2002 Founders' Celebration Events

The Courts and Civil Liberties in Times of War and National Crisis

April 4, 2002


Chief Justice Rehnquist's 1999 book, All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime, focused renewed attention on one of the most provocative issues in American jurisprudence: do we lose civil liberties we take for granted in peacetime when the nation is at war? Our history has included such sobering events as President Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, prosecutions under the Espionage Act of 1917, and the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. The judiciary's treatment of civil liberties in times of national crisis has generated substantial controversy. The aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks - involving large numbers of detentions and new, wide-ranging amendments to laws affecting our civil liberties - has made an understanding of these cases and their precedential impact crucially important to us all. A panel of distinguished constitutional law experts and historians explored these issues and debated their implications today.