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Mar 17

Past Event

Guantanamo Detainees: Is a National Security Court the Answer?

Event Materials



  • Stuart Taylor

    Taylor says the Obama administration is wrestling with the Guantanamo Bay issue but has done little, so far, to distinguish itself from President Bush''s stance on detainees.

    Stuart S. Taylor, Jr.

  • Jack Goldsmith

    Goldsmith says the most fundamental issue in the Guantanamo Bay controversy is whether our government can or should hold detainees on a non-criminal basis.

  • Patricia Wald

    Wald says there are a number of questions that must be answered when considering a National Security Court to handle the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

  • Harvey Rishikof

    Rishikof says managing the detainee issue in Guantanamo Bay is complex and offers a list of possible considerations.

  • Harvey Rishikof

    Rishikof says managing the detainee issue in Guantanamo Bay is complex and offers a list of possible considerations.


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President Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp has left many thorny questions for his administration to resolve.

How many of the 250 detainees—captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere—can be safely released? How many of the others can be criminally prosecuted? Are human rights groups right to demand the release of those who cannot be prosecuted, no matter how dangerous? Or should Obama continue the Bush policy of detaining as “enemy combatants” those who seem dangerous? If so, should Obama leave the final word on who is an enemy combatant to the federal judges who are reviewing detainees’ cases under a Supreme Court decision that left critical procedural issues unresolved? Or should he ask Congress to adopt new rules and to create a new national security court to administer them?

On March 17, the Brookings Institution hosted a Judicial Issues Forum in partnership with the Progressive Policy Institute to examine these questions. National Journal columnist and Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Stuart Taylor moderated a discussion with Harvard Law School’s Jack Goldsmith, National War College’s Harvey Rishikof, American University Washington College of Law’s Stephen I. Vladeck, and Patricia M. Wald, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and former judge of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia.

The Judicial Issues Forum is a series of public discussions at Brookings on jurisprudence and the role of the courts. The Forum hosts regular events to address the major legal and juridical debates and events of the day and weigh their implications.

At the end of the program, the panelists took audience questions.

Event Agenda

  • Moderator

  • Featured Panelists

    • Jack Goldsmith

      Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law

      Harvard Law School

    • Stephen I. Vladeck

      Associate Professor of Law

      American University Washington College of Law

    • Harvey Rishikof

      Professor of Law and National Security Studies

      National War College

    • Patricia M. Wald

      Former Chief Judge

      United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia


March 17, 2009

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT

The Brookings Institution

Saul/Zilkha Rooms

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105

SERIES: Judicial Issues Forum | No. 24