“From wherever you stood, the opposing side offered respectable, credible views. In today's fractured culture the evening struck a blow for civility.”
- The Huffington Post
July 22, 2014
In the fall of 2007 I participated in a debate in New York on the question of whether Russia was again becoming an enemy of the United States. I argued it was.
"We worry about political trends within Russia," I said in my closing statement, "not just because we are friends of democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law, but also because the respect that governments have for their own people tend to correlate with their attitude and behavior vis-a-vis the outside world.”
April 15, 2014
The essence of due process, as Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman recently argued at an Intelligence Squared debate, is that “the government would not kill its own citizens without a trial.” That derived from the English Magna Carta of 1215, and the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had such a history in mind when, in the Fifth Amendment, they wrote that no one may “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
So this seems like an easy issue: The Constitution is clear that due process is required before the federal government takes a citizen’s life. But in many cases, that would fly in the face of common sense.
Professor Alan Dershowitz pointed out in the same debate that a bank robber firing at police as he flees is not entitled to a trial before police can shoot back at him. This exception is widened in the case of war, which is why the laws of war have never required a prior hearing before incapacitating an enemy combatant that is on the battlefield.
March 06, 2014
Last night at the National Constitutional Center, NPR’s Intelligence Squared hosted a debate for broadcast on the limits of executive power, specifically is the president exceeding the constitutional powers of his office when, absent due process, he orders a fatal drone strike on an American citizen living abroad who is suspected of aiding or abetting terror plots that would harm American citizens or the homeland. Such was the case with the fatal drone strike executed against Anwar Al-Awlaki, a charismastic Imam and advocate for Jihad who was born in New Mexico.
The specific question being debated was not whether or not drone strikes are moral or legal, or even useful for advancing U.S. Foreign policy objectives, it was whether or not the president violated the constitutional rights of this particular American citizen. As per the premise of the show, the audience is polled about whether they are for or against the motion before the debate begins then again at the end. Before the debate, the audience vote tally was: 29% for, 44% against with 27% undecided.
March 04, 2014
Famed criminal defense lawyer, retired Harvard Law School professor and cable news gadfly Alan Dershowitz will be at the National Constitution Center tomorrow to debate the legality and ethics of drone strikes on American citizens. In advance of tomorrow’s debate, we got Mr. Dershowitz on the horn. DISCUSSED: When it’s OK for the President of the United States to order the assassination of an American citizen; his theory of a “Continuum Of Civilianality; why he is advocating for the court-supervised use of torture in so-called ticking time bomb situations; Zionism and how to resolved the Israeli-Palestinian crisis; is Edward Snowden a hero or villain; is mass surveillance of all American citizens constitutional under the Fourth Amendment; is O.J. Simpson innocent or guilty?
PHAWKER: Tomorrow, you’ll be at the National Constitution Center for the Intelligence Squared Debate. You’ll be arguing that President Obama was within the legal limits of executive power when he ordered the fatal drone strike on New Mexico-born Jihadist rabble-rouser Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. You will argue that the President can order the assassination of an American citizen absent any due process if he’s suspected of aiding and abetting the terrorists abroad in the killing of Americans. Can you summarize your argument for us?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Yes. I think that both international law and American constitutional law simply requires that the President determine under his war-power authority that the person targeted is a legitimate combatant, not a civilian. That’s the important line – the line is between combatant and non-combatant...
March 02, 2014
Both these short articles appeared in the Mail on Sunday today. My friend Ed Lucas (a fellow former Moscow Correspondent and now a distinguished writer for the Economist) and I also hope to discuss this matter in New York City on Wednesday 12th March, at a debate organised by Intelligence Squared.
My view: We have been rubbing Russia up the wrong way for nearly 25 years...
March 02, 2014
The president has the constitutional authority to target American citizens overseas.
This authority is derived from his war-making power as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But this does not mean that the president has unfettered discretion to strike anyone he chooses.
The executive's war-making power is checked by the Founding Fathers' reservation in Congress of the power to declare war. The executive may not use this power unless authorized to do so by Congress.
March 02, 2014
The White House is once again weighing whether to kill an American citizen overseas as part of its "targeted killing" program.
This extrajudicial killing program should make every American queasy. Based on largely secret legal standards and entirely secret evidence, our government has killed thousands of people. At least several hundred were killed far from any battlefield. Four of the dead are Americans. Astonishingly, President Obama's Justice Department has said the courts have no role in deciding whether the killing of U.S. citizens far from any battlefield is lawful.
The president, it seems, can be judge, jury, and executioner.
