A Two Level Account of Executive Authority

In Claire Oakes Finkelstein & Michael Skerker (eds.), Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority. Oxford University Press (2019)
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The suite of secretive national security programs initiated in the US since 9/11 has created debate not only about the merits of targeted killing, torture, secret detention, cyberwar, global signals intercepts, and data-mining, but about the very secrecy in which these programs were conceived, debated by government officials, and implemented. Law must be revealed to those who are expected to comply with its demands. Law is a mere pretext for coercion if the laws permitting the government to coerce people for non-compliance are concealed. The purpose of this essay is to determine whether inhabitants of a liberal state—a type of state tracing the legitimacy of its coercive actions to the consent of the governed—also need to know the internal protocols and legal findings of the government agencies ostensibly serving them. To put this question another way, what, if anything, may government agencies in liberal states keep secret?

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Michael Skerker
United States Naval Academy


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