Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tung Yin, winner of "The Body and the State"

I received many helpful suggestions in the quest for good fiction that demonstrates what's at stake in the debate over habeas corpus.

Professor Cary Federman has generously contributed a copy of his new book, The Body and the State: Habeas Corpus and American Jurisprudence (SUNY Press, 2006), for me to award to the most valued recommendation.

I had a tough time deciding who should get the book--all of the recommendations were excellent and much appreciated--and finally settled on the suggestion by the University of Iowa College of Law professor Tung Yin for recommending Robert Littell's The Company:

the part of the novel that is relevant to the question you pose about the debate over habeas corpus has to do with a mole hunt within the CIA. One counter-espionage agent amasses bits of evidence pointing toward one of the main characters, Leo Krinsky, as being a Soviet mole. Krinsky is arrested, brought to the CIA headquarters, and interrogated without a lawyer, and when he professes his innocence (despite the seemingly strong circumstantial evidence against him), the counterespionage agent throws him into a literal dungeon, where the only water source is the toilet. The CIA agent is kept in there for weeks (or was it months?), enduring repeated interrogation. The whole experience is so brutal that when he's finally released, he looks like a shadow of himself, and his hair has turned white.

Considering that the novel was written before the 9/11 attacks and Guantanamo Bay, it's remarkable that Littell captured the essence of the problem of indefinite detention without access to counsel or courts via habeas corpus. If Krinsky were a Soviet mole, national security would call for his isolation so as to prevent damaging national secrets from being passed to the Soviet Union. But what if Krinsky were innocent? The point of habeas corpus is that the Executive Branch--in this novel, the CIA counterespionage agent--isn't the one to make the call as to whether to err on the side of overprotecting national security or overprotecting individual rights; it's for a neutral, third party such as the court to balance the competing concerns.

Congratulations to Tung Yin, and many thanks to everyone who helped with the project.

--Marshal Zeringue