February 15, 2014
The Volokh Conspiracy’s Nicholas Rosenkranz links to the “particularly lively” Intelligence Squared debate this week in New York City: “Resolved: Snowden Was Justified.” Arguing for the motion were Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who delivered the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other media outlets in 1971; and Ben Wizner, legal adviser to Edward Snowden and attorney for the ACLU. Arguing against the motion were Andrew C. McCarthy, the guy who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh; and Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
February 12, 2014
A New York audience devoted nearly two hours yesterday evening to a riveting Intelligence Squared debate about Edward Snowden and the surveillance regime that his disclosures revealed.
The motion up for debate was "Snowden Was Justified." Arguing for the motion were Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, and Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden's legal advisor and the director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. They debated Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, and Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director. A pre-debate vote revealed the audience's feelings on the whistleblower to be evenly split, with 29 percent for the motion, 29 percent against, and 42 percent undecided.
Unsurprisingly, Ben and Daniel won, decisively. In a fascinating back-and-forth, they demonstrated why we're all better off after Snowden, in a world with a window into a once-secret regime that everyone – including all three branches of government – is now debating out in the open.
November 22, 2013
It couldn't be more black or white than this: "Spy on me, I'd rather be safe."
That was the proposition before two teams of debaters at the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate held Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. Defending the proposition were two former homeland security officials Richard Falkenrath and Stewart Baker. Opposing the motion were the ACLU's very own Senior Policy Counsel Michael German and Georgetown Law Professor David Cole.
By the end of the debate, the civil libertarians decidedly ruled the day, moving 21 percent of the audience to their side and achieving a 62 percent majority against the proposition, "Spy on me, I'd rather be safe."
There's something to take from this, even if you dismiss it as wonky fun. When pro-surveillance advocates are pitted against civil libertarians who not only argue against dragnet surveillance on principle but because it simply doesn't work, the fear wanes and people see mass surveillance for what it is: unconstitutional and un-American.
As German, a former undercover FBI agent, made clear, the idea that a balance must be struck between liberty and security is a false choice. The procedural safeguards—such as reasonable suspicion and probable cause—that govern how government agents do their jobs doesn't only protect our liberties and privacy, it makes them better investigators who better protect the public from violent threats.
January 22, 2013
NEW YORK - Politicians running for office may have succeeded in avoiding substantive discussion of some of the most pivotal issues facing Israel – such as whether it can tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran – but New Yorkers were jostling for space at a debate that allowed some of America's and Israel's prominent observers on the matter to air their views.
December 10, 2012
This issue came up in an interesting debate for Intelligence Squared U.S. in early October when Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress argued, “Better elected Islamists than dictators,” while Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and I made the counter-argument. Well, no one really argued “for” anyone. The other team did not endorse Islamists and we certainly did not celebrate dictators. The issue, rather, was which sort of ruler is the lesser of two evils, and can be cudgeled toward democracy.
October 12, 2012
Recently, Intelligence Squared, a feisty forum in New York, held a debate on the proposition “Better Elected Islamists Than Dictators,” referring to the choices the United States confronts in the Middle East. The lead speaker for the proposition was a prominent conservative intellectual, Reuel Marc Gerecht. The lead speaker against was . . . a prominent conservative intellectual, Daniel Pipes. That’s a reflection of the state of conservative thought on the issue.
October 05, 2012
A reader directs our attention to the Intelligence Squared debate putting the proposition before the house: Better elected Islamists than dictators. For the affirmative are Reuel Marc Gerecht and Brian Katulus. For the negative are Daniel Pipes and Zuhdi Jasser.
October 05, 2012
Intelligence Squared U.S. continued its Fall 2012 season with a sold out debate and a victory against the motion "Better Elected Islamists than Dictators." In the final tally, Daniel Pipes and M. Zuhdi Jasser won the Oxford-style debate by convincing 16% of the audience to change their minds and oppose the motion. After the debate, 47% of audience members agreed that elected Islamists would not evolve Middle Eastern political systems, up from 31% pre-debate.
April 20, 2012
Georgette Mosbacher, Bruce Kovner and other assorted policy wonks chuckled at last week's IQ2US debate when the International Crisis Group's Karim Sadjadpour tried to give his neocon opponent Bill Kristol a compliment. "When I was in high school, I used to watch you on TV with total admiration," said Sadjadpour, whose team argued in favor of the U.S. tolerating a nuclear Iran. "You were so thoughtful, so sensible. ... I thought for sure you were a liberal." Kristol's team had the last laugh, defeating the nuke proposition. ...
April 23, 2007
Better more domestic surveillance than another Sept. 11, 2001, type of attack on U.S. soil? That was the question in a lively, sold-out, Oxford-style debate sponsored by The Rosenkranz Foundation at the Asia Society's New York headquarters Wednesday night.
