PILR sits down with Deroy Murdock

Rory Brady of the Pace International Law Review recently sat down with syndicated columnist and commentator Deroy Murdock.


Discussion focused on the feasibility of detaining terrorists on United States soil, the Obama administration’s decision to resume military trials at Guantanamo Bay,  and how the United States can maintain civil liberties all the while protecting its citizens from terrorism.

Does Murdock advance an alarmist point of view?  Or is Murdock simply providing an honest assessment of the threats that America faces?

Let us know what you think.


  1. As I have previously emphasized {see comment on Ellen Wardrop, Justified or Instrusive?, PILR Blog (March 24, 2011)}, relinquishing even a little personal freedom for safety is a decision that should be made only after very careful consideration of the potential consequences associated with this decision.

    A “terrorist” is a faceless enemy. That is, a terrorist is generally defined as anyone who uses violence or threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. While today we associate the word “terrorist” with violent Muslim extremists due to the tragic events of 9/11, tomorrow this term may be redefined to include whomever the government deems to be a current threat to our country’s political infrastructure. Therefore, any tools used to thwart “Terrorists” –a potentially all-inclusive category – under the PATRIOT Act, may be used against just about anyone (not only the perpetrators of 9/11 and their cohorts). Let us not forget that the founding fathers of our great nation were once political dissidents and technically “terrorists” against the British Crown.

    Public safety is a serious matter and many folks, like Mr. Murdoch, who support national security measures that jeopardize personal liberty, do so with the best of intentions. However, good intentions can sometimes have unforeseen negative consequences. FBI access to books checked out or websites visited at a public library, for example, could potentially place a grad student conducting research at a public library for a dissertation on terrorism in the 21st century on a terrorist watch list.

  2. Detainee rights post-9/11 is a difficult and complex topic, with legitimate concerns on either side of the argument. But rather than tackling the substantive content of Mr. Deroy Murdock’s argument, I find his presentation of the issues problematic. Language such as “evil” and “monsters” is freely used; frankly, this is the same rhetoric that al Qaeda uses to describe us. It is also a continuation of the “binary discourse” rhetoric that George W. Bush used, highlighted by Murdock’s all-or-nothing approach to national security: unfettered access to library records or “they come kill us..!” [See Douglas Kellner for one treatment on such “Manichean discourse:” http://waccglobal.org/en/20073-media-and-terror/467-Media-spectacle-fear-and-terrorism.html%5D Certainly, there are policies that exist between these extreme choices.

    In addition, Murdock glazes over several important issues. Not every detainee is a terrorist: that, in part, is the duty of the military tribunal to determine. The real issue at hand is the indefinite detention of people whose rights are in contention.

    Furthermore, the Bush Administration should not be considered vindicated in the resumption of the military tribunals. These are not the same tribunals. Efforts have been made to improve the tribunals to make them less unfairly balanced against the detainees [whether these efforts are significant or successful is entirely another matter]. Moreover, it would be difficult to expect the Obama Administration, which came into the situation largely pre-structured by its predecessor, to create an alternative, ideal procedure ex nihilo.

  3. While I understand that this is a brief presentation and hence just an overview of Deroy Murdock’s views on this matter, my impression on his presentation is that he neglects to focus on the nature and importance of the civil liberties that we are giving up. Even if one concedes that using the terms “monsters” and “evil” are appropriate considering the nature of the crimes done, placing such a cursory view on civil liberties fails to acknowledge all of the efforts that have gone into securing those liberties. While it is true that terrorism is a major threat and has claimed many lives, it is also true that countless lives have been dedicated and even sacrificed towards securing the civil liberties that Americans enjoy today. In addition, considering the scope of this blog, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that these civil liberties have been sought and fought for all over the globe. As such, I think, as Mr. Guido so correctly pointed out, that the sacrifice of even the smallest civil liberties should be done only after extremely careful consideration.

  4. The McNamara Brothers. Timothy McVeigh. Terry Nichols. Theodora Kaczynski. Andrew Joseph Stack. At first glance, these names may not be recognizable to many Americans.

    The LA Times bombing. The Oklahoma City bombing. The Unabomber. The Austin IRS attack of 2010. All of these attacks occurred on U.S. soil. All of the aforementioned Americans committed these acts of violence. All of these individuals have been labeled terrorists.

    As Justin mentions above, “terrorist” is a rather malleable and broad-sweeping term. Yet, at the moment, many Americans equate terrorism with the Middle East and the factions that express hatred toward the United States. Still, as we have seen, terrorism could just as easily spawn in our own backyards.

    Here, the issue surrounding Guantanamo Bay should not be directed solely to the fact that we would house alleged terrorists within our borders. Instead, this discussion is one of human rights and how the United States can maintain security without violating the rights of the detainees. It is true that this is a very complex, sensitive subject. However, this “truth” is slowly digressing into a tired, weary, and unconvincing excuse. Inaction could potentially be just as volatile to American security if these detainees are not properly tried in an effective, sufficient military tribunal.

  5. Today is September 11, 2011, the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers and killed approximately 3,000 people in a few hours. I think about that day, I was in high school, walking into my physics class. On the way to class I passed by people watching TV in another classroom. I glanced over and saw a building with flames shooting out of it. At first, I thought the class was watching a documentary of some sort. I stopped in front of the door and just stared at the TV, I had no idea what I was watching but I could not take my eyes off the screen, I had this gut feeling something was wrong. My teacher called us all into the room, in an attempt to distract us from watching. He tried to explain the situation to the class, we were all silent, it was hard to comprehend the severity of what was happening. I was fortunate to not have lost anyone close to me in the attacks. An estimated 3,051 children were not so lucky. (http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/1year/numbers.htm; statistics on 9/11)

    Even after 10 years I still do not think I fully understand the severity of the attacks. There have been so many policy changes, changes to our economy, our security and our privacy. I have seen political debates speaking to terrorism, how to prevent it, what needs to be done, everyone with differing views. I have heard people complain about liberties being taken away, people fear the Government’s prying eye, people mad the lines at the airport are so long and people worried for detainees rights being held as suspected terrorists. I don’t think that the government does everything right that is for sure, but its 4:00 in the afternoon, President Obama and former President Bush were at Ground Zero today, and so far they are safe, we are safe. I think our counter terrorism policies and practices might not be perfect and some freedoms have been sacrificed, but in the end I think it better that I submit my library searches and stand in line at the airport a little longer to get a body scan than ever subject families or this country to another September 11.

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