Redefining State Power and Individual Rights in the War on Terrorism
15 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012
Date Written: July 14, 2012
America’s “war on terrorism” initiated after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has served more than a rhetorical function. It reflects the U.S. government’s considered legal position that it is engaged in an armed conflict against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated groups — a conflict of unbounded territorial scope and uncertain, if not perpetual, duration. The United States’ adoption of a war paradigm as a central part of its counter-terrorism policy has had significant consequences. Among the most important has been the expansion of state power at the expense of individual liberties.
This Essay explores the impact of the war on terrorism on the detention and treatment of terrorism suspects. It first describes the shift in U.S. policy after the 9/11 attacks and the legal underpinnings of the war on terrorism. The Essay then examines how a war paradigm underlies key aspects of the United States’ approach to terrorism, including: indefinite detention; the use of military commissions in place of the regular criminal courts; and the rendition and interrogation of terrorism suspects. The Essay concludes by exploring the ways in which the war on terrorism has become institutionalized, and the consequences for the state, society, and individual rights.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, Terrorism, Civil Liberties, Federal Courts, Criminal Law
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