Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 17: Law and Terrorism

Cases and Resources

The Law in Times of War
Surveillance and Searches
Detention and Interrogation

The Law in Times of War
September 11, 2001, News
The day that horrified the United States and the rest of the world is also a significant news event that will be remembered throughout our lives. This site has catalogued the events and news of that day, the national and international aftermath, and world issues associated with the attacks.

War Against Terrorism Document Center
The University of Michigan has an index of extensive information on the war on terrorism, information on numerous countries and international factions that influence the war, opinion articles, background information, and resources for further esearch.

USA Patriot Act of 2001
In response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act of 2001. Read the text of this act. Now read a summary of the act to help you understand what it means.

Department of Justice on the USA Patriot Act
Read a discussion of the advantages of the USA Patriot Act . How has this act helped the Department of Justice prevent terrorism?

Discussion of the USA Patriot Act
There is concern by some that the USA Patriot Act may interfere with personal liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to citizens of the United States. Explore this site that argues against the act. Do you agree?

Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security, created by President Bush in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, is meant to enhance security within the United States. Visit this site to take a closer look at some ways the department is coordinating efforts to make the country safer.

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Surveillance and Searches
Sneak and Peek Searches
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains its opposition to the expanded surveillance powers of the government. What are the arguments against this expansion?

Are Airport Searches Constitutional?
Read this assessment of whether backscatter x-ray and other full-body scans at airports are allowable government searches.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Read an overview of the act and a summary of the development of national security measures from 1978 to 2007.

Searching for a Balance
Learn more about the debate centered over the strengthening of security measures to make it easier to investigate possible threats versus the desire to protect personal privacy and liberties.

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Detention and Interrogation
What Is an "Unlawful Combatant"?
This article from describes the concept of unlawful combatants in relation to al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Here, the author states that al-Qaeda prisoners are not unlawful combatants.

Unlawful Combatants or Prisoners of War?
Read the definitions of 'unlawful enemy combatant' and 'prisoner of war' as defined by The Military Commissions Act of 2006and the Geneva Convention, respectively. Given your understanding of the terms, do you believe that al-Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are unlawful enemy combatants or prisoners of war?

The Geneva Convention: Prisoners of War
The Geneva Convention, at the close of the fighting with Germany during World War II, set forth international law on the treatment of prisoners of war during war time. The debate concerning detained prisoners during the war on terrorism centers on whether this document applies to such prisoners.

UN Convention Against Torture
Read a summary and the text of the document signed at the Convention Against Torture.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
Read this case about whether the Geneva Conventions apply to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What does the Court decide? Read either the full opinion or a summary of the case, and listen to the oral arguments at this site.

Boumediene v. Bush
In this case, the Court held that the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in federal court using the writ of habeas corpus. Read the full opinion or a summary here, and listen to the oral arguments.

Detainee Treatment Act of 2005
This act prohibits the use of cruel or inhumane treatment of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. It also removes the jurisdiction of federal courts over cases brought by the prisoners, preventing them access to the court system. Read about the system set up to review prisoners' cases as a substitute for the federal court system.

Military Commissions Act of 2006
The constitutionality of parts of this act were challenged in Boumediene v. Bush. What parts were challenged, and what did the Court decide?

Osama bin Laden on Trial
Court TV discusses the aspects of a trial against Osama bin Laden, if he is ever caught. Consider the analysis of the case for the prosecution and the defense, as well as a discussion about where he might be tried.

Military Tribunals or Criminal Court?
This opinion article from argues that military tribunal courts are the best venue for trying terrorist criminals. Now read this article from Human Rights Watch arguing that suspected terrorists should be tried in Federal Criminal Courts. What are the best arguments from each side?

American Taliban
Read an in-depth report and discussion on John Walker Lindh, the American citizen found in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban.

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