What a shame that as US citizens we claim life liberty and the pursuit of happiness as unalienable rights when truthfully most Americans are not happy, and don’t really live or have liberty at all. Our government is corrupt all the way down the line, a few practice what they preach but have created a fear that asking why is a crime? If people could just learn to “live” it would be easier to let “live”. There should never be written codes for morality, that is when you know the world is doomed. True the Bill of Rights wasn’t ratified until 1791, but the enumerated powers delegated to the Federal Government were there and quite specifically, see after the 1789 ratification these colonists realized they needed to check these powers, they realized that even these written laws were not enough therefore they seen these ideas as radical and in danger if unchecked that is what The Bill of Rights was a reminder if for those that choose to ignore the powers delegated which weren’t many yet these same folks today try to argue interpretation, I hate to say but the Bill of Rights wasn’t meant to be personally interpreted, it says what means and means what it says! And that really is that, that was ratified to hold the federal government to the specific powers enumerated to them in 1789. That is how Democracy works, but more interesting is the Declaration of Independence states the grievances they had and fought to preserve so as a collective and one follows the other do you honestly think they didn’t foresee these folks in government as a threat. Since Brennan brings up Washington, he must know that President Washington was the most unhappy President he didn’t want to lead anyone!

  73. Antoninus says:

    Brennan made a big deal out of the symbolism of taking the oath on a document that symbolizes that America is a nation of laws, but conveniently left off the portions that bother liberals so much in their quest to take over America.

  74. Nacilbupera says:

    Add to this poignant symbol of the swearing-in of Brennan on right-less Constitution the backdrop of Teddy Roosevelt in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Teddy Roosevelt, known as “speak softly and carry a big stick”, is an analogy to Brennan’s speechless drones which kill worldwide. Here is a sample of the bellicose tyranny Roosevelt dished out:

    “if any South American country misbehaves, it should be spanked.”
    “I am so angry with that infernal little Cuban republic I would like to wipe its people off the face of the earth.”
    “I wish to see the United States the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.”
    [The US reserves right to] “exercise international police power in ‘flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence.'”

    By what right does Brennan or Roosevelt claim in exercising “international police power” in killing those who cross them? Certainly not God who grants life, liberty, and happiness. Nor is it the Constitution. The answer is, of course, people like Brennan, Obama, Bush, and Roosevelt have usurped the power for themselves.

  75. jay352 says:

    Aw, shucks. Your just making a big deal out of nothing…. Kind of like Chairman zero forgetting to include “that they are endowed by their Creator” when speaking of inalienable rights. Much Ado…

  76. thatvisionthing says:

    @Kevin: Well, one of the things I saw when I was looking at the original document .jpgs that Marcy linked to is Washington inserting “or affirmation” after oath.

    “The Senate shall have sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath [GW insert “or affirmation”].” I would think that would be GW specifically recognizing you could choose something other than religious sourcing.

    As for Bible needing to be present, don’t I remember Keith Ellison getting sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s own Koran from the Library of Congress?


  77. thatvisionthing says:

    @Dean Mc: CIA involved in Oklahoma City bombing:

    Horton: All right, well, so, what do we find out this week? What’s in these new documents? This judge told you, no, basically, your latest suit from Freedom of Information Act against the CIA has failed, correct?

    Trentadue: It has, but, as you pointed out, [the judge] did a lot for me and he did a lot for the American people. He told us things that otherwise we would never have known. What happened is, I, in order to document the link between my brother’s murder and the bombing, and the connection to Guthrie, I filed a number of Freedom of Information Act suits. I sued the FBI. This time I sued the CIA. And it was sort of on a hunch, I said to the CIA I want all documents showing your involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing or prior knowledge of that attack. And they came back and gave me 37 blank pages, 12 documents all together, 37 blank pages, and they were stamped Secret, National Security. And they said, “Oh by the way, we have all these other documents that are so super secret we can’t even give you blank pages.” So…

    Horton: Do they say how many were the ones that they couldn’t release in any form?

    Trentadue: No, they said that would be disclosing how many they had.

    Horton: So 37 that you know about that they gave you blank pieces of paper. Here’s 37 blank pieces of paper, and there’s another stack of pieces of paper that we can’t even tell you how high it is but you can’t have any of that either.

    Trentadue: And it’s so secret we can’t even get any blank pages.

    Horton: Heh. And, so, what’d the judge say?

