War exacerbates the usual tensions between individual freedoms and national security. In such times, the United States frequently sacrifices its tradition of individual autonomy and deliberative debate for the security and unanimity of an autocratic, military-style government. Individual rights are often the first casualties of hastily enacted legal measures that expand executive power without regard to constitutional checks and balances. While the expansions have generated criticism and calls for greater government accountability, it is often difficult to determine who within the executive should be held accountable. As the President’s chief law enforcement officer, the Attorney General of the United States interprets and implements these legal measures. Yet, in the oath of office, the Attorney General promises, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Consequently, the Attorney General’s actions have often been linked to the expansion of executive power at the expense of civil liberties.
Betty Houchin Winfield,
To Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic: Four Types of Attorneys General and Wartime Stress,
69 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol69/iss4/12