TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In July 2008, President Bush amended EO 12333, further strengtheningthe DNI’s role in managing the Intelligence Community.Public International LawFinally, the growing body of public international law plays a significant rolein the calculus of how the US approaches national security issues, especiallyin times of conflict. Since public international law governs the legal relationshipsbetween and among nation-states, American security and counterterrorismaction relies upon these treaties and norms of conduct.International law most directly impacts US national security through aweb of treaties, executive agreements and other customary legal mechanismssuch as the Geneva Conventions and United Nations SecurityCouncil resolutions. While the US acts in concert with internationalorganizations to achieve certain security goals, the US also reserves theright to pursue its own national objectives independent of internationalguidelines. This is especially true when confronting the nebulous threatof international terrorism, as international law has yet to produce a comprehensivemechanism to approach the problem.There are several nascent international judicial systems, but they lackmechanisms to punish offenders without the specific assistance of nation-states.While there is precedent for courts to be created for specificoccasions—the Nuremburg trials following WWII and the InternationalCriminal Tribunal for Rwanda are two examples—and while the InternationalCriminal Court (which the US, China, Russia and other countrieshave declined to join) exists to prosecute genocide and other crimesagainst humanity, the ability of the international community to developa global judicial system remains in its infancy. For the foreseeable future,then, countering terrorists will remain a national, and not an international,enterprise.Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School21

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