Washington, Nov.13 : Once he demits the office of the president of the United States, George W. Bush will still have the authority and the power to block subpoenas against him as per the U.S. Constitution.
According to the New York Times, former president Harry S. Truman did so in 1953, nearly a year after he left office, when a Congressional committee subpoenaed him.
"If the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the presidency is to have any validity at all, it must be equally applicable to a president after his term of office has expired," Truman wrote to the committee.
Congress backed down, establishing a precedent suggesting that former presidents wield lingering powers to keep matters from their administration secret.
Now, as Congressional Democrats prepare to move forward with investigations of the Bush administration, they wonder whether that claim may be invoked again. Topics of open investigations include the harsh interrogation of detainees, the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, secret legal memorandums from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and the role of the former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers in the firing of federal prosecutors.
According to the paper, Bush has used his executive powers to block Congressional requests for executive branch documents and testimony from former aides. But investigators hope that the Obama administration will open the filing cabinets and withdraw assertions of executive privilege that Bush officials have invoked to keep from testifying.
Legal specialists said the pressure to investigate the Bush years would raise tough political and legal questions.
Because every president eventually leaves office, incoming chief executives have an incentive to quash investigations into their predecessor's tenure.
Bush used executive privilege for the first time in 2001, to block a subpoena by Congressional Republicans investigating the Clinton administration.
Obama has expressed worries about too many investigations.
"If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated," Obama told a paper in Philadelphia, but added, "I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve."