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The theory of the ‘unitary executive’ posits that the constitution vests all executive power in the executive. Thus it is a breach of the constitution for other arms of the executive to try and limit the powers of the president in his execution of his duties. Attempts by Congress to limit the ability of the president to prosecute the war on terror should be seen in this light. President Bush established the Department of Home land Security in the aftermath of the 9/11 bombings and most of the executive orders he has made since then have taken advantage of this theory.
He has been able to consolidate a lot of power in the executive and is at the risk of becoming a dictator. In the process of establishing security safeguards the, executive has trampled on the rights of the citizens. The executive has appended signing statements to a number of bills that congress has passed that in essence would have limited his authority. An example of this is the bill H. R. 986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 , which the president signed a statement saying that he will construe the provisions on the law in accordance with the theory of the unitary executive. This in effect circumvents any limitation the bill placed on his administration spending funds on national security. Cheney’s law shows how the vice president was instrumental in helping the executive to amass more powers by using the constitutional tools at his disposal.
By invoking the principle of the unitary executive, the president was able to have his way on such blatant violations of the constitution like the torture and detention of prisoners of war on Guantanamo Bay. Wiretapping of people’s phones without a judge’s warrant was allowed on the basis of mere suspicion that one was a member of a terrorist organization. The sweeping powers given to the department of Homeland Security made it possible for any suspect to be picked up, tortured and detained all in the name of maintaining security and winning the war of terror.
Cheney and David Addington interpreted the law in their own way so as to fulfill their objectives. They had the audacity to present the view that the president had the authority to ignore international agreements like the Geneva Convention because the constitution of the US allowed him to. This buildup in presidential powers was not without controversy and many people in the Justice Department disagreed with the assertions made by Cheney and his advisors.
The illegality of the actions being taken was tantamount to usurping the constitution and overturning international law. Under normal circumstances there should have been an investigation into the president’s conduct but because the administration intimidated people citing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, few people stood up to challenge the blatant misuse of presidential powers. Taking advantage of Ashcroft’s illness, the White House appointed its point man, Gonzales, to the post of attorney general.
He quickly overruled any objection his office had concerning the extrajudicial measures that Bush had put into place to fight the war on terror. This action will frustrate the prosecution of individuals who may have committed crimes in the name of unitary executive mandate. I believe that the new administration should repeal a number of the executive orders made by Bush concerning the war on terror and a commission be appointed to look into the excesses committed by fronting presidential powers that do not explicitly exist under the constitution.