Aziz Huq

Aziz Huq directs the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. He is  also the co-author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror.

Recent Articles

Obama's Minimalist Approach to Guantanamo

Obama's draft executive order on closing Guantánamo still doesn't go far enough toward addressing the worst of the Bush administration's moral and legal quagmires.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden and retired military members, signs executive orders and a presidential directive aimed at closing the Guantánamo Bay detention center. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
As majestic and spacious as it is vague, President Obama's draft executive order directing the shuttering of the prison colony at Guantánamo is at once transformative and evasive. Obama has taken a critical step in the right direction. But he has also evaded the hardest moral and legal quagmires of the Bush administration, denying both his critics a target and the many innocent detainees the swift relief they deserve. The result is a masterpiece of subtle political indirection -- one that captures and exploits the moral poverty and specious reasoning of national debate over Guantánamo, even as it offers a promissory note for transformation in the future. To understand the draft executive order's acuity and its limits, it's helpful to recall a term popularized by Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor, former Obama adviser, and the new head of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- "minimalism." According to Sunstein, " minimalism " is the best way for...

Justice Scalia's Dueling Opinions

Scalia's opinion in the ruling overturning D.C.'s gun ban shows the flaws of his trademark judicial thinking.

Justice Scalia's opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller , invalidating the District of Columbia's gun law, is significant on account of more than its bare holding conclusion that Americans have a personal right to carry a firearm. Scalia's arguments and logic have implications for how an increasingly conservative Court treats cases. For careful readers, Heller has striking lessons about whose rights the Court protects, what "judicial modesty" in fact means, and the quality of respect the Court shows for democratic institutions. If Heller is a harbinger of decisions to come, it should sow deep concern. To understand Heller 's importance, it is worth setting it alongside another opinion that Justice Scalia wrote this term. In Boumediene v. Bush the Court invalidated Section 7 of the 2006 Military Commission Act, which denied Guantánamo detainees the right of habeas corpus . In Boumediene , Justice Scalia, joined by Roberts, Thomas, and Alito, filed a fiery dissent criticizing the...

Keeping God Out of It

Two new books consider the modern and historical separation between religion and politics in the Western world.

The Stillborn God: Religion Politics, and the Modern West by Mark Lilla (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007) A Secular Age by Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press, 2007) * * * There is a scene in one of Ian Rankin's marvelous Inspector Rebus detective novels at which a young English police-woman, freshly posted to Rebus's Edinburgh, errs in her choice of soccer team. She gets a short tutorial on the importance of religion in the contemporary world. There are different teams, she's told, "'wherever you've got Catholics and Protestants in the same place.' Manchester had United (Catholics) and City (Protestant), Liverpool had Liverpool (Catholic) and Everton (Protestant). It only got complicated in London. London even had Jewish teams." Liberals and (most) conservatives in America and Europe share pride in a political order that places most questions about religion beyond political debate. With exception of some Regent University alumni , few among us openly wish a return to pre-Enlightenment...

Government Snooping in a Digital Age

A newly updated book on telecom surveillance shows how the president's expanded intelligence-gathering powers go way beyond tapping phone lines -- and why we should all be very, very concerned.

Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau (The MIT Press, 400 pages) - - - Less than ten years ago, two respected research engineers wrote a book about privacy and telecommunications. In large measure, that book, by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, focused on cryptography -- the science of encrypting information -- and the Clinton administration's insistence on installing "escrow" devices, or backdoors into encryption systems, that only it could access. Today, that debate on encryption seems rather quaint. The Patriot Act now endorses government "carnivore" programs that can gather information about who visits what Web sites. Since 2001, the National Security Agency has been conducting a massive program of warrantless electronic surveillance of both domestic and foreign communications with the cooperation of all but one U.S. telecommunications carrier. And just this month, the Protect America Act punched a Mack truck through...

Explosive Reactions

Two new books show that reckoning with suicide bombing means not just taking account of the tactic itself, but also the reactions it purposefully provokes.

On Suicide Bombing by Talal Asad (Columbia University Press, 144 pages) Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror by Mia Bloom (Columbia University Press, 280 pages) - - - The suicide bomber is a person who enters a space full of human life, to say, in effect, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." With the insidiousness of the plague, suicide bombing has spread from Sri Lanka and the Middle East to infect the globe, carried largely by the vector of violent Islamist ideology. In Iraq, political scientist Mia Bloom reports, there were between 273 and 487 suicide attacks between May 2003 and January 2006. The cause of her uncertainty about the actual number of bombings is horribly evident, as they've become increasingly prevalent in the past decade. In Afghanistan, where ten years of conflict with the Soviets between 1979 and 1989 involved not one suicide attack, there have been 132 suicide attacks from December 2001 to this January. And in Pakistan, where suicide bombings were...

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