The information you were told is an unfounded rumor. Every officer in
the executive branch (and indeed all employees in the federal
government, save a few rare instances that are Constitutionally or
otherwise statutorily differentiated -- i.e. the President, and
Supreme Court justices) recite the following oath:
"I (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to
the same; that I take this obligation freely without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully
discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So
help me God."
This requirement dates back to the period immediately following the
initial ratification of the United States, but it was expanded greatly
at the behest of Abraham Lincoln, who "ordered all federal civilian
employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath."
Indeed, even postal employees take this same oath. (39 U.S.C.A. §
Statutorily this derives from 5 USC § 3331 in the US Code, which
states the following:
"An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an
office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services,
shall take the following oath: . . ." (listing the oath from above).
This explains that every such individual (not excepting the Attorney
General) must take this oath. A number of law review articles and
American Law Reports articles even state that employees of the
District of Columbia (as federal employees) must take this oath.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Google searching strategy:
"oath of office" federal officer
5 USC § 3331
Request for Answer Clarification by
23 Jan 2005 10:22 PST
I can't give you credit for this answer, or award you any stars yet.
It is too vague and non-specific.
What you have given me pertains to officers in the executive branch or
employees of the federal government. Is the Attorney General either?
From where does he derive his power? What act created his position?
Where in the United States Code? The constitution? I can't find it,
and neither can anybody I've talked to. The usdoj website is equally
useless. There is plenty for the STATE Attorney generals, but nothing
for the US Attorney General, who is supposedly the "head cheeze."
Does he have authority over the States? What office does he hold, IF
ANY. If he is appointed, what is he appointed to do? What oath did
he swear to uphold that alleged position? WHICH "U.S." does he
portend to represent (since there are SEVERAL definitions of "US" it
turns out, most of which, surprisingly, it turns out include
TERRITORIES such as Guam, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and/or
Washington DC. Not STATES)? In light of so much news activity that
come out of this person's office, what has the person upholding this
office sworn to uphold? Who signs his check? An oath is a contract,
basically, and I would like to see it in order to research where
his/her office derives its power and dispel this "myth."
Clarification of Answer by
23 Jan 2005 12:32 PST
Hi there, and thanks for the clarification request. I see the intent
of your question is actually a little more expansive than that
suggested by the post you made originally, but I hope the information
below will suit you.
The President is given the authority by the Constitution to appoint
officers as needed in order to help him execute the laws of the United
States. There is no act creating the Attorney General in the same way
that there is no act creating most (any?) of the Secretaries on his
Art. II (The President), § 2, cl. 2 (Treaty Making Power; Appointing Power)
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,
to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the
Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls,
Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United
States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and
which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest
the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in
the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of
The Attorney General thus derives his power from this section where it
says "[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and
consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . all other officers of the
United States, whose appointments are not heirein otherwise provided
So, to answer your question as to who hires him, it is the President,
and he falls under the executive branch of government and is budgeted
There have been calls over the years for an "independent attorney
general", but these have been discussed and dismissed as
unconstitutional, precisely because he serves the President, an
elected official who has been solely entrusted with the responsibility
of enforcing the laws.
In 1977, a memorandum was written by Griffin Bell called "Proposals
for an Independent Attorney General". 1 U.S. Op. Off. Legal Counsel
75, 1977 WL 18024 (O.L.C.). It notes:
The Constitution establishes the framework within which the proposed
limitation on the removal of the Attorney General must be examined.
The first sentence of Article II vests the executive power of the
Government in the President and charges him with the general
administrative responsibility for executing the laws of the United
States. Article II, § 2, provides that, with the advice and consent of
the Senate, the President shall select those persons who are to act
for him in executing the laws. The closing statement of Article II, §
3, the last section of the Constitution dealing with the President's
powers and duties, emphasizes the President's responsibility: 'He
shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.' Thus, the
President is given not only the power, but also the constitutional
obligation to execute the laws.
[some sections snipped]
The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the
United States. He acts for the President to ensure that the
President's constitutional responsibility to enforce the laws is
fulfilled. To limit a President in his choice of the officer to carry
out this function or to restrict the President's power to remove him
would impair the President's ability to execute the laws.
Indeed, the President must be held accountable for the actions of the
executive branch; to accomplish this he must be free to establish
policy and define priorities. Because laws are not self-executing,
their enforcement obviously cannot be separated from policy
considerations. The Constitution contemplates that the Attorney
General should be subject to policy direction from the President. As
stated by the Supreme Court: 'The Attorney General is . . . the hand
of the President in taking care that the laws of the United States . .
. be faithfully executed.' Ponzi v. Fessenden, 258 U.S. 254, 262
(1921). Removing the Attorney General from the President's control
would make him unaccountable to the President, who is constitutionally
responsible for his actions.
It is our conclusion that the framers of the Constitution intended for
the functioning of the executive branch to rest squarely on the
integrity of the President. He alone is elected by, and thus
represents, all the people. For this fundamental reason it is his
policy decisions that are to control as he undertakes to execute the
At Griffin Bell's swearing-in, Jimmy Carter noted:
"To the maximum degree possible, the Attorney General should personify
what the President of the United States is--attitudes, philosophies,
commitments--because here is an extension of the President's attempt
to provide equality of opportunity and a sense of trust in the core of
our American governmental institutions."
If Congress wanted to attempt to limit the Attorney General's power
(through fixed terms, etc.), it could pass legislation to do so, but
the Department of Justice (on behalf of the President) would surely
either file suit or else ignore it on Constitutional grounds (which
would likely produce a suit in the other direction by a watchdog
group), at which point the Constitutional question would be determined
for good in the court system. This has not happened, I believe, for
(as indicated by the memo above) it's firmly understood by the
majority in the U.S. Government that, Constitutionally, the Attorney
General serves at the pleasure and discretion of the President.
