When a presidential directive appeared on the White Houseâs Web site on May 9, seemingly expanding the president's powers after a catastrophic attack, readers began emailing us asking why there had been no uproar in the media or amongst civil liberties groups.
The consensus amongst experts seems to be that the directive, aimed at establishing "continuity of government" after a major disaster, is not new nor does the policy seem to expand executive power.
In fact, Mike German, the policy counsel to the ACLUâs Washington office told me that an executive continuity plan actually might ânot be that bad of an idea.â
Executive power expert, NYU law professor David Golove, also sent me an email saying the directive didnât appear to be a power grab.
National Security Presidential Directive 51 or Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 is posted here
. Have a look.
Presidential directives outlining how the executive branch will remain intact in the event of an emergency have been around since the Cold War. The directive posted this month is the first to be made public, to the best of Germanâs recollection. (A description of Clintonâs continuity directive is available here
.) German called the release a positive sign, but said he urges the release of all previous directives so we can get a real sense of what has changed.
The concept of continuity of government applies to all branches of government. Christopher Kelleye, a presidency expert and political science professor at Miami University Ohio told me in an email that he didnât see any new powers listed in the directive, but wondered why Congress hasnât done the same thing.