    Trentadue: Well, I sued them and said I want those documents, and the judge, of course, they came in, and it’s the very first time anyone in my Freedom of Information suits has ever asserted national security and the exemption of producing. And that’s like, it’s a rock that you can’t get around, once the government throws up national security. And they did more than that. They said to release these documents would pose a grave threat to the security of the United States of America. And the judge’s hands are tied at that point. It’s like a shield that he can’t go beyond, behind. But what he did, and I think he did this intentionally, is he wrote his opinion to let me know and the public know that there was a foreign connection to the Oklahoma City bombing. And he goes through it and he discusses the CIA’s assistance in helping prosecute Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. And he talks about the contacts with foreign informants, foreign witnesses. He paints a very clear picture that there was foreign involvement, and of course there has to be because the CIA is a foreign intelligence agency. By law it cannot operate within the borders of the United States unless, unless there is a foreign element here.

    Horton: So, to paraphrase, basically the judge is telling you, “We can’t give you these documents about the CIA’s involvement with foreign informants that knew something about the Oklahoma City bombing.” That’s basically the way he’s saying it to you.

    Trentadue: Yes, he says, “But I want you to know they were there.”

  78. Morris Minor says:

    We should have sworn him in with “I, Robot” so he would follow the three laws of robotics. (tbogg)

  79. Lee says:

    Bravo Marcy! Bloggers are the real reporters today. So glad to find a great new site.

    I guess this could be innocent, but it also could be quite the hegel.

  80. zach says:

    So because he didn’t swear on a copy with the 13th amendment, are you also arguing he wants to re-enslave black people as well? Look, it seems like the Obama administration made a stupid PR mistake but trying to make it seem like this is them symbolically saying, Freudian slip way, that they are getting ready to destroy all of the freedoms in the bill of rights is rather silly.

  81. Mike D. says:

    I’m not going to buy that this was intentional symbolism, but the unintentional symbol is indeed grimly ironic.

  82. thatvisionthing says:

    @Jim White: One thing I give Knox kudos for is that he mentioned the word “jury” — which my search bar tells me so far hasn’t been done here.

    That means: No freedom of speech and of the press, no right to bear arms, no Fourth Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and no right to a jury trial.

    Except I don’t think that’s quite right. Trial by jury is in George Washington’s draft, just as it is in the ratified Constitution, aside from and as well as in the Bill of Rights. Must have been important to a government of “WE, the People.”

    Here it is on p. 4 of the Washington document:

    The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

    Nope, nothing about secret trials, no trials, Calvinball trials, or the establishment of a CIA.

  83. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: Also on p. 4:

    The senators and representatives beforementioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    Interesting, when Washington inserted “or affirmation” in the other spot, he was simply making it consistent with VI. on p. 4. “No religious test” — GW had no changes to that at all.

  84. Mike stephens says:

    It his ignorance is why we are losing our country….. That amendment does not grant those rights. You cannot take those rights away! This is why the founders didn’t want to include a bill of rights and it was added as an afterthought…so to speak. The federal governments powered are few and enumerated, if the constitution does not grant a right to the government then the power rests with the people. The rights in the bill of rights were Already given to Americans by not giving them to the federal government. Does everyone not know what enumerated powers means????

  85. thatvisionthing says:

    @Barbara Attaway: Different document (Declaration of Independence), different correction by different FF, but — illumination:

    Franklin made only a few small changes, but one of them was resounding. Using heavy backslashes, he crossed out the last three words of Jefferson’s phrase, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” and changed it to read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

    …When he chose the word “sacred,” Jefferson had suggested intentionally or unintentionally that the principle in question—the equality of men and their endowment by their creator with inalienable rights—was an assertion of religion. By changing it to “self-evident,” Franklin made it an assertion of rationality.

    Imagine no religion. Imagine no CIA.

  86. Phebe says:

    Oh give me a break! This is like saying that because if someone is a witness in court and swears to tell the truth with their hand on a Bible, it makes them Christian.

  87. thatvisionthing says:

    @Peterr: Re your Magna Carta quote:

    “No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”

    I am SO missing Mary. pdaly quoted her not long ago, in Marcy’s “Department of Pre-Crime, Why Are We Doing This?” post:

    The late Mary brought up the fact that the U.S. Constitution explicitly prevents the Executive branch from extra judicially killing its enemies even with the assent of the Legislature. Why would we want to argue for secret precrime courts to paper over the Constitutional violation(s)?

    “the “due process” argument that the US PResident can issues kill orders for US citizens that it suspects of wrongdoing because rendition and extradition are too hard in some foreign countries is bull. It’s why we have a constitutional prohibition on bills of attainder – there are always situations where operating judicially is “hard” but the Executive branch and the Executive branch and Legislative branch combined are prohibited from sidestepping the judicial process to enact pains, penalties and punishments an suspected wrongdoers. That’s a prohibition on the power, period.”

