New York Times Ignores Violation of the War Powers Act

May 28, 1999

The indictment of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes is the story of the
day--the New York Times ran two front page pieces on it on the day the
announcement was made (5/27/99). Of course, Milosevic's indictment is an
important story for the American media to cover. But isn't it at least
as important for the press to cover accusations that the U.S. president
is conducting an illegal war?  That story has gotten virtually no
mention in the Times.

According to the War Powers Act of 1973, the president must "terminate
any use of United States Armed Forces" within 60 days of the declaration
of military action, unless he receives Congressional authorization to do
otherwise. This period expired on May 25. Four days into what seems to
be a clear violation of the law, the New York Times, considered to be
"the paper of record," has not said a word about the expiration of the
War Powers Act's deadline.

Prior to the expiration of the 60 days, the Times' coverage of the issue
was skimpy. One piece (4/29/99) obliquely touched on the issue,
reporting that though Clinton promised to seek Congressional support for
sending in ground troops, he would not seek  Congressional approval,
since, as his spokesman, Joe Lockhart, said, "such a step would raise a
host of constitutional questions."  Another article, titled "NATO Says
New Bombing Is the Strongest Effort Yet," mentions in passing the suit
filed by Tom Campbell and 16 other representatives against Bill Clinton
for violating the War Powers Act (5/1/99).

The only serious attention the Times gave to the issue was in a piece by
Alison Mitchell called "Only Congress Can Declare War. Really. It's
True," which ran in the "Week In Review" section (5/2/99). This article
described the House's voting down of a resolution in support of the air
war, by a 213-213 vote, as "a philosophical muddle devoid of practical
effect."  In fact, the losing vote is an important element in Campbell's
lawsuit, proof that Clinton does not have congressional approval for his
military actions.

But since the 60-day deadline expired, the Times has not so much as
mentioned the War Powers Act.

In notable contrast to the Times' silence, USA Today ran an editorial
headlined "Again, Public Gets Bypassed" (5/25/99), which examined the
history of the Act and concluded that the Clinton administration's
refusal to abide by it is "an exceedingly risky policy that ignores both
the ugly lesson of Vietnam and the Founders' warnings about the ease
with which unconstrained kings spend lives."

The War Powers Act, as USA Today noted, is designed to guarantee a
fundamental democratic safeguard--that the people have a say, through
their elected representatives, over whether or not the country goes to
war. Clinton is the first president ever to violate the time limit
provisions of the Act by keeping troops in combat without congressional
authorization. Why isn't this news "fit to print?"

Please ask the New York Times to seriously address the implications of
President Clinton's ongoing violation of the War Powers Act, and to
cover the suit being brought against him by Tom Campbell and other
representatives. You might also let USA Today know that you appreciate
their coverage of the issue.

New York Times
229 W 43 St., New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-556-1234
Fax: 212-556-3690

USA Today
1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22229
Phone: 703-276-3400
Fax: 703-247-3108

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