FEINGOLD: But at what point did you start thinking about the implications of [9/11], in terms of civil liberties and the challenges this…
ROBERTS: Well, it was when I went back to the office and saw the smoke rising drom the Pentagon. And, as you can imagine, that was a chilling sight. And the basic issue of how you address the question of civil liberties in wartime and times of crisis is a critically important one.
The Bill of Rights doesn’t change during times of war. The Bill of Rights doesn’t change in times of crisis. There may be situations where the demands are different and they have to be analyzed appropriately so that things that might have been acceptable in times of war are not acceptable in times of peace. I think everyone appreciates that. But the Bill of Rights is not suspended and the obligation of the courts to uphold the rule of law is not suspended. [...]
FEINGOLD: Are there any elements of the government’s response to September 11th that you think, 50 or 60 years from now, we as a nation will look back on with regret?
ROBERTS: I’m sure there are some, Senator. And when you have the benefit of 50 or 60 years to look back as opposed to the particular demands of the moment and the perceived demands, I’m sure it’s a different perspective. I hesitate to mention any in particular because so many of these issues are coming before not only the Supreme Court but the court on which I now sit. And I will have to confront those cases, I think, regardless of what happens here. So I would hesitate to identify particular areas of concern.
FEINGOLD: How about the federal government using immigration laws to round up and detain people for months often without regard for whether they had any connection to the September 11th investigation, which actually in this case the Justice Department inspector general later heavily criticized? Does that trouble you?
ROBERTS: Well, yes, certainly, at a basic level of appreciating that this is a reaction in a particular way that raises serious questions.
While its true that we have no idea what to expect from Judge Roberts when he becomes Chief Justice, this is very encouraging.