Skip to main content
Business LibreTexts

6.4: Chapter 41 - Electronic Surveillance, Torture, and the “War on Terror”

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)


    Chapter 41

    Electronic Surveillance, Torture, and the “War on Terror”

    In this final chapter of the semester, we briefly consider some issues that either have required the Court to apply old law to new problems or have inspired debate about how the Court ought to address a question once it is properly presented. In particular, we review (1) the somewhat novel question of whether the executive may conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant in service of national security, (2) whether the executive may torture prisoners suspected of possessing knowledge of potential terrorist plans and activities—and, if so, how such terrible state actions should be regulated, and (3) other questions presented by the ongoing conflicts often described as the “War on Terror,” along with other modern national security challenges.

    Electronic Surveillance

    It has been observed that the United States became a different country on September 11, 2001. For example, students too young to remember the attacks of that day may find it hard to believe how comparatively relaxed airports were in the late twentieth century. The desire of government investigators to overhear the electronic communications of suspects is not, however, a phenomenon unique to the twenty-first century. Indeed, Katz v. United States (Chapter 2) presented such a case involving ordinary criminal investigation of unlawful gambling. Further, more than forty years ago, the Court decided a case in which law enforcement sought to conduct warrantless electronic eavesdropping for reasons related to national security.

    Supreme Court of the United States

    United States v. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

    Decided June 19, 1972 – 407 U.S. 297

    Mr. Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

    The issue before us is an important one for the people of our country and their Government. It involves the delicate question of the President’s power, acting through the Attorney General, to authorize electronic surveillance in internal security matters without prior judicial approval. Successive Presidents for more than one-quarter of a century have authorized such surveillance in varying degrees, without guidance from the Congress or a definitive decision of this Court. This case brings the issue here for the first time. Its resolution is a matter of national concern, requiring sensitivity both to the Government’s right to protect itself from unlawful subversion and attack and to the citizen’s right to be secure in his privacy against unreasonable Government intrusion.

    This case arises from a criminal proceeding in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in which the United States charged three defendants with conspiracy to destroy Government property. One of the defendants, Plamondon, was charged with the dynamite bombing of an office of the Central Intelligence Agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    During pretrial proceedings, the defendants moved to compel the United States to disclose certain electronic surveillance information and to conduct a hearing to determine whether this information “tainted” the evidence on which the indictment was based or which the Government intended to offer at trial. In response, the Government filed an affidavit of the Attorney General, acknowledging that its agents had overheard conversations in which Plamondon had participated. The affidavit also stated that the Attorney General approved the wiretaps “to gather intelligence information deemed necessary to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of the Government.” The logs of the surveillance were filed in a sealed exhibit for in camera inspection by the District Court.

    On the basis of the Attorney General’s affidavit and the sealed exhibit, the Government asserted that the surveillance was lawful, though conducted without prior judicial approval, as a reasonable exercise of the President’s power (exercised through the Attorney General) to protect the national security. The District Court held that the surveillance violated the Fourth Amendment, and ordered the Government to make full disclosure to Plamondon of his overheard conversations. The Government then filed in the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit a petition for a writ of mandamus to set aside the District Court order, which was stayed pending final disposition of the case. [T]hat court held that the surveillance was unlawful and that the District Court had properly required disclosure of the overheard conversations. We granted certiorari.


    Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510—2520, authorizes the use of electronic surveillance for classes of crimes carefully specified in 18 U.S.C. § 2516. Such surveillance is subject to prior court order. Section 2518 sets forth the detailed and particularized application necessary to obtain such an order as well as carefully circumscribed conditions for its use. The Act represents a comprehensive attempt by Congress to promote more effective control of crime while protecting the privacy of individual thought and expression.

    Together with the elaborate surveillance requirements in Title III, there is the following proviso, 18 U.S.C. § 2511(3):

    “Nothing contained in this chapter or in section 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 shall limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities. Nor shall anything contained in this chapter be deemed to limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the United States against the overthrow of the Government by force or other unlawful means, or against any other clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government. The contents of any wire or oral communication intercepted by authority of the President in the exercise of the foregoing powers may be received in evidence in any trial hearing, or other proceeding only where such interception was reasonable, and shall not be otherwise used or disclosed except as is necessary to implement that power.”

    The Government [] argues that “in excepting national security surveillances from the Act’s warrant requirement Congress recognized the President’s authority to conduct such surveillances without prior judicial approval.” The section thus is viewed as a recognition or affirmance of a constitutional authority in the President to conduct warrantless domestic security surveillance such as that involved in this case.

    We think the language of § 2511(3), as well as the legislative history of the statute, refutes this interpretation. The relevant language is that:

    “Nothing contained in this chapter … shall limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect …” against the dangers specified. At most, this is an implicit recognition that the President does have certain powers in the specified areas. Few would doubt this, as the section refers—among other things—to protection “against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power.” But so far as the use of the President’s electronic surveillance power is concerned, the language is essentially neutral.

    Section 2511(3) certainly confers no power, as the language is wholly inappropriate for such a purpose. It merely provides that the Act shall not be interpreted to limit or disturb such power as the President may have under the Constitution. In short, Congress simply left presidential powers where it found them. This view is reinforced by the general context of Title III. Section 2511(1) broadly prohibits the use of electronic surveillance “[e]xcept as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter.” Subsection (2) thereof contains four specific exceptions. In each of the specified exceptions, the statutory language is as follows:

    “It shall not be unlawful … to intercept” the particular type of communication described.1

    The language of subsection (3), here involved, is to be contrasted with the language of the exceptions set forth in the preceding subsection. Rather than stating that warrantless presidential uses of electronic surveillance “shall not be unlawful” and thus employing the standard language of exception, subsection (3) merely disclaims any intention to “limit the constitutional power of the President.”

