Another Republican Lawyer Warns Obama about Legal Problems

I know it’s probably easy for Obama supporters, if not members of the Administration, to dismiss the warnings of lawyers who fought within the Bush Administration to cloak our counterterrorism policy in legal sanction as trolling.

But you’d think that as Jack Goldsmith and now John Bellinger raise the same kind of warnings they did with Bush, they’d be treated with the same kind of alarm among the pundit class.

I have been warning for several years about the international legal risks posed by the Obama Administration’s heavy reliance on drone strikes, including my Post op-ed in October 2011 entitled “Will Drone Strikes Become Obama’s Guantanamo?”   This article was not intended as partisan criticism but rather as a cautionary note, based on my own eight years of experience explaining US counter-terrorism policies.

At the time I wrote it, I thought there was perhaps only a 25% chance that Obama’s drone strikes would become as internationally maligned as Guantanamo, given the preference of human rights groups and European governments to avoid criticising the Obama Administration.  But over the last eighteen months, I have seen a crescendo in international criticism, resulting in lawsuits in the US, Britain, and Pakistan, and a potential decrease in intelligence cooperation.  This has echoes of the rapid decline in European governmental support for US counterterrorism efforts after 9-11 as national parliaments pressed their governments to distance themselves from unpopular US policies.  I would not be surprised if, in the next year, war crimes charges are brought against senior Obama officials in a European country with a universal jurisdiction law.   The Administration is increasingly on the back foot internationally in explaining and defending the legal aspects of the drone program.  It needs to step up its efforts.

These are not starry-eyed hippies. They’re solidly conservative lawyers. And yet it seems their warnings are being treated with the seriousness they would if I had made them.

One more point. As I traced last year, the White House’s unusual efforts to keep all mention of the “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification that authorizes many of these counterterrorism programs mapped closely to the exposure of Binyam Mohammed’s torture through an effort very nearly parallel to the suit Bellinger discusses in his post: Noor Khan’s suit against the UK for cooperating in the drone strike that killed his father.

The UK has used various strategies to try to hide its role in US covert operations: effectively a Glomar in this case, and a larger effort to create a secret court to hide our counterterrorism programs.

Maybe these British efforts will work. Maybe this particular ally will succeed in hiding the things we work hard to hide.

But not all of them will be.

The Administration seems increasingly committed to claiming all of this was a covert op, immune even from full disclosure to the Intelligence Committees, to say nothing of ordinary citizens. Perhaps it is so committed in an effort to avoid embarrassing our allies like this.

But it’s not fooling anyone.

Tweet about this on Twitter5Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook4Google+1Email to someone

4 Responses to Another Republican Lawyer Warns Obama about Legal Problems

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel RT @timkaine: Read my @nytimes op-ed laying out why President Obama must get Congress’s authorization for the fight against ISIL http://t.c…
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @p2wy You see how we could have a fun w/this? Don't think @repjustinamash would ever intro new tax but maybe some Dem would? @runtodaylight
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @KevinBuist Aren't you assuming the video games we played when we were 12 were actually called that?
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @samhusseini Imagine how quickly any NIE would leak this time! That said increasing #s know finally admit all our hammers not worth a damn
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @michaelwhitney Was gonna ask how come your football team wasn't best in league w/that then remembered not to jinx Pats @jilliancyork
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @carolrosenberg: There’s rigid military censorship now. US troops comb through free-press imagery, delete some that were routinely allow…
11hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @chinahand Well, sure. But don't you think they'd miss Edinburgh as a kind of mecca of capitalism?
12hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @BiometricsNerd: 93% of FBI NextGen Identification searches are automated, remaining require human-in-the-loop. Amy Hess FBI S&T Branch …
12hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Having fantasies about that kayak the #Rays just gave Jeter being full of fire ants the first time he hops in...
12hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @billmon1 Cruz just got to the Senate too late: remember when they were hunting AQ defense attys? @DanielLarison @Ali_Gharib
12hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel So after we impose 100% tax on Liz Cheney's inheritance and .1% net worth taxes on politico use of "homeland" THEN we can tax DOD contrators
13hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Actually I think these are better taxes to pay for Get-Your-War-On: 1) Liz Cheney's inheritance. All of it 2) Pols using word "homeland"
13hreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031