Wednesday, March 21, 2007

David Cole, "Less Safe, Less Free: The Failure of Preemption in the War on Terror"

Karl Rove: not as prescient as 3 witches

     Today, David Cole, Professor at Georgetown University Law Center and volunteer staff attorney with Center for Constitutional Rights, discussed the "paradigm of prevention" at the heart of the Bush administration's War on Terror. He points to 3 central problems with this new paradigm. First, it places a tension on our core democratic values. Second, the preventative paradigm is difficult to certify as successful, and some evidence suggests that it is counter-productive. Finally, the goal of preventing terrorism should be pursued through means less offensive to the rule of law.
     Cole explained a number of central tenets composing the rule of law and emphasized the core concept of fundamental human rights. Moving to discuss the importance of equality in the rule of law, Cole explained that the targeting of foreign nationals in the War on Terror evidenced a "path of least resistance" approach that was fundamentally inequitable. As a political maneuver, this allowed permitted a rhetoric of safety without appearing as a direct threat to the citizenry's constitutional rights. Pointing to several individual examples and national security policies, Cole made a clear and convincing case that ideas of inequity consistently undermine the rule of law in U.S. national security policy.
     Cole outlined the role of secrecy in the preventative paradigm and demonstrated that the trumping power of claims of secrecy can eviscerate all constitutional and human rights. The complete absence of transparency is critical to the War on Terror within the preventative paradigm. It is not indispensable to the broader project of national security.
     Professor Cole began his conclusion with his oft-suffered slight as being "so September 10th." This attitude - that human rights must be sacrificed in a post-9/11 world - is simply not supported by empirical results under the preventative paradigm. We are obviously less free, we are also less safe.

     The Columbia Law School Chapter of the ACS would like to heartily thank Professor Cole for his thought-provoking and important remarks.


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