LESSONS FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS: WHAT WE’VE LEARNED IN THE TWO DECADES SINCE 9/11
A Note from Editor-in-Chief William C. Banks
By any measure the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 brought an immediate laser focus to the phenomenon of international terrorism.
Though hardly new to the United States and the world in 2001, the 9/11 attacks instantaneously elevated countering international terrorism to the dominant national security imperative at home and abroad.
Questions were legion: Should we have known the attacks were coming? What could we have done to prevent them? What lessons learned will help forestall the next attack? What are the best options for countering international terrorism?
Twenty years later many lessons have been learned, even as we continue to struggle with the ever changing dynamics of global terrorism. JNSLP is honored to publish this Special Edition, “Lessons Learned for the Next Twenty Years: What We’ve Learned in the Two Decades Since 9/11.”
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.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) excoriated the legal work done by John Yoo and Jay Bybee of the Office of Legal Counsel on the torture memos, but DOJ’s ultimate decision stopped short of referring Yoo and Bybee for professional discipline. Serious questions remain, particularly since the OPR was unable to obtain the testimony of many high-level officials who played critical roles in authorizing torture. A full-scale investigation, preferably by an independent commission not part of the very department implicated in the wrongdoing, is still necessary. Great Britain conducted such an independent inquiry into the abusive practices used against IRA prisoners in the 1970s, and the United States must do the same. The essential lesson must be that torture and cruel treatment are not policy options, even when lawyers are willing to write opinions blessing illegality.