Thursday, September 8, 2011

Justice, Liberty and Privacy 10 Years After 9/11

A few days after the attack on the World Trade Center U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O"Connor visited Ground Zero, reported Later she told and audience at NYU, "I am still tearful from that glimpse." O'Connor went on to predict that "the trauma that our nation suffered will and already has altered our way of life, and it will cause us to re-examine some of our laws pertaining to criminal surveillance, wiretapping, immigration, and so on.…As a result, we are likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country."

Justice O'Conner was right-on in her assessment of the impact 9/11 would have on the American Justice system. details a number of issues that have raised concern:

• Torture and rendition of terror suspects, employed by the Bush administration, have been ostensibly stopped by the Obama administration. But Obama has endorsed the concept of indefinite detentions in some cases and the administration has argued for immunity from prosecution for officials involved in abuses.

• The Patriot Act, passed by Congress in the heat of post-September 11 passions, has been tempered in reauthorizations to include new safeguards of civil liberties.

• Guantánamo detainees won due process rights from the Supreme Court. But Guantánamo is still open, despite Obama campaign promises, and hundreds of other prisoners are detained at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where a federal appeals court ruled that habeas relief in U.S. courts is not available. And Obama has backed away from earlier plans to replace military commissions with trials in civilian courts.

• The state secrets privilege, invoked by the government to shield purported national security matters from litigation, has thrived under Obama, and the Supreme Court has sidestepped cases challenging its overuse.

• The so-called "expectation of privacy," a key measure for judging the constitutionality of government intrusions, has weakened, if not vanished — the result not only of Sept. 11 but technological advances. Storing documents "in the cloud" instead of on hard drives, for example, will make it easier for law enforcement to obtain them without search warrants.

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