Interview: George Terwilliger on habeas corpus

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One of the more vexing questions in America since the attacks of September 11th is how to balance individual liberties with protection from terrorist violence.

Monday at the University of Vermont that dilemma will be explored in depth with multiple presentations by nationally recognized legal experts, and a panel discussion: "The Constitutional Rights of the Individual During Times of War versus National Security Needs of the Nation."

One of the panelists is familiar to Vermonters, George Terwilliger was Vermont’s chief federal prosecutor as United States Attorney for the District of Vermont. He also served as Deputy Attorney General under the first President Bush. And as a practicing international attorney, he currently represents former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned amid allegations of improper firings of several U.S. attorneys.

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Terwilliger about rights versus security as it applies to the writ of Habeas Corpus, which guarantees an individual under arrest be brought before a court to determine if the charges against him are justified. The writ can be traced back to the 14th century and is the only writ to survive its English origins to be adopted into the U.S. Constitution.

Its most recent public scrutiny was revealed in the cases of two U.S. citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi– both arrested on suspicion of being enemy combatants but charged withn no specific crime, and held indefinitely. The U.S. Supreme Court deferred the Padilla case but ruled against the Bush administration in the case of Hamdi, saying he could not be held indefintely in a military prison without the assistance of a lawyer.

Terwilliger says Habeus Corpus in a post-9/11 America cannot automatically
be assumed to hold sway.

Click listen to hear the entire interview.

Terwilliger will be part of a panel "The Constitutional Rights of the Individual During Times of War or Other National Emergency vs. National Security Needs of the Nation," at the University of Vermont, presented with the U.S. District Court, on Monday at 1:30.

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