Privilege’s limits

Boston Globe
by Harvey Silverglate

07/31/07

The development of the doctrine of ‘executive privilege’ — the notion that presidential advisers may withhold executive communications from congressional scrutiny — recalls the Dickensian line that ‘the law is a ass.’ Although the public and courts have largely taken the existence of this privilege for granted, they ignore both the text and original understanding of the Constitution. Congress was granted the privilege, not the executive branch. The Founders never envisioned, and the Constitution does not provide for, a presidential privilege allowing White House advisers to flaunt congressional subpoenas, especially in the context of an investigation of potential executive branch impropriety, as in the US attorneys scandal. … If the Founding Fathers thought the president needed a privilege, they would have provided for it...

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Informant: Thomas L. Knapp



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