Barton Gellman’s prescient story from Obama’s first day

Barton Gellman, who reported today’s story on NSA data-mining of major Internet companies, had written a prescient piece on executive power the day Obama took office.

His front-page Washington Post story noted the rapid growth in executive power since Sept. 11, 2001, and the general reluctance of presidents to give up any power that they attained. Two particular points resonate with this week’s disclosures.

“Obama's style of governance will not be President George W. Bush's, but it may not differ quite as much as some supporters expect.’’

 

“Information technology, and the executive's control of its fruits, are widely cited in explaining presidential dominance over Congress. Every recent president has regarded himself as the primary judge of what information to share and what to withhold on grounds of executive privilege or national security.’’

Gellman noted that "by necessity or design, and most often by passive acquiescence, Congress and the courts have let presidents do most of the steering of the new and expanded institutions that govern finance, commerce, communications, travel, energy production and especially intelligence gathering. When there were struggles for dominance among the three branches, most of them ended with lopsided victories for the executive.''

William P. Marshall, who served as deputy White House counsel under Clinton, said the shift had long preceded 9/11.

"Really, in the last 80 years we've seen a gradual, and at times not gradual, concentration of power in the executive office," Gellman quoted him as saying.

Here’s the full Jan. 20, 2009, article.

David Beard is a writer, editor and director of digital content for The Post. He also edits The Optimist, a weekly e-newsletter, and has been a foreign correspondent.

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