In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made a shocking admission to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): he would seek international permission before that of Congress to intervene in Syria. The Senator asks point-blank if Panetta believes it acceptable for him to act without Congress, and Panetta says yes, outlining a plan of action like the one the president took last year with Libya.
SESSIONS: Do you think you can act without Congress to initiate a no-fly zone in Syria? Without Congressional approval?
PANETTA: Again, our goal would be to seek international permission, and we would come to the Congress and inform you, and determine how best to approach this, determine whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.
SESSIONS: I'm almost breathless about that, because what I heard you say is, "We're going to seek international approval, and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek Congressional approval."
Despite the fact that the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the power to declare war -- and that the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force only applied to countries tied to the terror plot -- Panetta claims that the executive branch always has the unmitigated prerogative to act "in the best interest" of American safety.
Watch the full exchange: