Commentary

  • When the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, striking down the Bush Administration's military tribunals, former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger III pronounced it "simply the most important decision on presidential power and the rule of law ever. Ever."

    July 14, 2006
  • The Supreme Court's ruling last week in Hamdan that military commissions erected at Guantánamo are inconsistent with our military law and the Geneva Conventions has already prompted fierce-and flawed-debate. One key question, especially relevant in next week's Judiciary Committee hearings on Hamdan, is whether and how the Geneva Conventions apply to military commissions. The many factually and legally incorrect assertions clogging the air make it worth stepping back to understand what Geneva does, and why it matters for our success against the terrorist threat.

    July 7, 2006
  • The rule of law is a fragile, tenuous thing. It depends on the willingness of judges to stand fast to core principles. It needs legislators to eschew feverish panic and cheap partisan gain, especially in times of crisis. And it demands that officials of the executive branch respect the will of the people, embodied in laws enacted each day on Capitol Hill. We've not been doing this so well recently, as the president repeatedly indicates his willingness to cast aside law and Congress stands aside heedlessly. But yesterday, the Supreme Court put the other two branches to shame when it confirmed that "the executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction." Now it's up to the other two branches to follow its wise lead.

    June 30, 2006
  • Death is typically a moment of truth. But the occasion of three suicides at the Guantánamo Bay-where almost 500 men and boys have been held without trial for up to four years now-have only proved how poorly the Administration grasps the facts of today's terrorism challenge. And it only showed how deeply ineffectual and counterproductive U.S. counter-terrorism policy becomes when based on flawed assumptions.

    June 19, 2006
  • Politics makes strange bedfellows. Last week saw an almost unheard of scrambling of allegiances after the FBI searched the congressional office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. While the Constitution's Separation of Powers figured prominently in news of the executive branch decisions to bypass laws against torture and domestic spying, this seemed a wholly unexpected front for the White House's push for executive power.

    May 31, 2006
  • The plot thickened in the domestic spying controversy with the recent disclosure that the National...

    May 23, 2006
  • There is no "drift-net." There is only a "very specific and very targeted" collection of data. So said General Michael V. Hayden, former chief of the National Security Agency on Feb. 5 this year about the NSA's domestic activities. Without doubt, senators of both stripes stand ready to grill Gen. Hayden about these statements in light of USA Today's startling revelation that the NSA has been assembling a mammoth database detailing the source, destination and timing information on almost every telephone call made in the United States.

    May 16, 2006
  • The Bush administration's blatant disregard for the legal process has become so routine that almost nothing it does is surprising at this point. Its most recent machination is to try to circumvent judicial review in the case of two Uighurs, an ethnic group from western China, detained without charge at Guantanamo. The men had been imprisoned for more than four years even though the government concedes they are "non-enemy combatants," or, in other words, innocent.

    May 9, 2006
  • In an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, Zacarias Moussaoui and the federal government are acting out for the nation and the world a small drama about revenge. It is hardly clear who will savor revenge more: the defendant who seems likely to be strapped to the executioner’s gurney soon, or the state that injects the lethal combination of fluids.

    April 20, 2006
  • Can a U.S. citizen be locked up for three-plus years without access to a court or opportunity to challenge the government’s reasons for detention? Today, the answer in America is a provisional “yes.” And last week the government took one important step toward cementing this “yes” into a permanent power.

    April 11, 2006

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