By Kelly Peckholdt
On September 17, 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. Now, the National Archives and Record Administration celebrates this important day in our nation’s history by encouraging teachers and students at all levels to learn more about our Constitution and government.
Adam Liptak, a Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, was invited to Siena as the Constitution Day lecturer on September 19. His speech, entitled “Liberty Versus Security: The Supreme Court in the Age of Terror,” encompassed the changes in the way the Supreme Court interprets the law following September 11, 2001, and how people are more willing to give up civil liberties in return for security in today’s world.
This year’s Constitution Day marked the 221st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, and Liptak highlighted many of the changes that have taken place in the federal government as well as the Supreme Court following September 11, 2001. With issues like suspending the writ of habeus corpus, and holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, there has been a continued discussion on how to use the Constitution in extraordinary times. Many of these issues raise the question of whether or not the balance between safety and loss of privacy is in accordance with the Constitution. There have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since September 11, so has the government struck the proper balance?
Liptak asserted that the belief in the Constitution is Americans’ secular religion. Perhaps, for this reason, along with the fact that there is very little suppression of political dissent in the United States, citizens are willing to give up some of their civil liberties in return for security. Liptak also noted that even while the Bush administration expanded the rights of the executive branch to allow things like warrantless wire tapping and imprisoning people like al Qaieda soldiers on say-so alone, the Supreme Court does not stand in the way. The Supreme Court is not as comprehensive as the public thinks; it is slow and deliberate.
Liptak was only appointed Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times several months ago. Previously, he served as a national legal reporter for six years. He graduated from Yale University in 1984 with an English degree, where he was editor of the Yale Daily New’s monthly magazine. After starting out as a copy boy at the Times after graduation, Liptak decided to go to law school, and he graduated from Yale Law School in 1988, where he was an editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review. In 1999, Liptak won the John Peter Zenger Award for defending freedom of the press. As national legal reporter, he had the opportunity to follow the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito, the Washington, D.C., sniper case, and the Valerie Wilson case. This past summer, Liptak was required to move to D.C. for his new position as Supreme Court reporter, and he resides with his wife and two daughters.