At JNSLP’s Feb. 11, 2015 symposium on “Trials and Terrorism: The Implications of Trying National Security Cases in Article III Courts,” an expert panel was convened to discuss trends in sentencing considerations in Article III terrorism prosecutions, and what the implications for these cases portend for american foreign policy. The panel consisted of a judge, a government official and former prosecutor, academics, and sentencing experts.
The Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan draws on his voluminous experience on the federal bench to illuminate some of the special concerns that attend terrorism and national security cases. Kaplan reviews several judicial challenges unique to terrorism cases, including classified information issues and the use of defendants’ statements in the course of prosecution. He concludes that Article III courts not only are capable of trying such cases, but they are the forum most consistent with our American values of fairness and transparency.
At the January 2009 Association of American Law Schools’ Section on National Security Law panel discussion, I and others urged the incoming Obama administration to make a clear and decisive break with the Bush administration’s national security policies. Six months later, the new Administration has not done so. Rather, it has acted in a contradictory manner: boldly asserting in its first days that it would ban torture and close Guantánamo, but in practice continuing many of the Bush antiterrorism policies. President Obama’s major speech on Guantánamo and other national security issues reiterated his desire to close Guantánamo, but also argued that the United States could hold detainees in custody indefinitely without trial or try them by military commissions. The Administration has adopted the Bush administration position that detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan indefinitely have no right to seek habeas corpus in U.S. courts. It has also continued to assert the state secrets privilege to attempt to block lawsuits seeking accountability for extraordinary rendition and torture.