cover image Power and Constraint: 
The Accountable Presidency 
After 9/11

Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11

Jack Goldsmith. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-08133-6

In this well-researched, informative book, Harvard Law School professor Goldsmith (The Terror Presidency) argues that while the executive branch has, in the last decade, seen its power to deal with the threat of terrorism grow tremendously, there’s also been an unprecedented increase in the checks and balances outside and inside the government to effectively constrain and legitimize this power. These forces include Congress—primarily the intelligence committees, inspectors general, government and CIA lawyers—and the Supreme Court, as well as journalists and human rights groups. During the Bush administration, these forces evolved to challenge controversial counterterrorism policies, such as military trials and denial of habeas corpus for foreign terror suspects, as well as sending them to other countries for harsh interrogation methods, and to hold the president accountable when they believed these policies excessive, unnecessary, or dangerous. This pushback required the administration to explain itself, in some cases altering or even canceling proposed plans in the face of major resistance. Although Obama campaigned on ending his predecessor’s policies, upon entering office he found the policies had already been approved by the balancing forces and were still effective. A welcome addition to the discussion of presidential power, this book will likely invite fierce debate. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Mar.)