Monday, September 11, 2006
Here's a look from Bloomberg.com at how the 9/11 attacks changed America's legal landscape over the past five years--particularly, in the areas of criminal and constitutional law. The article discusses specific shifts in executive power, international law, and privacy issues that normally would have taken decades to occur. The article concludes that the changes in criminal law and the balance of power among the governement's branches have ultimately reduced or eliminated many of the external fact-checking measures typically in place to balance power and check the government. For example, documents that once were available to the public have been reclassified as secret, and that which used to be available online has been removed from public view altogether. As a result, accountability and public confidence in the system may wane and take decades to restore.
An excerpt: "As a measure of how far things have gone in the law, consider a single amendment to an anti-torture bill passed last year....Congress curtailed one of the most elemental rights, that of habeas corpus, when it said the men held at Guantanamo Bay could no longer go to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge any aspect of their imprisonment.
That's 'just about the most stupendously significant act that the Congress of the United States can take,' Justice David Souter remarked at an oral argument this spring. And then there was the revelation that the president had authorized domestic-wiretapping without court orders, even though a law specifically requires them...
'What I was seeing in the months after 9/11 was definitely a presidential exercise of power in what was perceived to be a moment of importance,' says Edwin Smith, constitutional law professor at the University of Southern California. 'I also saw a Congress going along with absolutely everything.'...And yet, in his conduct of the war on terrorism, President Bush has acted without the constitutionally required authority of Congress, the Supreme Court has ruled." More from Bloomberg.com. . . [Michele Berry]