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September 11 changed so much about our lives and how we perceive national security. Harold Lasswell, in an earlier context, described the sharing of danger throughout society as the “socialization of danger,” which he wrote was a permanent characteristic of modern violence; but not for America until September 11. The socialization of danger has made ordinary citizens participants in the national security process in a way not previously experienced. In addition, it has brought relatively unknown federal agencies, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control, to the forefront of national security planning and response. And both of these occurrences have emphasized the importance of viewing terrorism and cyber security as problems requiring effective vertical and not just horizontal process.

Where most national security problems require coordination amongst federal agencies, homeland security is equally about coordination between federal, state, and local actors down to the level of first responder and the technician who spots the first medical anomaly. This vertical process will test the manner in which information is shared, resources allocated, and perhaps the level at which decisions of life and death, heretofore made by the President, are taken.

Constitutional democracy also means that all decisions are made according to law. And that means that sound Executive process must incorporate timely and competent legal advice. In some cases, legal review is dictated by statute, as in the case of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the attorney general, or his designee, to approve requests for electronic surveillance or physical search before they are submitted to the FISA court. In other cases, the President has directed a specific process to ensure legal review in areas historically prone to peril, including certain intelligence activities. However, the majority of legal advice within the national security process is not directed, but is the product of practice, custom, and personal interchange between lawyer and client. That means that good process requires personal persuasion, presence, and value added, or the lawyer will find he or she is only contributing to decisions where legal review is mandated and then only as the last stop on the bus route. Constitutional democracy does not rest on such process.

Publication Citation

173 Mil. L. Rev. 124-135 (2002)