Who should decide national security issues?

Inspired by the other thread. First, a historical question, who let the cat out of the bag in the first place? Or more precisely, when did the executive branch get the power to unilaterally declare information secret or classified? (Not to say that the other branches do not do the same, but not to the extent that this and previous administrations have.)The only mention of secrecy in the Constitution refers to the Congress. I know ‘national security’ went into high gear during WWII, and into overdrive during the Cold War, and now it appears to be slipping off the rails, but how did it get on the rails in the beginning?

And should the executive branch have that power? Should any branch have that power unilaterally? I understand the need for some information (mostly related to nuclear and other WMDs) to be withheld from the general public, but who should make that decision? I can see no compelling reason why it should lie solely with the president, or any one branch of government. Especially not just as a matter of expediency.

Similarly, where should the power to unclassify information reside? I have the same amount of faith in the executive branch ,i.e. none, with regards to keeping secrets as to making them.

A well-informed public is essential to the functioning of our democracy (or any other for that matter), and the decision to keep the public uninformed should rank as a matter of the highest importance and require approval from all three branches, (or at least two out of three, and I am not all that comfortable with that bit of compromise.)

So how high is this pie in the sky?

If it were left to Congress, each instance would have to be debated on the floor before a decision were reached. Which would be effectively the same as releasing the information in question to all media.

BrainGlutton, I understand your point, (and that you are hopefully being facetious), but the devil is always in the details. I imagine Congress would delegate the work to a sub-commitee or some such. Same with the Judicial branch, delegate it to a special court. Though of course we know how well that method has been working, which points to the other major problem, how can practice trump theory?

Either way, I can’t support the status quo, and don’t understand how it become the quo.

No. If you want to maintain secrecy at all, this is a real concern. It could be resolved, as you say, by referral to a committee. Congress already has intelligence-oversight committees that meet in secret. But there’s still a “black budget” for intelligence operations that Congress-as-a-whole is not even allowed to know about, in any detail. And I can see no practical way to put an end to that without sacrificing secrecy.

It’s the “executive branch”. That’s part of the job description. Basic social studies: Congress makes the laws, The executive carries out the laws, and the courts determine the legality of the laws.

If Congress wants to take the ability away from the President, they can pass a law doing so. The courts, being a body based upon precedent, will probably strike the law because there is a long history of the executive having the ability to classify material (with Congressional oversight), and so we’ll be right back to square one.

Someone has to have the that power. Congress, as BrainGlutton pointed out, is a deliberative body, so theyare singularly unsuited to keeping secrets. The judiciary cannot be directly involved lest it taint any cases it sees as a result of the intellignce, and so it defaults to the executive. So mote it be.

No. For legal purposes, “precedent” means earlier court decisions, not established political practices.