Category Archives: The Constitution

Should Lawyers Participate in Rigged Systems? – The Case of the Military Commissions

Lawyers often represent clients in criminal cases when the odds are long or a catastrophe likely. The facts might be harmful, the evidence overwhelming, or the law clearly on the side of the prosecution. Still, we do the best we can. But what if the system is rigged? What if the system has the trappings of a fair fight but is, in fact, skewed to one side and, by design, the lawyer cannot fully defend the client? What if the lawyer can only lend legitimacy to a process that at its core is biased, slanted in favor of the other side, or fundamentally unfair? Indeed, what if the system is rigged so as to prevent the lawyer from zealously representing the client, or if it compromises the lawyer’s undivided loyalty to the client? Should lawyers refuse to participate in such systems, or should they – should we – still do the best we can?

Security Clearance Changes and Confusion in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (the “Act”) effected one of the most significant changes since 1947 in the organization of the intelligence community. Title III of the Act reorganized the entire national security clearance system, although the subject received practically no attention in public discussion during the 9/11 Commission hearings. Because this change was not fully explored in either the House or Senate hearings or during floor debate, Title III includes contradictory provisions concerning the assignment of responsibilities for security clearance policies and procedures.

Enemy Combatants and Separation of Powers

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.

Alvarez-Machain II: The Supreme Court’s Reliance on the Non-Self-Executing Declaration in the Senate Resolution Giving Advice and Consent to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican national, was kidnapped in Mexico and brought to the United States at the behest of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents for allegedly assisting in the torture and murder of a DEA agent in Mexico. He challenged the jurisdiction of US courts to try him, arguing that his illegal seizure barred the trial. The Supreme Court rejected that contention, holding that “the power of a court to try a person for a crime is not impaired by the fact that he has been brought within the court’s jurisdiction by reason of a ‘forcible abduction.’” This writer was one of the few who supported the Supreme Court’s decision sustaining jurisdiction, arguing that it was consistent both with international law and with the Fourth Amendment.

A Troubling Equation in Contracts for Government Funded Scientific Research: “Sensitive But Unclassified” = Secret But Unconstitutional

Breakthrough science can lead both to great good and to great evil. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the anthrax letter attacks that followed highlight the fact that our enemies may use our own advanced science and technology against us. When the dissemination of scientific information might jeopardize national security, the federal government’s primary response has always been to try to control the spread of that information. In a variety of ways, the government has long restricted public access to scientific information in the government’s possession. Since September 11, the government has further tightened access to its own information, withholding from public view not just classified data but also so-called “sensitive” information, the release of which it says could pose a danger to national security.