National Security and Double Government: Analysis by Professor Glennon
National security policy in the United States has remained largely constant from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration. This continuity can be explained by the “double government” theory of 19th-century scholar of the English Constitution Walter Bagehot. As applied to the United States, Bagehot’s theory suggests that U.S. national security policy is defined by the network of executive officials who manage the departments and agencies responsible for protecting U.S. national security and who, responding to structural incentives embedded in the U.S. political system, operate largely removed from public view and from constitutional constraints. The public believes that the constitutionally-established institutions control national security policy, but that view is mistaken. Judicial review is negligible; congressional oversight is dysfunctional; and presidential control is nominal. Absent a more informed and engaged electorate, little possibility exists for restoring accountability in the formulation and execution of national security policy.
Few who follow world events can doubt that the Obama Administration’s approach to multiple national security issues has been essentially the same as that of the Bush Administration.2 The Obama Administration, like its predecessor, has sent terrorism suspects overseas for detention and interrogation;3 claimed the power to hold, without trial, American citizens who are accused of terrorism in military confinement;4 insisted that it is for the President to decide whether an accused terrorist will be tried by a civilian court or a military tribunal;5 kept the military prison at Guantánamo Bay open,6 argued that detainees cannot challenge the conditions of their confinement,7 and restricted detainees’ access to legal counsel;8 resisted efforts to extend the right of habeas corpus to other off-shore prisons;9 argued that detainees cannot invoke the Geneva Conventions in habeas proceedings;10 denied detainees access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for weeks at a time;11 engaged the United States in a military attack against Libya without congressional approval, in the face of no actual or imminent threat to the nation;12 and continued, and in some respects expanded, the Bush Administration’s ballistic missile defense program.13
The Obama Administration, beyond ending torture, has changed “virtually none” of the Bush Administration’s Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) programs
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