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Terrorism and the Citizenry's Safety

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer 2002 Pages: 4-12
Andrew E. Taslitz
Date Published
9 pages
In addition to summarizing other articles in this issue, which address topics related to governmental strategies for preventing and countering terrorism within the United States, this article provides an overview of issues in guaranteeing citizens' constitutional rights while adopting measures designed to protect citizens.
The author advises that in the process of protecting our persons and our homes, governmental institutions must also protect the Nation's constitutional spirit, the rights-based culture that partly defines the American people and that safeguards individual liberty. He emphasizes the critical role played by the Bill of Rights' criminal procedure provisions in promoting an informed citizenry. Many of these provisions cluster around two specific protections: the rights to a public trial and to a trial by jury, rights that, broadly understood, will take center stage in the debate about how to process defendants charged with terrorist acts. A public trial involves the citizenry more actively in the daily monitoring of governmental abuses than do periodic elections. The open nature of the trial proceedings make it difficult for judges to manifest partiality, and public scrutiny of witnesses makes it more difficult for them to lie, but also more difficult for government officials to hide their misconduct. Other constitutional provisions likely to come into play in the management of persons charged with terrorist acts is the Confrontation Clause, the Compulsory Process Clause, and the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Although every constitutional right must bend, where necessary, in the face of countervailing state interests, with the protection of the safety of the citizenry being a weighty interest, the ideology of an informed citizenry committed to monitoring governmental abuses, as well as the critical role of lawyers in aiding the citizenry, requires caution and a quest for the least intrusive alternatives for protecting the citizenry's physical safety.


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