    The express grant of authority to conduct surveillances is found in § 2516, which authorizes the Attorney General to make application to a federal judge when surveillance may provide evidence of certain offenses. These offenses are described with meticulous care and specificity.

    In view of these and other interrelated provisions delineating permissible interceptions of particular criminal activity upon carefully specified conditions, it would have been incongruous for Congress to have legislated with respect to the important and complex area of national security in a single brief and nebulous paragraph. This would not comport with the sensitivity of the problem involved or with the extraordinary care Congress exercised in drafting other sections of the Act. We therefore think the conclusion inescapable that Congress only intended to make clear that the Act simply did not legislate with respect to national security surveillances.

    The legislative history of § 2511(3) supports this interpretation. [N]othing in § 2511(3) was intended to expand or to contract or to define whatever presidential surveillance powers existed in matters affecting the national security. [W]e hold that the statute is not the measure of the executive authority asserted in this case. Rather, we must look to the constitutional powers of the President.


    It is important at the outset to emphasize the limited nature of the question before the Court. This case raises no constitutional challenge to electronic surveillance as specifically authorized by Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. Nor is there any question or doubt as to the necessity of obtaining a warrant in the surveillance of crimes unrelated to the national security interest. Further, the instant case requires no judgment on the scope of the President’s surveillance power with respect to the activities of foreign powers, within or without this country. The Attorney General’s affidavit in this case states that the surveillances were “deemed necessary to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of Government.” There is no evidence of any involvement, directly or indirectly, of a foreign power.

    Our present inquiry, though important, is therefore a narrow one. It addresses a question left open by Katz:

    “Whether safeguards other than prior authorization by a magistrate would satisfy the Fourth Amendment in a situation involving the national security ….”

    The determination of this question requires the essential Fourth Amendment inquiry into the “reasonableness” of the search and seizure in question, and the way in which that “reasonableness” derives content and meaning through reference to the warrant clause.

    We begin the inquiry by noting that the President of the United States has the fundamental duty, under Art. II, § 1, of the Constitution, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Implicit in that duty is the power to protect our Government against those who would subvert or overthrow it by unlawful means. In the discharge of this duty, the President—through the Attorney General—may find it necessary to employ electronic surveillance to obtain intelligence information on the plans of those who plot unlawful acts against the Government. The use of such surveillance in internal security cases has been sanctioned more or less continuously by various Presidents and Attorneys General since July 1946.

    It has been said that “[t]he most basic function of any government is to provide for the security of the individual and of his property.” And unless Government safeguards its own capacity to function and to preserve the security of its people, society itself could become so disordered that all rights and liberties would be endangered.

    “Civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Constitution, imply the existence of an organized society maintaining public order without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of unrestrained abuses.”

    But a recognition of these elementary truths does not make the employment by Government of electronic surveillance a welcome development—even when employed with restraint and under judicial supervision. There is, understandably, a deep-seated uneasiness and apprehension that this capability will be used to intrude upon cherished privacy of law-abiding citizens. We look to the Bill of Rights to safeguard this privacy. Though physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed, its broader spirit now shields private speech from unreasonable surveillance.

    National security cases, moreover, often reflect a convergence of First and Fourth Amendment values not present in cases of “ordinary” crime. Though the investigative duty of the executive may be stronger in such cases, so also is there greater jeopardy to constitutionally protected speech. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect “domestic security.” Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. Senator Hart addressed this dilemma in the floor debate on § 2511(3):

    “As I read it—and this is my fear—we are saying that the President, on his motion, could declare—name your favorite poison—draft dodgers, Black Muslims, the Ku Klux Klan, or civil rights activists to be a clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government.”

    The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.


    As the Fourth Amendment is not absolute in its terms, our task is to examine and balance the basic values at stake in this case: the duty of Government to protect the domestic security, and the potential danger posed by unreasonable surveillance to individual privacy and free expression. If the legitimate need of Government to safeguard domestic security requires the use of electronic surveillance, the question is whether the needs of citizens for privacy and the free expression may not be better protected by requiring a warrant before such surveillance is undertaken. We must also ask whether a warrant requirement would unduly frustrate the efforts of Government to protect itself from acts of subversion and overthrow directed against it.

    [T]he very heart of the Fourth Amendment directive [is] that, where practical, a governmental search and seizure should represent both the efforts of the officer to gather evidence of wrongful acts and the judgment of the magistrate that the collected evidence is sufficient to justify invasion of a citizen’s private premises or conversation. Inherent in the concept of a warrant is its issuance by a “neutral and detached magistrate.” The further requirement of “probable cause” instructs the magistrate that baseless searches shall not proceed.

    These Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch. The Fourth Amendment does not contemplate the executive officers of Government as neutral and disinterested magistrates. Their duty and responsibility are to enforce the laws, to investigate, and to prosecute. But those charged with this investigative and prosecutorial duty should not be the sole judges of when to utilize constitutionally sensitive means in pursuing their tasks. The historical judgment, which the Fourth Amendment accepts, is that unreviewed executive discretion may yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech.

    It may well be that, in the instant case, the Government’s surveillance of Plamondon’s conversations was a reasonable one which readily would have gained prior judicial approval. But this Court “has never sustained a search upon the sole ground that officers reasonably expected to find evidence of a particular crime and voluntarily confined their activities to the least intrusive means consistent with that end.” The Fourth Amendment contemplates a prior judicial judgment, not the risk that executive discretion may be reasonably exercised. This judicial role accords with our basic constitutional doctrine that individual freedoms will best be preserved through a separation of powers and division of functions among the different branches and levels of Government. The independent check upon executive discretion is not satisfied, as the Government argues, by “extremely limited” post-surveillance judicial review. Indeed, post-surveillance review would never reach the surveillances which failed to result in prosecutions. Prior review by a neutral and detached magistrate is the time-tested means of effectuating Fourth Amendment rights.

    It is true that there have been some exceptions to the warrant requirement. But those exceptions are few in number and carefully delineated. The Government argues that the special circumstances applicable to domestic security surveillances necessitate a further exception to the warrant requirement. It is urged that the requirement of prior judicial review would obstruct the President in the discharge of his constitutional duty to protect domestic security. We are told further that these surveillances are directed primarily to the collecting and maintaining of intelligence with respect to subversive forces, and are not an attempt to gather evidence for specific criminal prosecutions. It is said that this type of surveillance should not be subject to traditional warrant requirements which were established to govern investigation of criminal activity, not ongoing intelligence gathering.

    The Government further insists that courts “as a practical matter would have neither the knowledge nor the techniques necessary to determine whether there was probable cause to believe that surveillance was necessary to protect national security.” These security problems, the Government contends, involve “a large number of complex and subtle factors” beyond the competence of courts to evaluate. As a final reason for exemption from a warrant requirement, the Government believes that disclosure to a magistrate of all or even a significant portion of the information involved in domestic security surveillances “would create serious potential dangers to the national security and to the lives of informants and agents ….”

    We certainly do not reject [these contentions] lightly, especially at a time of worldwide ferment and when civil disorders in this country are more prevalent than in the less turbulent periods of our history. There is, no doubt, pragmatic force to the Government’s position.

    But we do not think a case has been made for the requested departure from Fourth Amendment standards. The circumstances described do not justify complete exemption of domestic security surveillance from prior judicial scrutiny. Official surveillance, whether its purpose be criminal investigation or ongoing intelligence gathering, risks infringement of constitutionally protected privacy of speech. Security surveillances are especially sensitive because of the inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept, the necessarily broad and continuing nature of intelligence gathering, and the temptation to utilize such surveillances to oversee political dissent.

    We cannot accept the Government’s argument that internal security matters are too subtle and complex for judicial evaluation. Courts regularly deal with the most difficult issues of our society. There is no reason to believe that federal judges will be insensitive to or uncomprehending of the issues involved in domestic security cases. [] If the threat is too subtle or complex for our senior law enforcement officers to convey its significance to a court, one may question whether there is probable cause for surveillance.


    We emphasize, before concluding this opinion, the scope of our decision. As stated at the outset, this case involves only the domestic aspects of national security. We have not addressed, and express no opinion as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents. Nor does our decision rest on the language of § 2511(3) or any other section of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. That Act does not attempt to define or delineate the powers of the President to meet domestic threats to the national security.

    Moreover, we do not hold that the same type of standards and procedures prescribed by Title III are necessarily applicable to this case. Congress may wish to consider protective standards for the latter which differ from those already prescribed for specified crimes in Title III. We do not attempt to detail the precise standards for domestic security warrants any more than our decision in Katz sought to set the refined requirements for the specified criminal surveillances which now constitute Title III. We do hold, however, that prior judicial approval is required for the type of domestic security surveillance involved in this case and that such approval may be made in accordance with such reasonable standards as the Congress may prescribe.


    The judgment of the Court of Appeals is hereby affirmed.

    MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring.

    While I join in the opinion of the Court, I add these words in support of it.

    This is an important phase in the campaign of the police and intelligence agencies to obtain exemptions from the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment. For, due to the clandestine nature of electronic eavesdropping, the need is acute for placing on the Government the heavy burden to show that “exigencies of the situation [make its] course imperative.” Other abuses, such as the search incident to arrest, have been partly deterred by the threat of damage actions against offending officers, the risk of adverse publicity, or the possibility of reform through the political process. These latter safeguards, however, are ineffective against lawless wiretapping and “bugging” of which their victims are totally unaware. Moreover, even the risk of exclusion of tainted evidence would here appear to be of negligible deterrent value inasmuch as the United States frankly concedes that the primary purpose of these searches is to fortify its intelligence collage rather than to accumulate evidence to support indictments and convictions. If the Warrant Clause were held inapplicable here, then the federal intelligence machine would literally enjoy unchecked discretion.

    Here, federal agents wish to rummage for months on end through every conversation, no matter how intimate or personal, carried over selected telephone lines, simply to seize those few utterances which may add to their sense of the pulse of a domestic underground.

    We are told that one national security wiretap lasted for 14 months and monitored over 900 conversations. Senator Edward Kennedy found recently that “warrantless devices accounted for an average of 78 to 209 days of listening per device, as compared with a 13-day per device average for those devices installed under court order.” He concluded that the Government’s revelations posed “the frightening possibility that the conversations of untold thousands of citizens of this country are being monitored on secret devices which no judge has authorized and which may remain in operation for months and perhaps years at a time.” Even the most innocent and random caller who uses or telephones into a tapped line can become a flagged number in the Government’s data bank.

    Such gross invasions of privacy epitomize the very evil to which the Warrant Clause was directed. That “domestic security” is said to be involved here does not draw this case outside the mainstream of Fourth Amendment law. Rather, the recurring desire of reigning officials to employ dragnet techniques to intimidate their critics lies at the core of that prohibition.

