The Necessary Evil of Preventive Detention in the War on Terror

The Chronicle of Higher Education just published an online article “My Student, the ‘Terrorist'” by Jeanne Theoharis, professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and co-founder of the group Educators for Civil Liberties. As seen, there are still many questions surrounding the preventive detention in the War on Terror.

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In her book The Necessary Evil of Preventive Detention in the War on Terror, praised by Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard University as “compelling and informative,” Dr. Stephanie Cooper Blum explores the underlying rationales for preventive detention as a tool in this war on terror; analyzes the legal obstacles to creating a preventive detention regime; discusses how Israel and Britain have dealt with incapacitation and interrogation of terrorists; and compares several alternative ideas to the administration’s enemy combatant policy under a methodology that looks at questions of lawfulness, the balance between liberty and security, and institutional efficiency.

Dr. Blum noted that:

“The United States was completely unprepared on 9/11, and the resulting enemy combatant policy seems to be an ad hoc response to insecurity. In comparing other countries’ approaches to preventive detention, the question should not be how does the United States create a perfect regime—because that cannot happen—the question is how does the United States create a regime that can at least provide some meaningful judicial review, some access to counsel, some congressional oversight, and some balance to unilateral executive discretion. While Britain’s and Israel’s approaches to preventive detention are not perfect—and frequently lambasted by their own human-rights groups—they do demonstrate that democracies facing serious and long-term terrorist threats can provide more overall due process and substantive rights to detainees than America’s years of incommunicado and indefinite executive detention. Israel and Britain had the advantage (if it can be called that) of decades of dealing with terrorism before 9/11. It only makes sense that the United States should look to their experiences to see if any of their principles can be applied to the United States’ unique kind of government.”

About the author: Stephanie Cooper Blum holds a JD from The University of Chicago Law School, a BA from Yale College, and will be receiving a MA in security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security in December 2008. She has worked in the private sector and served as a law clerk to three federal judges. She is an attorney for the Transportation Security Administration.

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