Nazi Saboteurs on Trial (Landmark Law Cases edition)
A Military Tribunal and American Law
Second Edition, Abridged and Updated
Landmark Law Cases and American Society
Sales Date: June 2, 2005
196 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: June 2005
The 9/11 attacks were not the first operations by foreign terrorists on American soil. In 1942, during World War II, eight Germans landed on our shores bent on sabotage. Caught before they could carry out their missions, under FDR’s presidential proclamation they were hauled before a secret military tribunal and found guilty. After the Supreme Court’s emergency session upheld the tribunal’s authority, six of the men were executed.
Louis Fisher chronicles the capture, trial, and punishment of the Nazi saboteurs in order to examine the extent to which procedural rights are suspended in time of war. One of America’s leading constitutional scholars, Fisher analyzes the political, legal, and administrative context of the Supreme Court decision Ex parte Quirin (1942), reconstructing a rush to judgment that has striking relevance to current events.
Fisher contends that the Germans’ constitutional right to a civil trial was hijacked by an ill-conceived concentration of power within the presidency, overriding essential checks from the Supreme Court, Congress, and the office of the Judge Advocate General. He reveals that the trials were conducted in secret not to preserve national security but rather to shield the government’s chief investigators and sentencing decisions from public scrutiny and criticism. Thus, the FBI’s bogus claim to have nabbed the saboteurs entirely on their own was allowed to stand, while the saboteurs’ death sentences were initially kept hidden from public view. Fisher also takes issue with the Bush administration’s mistaken citing of Ex parte Quirin as an “apt precedent” for trying suspected al Qaeda terrorists.
Concisely designed for students and general readers, this newly abridged and updated edition provides a cautionary tale as our nation struggles to balance individual rights and national security, as seen most clearly in the recent Supreme Court decisions relating to Yaser Esam Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and the “detainees” at Guantanamo.
"Fisher pulls no punches in identifying poor government decision making and deciding that much of what passed for "justice" was patently unconstitutional."—Law and History Review
“After 9/11, American civil liberties seem to have entered an Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole featuring indefinite detentions and predetermined verdicts—so very similar, as Fisher reminds us, to the wild departures from due process that characterized this famous 1942 case.”—Robert Justin Goldstein, author of Flag Burning and Free Speech
“Fisher’s fascinating and important account of the Supreme Court's decision in Ex parte Quirin reveals how poorly the justices resisted wartime pressures and how badly they failed to protect rights guaranteed by the constitution.”—Michal R. Belknap, author of The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court Martial of Lieutenant Calley
“One can only hope that Fisher’s compelling account enjoys a wide circulation.”—Jonathan Lurie, author of Military Justice in America
1. School for Saboteurs
2. Misadventures in America
3. The Military Tribunal at Word
4. The Supreme Court Steps In
5. Rethinking Tribunals
6. Bush’s Military Order in 2001
Index of Cases