Putting reason back into emergency powers

Boston Globe
by Bruce Ackerman

07/02/06

As antiterrorism initiatives slowly leak to the public, a larger pattern emerges, revealing a deeper constitutional flaw. The problem is not so much what President Bush did immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, it is that our system has allowed these secret emergency measures to continue indefinitely, transforming our very understanding of normal government behavior. It is easy to second-guess the president's decisions in the weeks after the terrorist attack. But without 20-20 hindsight, many of them look reasonable. On Sept. 12, the security services didn't know what had hit them, and there was an imperative need to assure that the Sears Tower would not be next. Within this context, it was reasonable to tap phone lines and search bank records for hints of a disastrous second strike that would generate another wave of panic. But what was reasonable after a surprise attack has become a permanent state of affairs, without any effective review or control by Congress or the courts. The bureaucratic dynamics provoked by 9/11 are driving the government into a permanent state of emergency...

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