Ten Human Rights Groups Unified in Opposition to Drone and/or Targeted Killing Court

A group of 10 human rights groups have written President Obama a letter calling for him to fulfill his State of the Union promise of more openness about drone and/or targeted killing.

The letter calls for obvious sorts of transparency (including the public release of all CIA, DOD, and DOJ documents pertaining to drone and/or targeted killing, as well as sharing of information Congress needs to conduct oversight) and warns that several of the interpretations adopted by the US (for example, its overly broad definition of imminence) don’t abide by international law.

But I’m most interested in this passage:

Judicial review is a central pillar of checks and balances. It is essential for accountability and transparency. Yet, the administration’s position is that judicial review is “not appropriate” in targeted killings cases and it has invoked broad interpretations of the political question and immunity doctrines, Bivens special factors, and the state secrets privilege to obstruct litigation.

We do not believe that accountability and transparency will be improved by recent proposals to establish a FISA-like court to sanction lethal targeting operations. On the contrary, a special targeted killing court would give a veneer of judicial review to decisions to launch lethal strikes without offering a meaningful check on executive power. Instead, we urge the administration to cease making broad claims of non-justiciability or political question, to prevent cases alleging human rights or constitutional violations from being heard on their merits. [my emphasis; footnotes removed]

That all 10 groups — including ACLU, Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, and Open Society Foundations, as well as some smaller institutions — would agree on this point makes a powerful statement. It denies the Administration of whatever sanction it hoped a drone and/or targeted killing court might give to their extrajudicial killing program.

The Administration is still more likely to be influenced by increased reporting on the lies they’ve been telling about the program than even these human rights groups. But it is important to see this unified statement undercutting the Administration’s (and Dianne Feinstein’s) efforts to make this program look better by burying it in a secret court.

Gitmo’s Commanders and My 4-Year Old Niece Play Games

I enjoyed watching my 4-year old niece wallop Mr. EW in a game of “Matches” last week. She kept making up new rules every turn, ensuring Mr. EW didn’t know precisely what the rules of the game were.

It provided me an excellent opportunity to teach her what the word “shrewd” means–“A special kind of smart.”

I’m less amused by this: Gitmo’s second new set of Military Commission rules in as many years. Last year, they released the 2010 Manual for Military Commissions hours before Omar Khadr’s trial started. This year, they’re introducing the 2011 Regulation for Military trial days before the Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri death penalty case starts. But make no mistake, this “Regulation” amends last year’s Manual. As Carol Rosenberg reports:

The Defense Department released the document two days ahead of the arraignment of a Saudi-born captive charged with murder and terrorism for al Qaida’s suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.


Almost simultaneously, the document appeared on the war court’s new nearly $500,000 website, numbering 202 pages and including some changes to procedures. For example, each case’s military judge now has the authority to approve the costs of a so-called “learned counsel,” typically a civilian defense attorney with extensive experience defending capital murder cases. It also outlined procedures through which observers could protest, through a chief clerk, a judge’s decision to declare an aspect of a trial as “protected.”


The Pentagon’s new Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter, signed the new document on Sunday. He said in a foreword that it provided guidance at times that differed from the way the U.S. military court martials its own troops. “That difference is necessitated by the unique circumstances of the conduct of military and intelligence operations during hostilities or by other practical need.”

Legal experts were poring over the document Monday night.

Meantime, Human Rights Watch attorney Andrea Prasow called the timing troubling.

“The very idea that new rules could be issued moments before someone is arraigned to face the death penalty offends any notion of due process,” said Prasow, who has worked on war court defense cases. “The stamp of illegitimacy has been firmly affixed to Nashiri’s case.”

To make it all the more pathetic, check out the image at the top of the page.


That’s the top corner of these brand new rules. From DOD. The biggest bureaucracy in the world.

With no headers.

How the hell can DOD release new rules governing a capital case without even bothering to include headers or footers (the document has simple centered page numbers) to indicate these are actually the rules issued by the biggest bureaucracy in the world?

It’s like some sergeant somewhere who doesn’t know how to operate Microsoft Word was tweaking these until an hour ago.

Seriously, I haven’t even gotten into the contents of these new rules yet. But they look like a–very long–high school project, not the considered rules of  court of law.