- Andrew McCarthy, National Review Institute
Historically, protecting national security meant protecting one’s own citizens and sovereign territory from the threats or opposing interests of other nation-states. The concept has broadened, however, as transnational terrorists act with unprecedented scale and range: the threats they pose are of a magnitude previously only possible for nation-states, and they act indiscriminately among the several countries they feel justified in attacking. The United States’ interest in defeating these actors, then, is one that is shared by many other countries that are not necessarily our allies in a larger sense.
In this the final episode of our three-part Security Partnership Series, we discussed the benefits and limits of partnerships with foreign government agencies for counterterrorism purposes. What conditions form the basis of a productive partnership? How might such partnerships compromise our operations? How do we decide how much information to share? Does partnering with a foreign country’s intelligence agency limit our own independent intelligence gathering capabilities? Perhaps most controversially – what limits can or should be imposed on the methods used to collect the counterterrorism intelligence to be shared? Of the foreign governments that have publicly complained about the United States’ use of certain signals intelligence capabilities, do their intelligence agencies nevertheless desire the information collected? Likewise, although the United States has banned certain interrogation methods domestically, might our intelligence agencies nevertheless want to obtain human intelligence information gathered by foreign agencies using those or other similar methods?
The second Teleforum in our Security Partnership Series examined the complex mechanics and ethics of cyber partnerships and many important questions. Should government agencies be enlisting private security firms to help prevent hacking into their own systems? On the other hand, should insurance companies require private company customers to do the same? Should private corporations, particularly financial institutions, be required to report hacking incidents to the federal government, and, if so, to what agency, for what purpose? Consumer protection? Economic security? What are the lawful responses to being hacked for government or industry? Is the best defense a good offense? How effective are today’s consumer-level encryption algorithms? Does public/private cooperation on the cybersecurity front impact private companies’ willingness and ability to cooperate with intelligence investigations under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court?
As behavior in the cyber domain has perhaps become the most ubiquitous asymmetric threat to modern life, governments, companies, and individuals each have unprecedented exposure to theft and sabotage. Home networks are compromised through connected thermostats; commercial airliners’ flight controls have been hacked through in-flight entertainment systems; passwords and credit card data are stored on servers that are the targets of daily hacking attempts, with that data often appearing for sale online.
Over the last fifteen years, homeland security has become a field unto itself. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has become the second-largest federal executive department in the number of people it employs, and includes three law enforcement agencies and a military service (the United States Coast Guard). But the heavy responsibility of keeping Americans safe at home extends well beyond the jurisdiction of that department alone. Still at the federal level, the Department of Justice has four law enforcement agencies of its own, the Department of Defense is authorized to support domestic law enforcement and disaster response operations under certain circumstances (consistent with the Posse Comitatus Act), and the Departments of State, Treasury, Interior, Transportation, and Energy all have components that perform some domestic security-related functions.
Vertical integration has also been a strategic focus. DHS-led intelligence fusion centers, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) each include non-federal, that is state, local, or tribal personnel to help accomplish their missions, and surplus military-grade equipment has increasingly proliferated into local law enforcement. Each of these measures is controversial, with some municipalities attempting to limit by legislation their police forces’ participation in JTTFs, and many observers criticizing the increased “militarization” of law enforcement. Further, the rise of so-called “sanctuary cities” also pits some localities against federal immigration laws in ways that may have significance for counterterrorism efforts.
This first episode in our Security Partnership Teleforum Series explored the limits of federal, state, local, and tribal cooperation. Can and should federal authorities commission local law enforcement to surveil potential threats, and compel compliance with immigration enforcement efforts? How blurred is the line now between “domestic surveillance” for “domestic security” purposes (to which the Fourth Amendment applies) and broader national security concerns that have a foreign intelligence nexus that might be governed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? Are there limits on how technologies developed for intelligence gathering purposes may be used in law enforcement missions? What limits should there be on the military’s supplying equipment and training to law enforcement agencies?
On January 18, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Ziglar v. Abbasi, which was consolidated with the cases Ashcroft v. Abbasi and Hasty v. Abbasi. Ziglar v. Abbasi was part of a series of lawsuits brought by Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who were who were detained after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and treated as “of interest” in the ensuing government investigation. These plaintiffs contended, among other things, that the conditions of their confinement violated their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The defendants included high-level officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar, as well various detention officials. Some of the parties reached settlements, and the district court eventually dismissed some of the allegations against the DOJ officials for failure to state claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ Free Exercise claims, but otherwise reversed most of the district court’s judgment. Plaintiffs, the Second Circuit held, had adequately pleaded claims for violations of substantive due process, equal protection, the Fourth Amendment, and civil conspiracy, and Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants then sought, and the Supreme Court granted, a petition for writ of certiorari.
The questions now before the Supreme Court are threefold: (1) whether the Second Circuit, in finding that Plaintiffs’ due process claims did not arise in a “new context” for purposes of implying a remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, erred by defining “context” at too high a level of generality; (2) whether the Second Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity to Defendant Ziglar; and (3) whether the Second Circuit erred in holding that Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment Complaint met the pleading requirements identified by the Supreme Court in its 2009 decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.
To discuss the case, we have Jamil N. Jaffer, who is Adjunct Professor of Law and Director of the Homeland and National Security Law Program at the Antonin Scalia Law School.