    As illustrated by a flood of cases before us this Term, we are currently in the throes of another national seizure of paranoia, resembling the hysteria which surrounded the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, and the McCarthy era. Those who register dissent or who petition their governments for redress are subjected to scrutiny by grand juries, by the FBI, or even by the military. Their associates are interrogated. Their homes are bugged and their telephones are wiretapped. They are befriended by secret government informers. Their patriotism and loyalty are questioned. Senator Sam Ervin, who has chaired hearings on military surveillance of civilian dissidents, warns that “it is not an exaggeration to talk in terms of hundreds of thousands of … dossiers.”

    Senator Kennedy found “the frightening possibility that the conversations of untold thousands are being monitored on secret devices.” More than our privacy is implicated. Also at stake is the reach of the Government’s power to intimidate its critics.

    When the Executive attempts to excuse these tactics as essential to its defense against internal subversion, we are obliged to remind it, without apology, of this Court’s long commitment to the preservation of the Bill of Rights from the corrosive environment of precisely such expedients. “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.” “[T]his concept of ‘national defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any … power designed to promote such a goal. Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this Nation apart…. It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of … those liberties … which [make] the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”

    The Warrant Clause has stood as a barrier against intrusions by officialdom into the privacies of life. But if that barrier were lowered now to permit suspected subversives’ most intimate conversations to be pillaged then why could not their abodes or mail be secretly searched by the same authority? To defeat so terrifying a claim of inherent power we need only stand by the enduring values served by the Fourth Amendment. “In times of unrest, whether caused by crime or racial conflict or fear of internal subversion, this basic law and the values that it represents may appear unrealistic or “extravagant” to some. But the values were those of the authors of our fundamental constitutional concepts. In times not altogether unlike our own they won … a right of personal security against arbitrary intrusions … If times have changed, reducing everyman’s scope to do as he pleases in an urban and industrial world, the changes have made the values served by the Fourth Amendment more, not less, important.” We have as much or more to fear from the erosion of our sense of privacy and independence by the omnipresent electronic ear of the Government as we do from the likelihood that fomenters of domestic upheaval will modify our form of governing.

    MR. JUSTICE WHITE, concurring in the judgment.

    [Justice White wrote that he would have avoided the constitutional issue decided by the majority and would have instead held that the evidence was inadmissible because the government had failed to meet its burden under the Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which prohibits certain wiretaps and allows it in certain circumstances. (Title III is discussed further below.) In other words, Justice White would have left open the possibility that the Attorney General could order warrantless phone tapping to protect national security if authorized by Congress—or, perhaps, so long as not prohibited by Congress.]

    Notes, Comments, and Questions

    Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (sometimes known as the “Wiretap Act” or as “Title III”) is an important statute with provisions this book cannot explore. Students should know a few key details. First, the act prohibits most warrantless wiretapping, both by government actors and by private actors. It also includes procedures by which government investigators can obtain judicial approval (in the form of warrants) for certain wiretaps, and it authorizes some wiretapping even without warrants (some of which is discussed in our next case). Further, Title III contains an exclusionary rule, prohibiting evidence collected in violation of the act from being introduced in court.2 The act is among the best examples of how only some of criminal procedure law is distilled by courts from amendments to the Constitution. Recognizing that judicial regulation of electronic communication would be unpredictable and cumbersome, Congress engaged in robust debate and enacted a statute providing detailed rules that apply to law enforcement officers at the federal, state, and municipal levels.

    As Justice Douglas noted in his concurring opinion in United States v. U.S. District Court, “the clandestine nature of electronic eavesdropping” can result in “lawless wiretapping and ‘bugging’ of which [] victims are totally unaware.” Justice Douglas thought it especially important that the judiciary enforce the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures in cases of wiretapping, lest “the federal intelligence machine would literally enjoy unchecked discretion.” In Clapper v. Amnesty International, a group of plaintiffs sought a declaration that provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) were unconstitutional, as well as an injunction prohibiting certain surveillance. The government sought summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution because they could not demonstrate that they personally had been surveilled (or would be surveilled) under the challenged statutory scheme. Under that theory, the plaintiffs would be unable to obtain a ruling on the merits. In essence, the government argued that because the plaintiffs were “totally unaware” of the details of the surveillance program, they could not challenge it.

    Supreme Court of the United States

    Clapper v. Amnesty International USA

    Decided February 26, 2013 – 568 U.S. 398

    Justice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.

    Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, 50 U.S.C. § 1881a, allows the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence information by jointly authorizing the surveillance of individuals who are not “United States persons” and are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. Before doing so, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence normally must obtain the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s approval. Respondents are United States persons whose work, they allege, requires them to engage in sensitive international communications with individuals who they believe are likely targets of surveillance under § 1881a. Respondents seek a declaration that § 1881a is unconstitutional, as well as an injunction against § 1881a-authorized surveillance. The question before us is whether respondents have Article III standing to seek this prospective relief.

    Respondents assert that they can establish injury in fact because there is an objectively reasonable likelihood that their communications will be acquired under § 1881a at some point in the future. But respondents’ theory of future injury is too speculative to satisfy the well-established requirement that threatened injury must be “certainly impending.” And even if respondents could demonstrate that the threatened injury is certainly impending, they still would not be able to establish that this injury is fairly traceable to § 1881a. As an alternative argument, respondents contend that they are suffering present injury because the risk of § 1881a-authorized surveillance already has forced them to take costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of their international communications. But respondents cannot manufacture standing by choosing to make expenditures based on hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending. We therefore hold that respondents lack Article III standing.


