The “war” on terrorism may never end. At a minimum, it shows no signs of ending any time soon. Although this reality is an unpleasant one for many civil libertarians today, it is also difficult to refute. Just what will mark the conclusion of hostilities? It seems unlikely that there is an entity whose “surrender” would mark an obvious “end” of combat. Even if there were such an entity, there do not appear to be clearly identifiable objectives that allow for the successful completion of the conflict. There is no physical territory to conquer, no clear leadership structure to topple, no Reichstag over which to fly a foreign flag.
Reviewing Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, by Geoffrey R. Stone
Geoffrey Stone’s most recent contribution to our understanding of the First Amendment is at once important, current, and fatalistic. It is important in that it meticulously chronicles the ways in which wartime American governments have trampled free speech rights. For instance, when dealing with the Sedition Act of 1798, Stone deftly introduces the complicated politics and personalities of the time, explaining the developing system of political parties, the expanding feud between John Adams (leading the Federalists) and Thomas Jefferson (leading the Republicans), and the myriad influences on the young United States generated by the French Revolution and the associated war between England and France.
In two cases decided on June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court emphatically upheld the rule of law and the right of those being detained as part of the war on terrorism to have access to the courts. In Rasul v. Bush, the Court held that those being detained in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba are entitled to have a habeas corpus petition heard in federal court. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Justices declared, by an 8-to-1 margin, that an American citizen apprehended in a foreign country and held as an enemy combatant must be accorded due process, including a meaningful factual hearing on his status.