Date of Graduation

Fall 2008


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Bradley Thayer


national security law, George W. Bush administration, terrorism, separation of powers, strategy, War on Terror, Guantanamo Bay, military commissions, torture, warrantless wiretapping

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


As the George W. Bush administration approaches its conclusion, the policies it has implemented as part of the Global War on Terror are among its most controversial aspects. However, it is the legal arguments marshaled in support of the administration's actions that have generated the greatest firestorm of criticism. As case studies for understanding the ongoing debate, this thesis examines four key post-9/11 policies that the Bush administration has employed against al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists: indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, trial by military commissions, harsh interrogation techniques including water-boarding, and extrajudicial electronic surveillance. Each case study details the administration’s approach, its rationale for that approach, the legislative and/or judicial response, and the ultimate result of the interaction among the branches thus far. After demonstrating the administration’s reliance on unilateral action has been consistently grounded in legal arguments positing a blanket executive authority, these case studies show that this approach was a poor strategic choice and, ultimately, a self-defeating one. Notwithstanding the merits of the Bush administration's legal arguments or the substance of its counter-terror policies, attempts to justify its actions by positing executive authority have led to greater legislative and judicial constraints on presidential prerogative - and on the administration's ability to detain, try, interrogate, and surveil terrorists.


© Scott L. Glabe

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