What Needs to Happen Next on Drones?

President Obama should publicly disclose the secret drone memos with only the redactions truly necessary, as well as the facts about who has been killed. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.

But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.

1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.

Senator Durbin said yesterday that the administration is interested in working with Congress to pass legislation, but that misses a key point, namely, that the law governing any state’s use of lethal force—whether with a drone or a gun or most other weapons—already exists: international human rights law and, in the exceptional circumstances where it applies, international humanitarian law as well. The US government must follow the law.


Mad About the NDAA? Join the January 11 Protest in DC

close gitmo rallyLate last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.

The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.

Expressed in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reaffirmed in the 2012 NDAA, this “global war” doctrine is used to justify everything from killings with drones to detention without charge at Guantanamo to renditions (still happening, according to a Washington Post report) to impunity for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances.


NDAA is Back: House Reaffirms Indefinite Detention

stop NDAA and indefinite detentionYup, it’s that time of the year again: the sun is shining, birds are singing, school’s almost out, and elected officials are trying to take our human rights away. It’s NDAA time.

What does that mean? You have two options:

1) If you’re an NDAA junkie, and already know that the Smith/Amash effort to improve the NDAA just lost in the House this morning, then sign this action calling for repeal of Sections 1021 & 1022.

2) If you have no idea what I’m talking about then keep reading for an NDAA 101.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an important piece of legislation passed every year to authorize defense expenditures. In and of itself, it’s not a big deal. But it often gets hijacked for other purposes (see Wikipedia entry for Pork barrel) and sometimes for really bad ones–and thus our story begins.

Last year a bipartisan group led by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) passed amendments to the 2012 NDAA that dealt with how the government detains suspected terrorists. The detention provisions, specifically Sections 1021 and 1022–signed in to law with the rest of the NDAA by President Obama on New Year’s eve while most of us were in Times Square–further entrenched indefinite detention, discrimination based on citizenship, and the paradigm of global unending war in US law.


Senate's Disastrous New Detention Bill

Update 12/2/11: The Senate passed NDAA.  President Obama must veto this disastrous bill.

The new National Defense Authorization Bill (S1867) presented to the Senate by the Armed Services Committee is such a disaster for civil liberties and human rights it is difficult to know where to begin.

Section 1031 of the Bill extends the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after the September 11th attacks to encompass any individual who has “substantially supported” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”.

This is extraordinarily vague.  The phrase ‘associated forces’ is so flexible that it can be used to encompass almost any militant Islamic group in existence from Indonesia to Nigeria. It might include political parties who share some of the militants’ aims but not their methods – like the Hizb ut Tahrir movement active in Western Europe and Australia.