On Sept. 27, William Banks, a professor of law at Syracuse University and Director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, opened this year’s President’s Forum speaker series.
In addition to writing a textbook, “National Security Law,” Banks has worked with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Considered to be a leading expert on constitutional law, national security law and counterterrorism, Banks used his knowledge and experience to share some of the challenges that the Justice Department faces during the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
Banks’ talk, “Can Human Rights Survive the War on Terror?” examined the role of constitutional law in conjunction with national security, and highlighted two types of relevant court cases and their significance.
He first spoke of three cases involving men detained at Guantanamo Base in Cuba, with slightly different circumstances, that challenged the habeas corpus statute. He concluded that the Supreme Court, which recently ruled on the cases, appears willing to make a moderate statement on human rights, although the justices had shown a desire to play a strong role in steering the war.
The debate over Internet privacy is another issue that Banks said was critical with regard to the War on Terror. In the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there was concern over whether the federal government was overstepping its bounds and potentially violating civil liberties through its investigations of suspected terrorists, including examining the records of customers of Internet Service Providers, which he reminded the audience included nearly everyone in the room.
He also described the portion of the Patriot Act that allowed a library’s borrower records to be inspected, and the fact that the laws protecting individual privacy are significantly behind the technology curve.
In his introduction, HWS President Mark D. Gearan noted that Banks was quoted in that day’s New York Times in a story about President Bush’s proposal to allow troops to have a greater role in responding to natural disasters in the United States. The professor was one of those saying the president already had the authority to send in help.
The President's Forum Series was established in the winter of 2000 to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as interested community members.