Abrams seeks to move the discussion on Guantanamo detainees forward by bringing law-of-war detention and criminal prosecution into closer alignment. The article analyzes the Obama Administration’s current approach of dealing with terrorists captured abroad and its preference for conducting criminal prosecutions whenever feasible. Abrams proposes several changes to the current system, including a decision-making framework for imposing further military detention after completion of the criminal process, which the administration has indicated is a possibility, and taking into account the criminal culpability of the detainee to impose a presumptive limit on indefinite detention, as ways to reform the two-track system and increase equality accordingly.
This article explores the tension between the policy objectives of United States counterterrorism efforts (deterrence, incapacitation, and intelligence gathering) and the traditional legal frameworks used to justify them (the law of war and the criminal justice model). All three branches of government, the author urges, have worked at cross-purposes in developing a counterterrorism policy that sacrifices legality and principle. A better approach would be to adopt a hybrid, flexible framework that recognizes that terrorism is a serious threat requiring the use of the law of war in some cases but protects against government overreach by relying on the best instincts of the criminal justice model and its promotion of our core values of freedom and liberty.
The provision of lethal aid to the Syrian rebels appears questionable from a purely legal perspective. It would arguably amount to a use of force. Neither of the traditional legal justifications for the use of force—self-defense and authorization by the Security Council—applies in this case. While humanitarian intervention arguably offers a (weak) basis for the use of force, states would be wise to hesitate before embracing a liberal right to humanitarian intervention, because such operations can serve as convenient subterfuges for armed intervention.