    In 1978, after years of debate, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to authorize and regulate certain governmental electronic surveillance of communications for foreign intelligence purposes. In enacting FISA, Congress legislated against the backdrop of our decision in United States v. United States Dist. Court for Eastern Dist. of Mich., in which we explained that the standards and procedures that law enforcement officials must follow when conducting “surveillance of ‘ordinary crime’” might not be required in the context of surveillance conducted for domestic national-security purposes.

    In constructing such a framework for foreign intelligence surveillance, Congress created two specialized courts. In FISA, Congress authorized judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to approve electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes if there is probable cause to believe that “the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power,” and that each of the specific “facilities or places at which the electronic surveillance is directed is being used, or is about to be used, by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” Additionally, Congress vested the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review with jurisdiction to review any denials by the FISC of applications for electronic surveillance.

    In the wake of the September 11th attacks, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless wiretapping of telephone and e-mail communications where one party to the communication was located outside the United States and a participant in “the call was reasonably believed to be a member or agent of al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.” In January 2007, the FISC issued orders authorizing the Government to target international communications into or out of the United States where there was probable cause to believe that one participant to the communication was a member or agent of al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization. These FISC orders subjected any electronic surveillance that was then occurring under the NSA’s program to the approval of the FISC. After a FISC Judge subsequently narrowed the FISC’s authorization of such surveillance, however, the Executive asked Congress to amend FISA so that it would provide the intelligence community with additional authority to meet the challenges of modern technology and international terrorism.

    When Congress enacted the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FISA Amendments Act), it left much of FISA intact, but it “established a new and independent source of intelligence collection authority, beyond that granted in traditional FISA.” As relevant here, § 702 of FISA, 50 U.S.C. § 1881a, supplements pre-existing FISA authority by creating a new framework under which the Government may seek the FISC’s authorization of certain foreign intelligence surveillance targeting the communications of non-U.S. persons located abroad. Unlike traditional FISA surveillance, § 1881a does not require the Government to demonstrate probable cause that the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power. And, unlike traditional FISA, § 1881a does not require the Government to specify the nature and location of each of the particular facilities or places at which the electronic surveillance will occur.

    The present case involves a constitutional challenge to § 1881a. Surveillance under § 1881a is subject to statutory conditions, judicial authorization, congressional supervision, and compliance with the Fourth Amendment. Section 1881a provides that, upon the issuance of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, “the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize jointly, for a period of up to 1 year …, the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.” Surveillance under § 1881a may not be intentionally targeted at any person known to be in the United States or any U.S. person reasonably believed to be located abroad. Additionally, acquisitions under § 1881a must comport with the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, surveillance under § 1881a is subject to congressional oversight and several types of Executive Branch review.


    Respondents are attorneys and human rights, labor, legal, and media organizations whose work allegedly requires them to engage in sensitive and sometimes privileged telephone and e-mail communications with colleagues, clients, sources, and other individuals located abroad. Respondents believe that some of the people with whom they exchange foreign intelligence information are likely targets of surveillance under § 1881a. Specifically, respondents claim that they communicate by telephone and e-mail with people the Government “believes or believed to be associated with terrorist organizations,” “people located in geographic areas that are a special focus” of the Government’s counterterrorism or diplomatic efforts, and activists who oppose governments that are supported by the United States Government.

    Respondents claim that § 1881a compromises their ability to locate witnesses, cultivate sources, obtain information, and communicate confidential information to their clients. Respondents also assert that they “have ceased engaging” in certain telephone and e-mail conversations. According to respondents, the threat of surveillance will compel them to travel abroad in order to have in-person conversations. In addition, respondents declare that they have undertaken “costly and burdensome measures” to protect the confidentiality of sensitive communications.


    On the day when the FISA Amendments Act was enacted, respondents filed this action seeking (1) a declaration that § 1881a, on its face, violates the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, Article III, and separation-of-powers principles and (2) a permanent injunction against the use of § 1881a. After both parties moved for summary judgment, the District Court held that respondents do not have standing. On appeal, however, a panel of the Second Circuit reversed. The Second Circuit denied rehearing en banc by an equally divided vote. Because of the importance of the issue and the novel view of standing adopted by the Court of Appeals, we granted certiorari and we now reverse.


    Article III of the Constitution limits federal courts’ jurisdiction to certain “Cases” and “Controversies.” “One element of the case-or-controversy requirement” is that plaintiffs “must establish that they have standing to sue.”

    The law of Article III standing, which is built on separation-of-powers principles, serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches. In keeping with the purpose of this doctrine, “[o]ur standing inquiry has been especially rigorous when reaching the merits of the dispute would force us to decide whether an action taken by one of the other two branches of the Federal Government was unconstitutional.” “Relaxation of standing requirements is directly related to the expansion of judicial power,” and we have often found a lack of standing in cases in which the Judiciary has been requested to review actions of the political branches in the fields of intelligence gathering and foreign affairs.

    To establish Article III standing, an injury must be “concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the challenged action; and redressable by a favorable ruling.” “Although imminence is concededly a somewhat elastic concept, it cannot be stretched beyond its purpose, which is to ensure that the alleged injury is not too speculative for Article III purposes—that the injury is certainly impending.” Thus, we have repeatedly reiterated that “threatened injury must be certainly impending to constitute injury in fact,” and that “[a]llegations of possible future injury” are not sufficient.


