Habeas Corpus after 9/11

Confronting America’s New Global Detention System

331 pages

January, 2011

ISBN: 9780814737033



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Jonathan Hafetz is Associate Professor at Seton Hall Law School and has litigated numerous landmark habeas corpus detention cases. He also is the co-editor (with Mark Denbeaux) of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law (NYU Press, 2009).

All books by Jonathan Hafetz

2012 American Bar Association Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books
2012 Scribes Book Silver Medal Award presented by the American Society of Legal Writers

The U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay has long been synonymous with torture, secrecy, and the abuse of executive power. It has come to epitomize lawlessness and has sparked protracted legal battles and political debate. For too long, however, Guantánamo has been viewed in isolation and has overshadowed a larger, interconnected global detention system that includes other military prisons such as Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, secret CIA jails, and the transfer of prisoners to other countries for torture. Guantánamo is simply—and alarmingly—the most visible example of a much larger prison system designed to operate outside the law.

Habeas Corpus after 9/11 examines the rise of the U.S.-run global detention system that emerged after 9/11 and the efforts to challenge it through habeas corpus (a petition to appear in court to claim unlawful imprisonment). Habeas expert and litigator Jonathan Hafetz gives us an insider’s view of the detention of “enemy combatants” and an accessible explanation of the complex forces that keep these systems running.

In the age of terrorism, some argue that habeas corpus is impractical and unwise. Hafetz advocates that it remains the single most important check against arbitrary and unlawful detention, torture, and the abuse of executive power.


  • “Deftly connecting Guantánamo to other secret prisons, law to politics, secrecy to terror, and the efforts of the courts to frame and reframe the ancient writ of habeas corpus for a modern era, Hafetz explores what was lost when habeas became a legal question as opposed to an answer. Anyone seeking a way forward on the issues of detention, incarceration, and the rule of law that continue to plague us would be well advised to start looking here for the answers.”

    —Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

  • “We all have snatches of the conversation in our heads: Guantánamo, habeas corpus, enemy combatant, military commissions, Bagram, rendition and torture. This book by one of the key lawyers on the front lines in the post-9/11 legal battles puts these pieces together; what emerges is not pretty. If you want to understand how a country that claimed it was the paradigm of fair treatment in its criminal justice system has tailored its laws to expediency, read this disturbing book."

    —Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights

  • “The right to habeas corpus is the linchpin of a free nation, and the post-9/11 attack on this safeguard is thus one of the most significant erosions of freedom in many decades. Jonathan Hafetz provides the most thorough account yet of why this right matters so much and what should be done to preserve it."

    —Glenn Greenwald, Salon

  • “Hafetz’s incisive and insightful volume is more than just a summary of where we have been; it is an impassioned case for the proper way forward with regard both to the substance of national security detention policy and the role courts should play in reviewing and constraining it. Certain to become one of the indispensable accounts of the role that the ‘Great Writ’ has played both historically and after September 11, this book provides a powerful and timely testament to the foresight of the Founding Fathers in expressly enshrining the ‘privilege of the writ of habeas corpus’ in our Constitution.”

    —Stephen Vladeck, Professor of Law, American University

  • "Hafetz's book is an excellent account of the five major Supreme Court cases addressing habeas corpus and constitutional rights to a fair trial after 9/11."


  • "Habeas Corpus after 9/11 is an impassioned and exhaustive examination of the lack of legal safeguards afforded to detainees at such places as Guantánamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and to those who were the subjects of extraordinary rendition. . . . Thoughtful and well-researched responses to the conditions of the time . . . provide[s] political scientists and historians with perspectives on habeas corpus that they need to consider."

    Law and Politics Book Review