    See, I’m thinking Mary would update her post by striking out “in some foreign countries.” It’s here and now.

    Here’s “bill of attainder” on p.2 of Washington’s draft: “No bill of attainder shall be passed ———–” That’s period, Washington crossed out the rest of the sentence. (Can you bleach out ink? It looks like there’s something faintly written above it, but it’s much lighter than the other writing on the page.)

  88. thatvisionthing says:


    Bill of attainder and Magna Carta were discussed when Ryan Alford was on Scott Horton’s radio show last summer:

    RYAN ALFORD: What we’re talking about is the power of the executive to say, “Well, we think that this person should be marked out for death,” completely avoiding any of the protections in the Bill of Rights and, I would say, more importantly, the Bill of Attainder clause of the U.S. Constitution. Completely unprecedented. We saw, the last time that anyone tried to do this in American history was actually prior to the writing of the American Constitution. In Virginia and New York, bills of attainder were passed naming loyalists, people fighting against the American patriots, and it actually happened in Virginia that someone named Josiah Phillips was targeted for death as an outlaw pursuant to an act of the Virginia colonial legislature during the Revolutionary War. And this was incredibly controversial. All the people we see later going on to write the Constitution – James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall, and then also the first attorney general of the United States, Edmond Randolph, were appalled by this. And this is one of the key motivations for the key procedural protection of the Constitution against any targeting of American citizens through what’s called the Bill of Attainder clause. So [crosstalk]

    SCOTT HORTON: Mmhmm. And now, for that – for people who haven’t read the Constitution lately, that’s Article I, Section 9, where they have, you know, before the Bill of Rights, some restrictions, you know, to clarify and restrict the powers of the government there, and this is where ex post facto laws are banned as well, and a bill of attainder means the legislature writes a law that applies only to one person or one group of people, and instead the law, all laws, must apply to everyone equally, at least in theory, right?

    RYAN ALFORD: Okay, now, you’re saying that because that’s our modern conception of attainder. We say – [crosstalk]

    SCOTT HORTON: Oh, see, I don’t even know what it is then. All I know is junior college taught by Democrats.

    RYAN ALFORD: No, originally bill of attainder is you can’t kill someone with an act of legislature.


    RYAN ALFORD: And the reason we think we can’t pick someone out for special treatment is because no one’s tried to do this since the Constitution was written, because it was so abhorrent to the Founding Fathers.

    SCOTT HORTON: I see. So it really meant assassination in the first place.

    RYAN ALFORD: Precisely.

    SCOTT HORTON: Ah. Okay.

    RYAN ALFORD: And what it’s saying is that a legislature can’t do this, right?

    SCOTT HORTON: Right.

    RYAN ALFORD: So it’s directly written in our Constitution, a legislature can’t pass a law saying someone should be killed.

    SCOTT HORTON: Yeah, but it doesn’t say you can’t sign a presidential decision directive. (laughs)

    RYAN ALFORD: This is amazing, right? People are going to say right now, “Well that clause protects us against Congress but doesn’t protect us against presidential order.” You have to be completely ignorant about English and American history in the colonial period to say that, but nevertheless they will make that argument.

    SCOTT HORTON: That’s funny. I wonder if anyone’s going to ask Mitt Romney if when he was referring to Barack Obama’s ignorance of American, Anglo-American heritage, whether he was talking about the Magna Carta and the rule of law that protects American civilians from unreasonable searches and murders and etcetera.

    RYAN ALFORD: This is just, it’s the forgotten clause. No one ever refers to it or has much knowledge of it because we’ve never seen power being pushed quite this far in the United States because we had such a strong tradition of due process rights and procedural due process through the Fifth Amendment that we haven’t really needed the protection of the Bill of Attainder clause except in these sort of penumbras where it’s, well, someone’s taking away your economic rights, someone’s taking away your livelihood with this special law that’s perhaps marked you out particularly. But nothing even close to this. And so coming back to your original question about whether or not a king would have claimed this power, this is the issue that we have now, because does Congress have a clear ban and the President is not subject to that ban under the Bill of Attainder clause? So the argument that someone like John Yoo would make is that, well, you know, we have certain restrictions on legislature but we need the executive to have this power, right? So what that’s ignoring is the fact that the Bill of Attainder clause, it builds on Magna Carta. It’s not creating a special restriction on Congress, it’s broadening out the restrictions of Magna Carta which prohibit the executive from doing this, which had been in place and had been observed without any exception for 500 years previous to the American Revolution. It’s extending that to the legislative process. Because in England it was still going on. They were still passing laws marking out people for death. I mean, George Washington, James Madison, they all were worried that they would be targeted via that kind of legislation being passed in London, right?, during the Revolutionary War. So that was still going on. Congress then said, “Well, the Framers say we can’t [6:52 inaudible], right? But the argument that they were saying – well, in prohibiting Congress from doing this, we’re essentially repealing Magna Carta letting the executive do it. That’s just preposterous.

