TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

It remains to be seen whether further amendments to IRTPA will change theODNI in a meaningful manner as the US moves to confront challenges in the21 st century.Consequential Case LawDespite the fact that national security case law continues to evolve, two of thethree commonly cited cases in this arena were settled by the Supreme Courtover fifty years ago: United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation (1936)and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). Both defined the modernnational security paradigm and the relationship between the three branches ofgovernment as we interpret it today.United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation (1936)Curtiss-Wright is significant for its broad interpretation of the Presidential prerogativeto determine the US role in foreign affairs. During the mid-1930s,Bolivia and Paraguay were locked in a vicious conflict over the Chaco borderregion, where oil deposits were mistakenly thought to exist. Congress passedlegislation in 1934 granting President Roosevelt the authority to prohibit thesale of arms by American companies to those countries. Roosevelt then implementedthe embargo, but a US-based company, the Curtiss-Wright ExportCorporation, kept selling weaponry to the belligerents. Indicted for violatingthe embargo, the corporation challenged its conviction in court. Specifically, itargued that Congress had illegitimately delegated its power to the President. 21• The Supreme Court sided 7-1 with the US government, stating thatit was “dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President byan exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus thevery delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the soleorgan of the federal government in the field of international relations.”• Curtiss-Wright gave legitimacy to the idea of Presidential dominance indetermining foreign policy – including national security issues. However,this broad interpretation was later challenged in the Youngstown case,where the Supreme Court suggested that the Curtiss-Wright decisionnarrowly dealt only with the issue of Congressional authorization. 22Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School17

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