Is the fight against ISIS legal?

November 10, 2017


Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, welcomes you to We the People, a weekly show of constitutional debate.

Is the battle against ISIS legal on constitutional grounds, or an overreach of executive authority? Those questions were before a federal appeals court in late October, after an Army captain sued the executive branch for lacking specific authorization from Congress to attack the terrorist group.

President Donald Trump is now part of the case, called Smith v. Trump, which had its day in court on October 27 at the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Also under debate is the subject of the President’s ability to take military actions outside of the War Powers Resolution, an act of Congress from the 1970s that most Presidents have ignored.

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale Law School. He is helping to represent Captain Smith in the Smith v. Trump case. He is the author of eighteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy

Chris Fonzone is Former Deputy White House Counsel and National Security Council Legal Adviser under President Obama. He helped to defend against the case while working for the Obama administration.


Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” He is also a professor at The George Washington University Law School, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.   

Resources Mentioned In Podcast

Additional Resources

Our Interactive Constitution is the leading digital resource about the debates and text behind the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. Here, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of our founding document. 

Common Interpretation
Commander-in-Chief Clause By Michael D. Ramsey and Stephen I. Vladeck

Matters of Debate
The President's Exclusive Power to Direct Military Operations By Michael D. Ramsey
How the Militia Clauses Inform the Scope of the Commander in Chief’s Inherent Power By Stephen I. Vladeck

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