Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror

April 1, 2008

Unchecked and Unbalanced: Power in a Time of Terror (The New Press) is an exploration of the expansion of executive power in the wake of 9/11, and provides a comprehensive analysis rooted in legal and political history of the Bush Administration's theory of unlimited presidential license. Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., who served as chief counsel on the Church Committee that investigated intelligence abuses and executive overeaching during the Watergate era, and Aziz Huq, who directs the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center, argue that the recent usurpation of executive power is in fact part of a general, dangerous trend towards monarchical presidential power.

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Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. calls the book “[p]owerful, fascinating and ominous.”

Bob Herbert of The New York Times says, "[Schwarz] is the quintessential straight arrow.... [A] quiet patriot...spreading the word that the very meaning of the United States...will be lost if the nation's ironclad commitment to the rule of law is allowed to unravel."  

David Cole writes in The New York Review of Books that the book "[p]rovides valuable critical perspective...Institutional flaws make it all too easy for such offcials [as Cheney, Ashcroft, and Gonzales] to get away with unconstitutional initiatives in times of crisis."

Former Vice President Walter Mondale describes it as a “gripping historical account [that] explains how the Bush Administration has strayed from the best American traditions in its counter-terrorism policy by ignoring history and getting the law wrong.”

To learn more about the issues raised in the book, read: 

No Kings Please, We’re Americans
by Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. and Aziz Huq (Legal Times, March 2007)

The Real Patriots
by Bob Herbert (The New York Times, February 2007)

Extraordinary Rendition and the Wages of Hypocrisy
by Aziz Huq (World Policy Journal, Spring 2006)

traditions in its counter-terrorism policy by ignoring history and getting the law wrong.”


Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. is senior counsel at the Brennan Center.  In a distinguished legal career spanning four decades, Mr. Schwarz has shown a unique ability to combine the highest level of private practice with a series of critically important public service assignments. In every case, Mr. Schwarz has handled these responsibilities with his trademark grace and insight. He comes to the Center with a broad litigation record from Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he had been a partner since 1969. Mr. Schwarz left the firm twice, once to serve as chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity (1975-1976), and again to serve as Corporation Counsel under New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch (1982-1986). In 1989, he chaired the commission that revised New York City's charter. In addition to currently serving as senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, he chairs the Board of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Board of the Vera Institute of Justice.

Mr. Schwarz received an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1957 and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1960, where he was an editor of the Law Review. After a year's clerkship with Judge J. Lumbard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, he worked one year for the Nigerian government as Assistant Commissioner for Law Revision under a Ford Foundation grant.

Aziz Huq is counsel in several cases concerning detention and national security policy, including Omar v. Geren and Munaf v. Geren, which challenges two U.S. citizens' detention in Iraq. He has advised and spoken before legislators on issues related to the separation of powers, excessive secrecy, and illegal detention. His book with Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power In A Time of Terror (The New Press), was published in 2007. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation, the American Prospect, the New York Law Journal and Huffington Post. His articles have also appeared in the Washington Post, the New Republic, Democracy Journal, TomPaine, and Colorlines. In 2006 he was selected to be a Carnegie Fellows Scholar. 

Before joining the Brennan Center, Mr. Huq clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the October 2003 Term of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for Judge Robert D. Sack of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (2001-02). He graduated summa cum laude from both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1996), and Columbia Law School (2001). At Columbia, he was Essay and Review Editor of the Columbia Law Review, and received several academic awards, including the John Ordonneux Prize (given to the graduating student with the highest grade point average). Before and during law school, Mr. Huq has also worked on human rights issues overseas in Guatemala and Cambodia. In 2002, he received a Columbia Law School Post-Graduate Human Rights Fellowship to work with the International Crisis Group studying constitutional reform in Afghanistan.