In the annual Torah cycle, we Jews always read the story of the Tower of Babel shortly before Halloween. This year we read it last Saturday. A strange coincidence. Although it’s not quite a horror story, the story of Babel is about evil. In particular, it is about the evil that men might do when they all speak the same language. So empowered, Genesis informs us, men seek to glorify themselves rather than serving God. Frankenstein, the quintessential modern horror story, tells the same tale.
What does Executive privilege protect?
Executive privilege is the constitutional principle that permits the president and high-level executive branch officers to withhold information from Congress, the courts, and ultimately the public. This presidential power is controversial because it is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. That fact has led some scholars (Berger 1974; Prakash, 1999) to suggest that executive privilege does not exist and that the congressional power of inquiry is absolute. There is no doubt that presidents and their staffs have secrecy needs and that these decision makers must be able to deliberate in private without fear that every utterance may be made public. But many observers question whether presidents have the right to withhold documents and testimony in the face of congressional investigations or judicial proceedings.