Improving Detainee Policy: Testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee on June 4

I have been invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on June 4, 2008, entitled “Improving Detainee Policy:  Handling Terrorism Detainees within the American Justice System.”  I will testify regarding my proposal advocating the establishment of a domestic terror court in the US.

To watch the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Wednesday, June 4, open
Click on Room number Dirksen 226 from  the scrolling list to the right of the screen to begin streaming audio.

The executive summary of my testimony appears below. Click here to read the full text of the prepared testimony.

Improving Detainee Policy:  Handling Terrorism Detainees within the American Justice System

(Executive Summary)

Considering how to handle terror detainees within the American justice system, there are three forum options: (1) treaty-based international terror courts, (2) traditional Article III courts, and (3) a hybrid option which I call “domestic terror courts.” This testimony discusses the feasibility of each forum and recommends domestic terror courts as the practical solution to detainee policy, as a legal regime for the trials of those detained post-9/11.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Hamdan v Rumsfeld, 126 S.Ct. 2749 (2006), I have developed a model that enables the trying of terrorists while meeting judicial scrutiny by drawing on certain elements of the criminal law process. Incorporating elements of the American criminal law and criminal procedure paradigm, and drawing on the Israeli two-tiered system for the trying of terrorists, this testimony offers the forum of the domestic terror courts as a concrete recommendation for how to handle detainees post-Hamdan.

Furthermore, the testimony addresses the limits of the applicability of the criminal law process, particularly with respect to the right of detainees to confront their accusers. Detainee trials are largely based on intelligence sources whose identity cannot be disclosed. The lack of disclosure prevents full implementation of the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause.

Ultimately, my model balances the defendant’s basic rights with equally legitimate national security considerations. Therefore, the domestic terror court option is the most practical and expedient policy solution, necessitated by an untenable tension between the understanding that some of the detainees present a genuine threat to American national security, and awareness that indefinite detention violates constitutional principles and fundamental concepts of morality.

Cross-posted on National Security Advisors Blog.

Learn more information about my casebook Global Perspectives on Counterterrorism here.