AFTER THOSE RARE AND DANGEROUS MOMENTS when an enemy has launched an attack on the United States, the president has frequently adopted sweeping defensive measures with little concern for individual rights protected by the Constitution. He has done so rapidly and without congressional approval, yet in most cases, whether it was Abraham Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War or Franklin D. Roosevelt ordering Japanese-Americans incarcerated after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress has responded decisively. And through that response, Americans have at least been reassured that the president's unilateral action would stand only with the approval of their congressional representatives, as the founding fathers intended.
In the almost four years since the Bush Administration launched the war on terror, however, Congress has remained essentially silent about the Administration's harsh measures for detaining and interrogating terrorist suspects. Through mid-July, it had not passed legislation approving, disapproving, or even addressing these measures, which were adopted in the name of national security. Its silence not only put civil liberties at risk, but also undermined a central principle of the Constitution and of all representative democracies by allowing the executive branch to exercise extraordinary powers unchecked.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
And here's a discussion of Congress' spinelessness re presidential power: