Category: Terrorism

Watch Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror Event

If you missed the Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror event on Monday, November 14, 2016, worry not.  You can enjoy the entire event right here. Join NYCLU senior staff attorney Mariko Hirose, Christopher Hamilton, of the FBI, Chief John Hodges, from the Westchester County Police Department Counterterrorism Unit, Pace Law professor and expert in international human rights and the war on terror Thomas McDonnell, and the moderator, Pace Criminal Law Professor David Dorfman.

Event: Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror

Join the Pace Criminal Justice Institute, NYCLU Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, WESPAC & Westchester Coalition for Police Reform for an event Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror as the panelists discuss why protecting domestic civil rights is vital to fighting terrorism, on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:00 – 8:30 PM in Tudor Room, Elisabeth School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, NY. 


The Newburgh Sting Event Wrap-Up

On behalf of Prof. Lissa Griffin who was instrumental in making this event a reality.

What could be better than a terrific film documentary about a sensational criminal case and a panel discussion with the director and the lawyers who defended the four defendants, several of whom were Pace Law grads. That was Tuesday evening in the Moot Court Room. Many thanks to Prof. Lou Fasulo, Prof. Lucie Olejnikova, Iris Mercado, Jessica Dubuss, Joan Gaylord, Judy Jaeger, Janice Dean, Kay Longworth, Tony Soares, Glen Quillen, Ann Marie Stepancic, and of course the Criminal Justice Society and its president, Erica Danielson,  for their help in making this such a successful event. We had approximately 130 people – an interesting mix of students, CLE participants, alums, and the public – attend the screening of The Newburgh Sting HBO documentary, an almost unbelievable critique of one investigation and prosecution in the government’s “War on Terrorism.”

The government certainly has a legitimate interest in uncovering people in the United States who are intent on joining a terrorist plot against the Country.  In this case, that is what it apparently set out to do.  But here, four poor African American men from Newburgh, NY, previously unknown to the government, were induced by an FBI informant – with the most lavish kinds of benefits – to attempt to bomb synagogues in Riverdale, NY and military transports on Stewart Air Force Base. They never saw a Stinger missile in their lives – indeed, they were unemployed and owned no cars or even bicycles – until such a weapon along with non-functioning bombs were produced by  the undercover agent. As the trial judge stated, they would have done nothing unlawful or remotely terrorist-related if the government  had left them alone. Still, they were convicted as willing joiners in this plot.   The jury took eight days to convict, and the Second Circuit upheld the convictions, with a dissenting judge holding the defendants were entrapped as a matter of law. It’s a fascinating and provocative case.

The panel of lawyers addressed important issues about the nature of our criminal justice system, the role of defense lawyers and prosecutors, the law on entrapment, trial tactics, and the legitimate government interest in the prosecution of prospective terrorists, and the director, who was an attorney and ex-prosecutor himself, brought a unique perspective to the issues.

Thanks to all who made this possible!  Lissa

Second Circuit Targets “DOJ White Paper” in Sanctioned-Killings

A three-judge panel for Second Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ordered the United States Government to release portions of a Justice Department memorandum (“DOJ White Paper”) that purportedly contains classified information regarding the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. In 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen alleged to have joined Al Qaeda forces, was killed during a targeted drone strike in Yemen. His killing, along with some other alleged terror suspects, were sanctioned by the United States targeted-killing program in the “War on Terror.”

In New York Times Co. v. Dep’t of Justice, the Court ruled that partial disclosure of the “DOJ White Paper,” sections setting forth the government’s reasoning as to lawfulness of its targeted killings of United States citizens carried out by drone aircraft, was justified given the government’s public statements discussing Awlaki’s death. The court observed that senior Government officials had undertaken

an extensive public relations campaign to convince the public that [the Administration’s] conclusions [about the lawfulness of the killing of al-Awlaki] are correct.

The court further concluded that such limited disclosure would not impinge upon any attorney-client privilege matters between the government and the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, nor would disclosure risk “any aspect of military plans, intelligence activities, sources and methods or foreign relations.”

In a prior editorial, the New York Times noted that the “DOJ White Paper” was of monumental importance to help settle the significant legal debate that has transpired since the targeted-killing program was made public. Many legal scholars have long awaited the release of the “legal reasoning” that has been drummed up by government officials to justify the targeted-killing program. Many scholars have remained skeptical of the government’s analysis, and have wondered whether it is ever lawful for the government to conduct targeted killings of American citizens, observing that the targeted-killing of any United States citizen may inherently contravene

executive orders banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon denied the request of the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain an unredacted version of the Justice Department’s memorandum pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. In response to the District Court’s ruling, the ACLU expressed that

[t]his ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government’s extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens and also effectively green-lights its practice of making selective and self-serving disclosures.

At the time, ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer also suggested that the “targeted killing program raises profound questions about the appropriate limits on government power in our constitutional democracy.” Jaffer advocated that the memorandum should be unsealed, because “[t]he public has a right to know more about the circumstances in which the government believes it can lawfully kill people, including U.S. citizens, who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime.”

Related Readings

Flash-Bang Searches

Professor Bennett Gershman has posted a provocative essay on the adaptation of military weapons by domestic police for home searches. What we use abroad will eventually return home. Do you agree with Professor Gershman’s analysis?  Read it here at the Huffington Post.