Congress owes us

Congress must pay whatever it costs to protect New York City from terrorist attack. It's in the Constitution.

This is an abstract from an April 24 OP-ED piece in the NYTimes by Jason Mazzone:

Op-Ed article says Constitution requires Congress to approve full $700 million a year New York City needs to protect itself from terrorist attack, not merely $200 million it has offered; cites Article IV, Section 4, which states that federal government shall protect each state against invasion (M) Operation Atlas, New York City's plan to protect itself from terrorist attacks, is likely to cost $700 million a year, much of it in overtime pay for police officers and firefighters. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has asked the federal government for money that would offset the costs of the program. While Congress has offered some $200 million in security spending, it has no intention of footing the entire bill. A close reading of the Constitution, however, suggests that it should.

Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution says, ''The United States . . . shall protect each of [the states] against Invasion.'' Unlike other provisions that merely authorize governmental action, this article imposes on Washington an obligation to defend states -- and their cities -- from foreign attacks. If New York City needs Operation Atlas, the federal government must pay for the program.

New York was the first domestic target, and it is potentially the first future target, of terrorist attacks directed against the U.S. The fact that New York may be the one area of the U.S. which least supports the policies which attract terrorist attacks, while interesting, is not the argument. The argument, especially for the right wing ultra-nationalists who maintain that the role of a federal government should essentially be limited to one of defense, is that we absolutely must be defended by the federal government or there is no reason for our remaining part of that government.

The following is from the print edition and is no longer available on-line.

Eighteenth-century Americans — who were as worried about sneak assaults from foreign agents (and British sympathizers) as they were about the arrival of enemy gunships off the coastline — would have understood that attacks like those of 9/11 fall within the scope of Article IV. The Bush administration itself has repeatedly characterized terrorism as an act of war.

Significantly, Article IV requires the government to protect "each" of the states from invasion. This means Washington must do so in a way that meets each state's individual needs, and that a particular state must not be left vulnerable just because taxpayers in other states prefer not to contribute additional money needed for its protection. In the war on terrorism it takes more to defend New York than to defend Nebraska. New York is a unique terrorist target: a coastal metropolitan center, a national entry point, the financial and cultural capital, the home to the United Nations and a worldwide American symbol. The federal government must take into account the city's special security requirements.

No invocation of the doctrine of states' rights can relieve the federal government of its responsibility to defend any one state or any group of states.

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Published on May 2, 2003 1:08 AM.

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