Jason T. Ritchie - Honors in Political Science
National Security vs. Civil Rights: Are President Bush's Military Tribunals Proper?


The Founders of our Republic drafted the Constitution to protect the fundamental rights of a free people. Animated debates existed during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and continue today in regard to how the federal government can best protect its citizens while at the same time guarding their rights. There is a fine line between the proper use of power and its abuse. These issues are examined in this paper in the context of the terrorist attacks on September 11. Heated debates arose when President Bush signed an executive order on November 13 permitting the use of military tribunals to try non-citizens who have been involved in terrorist activities. Most of the debates were concerned with the question of whether Bush's use of military tribunals is proper. I contend that their use is proper because of the extreme nature of the threat, the President acted under authorization from Congress, the charges consisting of violations of war validates their use, the terrorists are unlawful combatants, the rules and procedures of the tribunals are decided appropriately, and because Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights do not apply. These contentions are supported by the Constitution, the Supreme Court's decision in Ex Parte Quirin (1942), and international laws.