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Judges are not ‘experts in terrorism’ at U.N. event- Breyer

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 08:11 GMT, Mar 11, 2016 |
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United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer spoke in advance of a United Nations briefing on “The effective adjudication of terrorism cases” on Thursday (March 10). Breyer highlighted the power of the U.S. Constitution and that not even the president of the U.S. was exempt from law.

“If you look at Guantanamo, you will see that the detainees of Guantanamo are not popular people in the United States. You think bin Laden’s chauffeur is a popular person? No,” Breyer said. “But four times they brought cases to the Supreme Court against people who were very powerful, the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, four times they won. And the court held a law that was designed to keep them out of court, was unconstitutional. Right? And what is the key to those four decisions? In my opinion? I joined the decision that said this, ‘The Constitution of the United States, which is an old, small but powerful document, does not write the president a blank check, no blank check, not even in time of war.'”

He stressed that although judges were not experts in dealing with national and international security, they were put in place to protect civil liberties and human rights.

“We are not experts in terrorism,” Breyer said. “We do not understand war, we do not understand security problems, we are not in the CIA. So what do we do? We do however, have something to do with civil liberties and basic protections of human rights. So we’re involved. No blank check? How do we do it? I wish I had a good answer for you. Here we are, we get to the interesting part and you learn nothing. But I think that one of the things we can do is find out what each other is doing.”