In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith discussed the role law now plays in the executive branch’s decision-making in the fight against terrorism. He urged current and future political leaders to follow the rule of law, offering lessons learned from the nine months he spent in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“The central challenge of ‘Preserving the Rule of Law in the Fight Against Terrorism’ is the proper management of the tension between the executive branch’s duty to prevent the next attack and its duty to comply with the law,” Goldsmith said in his testimony. “The executive branch is under enormous pressure to do everything possible…to stop the next attack. But this fear of the next attack…often clashes with a fear of law: a fear of going too far, of doing too much.”
Goldsmith said the current administration has paid “scrupulous attention to the law” with lawyers dictating every significant action taken by the CIA, Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice. Yet, he said the Executive branch failed to engage Congress and instead invoked a go-it-alone approach to governance that was ultimately detrimental to the Bush administration.
After nearly two years of silence about his resignation from the Office of Legal Counsel, the release of Goldsmith’s book – “The Terror Presidency” – has put him at the center of the current debate about executive power. For more information about the release of Goldsmith’s book, click here.
Goldsmith joined the HLS faculty in 2004, shortly after resigning his post in the Bush administration. An expert in national security issues, he is teaching a seminar on the subject this fall with James Baker, Counsel for Intelligence Policy at the United States Department of Justice.