Saturday, April 5, 2014

District Court Rejects Targeted Killing Claim

Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D.D.C.) yesterday dismissed a civil damages claim against government officials for their roles in authorizing the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, his son, and Samir Khan.  Judge Collyer wrote in Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta that "special factors" counseled against the Bivens claim.

We've covered Al-Aulaqi's claims extensively (sometimes Al-Awlaki, sometimes Al-Awlaqi), both pre-killing and post-killing, brought by his father, Nasser.  Here's our post on Judge Bates's ruling dismissing Nasser's case to stop the killing.

The ruling adds to a body of lower-court cases limiting civil damage remedies against government officials for constitutional violations for actions related to the military, intelligence, and terrorism.  Indeed, these cases give government officials a free pass against civil damages claims for any action even loosely related to these areas, even with no showing by the government that the claims raise special factors counseling against a remedy (as this case illustrates--see below).

Nasser Al-Aulaqi brought this claim on behalf of his son Anwar and grandson Abdulrahman, along with Sarah Khan, who brought the claim on behalf of her son Samir.  Anwar was designated for targeting; Abdulrahman and Samir were not (they were bystanders in Anwar's targeted killing and another targeted killing).  All three were U.S. citizens. 

Nasser and Sarah sued government officials in their personal capacity under Bivens for Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations (among others).  The officials moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint failed to state a claim, that special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy, and that they enjoyed qualified immunity.  

Judge Collyer ruled that special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy.  Citing Doe v. Rumsfeld, Lebron v. Rumsfeld, and Vance v. Rumsfeld, she wrote that military decisions get a pass, and that Bivens ought not be extended to them:

In this delicate area of warmaking, national security, and foreign relations, the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role.  This Court is not equipped to qustion, and does not make a finding concerning, Defendants' actions in dealing with AQAP generally or Awar Al-Aulaqi in particular.  Its role is much more modest: only to ensure that the circumstances of the exercise of war powers against a specifically-targeted U.S. citizen overseas do not call for the recognition of a new area of Bivens relief.

Here, Congress and the Executive have acted in concert, pursuant to their Constitutional authorities to provide for national defense and to regulate the military.  The need to hesitate before implying a Bivens claim is particularly clear.  Congress enacted the AUMF, authorizing the Executive to use necessary and appropriate military force against al-Qa'ida and affiliated forces.  It is the Executive's position that AQAP is affiliated with al-Qa'ida. 

. . .

Permitting Plaintiffs to pursue a Bivens remedy under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the Court into "the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation," as the suit would require the Court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States.

. . .

Plaintiff's Complaint also raises questions regarding foreign policy because Anwar Al-Aulaqi was a dual U.S.-Yemeni citizen who was killed in Yemen.  Plaintiff's suit against top U.S. officials for their role in ordering a missile strike against a dual citizen in a foreign country necessarily implicates foreign policy.

Remarkably, the court so concluded without any help of from the government--even after the court ordered the government to help by providing material in camera and ex parte to support the special-factors defense.

The United States filed a Statement of Interest in the case, stating that it might later assert a state secrets defense.  Judge Collyer ordered the government to lodge declarations, in camera and ex parte to explain why special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy in the case.  The government refused, arguing that the court could resolve the defendants' motion to dismiss on the complaint alone.  

Judge Collyer scolded the government for its refusal--and wrote that this made the court's job "unnecessarily difficult"--but still "cobble[d] together enough judicially-noticeable facts from various records" to conclude that special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy.  She wrote that without these facts, the court "would have denied the motion to dismiss."

April 5, 2014 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Fifth Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spitzer Compares Bush and Obama

Robert J. Spitzer (SUNY Cortland) recently posted perhaps the most recent comparison of assertions of executive power in the Bush and Obama presidencies coming out of the political science world: Comparing the Constitutional Presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama: War Powers, Signing Statements, Vetoes.  As the title suggests, Spitzer compares the presidencies just in three dimensions.  But his piece also briefly summarizes the political science literature comparing other dimensions.  Here's Spitzer . . .

On war powers:

Nevertheless, in constitutional terms, Bush had the congressional authorization he needed [for the Iraq war]; Obama did not [for Libya].  Ironically, the grotesque scale of, and web of deception surrounding, the Iraqi war suggest that its precedential value for future presidents may be limited, whereas the presidential consequences of Obama's actions--another instance of an intervention without congressional approval, and the first instance of violation of the 60 day limit [in the War Powers Act]--are more likely to encourage future presidents tempted to engage in unilateral military actions.

