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Checks & Balances Pop Quiz

Welcome to the first-ever Brennan Center pop quiz. Since each week brings more depressing news of torture, executive privilege, government spying, etc., we thought we’d share this test…

  • Mike Webb
April 21, 2008

Welcome to the first-ever Brennan Center pop quiz.  Since each week brings more depressing news of torture, executive privilege, government spying, etc., we thought we’d share this test.  If you’ve read the Brennan Center’s “12 Steps To Restore Checks and Balances”—which offers remedies for an out-of-control executive—then you’re virtually assured of an A+. 

As most of you know, the first step toward ending an out-of-control executive is public awareness. So give this quiz to a friend and see if they’re doing their job.  Are you?


Question 1 - Last week, ABC News reported on the “Principals Committee” meetings in which White House officials decided which intero… (oh heck, let’s just call it what it is)…torture techniques could be used.  Who were the members of the committee?


  • A)    Dick Cheney
  • B)    Donald Rumsfeld
  • C)    John Ashcroft
  • D)    Condoleeza Rice
  • E)    All of the above


For extra credit, tell us which step of the 12 Steps plan would remedy this kind of situation?



Question 2 - According to the New York Times,  the Office of Legal Counsel issued  memos that wrongly claim that the President’s “wartime powers largely exempted interrogators from laws banning harsh treatment”?  Who wrote the memos?


  • A)    William J. Brennan, Jr.
  • B)     Dahlia Lithwick
  • C)    John Yoo
  • D)    “Jack” McCoy
  • E)     All of the above



Question 3 - Earlier this month, the Associated Press noted, “President Bush’s refusal to let two confidants provide information to Congress about fired federal prosecutors represents the most expansive view of executive privilege since Watergate.”  Who are the two confidants claiming executive privilege?


  • A)    Harriet Miers
  • B)     John Mitchell
  • C)    Joshua Bolten
  • D)    Linda Tripp
  • E)     All of the above



Question 4 - A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times argues that we need to do more to protect Americans’ right to habeas corpus.  However, the U.S. government disagrees and would deny habeas protection to which group of people?


  • A)    American citizens
  • B)     Americans detained abroad and subject to death and torture
  • C)    Foreign nationals who have not been charged with a crime
  • D)    An MA candidate in computer science at Bradley University in Peoria, IL
  • E)     All of the above



Question 5 - The New York Times reported on the existence of CIA and D.O.D. “harsh” interrogation tapes that show detainees being tortured.  Nonetheless, which current and former U.S. officials insisted “the US does not torture?”


  • A)    George W. Bush
  • B)     Dick Cheney
  • C)    Condoleeza Rice
  • D)    George Tenet
  • E)     All of the above



Question 6 - The Washington Post reported on an analysis of President Bush’s use of signing statements.  Which laws has he bypassed with signing statements?


  • A)    Postal regulations that require the government to get a warrant before opening a citizen’s mail
  • B)    Whistle-blower laws that provide job protection for federal workers who alert Congress to government wrongdoing
  • C)    Laws that stop the military from using information that isn’t “lawfully collected.”
  • D)    Laws that require the President to tell Congress when the executive branch decides not to follow U.S. laws
  • E)     Congress’ authority to limit abusive interrogation techniques
  • F)     All of the above


And the answers are:


1)      E - all of the above.  Step 4 of our “12 Steps…” plan calls on Congress to “make it clear: no more torture, no more torture lite.”


2)      C - John Yoo.  Step 11 would reform the Office of Legal Counsel by insulating it from improper White House influence and requiring maximum transparency for OLC legal opinions.


3)      A & C – Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten.  Step 7 urges Congress to regulate the use of executive privilege, particularly in situations that may involve wrong-doing  within the executive branch.


4)      E - all of the above.  Sigh.  Step 5 demands the restoration of habeas corpus and would restore the federal courts traditional authority to hear challenges to unlawful detentions.


5)      E - all of the above.  Oooops. In addition to “no torture,” Step 9 would have Congress strengthen and review the reporting requirements concerning national security and intelligence activities.  Somehow, Jon Stewart found a way to make this funny.  


6)      G - all of the above.  Step 2 calls on the presidential candidates to renounce the use of signing statements to circumvent the law.



How’d you score?


*Special thanks to Susan Lehman and Patrick Wyllie for their assistance with this.