Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantánamo detainee and prominent critic of the West’s War on Terror, was arrested Tuesday in an “anti-terror raid” in Birmingham, England. Begg, a native-born British citizen, was detained for three years after September 11, 2001 without being charged of a crime. Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept discuss the “dubious terrorism charges” that are “part of the effort to criminalize Muslim political dissent.”
The Public Campaign Action Fund is spending $1 million to rally New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to pass a bill that would combat big-money politics and "raise up the voices of everyday people in our political process." Andy Kroll at Mother Jones has the story.
A secretly recorded video of recent Supreme Court oral argument has been released by the advocacy group 99Rise.org. Bill Mears of CNN reports on the rare footage that is raising concerns at the high court.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post comments on the GOP’s frivolous lawsuits against the Obama administration and their ideological shift on judicial activism.
At ACLU’s Blog of Rights, Dennis Parker compares commentary on Adkins et al. vs. Morgan Stanley with the eloquent imagery of Jamaal May’s “There Are Birds Here.”
Twelve years after 9/11, those who planned the attacks have yet to be held accountable for causing the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. Guantanamo policy is to blame.
While the military commission trial against Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators will resume next week on the isolated base in Cuba, no one should expect progress any time soon. The commissions, even in their current third incarnation, have been plagued with one misfire after another, leading the chief of staff for the official overseeing Guantanamo to reportedly call the prison “a hot mess.” The myriad recent problems with the commissions include:
The military judge failed to determine whether the Constitution applies to the commission proceedings as a whole, leaving the parties to argue over every possible application of the Constitution.
The court ruled defendants are not able to hear evidence of their own torture because it’s classified.
The CIA, unbeknownst to the military judge, had the ability to censor testimony, which was discovered when a white noise button was used, but not by the court security officer.
It was discovered that eavesdropping devices at the court could monitor attorney client communications.
Defense emails and documents have disappeared from government computers, leading the chief defense counsel to bar use of Pentagon computers for casework.
In a major counterterrorism speech this spring, President Obama pledged to redouble efforts to close Guantanamo – a symbol of torture and indefinite detention. He said, “Guantanamo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”
President Obama’s address to the National Defense University was quickly embraced by many high-profile pundits as evidence the 44th president would actually and finally offer change one could believe in. Specifically, change from the way his predecessor presided over a never-ending war on terror.
As noted here, during his May 23 speech the president provided some lofty rhetoric suggesting significant change was underway to counter intensifying criticism from civil libertarians and human rights advocates that the Obama administration is trampling fundamental constitutional principles and values while waging the so-called war on terror.
The New York Times editorial board lauded Obama’s speech as “the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post 9/11 America. For the first time a president stated clearly and equivocally the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.”
Many other pundits also heralded the speech as a major shift in policy, while others, such as Alex Pareene warned that those concerned about human rights and civil liberties would likely be seriously disappointed.
Today, The Timesreported that Pakistani officials said a CIA drone strike had supposedly “killed a top member of the Pakistani Taliban, an attack that illustrated the continued murkiness of the rules that govern the United States’ targeted killing operations.” Before his much-trumpeted counterterrorism speech, The Times reported that the administration would start shifting control of the drone strikes from the CIA to the military.
Obama’s speech received a lukewarm response from the ACLU, which has fought to obtain more information about the administration’s drone warfare. This blog also noted that a mere speech without action would not squelch criticism of counterterrorism efforts that violate U.S. and international law. The president declared early in his first term that we must protect fundamental values, such as due process under the law, as vigilantly as we wage war against terrorists. But such talk has too often proven hollow.
In a piece for The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald scored the president for a trend of advancing rhetoric that doesn’t reflect reality. Greenwald wrote, “what should be beyond dispute at this point is that Obama’s speeches have very little to do with Obama’s actions, except to the extent that they often signal what he intends not to do. How many times does Obama have to deliver a speech embracing a set of values and policies, only to watch as he then proceeds to do the opposite, before one ceases to view his public proclamations as predictive of his future choices?”
In his widely-noted speech at the Oxford Union, Harold Koh (pictured) invited us to imagine a different response to September 11. It's easy to think that the path taken by the Bush administration was driven by a pre-destined sense of necessity, and Koh's invocation of a President Gore (a timely counter-factual with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's musings on that election and the Supreme Court’s involvement), offers an alternative/hypothetical response in the time-tested law enforcement approach.
At Lawfare, Ben Wittes defends the Bush administration’s record as oriented on a law enforcement approach. Koh argued that the Obama administration's approach "combined a Law of War approach with Law Enforcement and other approaches to bring all available tools to bear against Al Qaeda" and Wittes countered that this description fit the Bush administration's approach.
Contrary to Wittes’ attempt to frame the Bush administration as focused on law enforcement, President Bush specifically rejected this approach and attacked candidate John Kerry for suggesting this path forward. In 2004, when Kerry emphasized his background as a prosecutor and urged that terrorism be considered through a law enforcement lens until it became a "nuisance," Bush attacked him vehemently. Kerry argued for an approach that was, "less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation." Bush responded: "I disagree -- strongly disagree. … After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got." Wittes boasts of a more restrained argument from the Bush administration and he cites a 2006 speech by John Bellinger and a Bush administration brief filed in Boumediene (after losing hugely in Rasul, Hamdi and Hamdan), of a more restrained vision of the war on terrorism. Bush did move away from the GWOT framing in his second term largely because he had been thwarted by the courts and Congress. What Koh invites us to ponder - and Wittes fails to comprehend - is that you could have had a response to 9/11 that started with a deeply powerful law and order framework rather than heading down the rabbit hole by making outlandish claims of unilateral executive power that threatened constitutional order. By 2006, it was too little too late.
Recent reports about the Guantánamo Bay military prison have documented and confirmed the torture of detainees, and offered new insight into the wobbly legality of military commissions.
Scores of prisoners remain there and according to a Seton Hall report an elaborate system has been installed to eavesdrop on attorneys meeting with the prisoners, thereby undermining the legitimacy of the military tribunals. The Constitution Project also released an exhaustive report confirming what has been known for years – that torture of prisoners did occur at Guantánamo. Many of the prisoners are on hunger strikes, they see no escape from a place where they are being indefinitely held. “The situation is desperate now,” prisoner Samir Najl al Hasan Moqbel wrote in a recent column for The New York Times.
Today, President Obama, during a White House news briefing, said he still would like to see Gitmo shuttered. Obama promised to close the prison during his first term, but failed. Some reporting said the administration did not have much of a strategy in place for closing the prison.
Obama said, “I continue to believe that we need to close Guantánamo. I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantánamo is not necessary to keep us safe. It is expensive, it is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed,” The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly reports.
He continued, “The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity – even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda, we’ve kept pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority to Afghanistan – the idea that we would still maintain, forever, a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it’s contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has long represented some of the prisoners, lauded Obama’s comments, but noted the president should not place the entire onus on Congress to close the prison.
For instance, CCR said that Obama “still has the power to transfer the men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.”