Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases

One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

Closed captions available in English and Spanish.

  • Resource Type: Media, Video
  • Subject: History, Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Congress, the President, and the War Powers (Fundamental Principles of Government)

This lesson will explore the implementation of the war-making power from the first declared war under the Constitution—the War of 1812—to the Iraq War. Using primary sources, students will investigate how the constitutional powers to initiate war have been exercised by the legislative and executive branches at several key moments in American history. They will also evaluate why and how the balance of authority in initiating war has changed over time, and the current balance of power.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all. In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

James Madison Lesson 2: The Second National Bank—Powers Not Specified in the Constitution

In this lesson, students examine the First and Second National Banks and whether or not such a bank’s powers are constitutional or unconstitutional.

How should the Constitution be applied to situations not specified in the text? How can balance be achieved between the power of the states and that of the federal government? How can a balance of power be achieved among the three branches of the federal government? In this lesson, Madison’s words will help students understand the constitutional issues involved in some controversies that arose during Madison’s presidency.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Role of the Courts (Separation of Powers)

In these five short videos, federal judges explain separation of powers and the roles of the three branches of government as well as landmark cases related to separation of powers. Judges also discuss our government’s system of checks and balances, and why it’s important to respect the nation’s rule of law and the jurisdiction of the courts.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Separation of Powers: Grades 3-5

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Separation of Powers show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they show students firsthand how the three branches of government work together through separation of powers and checks and balances.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5

Separation of Powers: Grades 6-8

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Separation of Powers show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they show students firsthand how the three branches of government work together through separation of powers and checks and balances.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Separation of Powers: Grades 9-12

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Separation of Powers show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they show students firsthand how the three branches of government work together through separation of powers and checks and balances.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention: Fine Tuning the Balance of Powers

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the midst of the Constitutional Convention, after the Committee of Detail has submitted its draft for a new Constitution on August 6. With that draft’s concrete proposals on the floor, students will ponder questions such as: Is this the Constitution we want? Are the people adequately represented? Are the branches well structured? By engaging with these questions mid-stream, before the Convention reached its final conclusions, students will experience the Constitutional Convention as process, a supreme example of collective decision-making.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Rights at Risk in Wartime

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, stunned the nation. As commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush responded quickly but soon all three branches of government would be embroiled in the struggle to balance national security with the protection of individual liberties amid a war on terror. This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases.” The four cases are examples of how the Supreme Court, the president and Congress fought to balance national security and civil liberties during the war on terror. At the heart of each case was the constitutional right of habeas corpus, the right to have one’s detention or imprisonment reviewed in court.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12