    Respondents assert that they can establish injury in fact that is fairly traceable to § 1881a because there is an objectively reasonable likelihood that their communications with their foreign contacts will be intercepted under § 1881a at some point in the future. This argument fails. [R]espondents’ argument rests on their highly speculative fear that: (1) the Government will decide to target the communications of non-U.S. persons with whom they communicate; (2) in doing so, the Government will choose to invoke its authority under § 1881a rather than utilizing another method of surveillance; (3) the Article III judges who serve on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will conclude that the Government’s proposed surveillance procedures satisfy § 1881a’s many safeguards and are consistent with the Fourth Amendment; (4) the Government will succeed in intercepting the communications of respondents’ contacts; and (5) respondents will be parties to the particular communications that the Government intercepts. [R]espondents’ theory of standing, which relies on a highly attenuated chain of possibilities, does not satisfy the requirement that threatened injury must be certainly impending. Moreover, even if respondents could demonstrate injury in fact, the second link in the above-described chain of contingencies—which amounts to mere speculation about whether surveillance would be under § 1881a or some other authority—shows that respondents cannot satisfy the requirement that any injury in fact must be fairly traceable to § 1881a.

    First, it is speculative whether the Government will imminently target communications to which respondents are parties. Section 1881a expressly provides that respondents, who are U.S. persons, cannot be targeted for surveillance under § 1881a. [R]espondents’ theory necessarily rests on their assertion that the Government will target other individuals—namely, their foreign contacts.

    Yet respondents have no actual knowledge of the Government’s § 1881a targeting practices. Instead, respondents merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with their foreign contacts will be acquired under § 1881a. Moreover, because § 1881a at most authorizes—but does not mandate or direct—the surveillance that respondents fear, respondents’ allegations are necessarily conjectural.

    Second, even if respondents could demonstrate that the targeting of their foreign contacts is imminent, respondents can only speculate as to whether the Government will seek to use § 1881a-authorized surveillance (rather than other methods) to do so. The Government has numerous other methods of conducting surveillance, none of which is challenged here. Even if respondents could demonstrate that their foreign contacts will imminently be targeted—indeed, even if they could show that interception of their own communications will imminently occur—they would still need to show that their injury is fairly traceable to § 1881a. But, because respondents can only speculate as to whether any (asserted) interception would be under § 1881a or some other authority, they cannot satisfy the “fairly traceable” requirement.

    Third, even if respondents could show that the Government will seek the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s authorization to acquire the communications of respondents’ foreign contacts under § 1881a, respondents can only speculate as to whether that court will authorize such surveillance. In the past, we have been reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork as to how independent decisionmakers will exercise their judgment.

    We decline to abandon our usual reluctance to endorse standing theories that rest on speculation about the decisions of independent actors. Section 1881a mandates that the Government must obtain the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s approval of targeting procedures, minimization procedures, and a governmental certification regarding proposed surveillance. The Court must, for example, determine whether the Government’s procedures are “reasonably designed … to minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of nonpublicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons.” And, critically, the Court must also assess whether the Government’s targeting and minimization procedures comport with the Fourth Amendment.

    In sum, respondents’ speculative chain of possibilities does not establish that injury based on potential future surveillance is certainly impending or is fairly traceable to § 1881a.


    Respondents’ alternative argument—namely, that they can establish standing based on the measures that they have undertaken to avoid § 1881a-authorized surveillance—fares no better. Respondents assert that they are suffering ongoing injuries that are fairly traceable to § 1881a because the risk of surveillance under § 1881a requires them to take costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of their communications. Respondents claim, for instance, that the threat of surveillance sometimes compels them to avoid certain e-mail and phone conversations, to “tal[k] in generalities rather than specifics,” or to travel so that they can have in-person conversations.

    Respondents’ contention that they have standing because they incurred certain costs as a reasonable reaction to a risk of harm is unavailing—because the harm respondents seek to avoid is not certainly impending. In other words, respondents cannot manufacture standing merely by inflicting harm on themselves based on their fears of hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending. Any ongoing injuries that respondents are suffering are not fairly traceable to § 1881a.

    If the law were otherwise, an enterprising plaintiff would be able to secure a lower standard for Article III standing simply by making an expenditure based on a nonparanoid fear. Thus, allowing respondents to bring this action based on costs they incurred in response to a speculative threat would be tantamount to accepting a repackaged version of respondents’ first failed theory of standing.


    Respondents also suggest that they should be held to have standing because otherwise the constitutionality of § 1881a could not be challenged. It would be wrong, they maintain, to “insulate the government’s surveillance activities from meaningful judicial review.” Respondents’ suggestion is both legally and factually incorrect. First, “‘[t]he assumption that if respondents have no standing to sue, no one would have standing, is not a reason to find standing.’”

    Second, our holding today by no means insulates § 1881a from judicial review. As described above, Congress created a comprehensive scheme in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court evaluates the Government’s certifications, targeting procedures, and minimization procedures—including assessing whether the targeting and minimization procedures comport with the Fourth Amendment.

    Additionally, if the Government intends to use or disclose information obtained or derived from a § 1881a acquisition in judicial or administrative proceedings, it must provide advance notice of its intent, and the affected person may challenge the lawfulness of the acquisition. Finally, any electronic communications service provider that the Government directs to assist in § 1881a surveillance may challenge the lawfulness of that directive before the FISC.

    We hold that respondents lack Article III standing. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Second Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

    Justice BREYER, with whom Justice GINSBURG, Justice SOTOMAYOR, and Justice KAGAN join, dissenting.

    The plaintiffs’ standing depends upon the likelihood that the Government, acting under the authority of 50 U.S.C. § 1881a, will harm them by intercepting at least some of their private, foreign, telephone, or e-mail conversations. In my view, this harm is not “speculative.” Indeed it is as likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen. This Court has often found the occurrence of similar future events sufficiently certain to support standing. I dissent from the Court’s contrary conclusion.

