In the “Reaping as We Sow” Department

National Security Bubble

How the Bush administration’s attempt to protect the country went awry

Saturday, September 8, 2007; Page A14

THE GOAL OF the Bush administration after Sept. 11, 2001, was simple and clear: Protect the country from another devastating attack. But in its quest to counter unprecedented threats, the White House deliberately avoided seeking the advice of Congress — and even that of some of its own top officials — for fear of encountering opposition to novel or aggressive tactics. This go-it-alone approach led to the proliferation of dubious legal theories that authorized activities such as the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and the torture of suspected terrorists. Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the strategy was that it was largely unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive.

The existence of the so-called torture memo and the warrantless surveillance program have been known for some time. But a forthcoming book, “The Terror Presidency,” by former Justice Department official Jack L. Goldsmith provides an insider’s account of the pressures and priorities that led to such programs. It also illuminates the dangers of making decisions in a bubble, even when — perhaps especially when — the goals are so clearly valid.

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Putting the damper on ‘novel and aggressive’ presidencies is what Congress is all about and its horrific failure to accomplish that rather simple task is as responsible as the administration for getting us where we are (or aren’t).

The remnants of that failure (discounting Obama and Richardson) are hoping to become president on the basis of their deference.

The more one pays attention to what is going on in Washington, the more discouraged one becomes.

Perhaps that’s why so many care so little about so much.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Washington at Work, check out

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