About the Film:

For three decades Vice President Dick Cheney conducted a secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power. Finally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department and the White House made a number of controversial legal decisions. Orchestrated by Cheney and his lawyer David Addington, the department interpreted executive power in an expansive and extraordinary way, granting President George W. Bush the power to detain, interrogate, torture, wiretap and spy -- without congressional approval or judicial review.

Watching the Film:

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The lessons and activities in this guide can be used in the classroom without having viewed the film.

A Note to Teachers:

This lesson guide is intended for classes in social studies, civics and government, language arts, current events and history; Grade Level 9-12. The guide examines the wide range of viewpoints on Vice President Cheney's role in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It is constructed in modules, allowing teachers to use it either in its entirety or to select individual activities. The featured lesson is based on a video clip from the film.

Post-Viewing Activity and Discussion Questions:

After viewing Cheney's Law, students will examine a range of viewer comments and share their own thoughts. Plus, a list of questions to discuss after viewing the film.

Featured Lesson Plan:

Signing Statements: The Expansion of Presidential Power

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

Differing Viewpoints
Students will read and consider the comments from each of the interviewees on the Cheney's Law Web site, looking for variations in interpretation of presidential powers.

Presidential Power in Times of Crisis -- A History
As students construct a presentation on the history of presidents' actions in times of crisis, they will discover that many presidents from the early days of the republic have expanded their powers without the consent of Congress.

Developing Your Own "Themes & Analysis"
Students develop their own "Themes and Analysis" section similar to the FRONTLINE feature on the Cheney's Law Web site.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites.

Purchasing the Film:

Cheney's Law can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers: http://teacher.shop.pbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=2872527&cp&keywords=cheney%27s+law&y=0&searchId=22234617674&x=0&parentPage=search. Also, teachers and students can watch the program streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/cheney/


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of The Bay School, San Francisco, and Debra Plafker Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York.