The National Security Court System: A Natural Evolution of Justice in an Age of Terror by Glenn Sulmasy

March 31, 2010

Hartmann Young

Glenn Sulmasy’s fine work, The National Security Court System: A Natural Evolution of Justice in an Age of Terror, was released in August 2009. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder therefore most likely did not benefit from Sulmasy’s analysis of military commissions before opting late last year to prosecute accused al Qaeda terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in federal district court in New York. Sulmasy emphatically counsels against trying accused Islamist terrorists in domestic civilian courts and recommends instead, as the title of his book suggests, a national security court system. Sulmasy’s book is part policy prescription, but it would be a valuable contribution even if it included only its initial chapters discussing the history of military commissions in the United States and their legality. Sulmasy’s dispassionate analysis of the major precedents discussing military tribunals will prove valuable to policymakers for years, despite the fact that Sulmasy’s national security court system remains for now only a possibility. Initially, Holder’s KSM decision risked rendering Sulmasy’s book irrelevant to the current debate, as the decision to try suspected terrorists in district court was presented as a fait accompli. Recently, however, indications that the Administration is second-guessing not only Manhattan but the entire district court system as appropriate for the KSM trial serve to underscore the continuing relevance of Sulmasy’s work...

Hartmann Young reviews The National Security Court System: A Natural Evolution of Justice in an Age of Terror