Defense Lawyers: U.S. losing legal war on terror

By The West Virginia Record | Sep 11, 2007

CHICAGO --The United States is losing the legal war on terror, according to interviews the ABA Journal conducted with 50 defense attorneys who have litigated terror cases since 9/11.

The Journal also sought the opinions of 50 federal prosecutors who have handled terrorism cases since 9/11, but a Department of Justice official told them not to participate in the interviews.

Asked by the Journal "what grade would you give the entire U.S. justice system -– including the executive, legislative and judicial branches -– in the legal war on terror," the lawyers gave an average grade of D+.

Only 30 percent of the defense lawyers said terrorism cases brought in the federal courts since 9/11 have made the United States safer; 58 percent said they have not. Just 14 percent said terrorism laws passed by Congress since 9/11 have made the United States safer; 80 percent said they have not.

Of the three branches, the federal courts have acquitted themselves best in the legal war on terror, according to 80 percent of respondents. The executive branch has done the worst job, according to 84 percent.

Also, 59 percent of the defense attorneys said they would be willing to take on the case of Public Enemy Number, Osama bin Laden, while 23 percent of the defense lawyers said they would not.

The interviews are part of a special September issue of the Journal about the legal profession's role in the war on terror, six years after the 9/11 attacks. As the flagship publication of the American Bar Association, the Journal is read by over half a million lawyers every month.

The entire issue is available free online at

Among the other stories in the September issue are a "scorecard" of Department of Justice cases involving al-Qaida and the Taliban, an examination of Moussaoui v. the United States and Alan Dershowitz and other prominent lawyers' thoughts on representing Public Enemy Number 1, Osama bin Laden.

The ABA Journal covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. provides legal news continuously updated every business day, a directory of more than 1,000 blogs written by attorneys, and a complete archive of the magazine. The magazine's articles do not necessarily reflect the official policy positions of the American Bar Association.

With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.

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