Disappearing Legal Black Holes and Converging Domains: Changing Individual Rights Protection in National Security and Foreign Affairs
56 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2015 Last revised: 11 Mar 2016
Date Written: June 15, 2015
This Essay attempts to describe what is distinctive about the way the protection of individual rights in the areas of national security and foreign affairs has been occurring in recent decades. Historically, the right to protection under the U.S. Constitution and courts has been sharply limited by categorical distinctions based on geography, war, and, to some extent, citizenship. These categorical rules carved out domains where the courts and Constitution provided protections and those where they did not. The institutional design and operating rules of the national security state tracked these formal, categorical rules about the boundaries of protection. There have been many “legal black holes” historically, domains where legal protections did not exist for certain people. Foreign affairs and national security have historically been areas defined by their legal black holes.
In recent years, legal black holes are disappearing, and previously distinct domains are converging. The importance of U.S. citizenship to protection under the Constitution and courts is decreasing, formal barriers to legal protection and judicial review based on geography and war are dissolving, and the dissolution of these categorical boundaries is changing the design and operation of the national security state. National security and foreign affairs law is being domesticated and normalized, as rights protections available in ordinary, domestic, peacetime contexts are extended into what were previously legal black holes. The jurisprudence of categorization and boundary-marking is fading away.
The core of this Essay identifies, names, and discusses these trends, seeking to give a vocabulary and conceptual and historical coherence to current discussions of individual rights protection in national security and foreign affairs contexts. Secondarily, this Essay suggests some factors that might be driving convergence and closing of legal black holes today. Because most of these potential causal drivers are still exerting their force on the shape of the law, this Essay concludes that the future of national security law will likely see more convergence and fewer black legal holes and then offers several specific predictions.
Keywords: Constitution, national security, international security, black holes, legal black holes, convergence, foreign affairs, normalization, individual rights, Guantanamo, Boumediene, Munaf, Al-Awlaki, FISA, surveillance
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