War on Terror

Happy Thanksgiving from the TSA.

I wish I could tell you that Americans fought the good fight, and the TSA let us be. I wish I could tell you that — but holiday travel is no fairy-tale world. We never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile — travel consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Americans would show up with fresh bruises. The TSA kept at us — sometimes we were able to fight ‘em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for American travelers — that was our routine.

Today is the biggest travel day of the year, and for another Thanksgiving, Americans will be doing it under the watchful eye of the Orwellian Transportation Security And Molestation Administration. The $8 billion dollar organization is alive, well, and entrenched. And nobody can accuse the freshly reelected Democratic president of doing anything to protect our civil liberties against the TSA. Nor has the supposedly liberty-loving Tea Party made aggressive groping at airports a major issue.

But for the most part, the country seems resigned to the TSA’s continued existence. Ooh, now kids under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes. Progress! We don’t sue them, we don’t legislate against them, we just kind of take it and hope that they decide to take their hands off our junk out of the kindness of their hearts.

We’ve got a couple of stories that, in their own way, highlight how cowed we’ve become….

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Is peeing on somebody’s dead body a war crime? What about peeing on their grave? What about an important monument? As I’ve spoken about before, one of my life’s goals is to pee in every river that was important to the Confederacy. If I relieve myself in the Chickamauga, can a true son of the Cumberland bring me up in front of a war crimes tribunal?

The video of those American Marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies is so disturbing that it somehow demands a legal response. Mitt Romney might never want to “apologize” for America, but maybe that’s just because he’s used to being able to metaphorically urinate on those hoping some of his wealth trickles down.

And yet — 1Ls, say it with me — “most of international law does not exist.” Aside from whatever punishment the United States Marine Corps wants to impose on these guys, there isn’t a whole lot the international community can do to punish them.

Unless we want to call urinating on somebody a “war crime.” But is punishing some jackasses worth diluting the term?

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When you stop smoking, the cigarettes don’t get together to figure out how to kill you anyway.

Benjamin Wittes, on a panel at the National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society, responding to the observation that smoking and traffic accidents cause more deaths in a year than 9/11.

(Julian Sanchez discusses what the web is for, after the jump.)

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Anwar al-Awlaki

Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back in full force tomorrow.

* If you are curious about that legal memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, Charlie Savage describes its contents in this very interesting NYT piece. [New York Times]

* Ten years after the start of the anthrax attacks, some observers are asking whether Bruce Ivins, the Army microbiologist blamed for the attacks by the FBI, , was wrongly accused. [How Appealing]

Paul Bergrin

* Jury selection gets underway this week in the trial of notorious New Jersey lawyer Paul Bergrin (who’s being represented by a famous defense lawyer). [Newark Star-Ledger via WSJ Law Blog]

* Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor turned U.S. Senate candidate, is making “a proper case for liberalism,” according to E.J. Dionne Jr. [Washington Post]

* Andrew Cohen’s review of Justice John Paul Stevens’s new book, Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir (affiliate link). [The Atlantic]

* In case you missed it last week, here is Proskauer’s response to the discrimination lawsuit filed against it by its former CFO, Elly Rosenthal. [Am Law Daily]

When Berkeley Law professor John Yoo is able to come to the defense of President Obama’s secret legal justification for the assassination of American citizens, it’s time for progressives to pack it up and find a new candidate. Mike Bloomberg? Cory Booker? There are a bunch of other political figures out there who will gladly champion some liberal ideals until it becomes politically expedient for them to sell out the left in exchange for the warm embrace of the military-industrial complex.

Progressives will need to find somebody else because this Obama guy is done as a progressive leader. Many of you have been following the story of Anwar al-Awlaki. He’s the American-born radical cleric who was targeted and killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Many have questioned Obama’s authority to assassinate an American without due process of the law.

Today’s news is that President Obama did seek and receive legal justification for this strike from the Department of Justice. But you won’t get to see it. That’s because the DOJ issued Obama a secret memo that purportedly explains why Obama is allowed to kill Americans now….

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Image via Getty

Yesterday, we (and every other media outlet) ran our solemn 9/11 remembrance post. In general, I thought the media handled the day fine. I thought the NFL handled it in an unseemly “Are we not RESPECTFUL” fashion, and don’t even get me started on the companies who used 9/11 to push their products. I thought it was assumed that most companies were against global terrorism but until the Budweiser Clydesdales bowed, I wasn’t sure. I guess I should be happy that they didn’t have the Miller High Life guy busting into a cave and taking away a case of non-alcoholic beer from a terrorist.

In any event, today will be the predictable day where the media now takes a closer look at the aftermath of 9/11. And by “closer look,” I mean “report on everything that’s gone horribly wrong since 9/11.”

Gawker already got that ball rolling. I’ve got a really heartwarming story from a law firm that I want to share before I “take a closer look” at the week after 9/11….

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Today marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Throughout today, people have been looking back and reflecting on the tragic events of 9/11, as well as remembering and praying for the thousands who perished on that day.

Scanning the Twitter and Facebook feeds of my friends, I’ve seen competing impulses. Most people’s posts have been somber and sad. Some have taken the opportunity to reaffirm America’s greatness; others have used the occasion to criticize U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Now that the day is coming to an end, some have expressed 9/11 fatigue.

If you have 9/11 fatigue, you can stop reading here. But if not, please continue….

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The [Ninth Circuit] seems to have cherry-picked the aspects of our opinions that gave colorable support to the proposition that the un-constitutionality of the action here was clearly established.

Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions. When properly applied, it protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.’ [Former Attorney General John] Ashcroft deserves neither label, not least because eight Court of Appeals judges agreed with his judgment in a case of first impression.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd (via Josh Blackman). (The eight Court of Appeals judges are those who joined Judge O’Scannlain’s dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc.)

I have not the slightest doubt that it was entirely appropriate for U.S. forces to [take out Osama bin Laden]…. I must say I was proud of the SEALs.

– Justice John Paul Stevens, in remarks made yesterday at a dinner in Chicago. (Recall that Justice Stevens served in the Navy during World War II.)

Where's the BLOOD?

Everybody has an opinion on whether or not the Obama administration should release kill shots of Osama bin Laden. It’s a tough question. And there are intelligent ways to disagree with the president’s opinion (see Jon Stewart’s impassioned plea). Or you could just call the president a pussy accuse the president of “pussyfooting” on Twitter, because that shows real leadership.

Those are fine responses for former half-term governors and pundits in the public eye. But lawyers are going about the picture issue in a much more interesting manner. Before asking if Obama “should” release the Osama photos, lawyers are wondering “does he have to,” if served with a FOIA request.

It depends, but the question itself is a helpful reminder that we are a nation of laws…

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