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The Imperial Presidency

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote a book by this name, a book about the gradual accumulation of power in the executive branch of the U.S. government. Bruce Schneier, my security hero, has posted a blog entry titled "The Security of Checks and Balances" on a related topic. In he talks about the threat posed to the U.S. form of government by the response to the 9/11 attacks.

Over 200 years ago, the framers of the US Constitution established an ingenious security device against tyrannical government: they divided government power among three different bodies. A carefully thought-out system of checks and balances in the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch, ensured that no single branch became too powerful. After watching tyrannies rise and fall throughout Europe, this seemed like a prudent way to form a government.

Since 9/11, the United States has seen an enormous power grab by the executive branch. From denying suspects the right to a trial -- and sometimes to an attorney -- to the law-free zone established at Guantanamo, from deciding which ratified treaties to ignore to flouting laws designed to foster open government, the Bush administration has consistently moved to increase its power at the expense of the rest of the government. The so-called "Torture Memos," prepared at the request of the president, assert that the president can claim unlimited power as long as it is somehow connected with counterterrorism....

This is not a partisan issue; I don't believe that John Kerry, if elected, would willingly lessen his own power any more than second-term President Bush would. What the US needs is a strong Congress and a strong court system to balance the presidency, not weak ones ceding ever more power to the presidency.

I could hardly agree more. BTW, I was alerted to this by way of Schneier's highly readable, generally entertaining and thought-provoking Crypto-Gram newsletter

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