On signing statements:

Presidents surely have interpretive latitude, especially when legislative language is vague or ambiguous, and therefore open to interpretation.  This is nothing new. . . .  What presidents may not do, Bush's unitary executive theory notwithstanding, is to rewrite legislation at the point at which a bill is presented for signature through signing statement in what some have called a de facto item veto.  As James Pfiffner concluded, "Bush's systematic and expansive use of signing statements constitutes a direct threat to the separation of powers system in the United States."  Obama has, to date, skirted, if not walked away from, this ambition, especially after the criticism of his 2009 signing statement of P.L 111-8 [directing that legislation that calls for congressional committee approval of spending decisions by federal agencies is to be treated as "advisory" and "not . . . dependent" on committee approval].  Contrary to the claim of some that Obama has assumed the mantle of a unitary president, his signing statement use to date has been comparable to, or less than that of any predecessor from Reagan on.  And Bush II's signing statement use continues to keep him in a class by himself.

On protective return pocket vetoes:

Unlike the other powers discussed in this paper, the Bush and Obama protective returns were nearly identical in form, and both appeared to arise from the bowels of the "deep structure" of the executive bureaucracy rather than from top political aides seeking to expand executive authority.  Here is one of the most important, if underappreciated, aspects of executive power accretion: secular bureaucratic power incrementalism.  A day may come where a constitutional challenge or political flare-up may drag the protective return pocket veto into the intense lights of the legal or political stage, and where a full airing, and final disposition, of this arcane executive power grab may be vetted and resolved.  Absent such a moment, however, the executive's "deep structure" will continue to advance the protective return for every subsequent chief executive.

December 21, 2013 in Executive Authority, News, Scholarship, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Should Veterans Have Veterans' Day Off? Constitutional Concerns

The Veterans Day Off Bill, reintroduced by Congressperson Bruce Braley of Iowa this year would require employers with more than 50 employees to give any veteran Veterans Day off, with or without pay.   The bill includes an exemption for cases in which the day off would negatively impact public health or safety, or cause significant economic or operational disruption.

War_Memorial_(Marion_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(marD0061)The major concerns about the constitutionality of the bill are twofold.

First, there could be an equality challenge.  Nonveterans could challenge the law as a denial of the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.  Certainly the law would be making a classification between veterans and nonveterans.  However, this classification receives receives the lowest level of scrutiny from the courts: the government would have the legitimate interest of "honoring veterans" and a single day off, that could be without pay, would most likely be reasonable.   It would be similar to veterans preferences in government employment which have been held constitutional, even though they have a disparate negative impact on women, as in Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney, decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1979.

Second, there could be a challenge to Congressional power to require private employers to allow employees a day off.  Requirements that private employers do not practice race or sex discrimination, or comply with wage and hour laws, or provide family medical leave, have all been held constitutional.  This law would be similar to those laws, as well as the the federal law protecting employment for those serving in the military, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).   The Bill does not apply to employees working for state governments where the Eleventh Amendment could serve as a potential bar to lawsuits seeking to vindicate rights.

Lastly, should the United States Supreme Court ever recognize that secular for-profit corporations have a free exercise of religion right under the First Amendment, the future could bring a challenge by the major shareholders of a corporation that sells sequins or makes kitchen cabinets  or sells groceries on the basis that the shareholders are Quakers, for example, who have a sincere and deeply held pacifist religious belief that would be burdened by being mandated to support a day off for someone who had participated in the activities of war.

[image: The Afghanistan-Iraq War Memorial in Salem, Oregon, via]


November 11, 2013 in Commerce Clause, Current Affairs, Eleventh Amendment, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Daily Media: Manning Updates (Including Banksy)

Chelsea Manning, convicted as Private Bradley Manning in a controversial military trial for revealing information to WikiLeaks, issued the first statement since her conviction, prompted in part by receiving a peace award.  She stated that although her actions may have had pacficist "implications," she does not consider herself a pacifist.   Rather, she is a "transparency advocate."  The statement also contains specific discussion of gender identity.   Manning's two page statement is worth a read, as is the accompanying article in The Guardian (to whom the statement was released) by Ed Pilkington.

Meanwhile in New York City, the latest and most ambitious project of the British public artist Banksy in his self-proclaimed October artist's residency on the streets of New York, alludes to Manning.  The street art's references might be somewhat illusive to a casual observer:

Lunjv4am0zva33crsllv
But Banksy's site featuring this image (as well as another), also includes an "audio guide."  It derives from some of the materials that Manning disclosed.  Gothamist has a good explanation (and more photos).  The Village Voice has excellent (with continuing) coverage of Banksy's art here and a profile with quoted material here.

 

October 9, 2013 in Current Affairs, First Amendment, State Secrets, War Powers, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Syria Resolution's Last Whereas

Garrett Epps writes over at The Atlantic that the Senate's Syria Resolution contains a huge give-away to the President: congressional recognition of inherent executive authority to use the military to defend the national security interests of the United States--independent of any AUMF.

