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How Obama Decides Your Fate If He Thinks You’re a Terrorist

Coauthored with Daniel Byman, The Atlantic, January 3, 2013 Over the past two years, the Obama administration has begun to formalize a so-called “disposition matrix” for suspected terrorists abroad: a continuously evolving database that spells out the intelligence on targets and various strategies, including contingencies, for handling them. Although the government has not spelled out […]

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Marital Differences

The Atlantic Magazine, May 2006 Will this year’s midterm elections feature a new raft of state ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage? Definitely. Voters in eighteen states have already passed such bans, and the ballot initiatives have proven to be a major base-mobilizer for conservatives—so this year, there will be more. At least six states—Alabama, […]

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Justice Delayed

The Atlantic Magazine, March 2006 Whatever happened to Zacarias Moussaoui? Moussaoui is the only person criminally charged in the United States for taking part in the September 11 conspiracy. He pleaded guilty to the charges against him last spring without a deal to spare him the death penalty. So he now faces a jury trial, […]

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Whose Court Is It Really?

The Atlantic Magazine, January/February 2006 What are the early indications of what the Roberts Court will be like? It’s not the Roberts Court—at least not yet. It’s still the Stevens Court. Excuse me? For a few weeks this past summer, between the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the confirmation of John G. […]

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The Executioner’s Swan Song?

The Atlantic Magazine, October 2005 Is it just my imagination, or has there been a palpable change recently in the Supreme Court’s approach to death-penalty cases? The Court has without question shifted gears on capital punishment. For years the justices turned a willfully blind eye to the claims of those on death row. They created […]

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Without Precedent

The Atlantic Magazine, September 2005 Conservatives complain that the Supreme Court is too liberal. Liberals complain that it’s too conservative. Both charges are inaccurate: in reality the Court is a careful political actor that arguably represents the center of gravity of American politics better than most politicians do. The real problem is not the Supreme […]

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The Hapless Toad

The Atlantic Magazine, May 2005 Liberals talk as if the world will end if President Bush gets to name some new Supreme Court justices. How much of the danger is hype, and how much of it is real? It’s mostly hype. In general liberals fear conservative judges far too much. In almost all areas, in […]

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Confirmation Class

The Atlantic Magazine, April 2005 The Senate will soon need to gear up to hold confirmation proceedings for a new chief justice of the United States. Any advice for the Judiciary Committee? Oh, just skip them. Unless President Bush commits an act of true statesmanship in nominating the next head of the federal judiciary, the […]

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Letting Go of Roe

The Atlantic Magazine, January / February 2005 Are we about to suffer through another horrible Supreme Court nomination dominated by abortion politics? Bet on it. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist seriously ill, the prospect of a Supreme Court vacancy early in George Bush’s second term looms over American politics. The script for this—and every—Republican high-court […]

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Leaks and the Law

The Atlantic Magazine, December 2004 Who is Patrick J. Fitzgerald, and why is the press so upset with him? Patrick J. Fitzgerald is the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, based in Chicago. He was widely regarded as an excellent prosecutor and a fine man. Late last year, however, Deputy Attorney General […]

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Supreme Irony

The Atlantic Magazine, November 2004 According to a New York Times editorial, George Bush says that if re-elected, he would “try to finish packing the [Supreme] Court against Roe v. Wade, the decision validating abortion rights, which four members say they want to strike down.” If voters elect a Democratic President, the Republican candidate predicts, […]

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Suspended Sentencing

The Atlantic Magazine, October 26, 2004 When Dwight W. Watson first came before U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson for sentencing, on June 23, the judge gave him six years in prison. Watson was the North Carolina tobacco farmer who paralyzed a section of Washington, D.C., for two days last year by driving a tractor […]

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Enemy Americans

The Atlantic Magazine, July / August 2004 June 10, 2002, the day John Ashcroft announced the arrest of Jose Padilla, marked a low point in Ashcroft’s career as Attorney General. The FBI had nabbed Padilla, a.k.a. Abdullah al-Muhajir, a full month earlier, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and Ashcroft happened to be in Moscow when […]

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