    No one here denies that the Government’s interception of a private telephone or e-mail conversation amounts to an injury that is “concrete and particularized.” Moreover, the plaintiffs seek as relief a judgment declaring unconstitutional (and enjoining enforcement of) a statutory provision authorizing those interceptions; and, such a judgment would redress the injury by preventing it. Thus, the basic question is whether the injury, i.e., the interception, is “actual or imminent.”

    Several considerations, based upon the record along with commonsense inferences, convince me that there is a very high likelihood that Government, acting under the authority of § 1881a, will intercept at least some of the communications just described. First, the plaintiffs have engaged, and continue to engage, in electronic communications of a kind that the 2008 amendment, but not the prior Act, authorizes the Government to intercept. These communications include discussions with family members of those detained at Guantanamo, friends and acquaintances of those persons, and investigators, experts and others with knowledge of circumstances related to terrorist activities. These persons are foreigners located outside the United States. They are not “foreign power[s]” or “agent[s] of … foreign power[s].” And the plaintiffs state that they exchange with these persons “foreign intelligence information,” defined to include information that “relates to” “international terrorism” and “the national defense or the security of the United States.”

    Second, the plaintiffs have a strong motive to engage in, and the Government has a strong motive to listen to, conversations of the kind described. A lawyer representing a client normally seeks to learn the circumstances surrounding the crime (or the civil wrong) of which the client is accused. At the same time, the Government has a strong motive to conduct surveillance of conversations that contain material of this kind. And the Government is motivated to do so, not simply by the desire to help convict those whom the Government believes guilty, but also by the critical, overriding need to protect America from terrorism.

    Third, the Government’s past behavior shows that it has sought, and hence will in all likelihood continue to seek, information about alleged terrorists and detainees through means that include surveillance of electronic communications.

    Fourth, the Government has the capacity to conduct electronic surveillance of the kind at issue. Of course, to exercise this capacity the Government must have intelligence court authorization. But the Government rarely files requests that fail to meet the statutory criteria. As the intelligence court itself has stated, its review under § 1881a is “narrowly circumscribed.” There is no reason to believe that the communications described would all fail to meet the conditions necessary for approval. Moreover, compared with prior law, § 1881a simplifies and thus expedites the approval process, making it more likely that the Government will use § 1881a to obtain the necessary approval.

    The upshot is that (1) similarity of content, (2) strong motives, (3) prior behavior, and (4) capacity all point to a very strong likelihood that the Government will intercept at least some of the plaintiffs’ communications, including some that the 2008 amendment, § 1881a, but not the pre-2008 Act, authorizes the Government to intercept.

    At the same time, nothing suggests the presence of some special factor here that might support a contrary conclusion. The Government does not deny that it has both the motive and the capacity to listen to communications of the kind described by plaintiffs. Nor does it describe any system for avoiding the interception of an electronic communication that happens to include a party who is an American lawyer, journalist, or human rights worker. One can, of course, always imagine some special circumstance that negates a virtual likelihood, no matter how strong. But the same is true about most, if not all, ordinary inferences about future events. Perhaps, despite pouring rain, the streets will remain dry (due to the presence of a special chemical). But ordinarily a party that seeks to defeat a strong natural inference must bear the burden of showing that some such special circumstance exists. And no one has suggested any such special circumstance here.

    Consequently, we need only assume that the Government is doing its job (to find out about, and combat, terrorism) in order to conclude that there is a high probability that the Government will intercept at least some electronic communication to which at least some of the plaintiffs are parties. The majority is wrong when it describes the harm threatened plaintiffs as “speculative.”

    The majority more plausibly says that the plaintiffs have failed to show that the threatened harm is “certainly impending.” But, as the majority appears to concede, certainty is not, and never has been, the touchstone of standing. The future is inherently uncertain. Yet federal courts frequently entertain actions for injunctions and for declaratory relief aimed at preventing future activities that are reasonably likely or highly likely, but not absolutely certain, to take place. And that degree of certainty is all that is needed to support standing here.

    The Court’s use of the term “certainly impending” is not to the contrary. Sometimes the Court has used the phrase “certainly impending” as if the phrase described a sufficient, rather than a necessary, condition for jurisdiction. On other occasions, it has used the phrase as if it concerned when, not whether, an alleged injury would occur. On still other occasions, recognizing that “‘imminence’ is concededly a somewhat elastic concept,” the Court has referred to, or used (sometimes along with “certainly impending”) other phrases such as “reasonable probability” that suggest less than absolute, or literal certainty. Taken together the case law uses the word “certainly” as if it emphasizes, rather than literally defines, the immediately following term “impending.”

    More important, the Court’s holdings in standing cases show that standing exists here. The Court has often found standing where the occurrence of the relevant injury was far less certain than here. Moreover, courts have often found probabilistic injuries sufficient to support standing.

    How could the law be otherwise? Suppose that a federal court faced a claim by homeowners that (allegedly) unlawful dam-building practices created a high risk that their homes would be flooded. Would the court deny them standing on the ground that the risk of flood was only 60, rather than 90, percent?

    Would federal courts deny standing to a plaintiff in a diversity action who claims an anticipatory breach of contract where the future breach depends on probabilities? The defendant, say, has threatened to load wheat onto a ship bound for India despite a promise to send the wheat to the United States. No one can know for certain that this will happen. Perhaps the defendant will change his mind; perhaps the ship will turn and head for the United States. Yet, despite the uncertainty, the Constitution does not prohibit a federal court from hearing such a claim.

    While I express no view on the merits of the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims, I do believe that at least some of the plaintiffs have standing to make those claims. I dissent, with respect, from the majority’s contrary conclusion.

