5 Points President Obama Should Make in Thursday’s National Security Speech

America shouldn't stand for GuantanamoThis Thursday at 1:30p.m. eastern, President Obama will deliver a widely anticipated speech at National Defense University that is expected to address closing Guantanamo, drones and US counterterrorism policy.

If President Obama is serious about ending human rights violations by the US government in the name national security, he should use the speech to announce, among other points, that:

1)  Forced feeding will stop and the transfer of detainees cleared to leave will resume.  There are dozens cleared by the administration to leave the detention facility. Even under current Congressional conditions on transfers, these men can and must be transferred out where there are  countries to take them that will respect their human rights.

One example is Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for transfer under the Bush and Obama administrations, and the British government says he should be free with his wife and children in London. Why has he not been transferred there? Instead of brutal force feeding of detainees, it’s time to fulfill human rights.


5 Ways President Obama Can End the Hunger Strike & Close Guantánamo

UPDATE: On 4/30 President Obama again vowed to close Guantanamo. While we welcome this call words must be followed up by action, such as the steps below.

gitmo shaker finalSign our new petition telling President Obama and Congress that you support closing Guantanamo.

Imagine you’re Shaker Aamer, locked up without charge for 11 years, thousands of miles from home, despite being cleared, for years, to leave. The UK government has repeatedly intervened on your behalf in an effort to reunite you with your wife and children in London. But you’re still held. You go on hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to your plight. You have told your lawyers that you and your fellow inmates are being beaten, deprived of sleep and punished just for protesting. And all this is being done by the United States government, whose president promised four years and three months ago to shut Guantánamo for good. Just imagine.

Two months into the most recent hunger strike at Guantánamo and over three years after the deadline for closing the facility, President Obama has barely said a peep about his broken promise. But ignoring the problem at Guantánamo is simply unacceptable. The US government is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other treaties and binding laws, to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. That’s a point made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in this strong statement.

As High Commissioner Pillay points out, yes, those responsible for the September 11 attacks must be brought to justice, and the government has a duty and responsibility to ensure safety. But the US can’t exempt itself from its human rights obligations in doing either of these things. That’s why instead of Guantánamo, the criminal justice and law enforcement systems in the US – available from day one –  should be used. These systems are far from perfect and must themselves be reformed, but they are quipped to ensure justice for the 9/11 attacks and address any security risks posed by those held at Guantánamo.


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.