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Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror

Overview

Can a U.S. president decide to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charges or secretly monitor telephone conversations and e-mails without a warrant in the interest of national security? Was the George W. Bush administration justified in authorizing waterboarding? Was President Obama justified in ordering the killing, without trial or hearing, of a U.S. citizen suspected of terrorist activity? Defining the scope and limits of emergency presidential power might seem easy—just turn to Article II of the ...

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Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror

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Overview

Can a U.S. president decide to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charges or secretly monitor telephone conversations and e-mails without a warrant in the interest of national security? Was the George W. Bush administration justified in authorizing waterboarding? Was President Obama justified in ordering the killing, without trial or hearing, of a U.S. citizen suspected of terrorist activity? Defining the scope and limits of emergency presidential power might seem easy—just turn to Article II of the Constitution. But as Chris Edelson shows, the reality is complicated. In times of crisis, presidents have frequently staked out claims to broad national security power. Ultimately it is up to the Congress, the courts, and the people to decide whether presidents are acting appropriately or have gone too far.
            Drawing on excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court opinions, Department of Justice memos, and other primary documents, Edelson weighs the various arguments that presidents have used to justify the expansive use of executive power in times of crisis. Emergency Presidential Power uses the historical record to evaluate and analyze presidential actions before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The choices of the twenty-first century, Edelson concludes, have pushed the boundaries of emergency presidential power in ways that may provide dangerous precedents for current and future commanders-in-chief.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Chris Edelson has successfully tackled a big and controversial topic with skill and grace. His balanced, fair-minded work is a welcome addition to a literature on presidential power in times of crisis that is often captured by partisans with a cause."—Michael Genovese, author of Presidential Prerogative
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
Unable to "find a suitable book to use for a new class on emergency presidential power and the war on terror," Edelson (Government/American Univ.) wrote this one as a primer. The currently debated issues informing the author's arguments include whether the president can order the deaths of American citizens on his own authority and whether doctrines of state secrecy can be employed to block legal suits completely rather than justify merely withholding evidence, warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention. Though the evolution has varied, Edelson traces the roots of each issue to the doctrine of executive power espoused by Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration, which had its inception under the administration of Richard Nixon after his excesses were reined in. The author provides two valuable contributions, which both preface recent developments and provide context from original historical sources. The scope of presidential power has been a subject of contention throughout the history of the country, and Edelson provides documentation from the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers, and the administrations of George Washington and John Adams. The author examines Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus at the beginning of the Civil War as well as subsequent cases on the power of military tribunals. The author also looks at cases from the Spanish-American War, the adoption of the Espionage and Sedition acts in 1917, Franklin Roosevelt's treatment of German saboteurs, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during and after World War II. Edelson provides sources that document both sides of these cases, relates them to the founding documents and discussions, and lays down a foundation from which the current debate about the powers of the presidency can be more clearly understood. This collection of documents and arguments makes a timely companion to current, ongoing political discussions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299295301
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 12/2/2013
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 975,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Edelson is assistant professor of government at American University's School of Public Affairs. He practiced law in the District of Columbia and New York and served as state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

“Crisp writing and solid analysis. Edelson covers military tribunals, detention, the unitary executive theory, warrantless surveillance, torture, and the state secrets privilege, concluding with President Obama's military intervention in Libya. He explains how claims for inherent and unchecked executive power endanger individual rights and constitutional liberties.”—from the foreword by Louis Fisher

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments                             
 
Introduction                           
1 The Constitution and Emergency Presidential Power                                
2 Presidential Power in the Young Republic: Washington's Neutrality Proclamation, a "Half-War" with France, and the Alien and Sedition Acts                                   
3 Lincoln and the Wartime Constitution                               
4 Setting Limits on Wartime Power? The Ex Parte Milligan Decision                                  
5 Expanded Presidential Power during World War II: Nazi Saboteurs and Military Commissions                          
6 The Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II                                
7 The Youngstown Steel Seizure Case: The Court Sets Limits on Presidential Power
8 Nixon, Watergate, and a Bid for Unbridled Presidential Power                                          
9 Emergency Presidential Power at Its Zenith: The Bush Administration and the Unitary Executive                                 
10 Detaining and Trying Suspected Terrorists                                  
11 Torture in the War on Terror                                
12 Warrantless Wiretapping: Presidential Power to Set Aside Acts of Congress?                           
13 Detention and Military Commissions under the Obama Administration                        
14 The State Secrets Privilege: Emergency Presidential Power by Another Name?                         
15 The Obama Administration and Military Action in Libya                                  
 
Notes             Index

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