The treacherous terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and the aftershocks that are still being felt years later, have had a profound effect on the legal landscape in the United States. In 9/11’s immediate aftermath, Congress, in a rare and fleeting moment of bipartisanship, gave the President far-reaching authority to combat terrorism.
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.
Several years ago, I began work on a project that I fancied to be both hypothetical and academic. In the aftermath of September 11, a number of commentators, including one prominent member of the legal academy, advanced the proposition that interrogation by torture in pursuit of terrorists should be viewed as permissible under the United States Constitution when undertaken with procedural safeguards. In an article published in 2003, I argued that these commentators were legally sloppy and morally obtuse: no matter what procedures accompany it, interrogation by torture is both at odds with settled constitutional law as it is and profoundly inconsistent with the legal system as it should be.