May 30, 2007
Last week saw two events in Washington that illustrate the complexity of the Sino-US relationship. The first involved 15 ministers from China, led by Vice-Premier Wu Yi , who took part in a high-level economic dialogue. Some progress was made, including an agreement to double daily passenger flights from the US to China by 2012, worth an estimated US$5 billion to American airlines.
May 11, 2009
Former Vice President Dick Cheney swung quietly through New York City Tuesday night to watch his daughter, Elizabeth, a former State Department official, argue the conservative side in a debate over American policy toward Iran, and to express his own skepticism of President Obama's promised negotiations.
May 14, 2009
We now know at least one reason former vice president Dick Cheney was taking the Acela up to New York on Monday morning: He was going to attend a debate on U.S. policy on Iran where his daughter Liz Cheney, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, was arguing for the proposition that "Diplomacy With Iran Is Going Nowhere."
October 18, 2009
Dick Cheney hadn't planned to speak, but others at the dinner in Manhattan noticed him growing a grimmer shade of grim. He was listening to Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official in Cheney's own Bush administration, wax eloquent about the virtue of diplomacy: how a new joint effort with France, Britain, Germany and even Russia and China could prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and terrorizing the Persian Gulf region and the world. In other words, President Barack Obama's position. The host asked if the former vice president wished to respond. Yes indeedy, he did.
October 18, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Oct 19, 2009
Only those who were in the room know what was said in the series of White House meetings about America's policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
November 07, 2007
TUESDAY NIGHT MARKED the eleventh Intelligence Squared U.S. debate hosted at the Asia Society and Museum on Park Avenue. Generously endowed by the conservative philanthropist Robert Rosenkranz, IQ2US underwrites a series of intellectual exchanges modeled on the full-blooded forensic style of the Oxford Union, though given that the august society has lately invited speakers like Nick Griffin, head of the fascist British National Party, and David Irving, Holocaust denier in chief, one wonders if like so many other British traditions this one has better thrived by crossing the Atlantic.
April 11, 2010
Intelligence Squared U.S., the Oxford-style debate series, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, announced today that it would travel to Washington, D.C. to host its first ever debate outside of New York City. On June 8, IQ2US will present a special live debate from Washington D.C.'s Newseum. With corporate underwriting support from Neustar, Inc., the debate will consider the motion, "The cyber war threat has been grossly exaggerated."
April 13, 2010
... but if I were, I would be sure to go to this debate, by the US branch of the Intelligence Squared debate organization, on the proposition that "The cyber war threat has been grossly exaggerated."
April 15, 2012
Cyber warfare is a hot topic in the security industry, but what does this term actually mean? At what point does a cyber conflict become a cyber war? Are cyber threats, cyber attacks and cyber espionage acts of cyber war? Many of these questions need to be discussed – and that discussion is about to take place.
May 11, 2010
The sold-out crowd in New York heard four experts, each with strong policy and intellectual credentials, debate the motion “Obama’s Foreign Policy Spells America’s Decline.” Prior to the debate, 23% of the audience was in favor of the motion, 45 % were against it and 32% were undecided. When it was over, the side arguing against the motion carried the day with 34% of the audience supporting the motion, 58% rejecting it and a remaining 8% were undecided. The evening’s winning team, which debated against the motion included Bernard-Henri Lévy, the influential French philosopher and writer and Wesley Clark, retired General of the United States Army and a 2004 Candidate for President.
May 11, 2010
Has Barack Obama strengthened or weakened the U.S. in the eyes of the world through his foreign policy of engagement? In a lively encounter sponsored by Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates and held at the Skirball Center at NYU last night, Dan Senor, a journalist and Fox News commentator, scored the most dramatic point of the evening when he challenged General Wesley Clark and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to name one prominent world leader with whom Obama has established a close personal connection as a sign of national loyalty.
May 16, 2010
The story of Barack Obama's presidency to this point has mostly been written in domestic and economic policy. But he came to office promising to change American policy and rhetoric toward the rest of the world, especially America's historic adversaries in Asia and the Mideast. There is no disputing that he has done that, but at what costs, and to what ends? This month's Intelligence Squared U.S. debate was on the proposition "Obama's foreign policy spells America's decline."
June 08, 2010
Last night Intelligence Squared and Neustar conducted a fascinating, Oxford style debate on whether the threat of cyber war has been exaggerated. A packed house at the Newseum in Washington, DC heard four cyber heavyweights go toe-to-toe verbally both for and against the proposition that the threat has been exaggerated. The audience size was all the more impressive considering the competition on a very big night in DC—Stephen Strasberg was making his major league pitching debut, Conan O'Brien was in town and there was also a James Taylor/Carole King concert.