Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Mackey, Thomas C., 1956-


Nazi Saboteurs Trial, Washington, D.C., 1942; Trials (Sabotage)--Washington (D.C.); War and emergency powers--United States; Military courts--United States--History


For over two hundred years a major issue in the history of the United States is the contentious issue of military commissions. Military commissions are not new or specific to the United States, but the United States traces its first military commission to the trial of a British officer, Major John Andre in September 1780. This thesis is about the trial of Nazi saboteurs before a military commission and their battle before the United States Supreme Court. A fight pitting civil liberties and due process versus national security during the time of war and crisis in the United States during World War II that resulted in the Supreme Court's Ex Parte Quirin decision in 1942 which established a dangerous and troubling precedence. The Nazi saboteur case of July 1942 was not a snapshot in time but a precedent that the United States is dealing with at the present time. This thesis demonstrates that a pattern exists concerning civil liberties and national security in the United States. The federal government in times of war and crisis, restrict civil liberties in the name of national security, and only after the crisis passed, do policy makers acknowledge error. Ex parte Quirin is a reminder about the need for balance between rights and liberties in the context of war-time.