To re-address the initial question, the oath that the Attorney General
takes is identical to the oath that all cabinet members, all officers,
and indeed most every employee of the federal government (including
postal workers) take (and this requirement is provided by statute as
indicated in my initial answer). When the oath invokes "The
Constitution of the United States", it is referring specifically to
that document which has been ratified by the 50 states. However, as
the Constitution provides power to Congress and the President to sign
treaties, the power of those agreements (in respect to land outside
the 50 states) is dispositive as well, deriving indirectly from the
Please let me know if you have further questions.
Request for Answer Clarification by
28 Jan 2005 14:26 PST
Again, there is a lot of "should do this and should do that" in the
answer, HOWEVER, there is nothing to state that he IS an employee of
the federal government (which again calls into question WHICH US are
we talking about, because in my research there are AT LEAST 3
defininition of "US" depending on the context, ie: US could mean
Washington DC, Guam the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands,
or PEURTO RICO, as is the case of "Revenue Agents" of the "US Internal
Revenue Service." So this postion of "Attorney General" just kind of
hangs out there, unestablished by any act of the People or Congress,
and is merely a "representative of the President," nevertheless, not
bound by any oath to protect anyone in particular (but "special
interests" perhaps, which also begs the question "who signs his
check?"). he looks after the interests of the president, so does he
swaear an oath to the president? Who was Reno protecting when she
went the BATF after certain individuals in Waco?
Again, you have not answered the question definitively, and I cannot
give you credit. If an oath does not exist, please say so or produce
the one that you have discovered. A major weakness that exists here
in human psychology is that we have a tendency to "connect the dots"
and make assumptions that are not based on fact, but "what should be
there." For example, what does the following say?
Paris in the the Spring...
Before you go to the store, I
want you to go to to the gas station...
I don't know if you have ever played this before, but it is a
demostration of our brain's need to "fit things into what we know."
Did you see the word "the" spelled twice? the word "to" spelled
This is a problem we weak humans have, we have a tendency to "think
inside the box" and have "perceptual blindness." While on the
subject, i'm sure you have played the "how do you connect these 9 dots
made into a box without lifting the pencil and drawing only 3 lines?"
my question is "where is the box?" just because you arrange the dots
into 3 equal rows, your minds says "it has the shape of a box, so it
MUST be a box," when in fact, it is just 9 dots placed equally.
Do you see what I mean? I still am going to stay with this "rumor" of
no oath existing for the Attorney General, because I have seen no
evidence otherwise. if you go to court, one of the strongest things
you can do to protect yourself is to ACCEPT the oath of the judge,
which places him in contract with you to uphold your rights. If there
is no oath, what is he under sontract to protect? there have been
dozens of judgements overturned or thrown out on the basis of the
judge having no sworn oath on record. this may help you in your
search if you want to give it one last try. IF there is an oath on
record for a "public officer" then there will be a CUSTODIAN of those
oaths whose job it is to keep safe the oaths. Again, I have found no
custodian for the oath of Attorney General.
Perhaps there is a letter of appointment or Power of Attorney signed
by the presdient granting him the authority of the President to
represent him. I would give you credit if you could find this. then
I would know for sure whose oath to ACCEPT. I would accept the
President's oath, and his "agent" would have the same contract to
there are other rumors floating around that the Attorney General is
not even paid by the US governement.
Clarification of Answer by
28 Jan 2005 16:47 PST
I think you are going after a conspiracy theory here, and I doubt that
anything I could provide to you would satisfy your thirst (as I
imagine you're looking for an answer that validates the theory).
Nonetheless, I have conducted more research and am providing it here.
First, I was mistaken about one thing: though there was initially no
act creating the attorney general (the role was instead a cabinet
choice of George Washington), there is currently a statute on the
books confirming the existence and role of him:
28 USC § 501: "The Department of Justice is an executive department of
the United States at the seat of Government."
28 USC § 503: "The President shall appoint, by and with the advice and
consent of the Senate, an Attorney General of the United States. The
Attorney General is the head of the Department of Justice."
28 USC § 509: "All functions of other officers of the Department of
Justice and all functions of agencies and employees of the Department
of Justice are vested in the Attorney General except the functions--
(1) vested by subchapter II of chapter 5 of title 5 in administrative
law judges employed by the Department of Justice; (2) of the Federal
Prison Industries, Inc.; and (3) of the Board of Directors and
officers of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc."
28 USC §§ 510-530: Many functions of the attorney general listed out,
requirements for him and the department of justice, etc.
28 USC § 515(b): "Each attorney specially retained under authority of
the Department of Justice shall be commissioned as special assistant
to the Attorney General or special attorney, and shall take the oath
required by law. Foreign counsel employed in special cases are not
required to take the oath. The Attorney General shall fix the annual
salary of a special assistant or special attorney."
Nothing in the statute however does anything to limit the
Constitutional concept that the attorney general serves at the
pleasure of the President, and that his role is to uphold the laws as
he sees fit.
The oath "required by law" for DOJ attorneys is the one listed above
(from 5 USC § 3331). This is redundant for the attorney general
himself, however, as § 3331 notes that "an individual, except the
President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the
civil service or uniformed services,
shall take the . . . oath" that I mentioned before.
To receive a certified copy of the oath sworn-to by a particular
attorney general, send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to:
Melanie Ann Pustay, Deputy Director
Office of Information and Privacy
Department of Justice
Suite 570, Flag Building
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Or call (202) 514-FOIA
Request for Answer Clarification by
01 Feb 2005 05:20 PST
so joey, what is your background?
Clarification of Answer by
01 Feb 2005 08:13 PST
English and engineering undergrad -> Graphic designer -> Law student.