Commentary

  • Within hours of her decision to hold the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program unconstitutional, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor was subjected to relentless personal criticism. Even in the mainstream press, she has been accused of "pos[ing] for the cameras" (the Wall Street Journal), charged with "blithely ignoring [her] own obligations" (The New York Times) and dismissed as having produced merely unscholarly "angry rhetoric" (The Washington Post). Such deeply personal invective directed at Judge Taylor drowned out commentary either applauding or disputing the merits of the decision.

    August 30, 2006
  • Terrorism penetrates the psyche by being unpredictable. Terrorists rely not only on the element of surprise but also on a second-level uncertainty to strike so deep: The difficulty of knowing exactly who the terrorist might be. Background is no guide. Many of the 9-11 plotters had tertiary educations. Others, like the self-starting (and foiled) millennium bomber and former petty thief Ahmed Ressam, came from the social margins. Ethnic profiling, proposed again recently by New York Representative Peter King, hardly works. The July 2005 London attackers and the recent High Wycombe arrestees both defied racial stereotypes. Any halfway calculating terrorist group, moreover, will simply work around ethnic profiling.

    August 28, 2006
  • The partisan posturing began within hours of reports the British had arrested 20-odd suspects in connection with an alleged terrorist conspiracy to blow up passenger airplanes. Arrests were made in the U.K, not the U.S. The plot was hatched in the U.K. and Pakistan.

    August 17, 2006
  • Dr. Steven H. Miles is the author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror (Random House 2006). Miles, an expert in medical ethics, human rights, and international health care, is professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a faculty member of its Center for Bioethics. His book explores the role of military physicians in aiding and abetting abuse and torture at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantamano.

    August 11, 2006
  • Today in the Senate Judiciary Committee the Bush administration will unveil proposed new legislation to respond to the Supreme Court's June ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. A final version of this legislation remained concealed right up to the day before the Senate hearing. Such secrecy disarms the public-and more importantly for today's hearing, congressional staffers who need to brief their bosses-from analyzing and understanding the draft. This secrecy, aside from some leaked drafts of the bill, should sound alarm bells about what the administration is about to propose.

    August 2, 2006
  • Since September 11, the president has consistently ignored the law in the name of national security. While courts have resisted his claims of unbridled executive power, Congress has largely stood on the sidelines. But that could change soon, with a major legislative fight taking shape on military trials and detentions. If Congress ends up blessing the executive's power-grab, it may prove itself to be the most dangerous branch, by giving the president what he has so far lacked -- the stamp of democratic approval.

    August 1, 2006
  • Eighteen years ago , Justice Antonin Scalia assumed the prophet's cloak and forecast threats to the Constitution's core balance of powers. A threat, Justice Scalia explained, sometimes comes "in sheep's clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf." Today, another wolf scratches at the door: And it is a beast that has already inflicted heavy damage on the Constitution.

    July 24, 2006
  • Certainly nobody can dispute that the Supreme Court handed the president a significant defeat last month, invalidating his jerry-rigged system for trying suspected terrorists of war crimes at Guantanamo and rebuffing his claims of unbridled executive power. If the administration wants to conduct military trials, the Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, it must follow the time-tested procedures of the United States' own Uniform Code of Military Justice and obey the minimal safeguards mandated by the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

    July 20, 2006
  • 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

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