Morton Halperin

Formerly director of policy planning at the Department of State (1998–2001), Morton H. Halperin is Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. He worked for many years for the American Civil Liberties Union, where he directed the Center for National Security Studies.

Recent Articles

Safe at Home

President Bush got one thing right: The greatest threat to American security is a rogue state providing a terrorist group with a weapon of mass destruction and the means to deliver it in the United States. Unfortunately, almost everything he has done since September 11 has made this problem worse rather than better. We need new policies, new approaches and new institutions to reduce this risk. The Bush administration took positive steps immediately following 9-11 that should be built upon. It went to the United Nations Security Council, worked collaboratively with the other permanent members and the entire council, and secured passage of a set of resolutions requiring states to take steps to curb international terrorism. The UN also established mechanisms for international cooperation in dealing with terrorist threats. Acting under the authority of Security Council resolutions, the United States intervened militarily in Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda bases of operation and remove the...

Deter and Contain

T he simplest question that supporters of going to war with Iraq cannot answer is why would Saddam Hussein be less likely to use his weapons of mass destruction if we attack than if we contain him. This debate, essentially within the Republican Party, closely mirrors the struggle over the proposed rollback of communism that raged in the GOP in the late 1940s and early 1950s -- until President Dwight Eisenhower settled it. As we currently debate whether some form of containment can work, it is worth reviewing the lessons of that history. Those who advocated preventive war against the Soviet Union advanced the same arguments being made today: Time is not on our side. We must act before Joseph Stalin gets nuclear weapons. He is a ruthless leader who is not rational and cannot be deterred. If we let Russia get nuclear weapons, she will use them to blackmail her neighbors and we will not be able to intervene for fear of provoking a nuclear exchange. When Dwight Eisenhower took office in...

Stockade Justice

E ven before the ink was dry on the antiterrorism bill, the Bush administration began relying less on powers granted it by a cowed Congress and more on assertions of inherent presidential authority. Several new actions--the establishment of military tribunals, the monitoring of lawyer-client conversations, the interrogation of several thousand Middle Eastern men, and the continued detention of hundreds of aliens--have violated the most basic principles of the American system of justice. Namely: Congress must authorize actions that limit liberty. The administration has acted without congressional authorization. An independent judiciary must be able to review officials' actions that limit liberty. The administration's latest order seeks to prevent the civilian judiciary from reviewing either the constitutionality of the procedures or their applicability to any individual. Limits on liberty must apply to the narrowest possible category consistent with their purpose. The scope of limits...

The Liberties We Defend

T he tragic and unbearable events of September 11 have united Americans and much of the world as they have not been united for many years. The Bush administration has a unique opportunity to create effective domestic and international structures to deal not only with terrorism but with the other twenty-first-century threats to national and international security. To do so, the administration will need to maintain its resoluteness but also change its fundamental approach in relating to the rest of the world. Before the terrorist attacks, the United States was telling other countries that it would do what it wanted to do and that they could like it or not and cooperate or not, as they chose. Now we are demanding that they follow our lead and actively back American counterterrorism efforts. At least the administration recognizes that it needs the help and cooperation of other states; but it still does not understand that, even in the face of this tragedy, support over the long run cannot...

Less Secure, Less Free

For civil libertarians, there was one extra nightmare when we finally got to sleep on that awful day of September 11, 2001. We knew that the Washington bureaucracy's wish list of additional powers to conduct surveillance of Americans would not be based on a careful analysis of what went wrong. We feared that in the new climate, Congress would rush through the Bush administration's request without reading the text. The result would be less liberty but no greater capability to prevent terrorist acts. Within a few days, civil-liberties advocates formed a broad coalition--Organizations in Defense of Liberty--and produced a statement emphasizing our support for necessary changes in how the government conducts surveillance and our confidence that, with hard work and goodwill, compromises can be found that protect both our security and our liberty (see www.indefenseoffreedom.org ). On the eve of the press conference announcing our coalition and its statement, an antiterrorism bill, described...

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