Earlier today, I attended a presentation at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy by Todd Hinnen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Law and Policy in the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. The division was created in 2006 by the USA Patriot Reauthorization and Improvement Act, merging the core national security functions of the DOJ, as recommended in March 2005 by the Iraq Intelligence Commission.
Hinnen described his team at the DOJ as doing the “30,000 foot level strategic thinking, policy development and legal analysis” for the Department’s national security work. Hinnen stated his belief that the development of an appropriate and enduring legal framework was “essential to effectively combating terrorism for reasons that are both principled and pragmatic.”
It is essential on grounds of principle because the law has defined this nation, a nation of laws, since its founding…It would be a Pyrrhic victory if, in our struggle the preserve this country against the threat of international terrorism we sacrificed so central a part of what this country stands for and why it has been a model for the rest of the world.
It is essential on grounds of pragmatism because a lawless response to terrorism — one for instance that includes torture, black site prisons, and indefinite detention without due process — undermines our moral credibility and standing abroad, weakens the coalitions with foreign governments that we need to effectively combat terrorism, and provides terrorist recruiters with some of their most effective material.
It’s good to hear government officials expressing this kind of understanding of what it is that really makes America exceptional — and what really makes us safe.