Event Details


Tuesday, Feb 05, 2019


12:15 pm


Law School CCJ 2.306

Political Violence in the Age of Trump

Political Violence in the Age of Trump

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2019  |  12:15 pm   |  Law School CCJ 2.306

On Tuesday, February 5th, 2019, the Strauss Center welcomed Shirin Sinnar, Associate Professor of Law and the John A. Wilson Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School, for a talk titled “Political Violence in the Age of Trump.” This talk was part of the Strauss Center’s Brumley Speaker Series.

Photos from the event can be found here. A video can be found here.

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In her talk, Professor Sinnar focused on two main themes: the different legal regimes for terrorism applied to minority communities, and the growing need to address domestic terrorism. She began with the story of Hamid Hayat, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent from Lodi, California, who was arrested in 2005 and part of the first terrorism trial in the state of California. He was charged with providing material support to terrorists, but in 2019, a judge recommended that the conviction be overturned. This recommendation was due to a claim that the confession obtained by the FBI was coerced and enhanced.

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Professor Sinnar used this case to shed light on two problems: the indiscriminate profiling of Muslims and the role of confidential informants placed in communities by the FBI. She argued that in the years following 9/11, the treatment and suspicion of Muslims resulted in civil rights violations. Further, confidential informants—undercover agents placed in communities to obtain information—drew confessions that were not necessarily accurate.

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Next, she recalled the incident in Charleston, South Carolina, when Dylan Roof killed African Americans in a church and stated that he was hoping to start a race war. She explained that incidents such as these reveal complications with present-day domestic terrorism; namely, how to label domestic groups that commit acts of political violence. She argues that we should ratchet up the response to domestic terrorism, such as improving data collection on political violence and hate crimes. However, she cautions against increase legal response to domestic terrorism by giving more power to law enforcement. She fears that this would lead to further abuse of minority communities.

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Shirin Sinnar is Associate Professor of Law and John A. Wilson Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School. Her scholarship focuses on the role of institutions, including courts and executive branch agencies, in protecting individual rights and democratic values in the national security context.  Her scholarship also addresses the procedural dimensions of civil rights and national security litigation, domestic intelligence-gathering and terrorist watchlists, and the impact of terrorism law and policies on U.S. minority and immigrant communities.  Sinnar’s articles have been published or are forthcoming in the California Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and other journals.  In 2017, she was the co-recipient of the inaugural Mike Lewis Prize for National Security Law Scholarship for her article, The Lost Story of Iqbal. From 2004 through 2009, she represented individuals facing discrimination based on government national security policies and unlawful employment practices, first as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco and then as a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.   Sinnar previously served as a law clerk to the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She is a graduate of Stanford Law School (J.D. 2003), Cambridge University (M. Phil. International Relations 1999), and Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges (summa cum laude, A.B. History 1998).

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