National Security Law


NITs a No-Go: Disclosing Exploits and Technological Vulnerabilities in Criminal Cases

Rupinder K. Garcha

Network investigative techniques (NITs) are law enforcement tools that allow the government to hack into targeted computers by exploiting technological vulnerabilities. NITs have succeeded in identifying and locating criminal actors operating on the Dark Web where traditional investigative techniques have failed. They play a critical role in the investigation of cybercrime and in the national security sphere. But disclosure of a NIT’s code can render it useless and jeopardize government operations that rely on that code. In numerous federal cases, criminal defendants have sought access to NIT code, and courts have had to decide whether the government must disclose the code. The government’s interest in confidentiality is inherently at tension with criminal defendants’ right to discovery and information material to their defense.
In order to make informed decisions about disclosure, courts must be cognizant of the equities at stake and understand technical details about NITs. Courts can better equip themselves by holding ex parte and in camera proceedings, and appointing experts to augment their understanding of technical issues. These procedures can ensure that the government is held accountable, defendants’ rights are protected, and NIT code is preserved. As the Dark Web expands, cybercrime is likely to become more pervasive, and criminal actors will devise more sophisticated means of anonymizing their presence online. Law enforcement will have to respond creatively and courts must be prepared to tackle novel issues that straddle technology and law.

The Supreme Court During Crisis

Lee Epstein, Daniel E. Ho, Gary King, Jeffrey A. Segal

How War Affects Only Non-War Cases

Does the U.S. Supreme Court curtail rights and liberties when the nation’s security is under threat? In hundreds of articles and books, and with renewed fervor since September 11, 2001, members of the legal community have warred over this question. Yet, not a single large-scale, quantitative study exists on the subject. Using the best data available on the causes and outcomes of every civil rights and liberties case decided by the Supreme Court over the past six decades and employing methods chosen and tuned especially for this problem, our analyses demonstrate that when crises threaten the nation’s security, the justices are substantially more likely to curtail rights and liberties than when peace prevails. Yet paradoxically, and in contradiction to virtually every theory of crisis jurisprudence, war appears to affect only cases that are unrelated to the war. For these cases, the effect of war and other international crises is so substantial, persistent, and consistent that it may surprise even those commentators who long have argued that the Court rallies around the flag in times of crisis. On the other hand, we find no evidence that cases most directly related to the war are affected.

We attempt to explain this seemingly paradoxical evidence with one unifying conjecture. Instead of balancing rights and security in high stakes cases directly related to the war, the justices retreat to ensuring the institutional checks of the democratic branches. Since rights-oriented and process-oriented dimensions seem to operate in different domains and at different times, and often suggest different outcomes, the predictive factors that work for cases unrelated to the war fail for cases related to the war. If this conjecture is correct, federal judges should consider giving less weight to legal principles established during wartime for ordinary cases, and attorneys should see it as their responsibility to distinguish cases along these lines.

Counterterrorism and Checks and Balances: The Spanish and American Examples

Ari D. MacKinnon

Although the United States’ so-called “War on Terror” has entailed significant military action, it has also involved the augmentation of the executive’s law enforcement powers. The result has been the emergence of a distinct “counterterrorism” model of coercive government action, falling between the traditional models of war and criminal law enforcement. This Note seeks to place the U.S. counterterrorism model within a larger international context by comparing it with that of another Western democracy, Spain. The author contends that the U.S. model evinces less respect for customary checks and balances than does the Spanish. Nonetheless, the author questions whether the Spanish model’s greater relative commitment to checks and balances has in practice prevented government overreaching. The author concludes that both the Spanish executive and Parliament have overstepped the bounds of their constitutionally prescribed counterterrorism competences, despite the existence of checks and balances. In addition to suggesting that these excesses may be partially attributed to the institutional heritage of Francoist Spain, the author surmises that government overreaching may be endemic in any regime, such as the Spanish, that transparently vests special counterterrorism competences in the executive and legislative branches.

An Unfree Trade in Ideas: How OFAC’s Regulations Restrain First Amendment Rights

Tracy J. Chin

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is charged with administering the United States’ trade sanctions programs. These programs conflict with the First Amendment when they prevent publishers and editors from working with authors from sanctioned countries. This Note highlights the shortcomings of OFAC’s pub- lishing regulations. It focuses on the agency’s exclusion of foreign government officials (“the government exception”) from the First Amendment protections given to those who engage in publishing-related activities. The Note argues that the government exception amounts to an improper prior restraint under the First Amendment and creates the potential for censorship. The Note then challenges and critiques national security– and economic-based justifications for the government exception. Lastly, it proposes regulatory and policy-based reforms to ensure that sanctions programs can function without sacrificing the rights and protections to which publishers, authors, and editors are entitled under the First Amendment.

Resetting Scales: An Examination of Due Process Rights in Material Support Prosecutions

Benjamin Yaster

One of the tools the Department of Justice has used in the War on Terror is 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which makes it a crime to donate material support knowingly to Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The statute has raised several constitutional questions, including whether it violates the Due Process Clause’s principle of “personal guilt”—a principle the Supreme Court announced nearly fifty years ago in Scales v. United States—because it does not require the government to prove a defendant’s specific intent. Thus far, there has been little analysis of this due process question; this Note aims to help fill that gap. First, this Note argues that although issues of personal guilt are similar to those found in First Amendment expressive association cases, the due process test is an independent analysis. Yet, cleaving the due process and First Amendment questions leaves a problem: how to give content to the Scales principle of personal guilt. Second, this Note argues that courts should look to extant substantive criminal law—in particular, the doctrines of conspiracy and complicity—for analogies that shed light on just how Scales bears on § 2339B.

