Nat'l Security Panel: Constitution is Key

Paying attention to the U.S. Constitution and involving Congress in setting American policy on anti-terrorism measures isn’t just the right thing to do, legally. It’s also the best way to ensure an effective national security program, according to a panel discussion today at the ABA Annual Meeting.

From conducting warrantless wiretaps to holding terrorism suspects without trial, several panelists said, the current administration has gone it alone too much and blended powers traditionally reserved for wartime with day-to-day law enforcement, according to the ABA Journal.

“I would tell the next president of the United States to think of process,” said Abraham D. Sofaer of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based at Stanford University. “You’re part of the constitutional system of the United States. Work with that system. … Be part of the government, and do not pretend that you are the whole government.”

The sole government lawyer on the panel, however, saw the situation a bit differently.

Law enforcement properly has begun to focus more on intelligence-gathering because of increasing terrorism concerns, according to Kenneth Wainstein, a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice. So, while it may look like “a cleaner construct” to separate executive branch and judicial branch powers, too much of a focus on this issue could have disastrous results, he said. Plus, that’s not what the public wants, Wainstein contended. “I think the big story is the public acceptance over the last six years,” he said of current policies.

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