Monday, June 23, 2008

Network Centrality: More Current Events

Last week we kicked off our "Separation of Network Power" series in honor of the June 12 Supreme Court ruling on hearings for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

This week we'll continue the series, inspired by Congressional action of June 19 to let the White House and phone companies off the hook for warrantless tapping of domestic US communications since 2001.

Showing how far one branch of government can implicitly subjugate itself to another, Congressional Democrats claimed victory for including a special clause in the law that prohibits the White House from breaking it. In the words of the NY Times:
The most important [White House] concession that Democratic leaders claimed was an affirmation that the intelligence restrictions were the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said.

In the wiretapping program approved by Mr. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House asserted that the president had the constitutional authority to act outside the courts in allowing the National Security Agency to focus on the international communications of Americans with suspected ties to terrorists and that Congress had implicitly authorized that power when it voted to use military force against Al Qaeda.

Network centrality and the executive branch make for tough competitors in the struggle not only to separate but also to balance the powers of the collective. Last time I lamented the dark side of centrality and competition. Next time I'll celebrate the good side.

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