Resorting to Extraordinary Writs: How the All Writs Act Rises to Fill the Gaps in the Rights of Enemy Combatants

Dimitri D. Portnoi

The indefinite detention of prisoners at Guanta ́namo Bay Naval Base raises serious concerns about what rights those detainees are entitled to and whether detainees will have the power to exercise them. How, for instance, could a detainee pursue a meaningful appeal of a decision of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal without effective assistance of counsel? How could a detainee challenge his detention when the U.S. government renders that detainee to foreign custody? The All Writs Act, a broad and historic statute originally codified in the Judiciary Act of 1789, provides that “courts may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” The Act grants the courts equitable power to issue injunctions that ensure that litigants’ substantive rights are not frustrated by interstices in the applicable law. It is in this Act that district courts exercising habeas corpus jurisdiction found detainees’ rights to effective assistance of counsel and thirty days’ notice prior to transfer to foreign custody. While the Military Commissions Act stripped the courts of habeas jurisdiction with respect to alien enemy combatants, the equitable power granted by the All Writs Act can attach to any jurisdiction, including the appellate power given to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review determinations made at Guanta ́namo Bay. This Note provides a roadmap that courts should apply when considering whether to issue an All Writs Act injunction, and concludes that such injunctions are not only permissible but also an appropriate and important exercise of the courts’ power.

An Administrative Law Approach to Reforming the State Secrets Privilege

Beth George

Many scholars assert that the common law state secrets privilege is abused by government officials who use it to cover up misconduct or prevent embarrassment. For the second time in two sessions, Congress is considering a bill that would require substantive judicial review of the privilege: If the government invokes the privilege, a judge would be required to review each document and determine whether its revelation would harm national security. This Note argues that judicial review alone is unlikely to reform the state secrets privilege effectively because it does not address the underlying incentives that encourage abuse of the privilege by the executive branch. A risk-adverse judiciary is unlikely to challenge assertions of grave harm to national security except in the most blatant cases of abuse. This Note builds the case that administrative law–based reforms will deter government abuse more effectively than judicial review alone by creating disincentives that discourage invocation of the privilege. By making invocation of the privilege more administratively burdensome and by putting the professional credibility of officials who may not benefit from its use on the line, the reforms proposed here would more effectively discourage overreaching in the state secrets privilege context.

Privacy, Free Speech, and the Patriot Act

Patrick P. Garlinger

First and Fourth Amendment Limits on National Security Letters

Congress’s passage of the Patriot Act after 9/11 expanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) information-gathering authority to issue national security letters (NSL). Without any judicial review, the FBI issues NSLs to telecommunications providers to obtain customer subscriber information, including sources of payment, records of Internet activity, addressees and subject lines of emails, websites visited, and search queries. Because a subscriber has voluntarily given the data to a third party, the NSL is not considered a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes, under the so-called “third-party doctrine.” To overcome this constitutional shortcoming, commentators have argued that the chilling effect NSLs have on the exercise of free speech makes such investigations suspect under the First Amendment.

Despite the appeal of the First Amendment argument, this Note argues that a subscriber’s free speech claim against an NSL faces more significant doctrinal hurdles than scholars have recognized: The First Amendment does not directly protect privacy, making a chilling effect claim hard to sustain. Furthermore, the standard of review in First Amendment cases may be too deferential to the government because the Patriot Act does not directly target speech, only data related to communicative activity. Instead, this Note proposes statutory reform for more enhanced judicial review and considers how the First Amendment could be used, not as an independent challenge, but rather as a basis for modifying the third-party doctrine. The Note concludes that the concern for chilling free speech is valid, and although First Amendment doctrine may not provide the means to defeat an NSL, concern for free speech interests could provide courts with a rationale for finding a reasonable expectation of privacy in Internet data, thus strengthening our currently impoverished Fourth Amendment safeguards.

National Security Preemption: The Case of Chemical Safety Regulation

Michael Jo

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserted federal preemption of state law governing the security of chemical facilities. The continuing controversy over chemical security preemption reveals one way in which executive power asserts itself in the national security context: the reclassification of seemingly domestic regulatory concerns as matters of national security and the consequent constriction of state regulatory authority. This Note analyzes the DHS’s chemical security regulations as a case study for the problem of national security preemption. It argues that the presumption of federal supremacy in foreign affairs can ratify conclusory and unsupported preemption claims because the national security interest mixes both foreign and domestic affairs, while the only doctrinal guidance for defining that interest comes from contested foreign affairs preemption doctrines. The Note proposes that, if strengthened, deference doctrines drawn from administrative law provide the best means of scrutinizing and limiting such claims of executive authority. Agency claims of preemption on the basis of national security should be subject to heightened scrutiny. Such scrutiny is more useful than the stalemated positions of the law and security debate for policing the state-federal divide in national security.

The Functional Political Question Doctrine and the Justiciability of Employee Tort Suits Against Military Service Contractors

Kristen L. Richer

In recent years, the U.S. military’s use of private contractors in waging its wars has drawn increased attention from the academic literature, largely related to the growing number of cases filed by U.S. servicemen and contractor personnel against companies like Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown & Root. These suits have garnered the attention of the legal academy, particularly as federal courts dismiss such suits as nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine—a doctrine of judicial restraint long associated with voting rights and gerrymandering caselaw. The recent application of the political question doctrine to cases involving military contractors raises familiar questions regarding the scope of the judiciary’s role in monitoring the actions of coordinate branches and the pragmatism of the judiciary playing such a role at all. This Note considers these matters through the lens of the functional political question doctrine. It concludes that while federal courts may have the institutional capacity to play some role in administering tort suits against private contractor firms, that participation should be carefully cabined to avoid any judicial interference with the military’s authority to set standards for combat. Thus, while in-field negligence claims will usually present nonjusticiable political questions, fraudulent recruitment claims will not.