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

First, Do Harm

Dr. Steven H. Miles is the author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror (Random House 2006). Miles, an expert in medical ethics, human rights, and international health care, is professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a faculty member of its Center for Bioethics. His book explores the role of military physicians in aiding and abetting abuse and torture at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantamano. Why focus on the role of doctors in torture and abuse? I've done a lot of international relief work with international NGOs [non-governmental organizations], where I've been up to my eyeballs in human rights abuses. When the pictures from Abu Ghraib came out, it was clear that this was more than a matter of a few bad apples. You don't have torture of this kind without a command that authorizes it. The question then was why the doctors hadn't blown the whistle. I wrote an article for the medical journal Lancet...

The Real Osama

In March 1997, Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden , traveled to Afghanistan for CNN in order to interview Osama bin Laden and became one of only a handful of Western journalists to have met and spoken to the leader of al-Qaeda. Here, he talks about his new book, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader . Why write a biography of bin Laden? I wrote the book because I have an old-fashioned view of history: People matter. It's impossible to understand al-Qaeda without the personal stories of Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri. And it's not as if either of them has now disappeared from history: Not only did bin Laden affect history with the 9-11 attacks, but he continues to influence it. Through his cassettes and videotapes, he is playing an active role in al-Qaeda. You have bin Laden on tape ordering the attack on Coalition partners of the United States, and then you see the Madrid bombing. Al-...

Beyond Kafka

Your book spans a range from the myth of Orestes to the trials of Bernhard Goetz and O.J. Simpson. What changes did you observe during that long period? Trials throughout the pre-modern world were very often explicitly religious rituals. Punishments, meanwhile, treated criminals as pollutants or pests. In ancient Athens, for example, murderers supposedly emitted a vapor that could be cleansed only by a court hearing. Celtic druids burned wrongdoers in huge wicker men. And lawyers in late medieval Europe prosecuted animals and human corpses if they seemed blameworthy enough. It's too easy to dismiss those precedents as “superstitious.” Although our theories of proof and punishment have changed, I was always more struck by the continuities between past and present than by the differences. Trials are still structured so as to repair damage to the moral fabric of society. The hope remains that by exacting vengeance in court, we will achieve a moral balance. You began The Trial shortly...

The Other Side Of The Crackdown

On September 15, 2001, author Ian McEwan wrote for the Guardian a moving elegy to lives lost in the September 11 attacks by evoking the “snatched and anguished assertions of love” in final phone calls made from the hijacked planes and the World Trade Center. Nearly four years later, McEwan's mood had changed. Writing in The New York Times on July 8, 2005, he suggested a possible “trade” of liberty for security as London reeled from a series of bombings, some of which struck close to his south-of-the-Thames home. Like many others, McEwan had changed his view according to the proximity of danger. Tram Nguygen's new book about post-9-11 immigration enforcement makes an important contribution to the debate about the balance of rights and security. She examines counterterrorism strategies from a perspective often discounted in the formulation of national policy: that of those who most often find themselves at the wrong end of a gun barrel. She conjures concise and affecting images of urban...

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