7 Ways for Obama to REALLY Earn that Nobel Peace Prize

president obama

Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.

As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.


Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.


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.


Breaking: Congress Passes 2013 NDAA, President Obama Must Veto

Protest at the White House against the prison at Guantanamo Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.

This is unacceptable, morally and legally. And it’s a reason why Amnesty International and 28 other human rights, religious and civil liberties organizations sent a letter calling on President Obama to veto the NDAA.


5 Reasons the Feinstein/Paul Amendment Doesn’t Fix the NDAA

indefinite detention graphic

Click to enlarge.

There’s a new crisis unfolding in the Senate right now over the infamous indefinite military detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  I know the effort to fix the NDAA seems to be never-ending, but it is crucial to take action once again, as the Senate is expected to vote tonight or tomorrow. The outcome is critical for human rights.

The problem:  A new amendment to the 2013 NDAA offered yesterday by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and supported by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is being touted in some quarters as sufficient to end concerns about indefinite detention. Unfortunately, that’s not true—and it could make things worse.

Here are 5 reasons Senators Feinstein and Paul should change their amendment to truly support human rights and civil liberties:


Afghan Women Spoke and Congress Listened

afghan women protest

Afghan Young Women for Change (YWC) activists, holding placards which read “where is justice?”, take part in a protest denouncing violence against women in Afghanistan in Kabul on April 14, 2012.

The U.S. Senate took a critical step to prioritize security needs of Afghan women and girls! Yesterday, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the Afghan Women and Girls Security Promotion Act of 2012.

If enacted, this crucial piece of legislation would require the Department of Defense to develop a three-part strategy to promote and support the security of Afghan women and girls during and after the security transition process. The bill would support Afghan women’s rights by:
• Improving monitoring and response to women’s security conditions.
• Increasing recruitment and retention of women in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by reducing barriers to women’s participation.
• Improving gender sensitivity among ANSF personnel by requiring training related to the human rights of women and girls and by strengthening enforcement and accountability.


Good News! Court Blocks NDAA Indefinite Detention Provision

guantanamo adnan latif

Protest in Washington DC of the 9th anniversary of the Guantanamo prison.

On Wednesday, a U.S. judge ruled that a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes indefinite detention is unconstitutional, and blocked the government from using the provision to hold people without charge.

The ruling is a major win for the movement to end indefinite detention, which for over 10 years has been a hallmark of the human rights vaccum at Guantánamo and was codified in U.S. law last year by President Obama and Congress. Shamefully, the Obama administration has appealed.

Why care about indefinite detention?

Imagine you were locked up, accused of—but never charged with—a crime, and denied a fair trial to make your case. Seem farfetched?


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.


Bush-Era Memo Raises New Questions About Torture and Accountability


Last weekend the State Department released a draft copy of a highly critical internal memo about the CIA’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that had long since been believed lost to posterity.

The draft, written by State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow in 2006, was uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the former Washington Independent reporter Spencer Ackerman. The final memo had been considered so explosive that the Bush administration instructed every single copy be collected and destroyed.

The memo was prepared in response to the passage of new legislation through Congress – the McCain amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act – that prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading (CID) treatment or punishment. There was no way for the Bush administration to avoid the need to reevaluate the CIA black site program against a CID standard.


Day of Action Against Guantanamo & NDAA

Wednesday, January 11 marked 10 years since the US government brought the first twenty Muslim men to the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in order to detain and interrogate them outside of the law.

People around the world protested the anniversary by issuing a resounding “Not in my name!” to the US government’s use of torture, indefinite detention and unfair trials, as part of the Day of Action Against Guantanamo and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


Can US Citizens Now be Detained Indefinitely?

prisoner in detention

© John Moore/Getty Images

There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.

The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.

The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.

The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.