I have seen in an Oxfam shop, a book I think raises troublesome issues-on both sides of the “pond”, “In Time Of War: Hitler’s Terrorist Attack On America” by attorney Pierce O’Donnell ( The New Press, 2005) dealing with the trial of the eight Nazi saboteurs tried by military commission in 1942( leading to the execution by electric chair of six of their number- whilst the US Supreme Court was still considering their appeal which was issued two months after their execution- ex parte Quirin) and the “Roosevelt Court’s” attitude to the internment of Japanese Americans beginning in February)
Some may argue that these people got pretty much what they deserved- just as terrorists( be they Al Qaeda for Americans or the Provisional IRA in the UK during the NI “Troubles”),do nowadays but as us Brits found out during the “Troubles”( and Americans I suspect will find out with Al Qaeda), you play fast and loose with the rights of even those you most passionately and deservedly despise at your own peril.
“Enhanced interrogation techniques”, “military commissions”- once the floodgate opens for some, sooner and later, they will be used against others( Mafiosi, violent white supremacits, paedophiles)
If there is a hero in this book, it was US Army Brigadier General Kenneth C.Royall who acted as defence counsel for a group of people that most Americans in 1942 would have been happy to see summarily shot, and if there is a villain(next to the Nazi regime),it was the US Supreme Court of the day, whose submission to the White House(FDR informed the Court that irrespective of how they ruled. he would have them shot using his authority as Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces. O’Donnell makes the point that such ex parte communications were arguably not just unethical but impeachable- definitely NOT a"profile in courage"(to quote the title of a book by future President John F.Kennedy) just as its upholding of the internment of Japanese Americans( Korematsu v. United States) was.
The book’s title comes from the Latin phrase “inter arma ligens silencia”( in time of war, the laws are silent); perhaps the best commentary on the Court in those far off times is that it reflected the uncritical “Uncle Sam knows best” attitude that was typical of the America of the pre- Vietnam War, pre-Watergate generation.
Fortunately, the recent rulings by SCOTUS( esp Rasul v Bush, Hamdi v Rumsfeld) have reflected a more critical view of executive power in times of crisis!