Friday, February 10, 2017
President Trump now has twice stated that, if the United States experiences a terrorist attack on American soil, the blood will be on the hands of the judges who have stayed the effect of his travel ban against seven majority Muslim nations.
This crude attempt to intimidate those committed to the rule of rule into setting aside legal qualms about presidential action closely resembles the post-9/11 argument made by some who wanted legal cover to employ extraordinary interrogation methods – that is, torture – against detainees who might have information about Al Qaeda terrorist plots. Advocates for the use of waterboarding and other “harsh” measures during the Bush Administration argued that lawyers who timidly resisted with legal objections would then be responsible the thousands of deaths that would be lost in the next terrorist attack.
During that earlier episode, Alberto Mora, the general counsel for the United States Navy, responded with words that should resonate today: “The debate here isn’t only how to protect the country. It’s how to protect our values.”