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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2007

T C 357 • Legal Perspectives of the War on Terrorism - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44725 M
4:00 PM-7:00 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

This seminar will explore legal and ethical issues related to the response of the United States to 9/11 and threats of terrorism. The overall objective of the course is to examine (i) what is known about Al-Qaeda and international terrorism; (ii) past and recently enacted laws dealing with national security and terrorism; (iii) the challenges presented in trying to balance national security concerns with basic democratic principles of civil liberties, free speech, and due process of law, and also comply with international commitments for treatment of prisoners of war as set forth in the Geneva Conventions; and (iv) legal and ethical issues arising out of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including problems of holding U.S. and foreign citizens as "enemy combatants" and of interrogation methods and treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities.

The seminar is designed for students with a wide range of academic majors and experiences. It is not intended just for students who may be interested in attending law school. There will be extensive reading assignments and a substantial writing component; this seminar will likely take more time than a regular course. The last half of the semester will be devoted to small group or individual research projects. These projects involve researching and writing a term paper and giving an oral presentation to the class. The research paper may involve an analysis of a specific case or legal issue. For example, during the spring of 2005, research topics included: A Case Study of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen: the Prosecution and Deportation of a Graduate Student for Providing Material Support to Terrorism by Creating an Internet Site; Analysis of Federal Court Decisions on the Due Process Rights of Persons Detained as Enemy Combatants after the Supreme Court's Hamdi and Rasul Opinions; and Extraordinary Rendition of Detainees by the United States in the War on Terrorism.

Grading Policy

Short essays, memoranda and other writing assignments, and class presentations on assigned topics: 40%
Semester research project; including an outline, draft and revision, and final paper (approx 8000 words): 40%
Oral class presentation on research topic: 10%
Class participation: 10%

This seminar is limited to 16 students. The seminar format of this class is designed to encourage student interaction and open discussion and debate of important facts and principles. As we will be confronting a broad range of issues, the responsibility of each member to attend each class session and be prepared is very important. We will work together to make this an interesting and rewarding learning experience.

Your major research and writing assignment this semester will involve participating in a research project to document the available information on the prisoners who were sent by the United States to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and subsequently released. The objective of the project is to provide a data base of narrative information and supporting documentation on each prisoner who has been released from Guantanamo Bay. The information will include a written narrative about each prisoner, as well as information about where and how the prisoner was captured, why he was deemed by the U.S. to be an enemy combatant requiring detention at Guantanamo Bay, the reasons he was released, and any statements made by the prisoner about his treatment while at Guantanamo Bay. I am setting up a Guantanamo Detainee Data Base (GDDB) on the internet for this class in a "wikipedia" type format that contains the names of all detainees who the Department of Defense has acknowledged have been released from Guantanamo Bay. Each member of the seminar will be assigned 20 individuals who were sent to and released from Guantanamo Bay. Your assignment will be to research and write the stories related to those particular prisoners. Documenting the sources of information you find in your research is critical to this project and you must be careful to document exactly where the information was obtained (e.g., news article, television or radio interview, Combat Status Review Tribunal hearing transcript, attorney representing prisoner, legal documents, etc.). The prisoner reports you prepare will be placed on the internet to be used for further research by other students, scholars and policy makers. You will also be expected to attach and include in the GDDB copies of documents you locate about each prisoner you study. As part of this research assignment, you will be asked to write a 10-page paper analyzing whether the prisoners you researched were properly detained in accordance with applicable laws, including the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We will study and discuss those laws during the course of the semester.


New books and materials on the war on terrorism are being published weekly. A list of materials for students to purchase will be posted in early August 2005; the list will also be sent by email to registered students. Readings may include the following:

Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror
Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror
Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission
Seymour M. Hersh, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
Articles by Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker magazine on the 2004 Madrid bombing and a profile of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri
Legal memoranda, court cases, law review articles, documents and other materials related to the U.S response to terrorism


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