Constitutional Dictatorship?

CNN has a fascinating article on the possibility of
a "constitutional dictatorship" being created in the United States in order to defeat a pressing terrorist threat
. While the idea of an American dictatorship seems impossible and antithetical to the idea of American liberty, even the Founding Fathers realized that it could be necessary to provide the executive with unusual powers to preserve the Republic. After all, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and used military tribunals during the Civil War.

The question is, would such powers be disbanded after the crisis abated? Each time such powers have been used they have been set aside at the end of the crisis in American history. However, with declining political activity and gun ownership in recent decades, that trend could be broken. That is why such individual rights over the government are critical, especially the right to bear arms. That is also why moral leadership is so important. One could easily imagine a situation in which Al Gore or someone else would use emergency powers to enact sweeping environmental regulations, or attempt to place tight controls on the US economy. While civil libertarians fear that’s what the Bush Administration has tried, there’s scarce real evidence to support such a contention.

If one’s sense of civil liberties includes "racial profiling" then the war on terror demands that those principles be set aside. However, as one great legal philospher put it salus populi suprema lex – the supreme goal of law is the safety of the people. In the end, the safety of the American way of life will require sacrifice, but also vigilence on the part of the people to ensure that those sacrifices are necessary and temporary.