    Notes, Comments, and Questions

    As the two previous cases indicate, the power of the executive to conduct electronic surveillance increases when the actions are authorized by Congress. While it may be that the President can lawfully order warrantless surveillance in some cases without congressional approval, executive power is more robust when implementing legislative directives, and it is weakest when defying a congressional prohibition. Students interested more generally in the interplay of executive power and legislation should review Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) (the “Steel Seizures” case), particularly the concurring opinion of Justice Jackson.

    Justice Jackson wrote: “When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum.” “When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain.” “When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb.”


    It has long been the position of the United States government that torture is not only unlawful but is among the most terrible of crimes. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the U.S. signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the “Convention Against Torture”), and Reagan urged the Senate to ratify the treating, writing:

    “Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.”

    The Senate eventually ratified the treaty, to which the United States remains a party. President Reagan did not break new ground for the United States in announcing the government’s opposition to torture. Indeed, the U.S. military convicted several Japanese officials of torturing prisoners during World War II, and some of the convicts were executed. Even earlier, the Eighth Amendment—ratified in 1791—prohibited the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.”

    To be sure, agents of the United States have indeed tortured prisoners from time to time. During the Philippine-American War, for example, U.S. torture of Filipino captives was well documented.3 Some of the police interrogations discussed earlier in this book involved torture (see Chapter 22 in particular). Nonetheless, American politicians and judges have widely denounced torture and have described its use by Americans as aberrant, unlawful behavior.

    Soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, certain high U.S. officials argued that the President had authority to order torture if—in the president’s judgment—the torture would protect national security. Professor John Yoo of Berkeley Law, who wrote some of the formerly secret memoranda while working at the Department of Justice, is among the lawyers most prominently associated with the arguments. DOJ Office of Legal Counsel attorney Jay Bybee, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, issued another memo that defined torture quite narrowly—with the apparent purpose of allowing certain interrogation practices that had been previously barred as being a form of torture that could subject the interrogator to prosecution.

    The Supreme Court has not had the opportunity to evaluate the arguments raised in the “torture memos” (or similar arguments raised elsewhere) and thereby to decide if U.S. officials may order the torture of detainees—whether under the authority of legislation enacted pursuant to Article I of the Constitution, under the President’s inherent powers under Article II, or through some other legal theory. Your authors—like President Reagan, Senator McCain, and the judges who tried war crimes cases after World War II—believe that torture always violates the law. We intimate no view, however, on how the Court would decide the matter were it squarely presented during a time of national panic.4

    The “War on Terror”

    As part of the government’s effort to combat those responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001—along with various other state actors and non-state actors associated in some way with the “War on Terror”—U.S. officials treated detainees in ways that would not be lawful for purposes of ordinary crime control. For example, José Padilla, an American citizen, was arrested in Illinois in 2002 and imprisoned as an “enemy combatant.” In Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426 (2004), the Court considered whether the President has authority to jail Americans indefinitely, with no access to legal review of their detention, after declaring them “enemy combatants.” By a vote of 5-4, the Court avoided deciding the question based on jurisdictional grounds. Padilla was eventually tried in a standard civilian court for crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder. He was convicted and is currently in federal prison.

    In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), the Court addressed the merits of a similar case when another U.S. citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi, was accused of fighting in support of the Taliban. In a plurality opinion joined by three other Justices, Justice O’Connor wrote, “We hold that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged here, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker.” Hamdi was subsequently released after agreeing to renounce his U.S. citizenship, and he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

    In Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), the Court held that foreign nationals also had a due process right to contest their indefinite imprisonment in the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Court reaffirmed this principle in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), holding that Congress could not divest federal courts of jurisdiction to hear such challenges brought by foreign nationals (thereby striking down Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Pub. L. 109-366).

    A few other cases have shown a Supreme Court more hesitant to involve itself, and the judiciary more broadly, in the “War on Terror” debate. For example, in Arar v. Ashcroft, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held a rare en banc hearing on whether a civil plaintiff (formerly detained as a suspected Al-Qaeda operative) could obtain relief related to his removal by the United States to Syria, where U.S. officials had reason to expect he would be tortured.5 After the Second Circuit judges—who wrote five separate opinions—held that Arar could not recover, the Supreme Court denied certiorari.6

    Along with Clapper v. Amnesty International, the detainee cases illustrate the complicated relationship between Congress, the executive, and the courts in setting national security policy. Executive officials can sometimes avoid judicial review by mooting cases (such as by moving Padilla to a civilian court), and the Court occasionally seems eager to avoid deciding important questions in this area. Sometimes, however, the Court is willing and able to assert its authority.

    This book barely offers even a cursory review of this complicated area of law. Students should consider how much the law of ordinary criminal procedure—with its concerns for due process and its prohibitions on things like coerced confessions—can and should be part of the “War on Terror” or other issues of national security.

    * * *

    One Final Series of Questions

    Before putting this book away, please return to the questions posed at the end of Chapter 6. We asked you to consider:

    “If Americans better understood Supreme Court doctrine related to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, do you think they would have more or less faith in the criminal justice system? Why?”

    What do you think now?

    We also asked:

    “If you are unhappy with the state of policing, how might things be improved? If instead you think policing is going fairly well, to what do you attribute the discontent exhibited during the 2020 protests?”

    Have your answers to these questions changed as you learned more about criminal procedure law?

    A Thank You to Our Students

    There is no next chapter for us to summarize here. Thank you for joining us on this tour of American criminal procedure law. We especially appreciate our Fall 2018 students at the University of Missouri School of Law for serving as the initial test subjects for this book.