The 9/11 Terror Cases

Constitutional Challenges in the War against Al Qaeda

Allan A. Ryan

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are indelibly etched into our cultural memory. This is the story of how the legal ramifications of that day brought two presidents, Congress, and the Supreme Court into repeated confrontation over the incarceration of hundreds of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants at the US naval base in Guantánamo, Cuba. Could these prisoners (including an American citizen) be held indefinitely without due process of law? Did they have the right to seek their release by habeas corpus in US courts? Could they be tried in a makeshift military judicial system? With Guantánamo well into its second decade, these questions have challenged the three branches of government, each contending with the others, and each invoking the Constitutions separation of powers as well as its checks and balances.

In The 9/11 Terror Cases, Allan A. Ryan leads students and general readers through the pertinent cases: Rasul v. Bush and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, both decided by the Supreme Court in 2004; Hamdan v. Bush, decided in 2006; and Boumediene v. Bush, in 2008. An eloquent writer and an expert in military law and constitutional litigation, Ryan is an adept guide through the nuanced complexities of these cases, which rejected the sweeping powers asserted by President Bush and Congress, and upheld the rule of law, even for enemy combatants. In doing so, as we see clearly in Ryan's deft account, the Supreme Court's rulings speak directly to the extent and nature of presidential and congressional prerogative, and to the critical separation and balance of powers in the governing of the United States.

“A breath of fresh air amongst the numerous books written by politicians, journalists, academics, military and intelligence officers following the attacks of September 11. . . . [Provides] an objective analysis of a very complicated topic: the challenges made to the US Constitution following the invasion of Afghanistan and how the American legal and political system has responded to such challenges.

—H-Net Reviews

“An in-depth and accessible explanation for both the origins and complexities of the detainee cases. [Ryan] examines the cases through the lens of the separation of powers system, demonstrating the back and forth between the executive, Congress, and courts on these issues.

—Congress & the Presidency
See all reviews...

About the Author

Allan A. Ryan teaches the law of war at Harvard University and Boston College Law School. He has served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White on the US Supreme Court, assistant to the US Solicitor General and as director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. His books include Yamashita's Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur's Justice and Command Accountability.

Additional Titles in the Landmark Law Cases and American Society Series