Seen from the great height of global comparison, the number of new anti-terrorism laws that criminalize terrorism, block terrorism financing, develop new international monitoring mechanisms to spot terrorists, and increase vigilance about the international movements of persons is extraordinary. Up close, however, widespread compliance [with the Security Council Resolution 1373 framework] looks less like a tightly coordinated strategy than diverse variations on a theme.
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.
This article examines three national security law challenges resulting from greater involvement of state and local police agencies in protecting national security, especially in combating terrorism: organizational challenges, accountability challenges, and institutional tensions with traditional local police functions. Each threatens the balance of security and civil liberties.