Intelligence Experts in UA Symposium

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Four of the world’s top authorities on the legal issues related to intelligence gathering in a free society will take part in a panel discussion on “Intelligence, Law and Democracy” at the University of Arkansas School of Law. This is the final event in the Hartman Hotz Lecture Series for this academic year, and will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, in the E.J. Ball Courtroom. The event is free and open to the public.

The panel includes Lord Robin Butler, who chaired the national review that criticized the way that intelligence was collected and used in Great Britain prior to the invasion of Iraq; Alberto Mora and William Howard Taft IV, who, as members of the Bush administration, opposed and helped end a secret policy allowing the torture of people held in military detention; and Jeremy Waldron, one of the world’s foremost philosophers of law.

“All four of these panelists are world-class authorities on these issues, and we are fortunate to have them speaking at the university,” said UA law professor Stephen Sheppard, who organized the symposium. “They know how important accurate intelligence is, but they are keenly aware that mistakes today threaten our long-term national interests and values. Each of these leaders has wrestled with the role of law as a tool in limiting that danger. They are world leaders on this issue.”

The panelists are expected to discuss several specific issues, including: whether torture and detention are justified methods of getting intelligence information; the potential dangers involved in analyzing and using intelligence in a political context; whether legal limits should be placed on intelligence agencies, and how those limits effect the quality of the information collected; and the balance between citizens’ rights and the demands of national security in a democratic society.

“There’s a thin line between a secure state and a police state,” said Sheppard. “We’ve seen many democracies turn into dictatorships in the past 100 years. The change often begins when concerns about 'national security’ become attacks on civil liberties. Germany and Italy in the 1930s are obvious examples, but it has happened in South and Central America, Africa and Asia. I’m afraid it’s a concern for every democratic society, even ours.”

The Hartman Hotz symposium will begin with each panelist making a brief statement on the numerous controversies surrounding intelligence issues. They will then discuss and debate those issues, with Sheppard acting as a moderator. The panelists will also address questions from the audience. The symposium will end at 5:30 p.m.

The Hartman Hotz Symposium panel

Lord Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, served as cabinet secretary under Prime Ministers Thatcher, Major and Blair. In 2003, he was appointed to lead an investigation into the use of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War. The Review on Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, widely known as “The Butler Report,” found serious flaws in the intelligence assessments that Britain used to justify going to war.

Lord Butler is currently Master of University College, Oxford.

Alberto J. Mora was appointed general counsel of the U.S. Navy in 2001 by President George W. Bush. He was a leading advocate against the Justice Department’s “Torture Memo,” which argued the United States could engage in conduct considered by some to be torture. Mora actively argued alongside a large number of the most senior lawyers and officials of the military and the Defense Department that the interrogation techniques that had been approved were unlawful. In early 2003, the interrogation technique authorization was suspended. For his efforts, Mora was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2006.

Mora is currently international legal counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

William Howard Taft IV served in the Nixon, Ford and both Bush administrations and was acting secretary of Defense in 1989. In 2001, he was appointed to serve as chief legal adviser for the State Department under Secretary Colin Powell. Taft opposed Justice Department lawyers and argued that the president could not "suspend" U.S. obligations to respect the Geneva Conventions and that a legal argument to do so was "legally flawed and procedurally impossible."

Taft resigned from the State Department in 2005. The following year he, along with 28 retired military and Defense Department officials, signed a letter to the Senate Armed Services committee charging that the Bush Administration's attempt to redefine part of the Geneva Conventions "poses a grave threat" to U.S. service members.

He is currently practicing law in Washington, D.C.

Jeremy Waldron is professor of law and philosophy at the New York University School of Law and a visiting professor in Victoria University, New Zealand. He is widely regarded as the outstanding legal philosopher of his generation. Waldron has written on the role of property and rights, is a critic of judicial review and a champion of democratic legislation. His published works include "Torture and Positive Law: Jurisprudence for the White House," Columbia Law Review, 105 (2005). 

This is his second visit to Arkansas. In 1999, Waldron delivered an earlier Hartman Hotz lecture, “Banking Constitutional Rights: Who Controls Withdrawals?”

"Intelligence, Law, and Democracy" is sponsored by the Fulbright College of Arts and Science and the School of Law, through the financial assistance of the Hartman Hotz trust, which for 25 years has brought outstanding and controversial speakers to the University of Arkansas.

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