UC Berkeley News


Constitution Day, at Berkeley, coincides with anniversary of terrorist attacks
This year's commemoration to focus on post-9/11 civil-liberties concerns

| 06 September 2006

The Berkeley campus kicks off its commemoration of Constitution Day next Monday, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Because the federally mandated day of observance, Sept. 17, falls on a Sunday this year, those coordinating observances have been urged to do so either the preceding week or the following one.

Additional Constitution Day events

The campus is hosting several events that focus attention on the Constitution, at least two of which offer an opportunity to discuss how the 217-year-old document has fared under the stresses imposed on it since Sept. 11, 2001.

The centerpiece of the campus observance is an Institute of Governmental Studies panel, "National Security, the War on Terror, and the Constitution: A Forum." Panelists from a cross section of disciplines will gather to discuss constitutional concerns that have arisen in the aftermath of 9/11.

The U.S. role in the war in Iraq and its response to the terrorist attacks helped shape the topic for the IGS forum, says moderator Gordon Silverstein, assistant professor of political science, whose specialty is constitutional law. "Emergencies, war, and crisis are the moments we can test the continuing relevance and utility of our constitutional rules," he says, noting also that the Supreme Court will soon address a number of major civil-liberties cases. "Given that there's a new court with the seating of [Chief Justice John] Roberts and [Associate Justice Samuel] Alito, it's an opportune time to think about these laws both by looking back at the last five years and looking forward to the new court."

Joining Silverstein will be Emeritus Professor of History Richard Abrams, an expert in modern U.S. history; Vikram Amar, a constitutional-law specialist who teaches at UC Hastings College of the Law; Lowell Bergman, who teaches investigative reporting in the Graduate School of Journalism; Tom Gede, executive director of the Conference of Western Attorneys General; Stephen Maurer, director of the Goldman School of Public Policy Project on Information Technology and Homeland Security; and Pete McCloskey, a Republican member of Congress during the Vietnam war who opposed Richard Nixon on that war. He recently campaigned as a Republican against the Republican incumbent in the 11th congressional district, Richard Pombo, gaining 32 percent of the primary vote.

Silverstein, who's particularly interested in the relationship between the branches of government, thinks that Congress has failed to fulfill its responsibilities. "They haven't decided how to structure the tradeoff between individual liberties and security questions, and they're not overseeing the Defense Department - whether or not they're supportive of the administration's policy," he asserts.

For information, visit www.igs.berkeley.edu/events/forum91106.

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