It’s a long read, but it’s well worth it, for it reveals that the seemingly recent growth of executive power — namely through the national security apparatus — has been decades in the making. It was especially (though not solely) intensified by none other than Ronald Reagan, widely regarded as a defend of American freedom and values.
In December 1981, Reagan signed the executive order 12333 undoing the previous decades’ reforms with the stroke of a pen. For cover, Reagan’s people planted fake scare stories through Jack Anderson about non-existent Libyan assassination squads infiltrating U.S. borders, waterskiing their way across the Great Plains to spring John Hinckley and wreak havoc on the American Way of Life.
And that is the back story to Reagan’s executive order 12333, the one that allegedly banned assassinations and allegedly made him so much more progressive than Bush or Obama.
Reagan not only gave the CIA carte blanche in the US to spy, but he also massively expanded the powers of the FBI and law enforcement to spy on Americans domestically with another executive order in 1983, paving the way for a repeat of all the awful abuses uncovered by Sen. Church, which only started coming to light at the end of Reagan’s presidency.
In other words, there is arguably a legal precedence for the drone attacks, warrantless wiretapping, legal opaqueness, and other questionable government practices. Indeed, the courts have been either willing to abide by these actions, or forced to begrudgingly accept their legality given the precedence. Excess and unaccountable state power is not only being further entrenched in our system, but it’s been intricately established within it for some time. Needless to say, that’s very troubling.