Yale law school dean Harold Hongju Koh and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., spoke at the UW law building Friday on the detrimental effects of the executive branch's effort over time to increase its national security power.
The Kastenmeier lecture titled "The National Security Constitution in a Time of Terror," featured Koh, and included a live address from Petri and a video message from U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
"The true spirit of our National Security Constitution ... is in fact not a unilateral presidential power, but a power shared among Congress, the president and the courts," Koh said.
In Koh's 1990 book, "The National Security Constitution: Sharing Power after the Iran-Contra Affair," he says the executive branch inappropriately enhances its role in national security, and thus jeopardizes the balance described under the Constitution.
Although his book focuses on the aftermath of the Iran Contra Affair, Koh said in his speech this idea is still existent in today's politics.
Koh described how the impact of historical events, as well as Sept. 11, 2001, changed the tide of U.S. policy.
He described the current administration as contributing to the shift toward the disregard of checks and balances, mainly with Supreme Court appointments, and called for a return to policy under just law.
Petri and Koh agreed that above all, individual rights should be protected. "We should not permanently expand the power of the state at the expense of individual liberty to deal with what we hope and expect are temporary threats," Petri said.
Koh also denounced the nation's involvement in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the practices of water boarding as recent examples of the United States' ability to stray from common law. Feingold touted Koh's insights, and although he was scheduled to be at Friday's event, left a video message instead.
"I regret that I can't be there in person because I know how insightful his remarks will be," Feingold said in the message. "I can't say enough about Harold's intellect, thoughtful approach to complex issues, and his outstanding leadership in the areas of human and civil rights."
Friday's event was made possible by a fund established to honor Robert W. Kastenmeier, a UW-Madison Law School graduate and member of the U.S. Congress from 1958-1990.
© 2007 The Daily Cardinal via U-WIRE