    So no bill of attainder, period, glad to have Brennan swearing on/affirming that. And I hope Wyden and Paul ask him about it.

  89. Sharon says:

    Do any of you actually believe that taking an oath on anything would move him to honor the oath? Come on, now.

  90. John E says:

    Just a quick comment here. Has anyone considered how this all actually likely happened? Brennen asked for a ” document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.” This alone says that he didn’t care WHAT document was used per se. It could have been a copy of the Patriot Act or any other similar document. That left it up to somebody from the office to go to the national Archives and see what they had readily available that could be used and would stand up to having him actually touch it (Not a good thing for such fragile documents).
    I can hear the conversation now: Intern from the office: “I need an original document for a swearing in that has laws on it.” Archivist: “Anything or do you have something in mind?” Intern: I dunno. Ya got anything from George Washington or somebody like that? My boss would eat it up.” Archivist: “Lemme check and see what I can get for you.”
    I seriously doubt anybody was so interested in sewtting off a PR nightmare that they scoured documents from the 1700s just to find a copy of the Constitution without the Bill of Rights. Brennan certainly didn’t ask for it. It’s entirely possible that he doesn’t know enough about U.S. History to even know what to ask for, let alone something as specific as this. If you want to look for what looks bad about this, look at the fact that he has no regard for our nation’s historical documents and he is touching them directly with his hand, which contains acids that could damage the precious document. that’s the only offense here.

  91. JThomason says:

    Well its fairly apparent to me that the picture frame around the man on horse back is not parallel to the mantle. Make of it what you will, but something is askew.

    Who am I to suggest that parallax is in play?

  92. Leo says:

    @homeroid: An Archie Comic Book was available, but they felt that a first edition of the Superman Comic Book was more appropriate, but couldn’t find one of them.

  93. thatvisionthing says:

    @P J Evans: The thing that gets me is that it’s Washington writing that in. I guess I was thinking of him as apolitical, above that kind of nitty gritty, and — religious himself?

    Wikipedia says Washington himself was sworn in on a Bible from a Masonic lodge, and glancing through his First Inaugural Address I see…

    it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.


    since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;


    Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

    I have to say, I can hardly understand what he’s saying except it’s a big h/t to — “Providence” : — which, come to think of it, is washingtonian as I thought of him, standing above the fray, avoiding being roped into sectarian squabble:

    Like the deists Washington avoided the word “God” and instead used the term “Providence.”[3] He never talked about Jesus Christ, though he did refer to Christianity as the religion of Christ.

    Eyewitness accounts exist of Washington engaging in private devotions.[191]

    Washington frequently accompanied his wife to church services. Although third-hand reports say he took communion,[192] he is usually characterized as never or rarely participating in the rite.[193][194] He would regularly leave services before communion with the other non-communicants (as was the custom of the day), until, after being admonished by a rector, he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays.[195]

    So are you saying “affirmation” is still a religious choice, to include Quakers like Ben Franklin? I took it to be areligious, like @108 — like Franklin. Hmmm. Wow, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison — what a band of guys these were! Like the Beatles taking over America. They just sing. You can’t dissect it.

  94. Gebinsel says:

    isn’t there a difference inbetween on what and what you swear?
    btw is the exact wording of the oath known?

  95. logan says:

    @SackoFrito: have you ever read what kind of person washington was? what punishments he requested permission to inflict on his volunteer soldiers? as a general great, as a prez he was our first, but i would not want his version of the law… we would likely be put to death for spitting on the sidewalk. any way to read this version of the constitution?

  96. Troy Duwayne, Barclay says:

    This just proves that we are truly under a Phantom Law Rules (google) system of imperatives. The constitution was/is destroyed and usurped daily by all who acquiesce to a true phantom law rules system of governance whereby people call him the president. But, how can this be? Unless our united States Constitution has been negated because it has a natural born clause that has been usurped and ignored?

  97. Pete says:

    This is interesting, but I noticed that there was not a similar complaint when Biden and Obama, and then Kerry were sworn in, in
    public, and then had a second swearing in behind closed doors.
    I wonder what they placed their right hand on for that one, the
    Egyptian Book of the Dead maybe?

    I would also point out that the document they make believe following
    today is the 1791 Constitution. This is the left hand saying watch me
    stupid American peasant,

Comments are closed.