Why Drone Death Courts are a Terrible Idea

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Public thirst is growing for more information about the Obama administration’s death-by-drone program and what can be done to ensure US policies do not authorize unlawful killings— whether of a US citizen or anyone else. Unfortunately,  a number of commentators—including the editorial board of the New York Times—have proposed the idea of a special court to review the Obama administration’s kill list, along the lines of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews executive surveillance and search requests in espionage or terrorism cases. It’s a terrible idea that underscores how far from basic human rights principles the “global war” approach to countering terrorism has taken the US government.

A secret drone death-warrant court, would in some sense be issuing a warrant of execution, without the condemned person ever knowing that a “charge” has been laid, that a “trial” has taken place, or that a “verdict” and “sentence” has been passed, let alone being able to defend themselves in the proceedings in any way.  If “global war” thinking hadn’t permeated so much of the way the US government thinks and talks about how to deal with the threat of terrorism, the proposal by some to establish a special court that would secretly review and approve government proposals to conduct lethal drone strikes would immediately be rejected as a non-starter that misses the point.

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Egypt vs. the Bloggers

Days after Egyptian authorities went after one blogger critical of the government’s policy on Gaza and human rights, they’re now going after another. Dia’ el Din Gad, a student blogger is believed to have been held incommunicado in the custody of State Security Investigations (SSI) services and at risk of torture since his Feb. 6.  (Click here for more)

As bloggers have emerged as an active and important voice in promoting democracy and human rights, the government has responded, including Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Karim Amer. It’s part of a larger effort to shut down all public criticism of the government in the press and beyond.

For all of the attention given to the release of Ayman Nour, obstentively as a charm initiative in preparation for a Mubarak visit to DC, the arrest of Dia’el Din Gad is a warning for the Obama administration.  This week, the Washington Post sums up the dangers in an editorial here.

To take action on the Dia’el Din Gad, case, click here.

Two Thirds of Americans want Accountability

A USA Today/Gallup Poll published earlier this week found a strong desire amongst Americans for investigations into human rights abuses committed during the Global war on Terror by the Bush administration.  38% of those interviewed expressed a preference for criminal investigations into these abuses.  24% favored a truthfinding inquiry without prosecutions.

While the Obama administration continues to argue for looking forward rather than back, the argument for accountability is gaining momentum propelled by the initiatives in the House and the Senate to investigate Bush era abuses.  The USA Today/Gallup Poll suggests that Senator Leahy and Representative Conyers are better in tune with the mood of the country than the Obama White House. Republican Senator Arlen Specter spoke out against accountability this week arguing, “this is not Latin America.” How true, Latin American countries like Guatemala, Chile and Argentina have demonstrated the strength of their national character by examining the human rights abuses that occurred on their soil.  The United States has yet to measure up to that standard.  The American people want accountability – the administration should heed their call.