Synopses & Reviews
The single best account of the current executive branch's grab for power, with a new introduction on recent developments.
The abuses of the Bush White Houseold news? Far from it. The work of the next administration will be to undo the damage that's been done, and this book will be the guide. As chief counsel to the Church Committee investigating executive branch abuses in the early 1970s, Fritz Schwarz is uniquely qualified to comment on the current administration's power grab.
Called a "masterly account of the roots of contemporary executive over-reaching" by former vice president Walter Mondale, Unchecked and Unbalanced puts our current political situation in historical perspective. A new introduction written for this paperback edition looks at the steps a new administration will need to take to restore the checks and balances of American government.
Schwarz (whom Bob Herbert of the New York Times described as one of America's "quiet patriots") and his co-author Aziz Huq, director of the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center, find today's abuses of a different, more frightening magnitude than those of the past. Whereas previous presidents and their staffs have sought to hide actions outside the law, this administration has instead sought publicly to justify NSA domestic spying, torture, rendition, and black sites through contorted and flawed legal reasoning ultimately designed to create a monarchical presidency.
Thirty years after the Church Committee unearthed COINTELPRO and other instances of illicit executive behavior on the domestic and international fronts, the Bush administration has elevated the flaws identified by the committee into first principles of government.
Through a constellation of nonpublic laws and opaque, unaccountable institutions, the current administration has created a secret presidency” run by classified presidential decisions and orders about national security. A hyperactive Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice is intent on eliminating checks on presidential power and testing that powers limits. Decisions are routinely executed at senior levels within the civilian administration without input from Congress or the federal courts, let alone our international allies. Secret NSA spying at home is the most recent of these. Harsh treatment of detainees, extraordinary renditions,” secret foreign prisons, and the newly minted enemy combatant designation have also undermined our values. The resulting policies have harmed counterterrorism efforts and produced few tangible results.
With a partisan Congress predictably reluctant to censure a politically aligned president, it is all the more important for citizens themselves to demand disclosure, oversight, and restraint of sweeping claims of executive power. This book is the first step.
About the Author
Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. is senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He was chief counsel to the Church Committee. He lives in New York City.
Aziz Z. Huq is associate counsel at the Brennan Center and previously clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court. He lives in New York City.