The give-away comes in the last "Whereas" of the Senate's Syria Resolution.  It reads:

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States . . . .

Epps writes,

The only problem is it's not true, and it represents a two-century high-water mark in claims of executive power.  Having been consulted by the president, Congress is poised to respond by throwing back at him not only the current decision but sweeping new powers he didn't have before.

Lawfare has some terrific analysis on the Senate resolution and related issues, including Jack Goldsmith's analysis of that final "Whereas" (quoted in Epps's piece).

SDS

September 6, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Think About Drones

Mark Bowden writes in the current issue of The Atlantic about the moral, military, and legal aspects of U.S. drone strikes against alleged terrorists.  The article came out just as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon criticized the use of armed drones and argued that they must be controlled by international law.  We posted most recently on drones here--on the Al-Awlaki case, with links to the leaked DOJ white paper providing the legal justification for drone attacks.

Bowden surveys some of the legal landscape and concludes that drone attacks are legal.  But:

Once the "war" on al-Qaeda ends, the justification for targeted killing will become tenuous.  Some experts on international law say it will become simply illegal.  Indeed, one basis for condemning the drone war has been that the pursuit of al-Qaeda was never a real war in the first place.

He also quotes John Yoo on the relative legality of drone attacks:

I would think if you are a civil libertarian, you ought to be much more upset about the drone than Guantanamo and interrogations. . . .  Because I think the ultimate deprivation of liberty would be the government taking away someone's life.  But with drone killings, you do not see anything, not as a member of the public.  You read reports perhaps of people who are killed by drones, but it happens 3,000 miles away and there are no pictures, there are no remains, there is no debris that anyone in the United States ever sees.  It's kind of antiseptic.  So it is like a video game; it's like Call of Duty.

SDS

August 18, 2013 in Executive Authority, International, News, Procedural Due Process, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 9, 2013

President Opens Up on Surveillance

President Obama today announced a new effort at transparency and oversight in government surveillance programs.  WaPo reports here; here's the transcript.

President Obama said that he directed his national security team "to review where our counterterrorism efforts and our values come into tension," and "to be more transparent and to pursue reforms of our laws and practices."  He said he'd work with Congress to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the statutory authority for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order the release of telephone records (and which came under fire with Snowden's release of the FISC order doing just that), and to reform the FISC, in particular, by appointing a civil liberties advocate at the court.  He also said he'd work to be more transparent about surveillance and appoint an independent group "to step back and review our capabilities, particularly our surveillance technologies, and . . . how we can maintain the trust of the people . . . ."

The President also released a Readers Digest version of the legal authority for bulk collection of telephony metadata under Section 215, and an NSA mission statement.

As to the legal authority, the administration gave a broad read to the term "relevant" in Section 215--the issue that EPIC pressed in its recent suit challenging the program.  That is, the administration takes the position that Section 215's requirement that FISC production orders be supported by "reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation" gives very broad sweep to the FISC's authority.  The administration also focused on controls over abuse of the authority under Section 215.

The document argues that the program violates neither the Fourth Amendment nor the First Amendment.  As to the Fourth, the document claims that surveillance of telephony metadata doesn't even qualify as a "search" under Smith v. Maryland (1979), and, even if it did, the "search would satisfy the reasonableness standard that the Supreme Court has established in its cases authorizing the Government to conduct large-scale, but minimally intrusive, suspicionless searches" under Maryland v. King (2013).

As to the First Amendment, the document argues that the program authorizes the collection of only metadata, not content.  Moreover, it says that as a lawful investigative activity, can't violate the First Amendment, and that there's no chilling of protected speech.

SDS

August 9, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Second Judge Rejects Anti-Force-Feeding Case

Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D.D.C.) earlier this week rejected hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees' suit for an injunction against the government to stop it from force-feeding them.  The ruling in Aamer v. Obama is the second recent case coming out of the federal courts rejecting an anti-force-feeding claim.  Here's our post on the first.

Judge Collyer, like Judge Kessler in the earlier case, ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2241(e)(2), which deprives courts of jurisdiction to hear an action related to "any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement" of an alien detainee at Guantanamo.

Judge Collyer went on to address the merits, too.  She wrote that the government is "responsible for taking reasonable steps to guarantee the safety of inmates in their charge," that there is no right to suicide or assisted suicide, and that the government has a legitimate penological interest in preventing suicide.  Moreover, she wrote that the government has put controls in place so that the procedure really isn't so bad, and that the government made adjustments to the force-feeding schedule for the Ramadan fast.

SDS

July 18, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Al-Awlaki on the Drone That Killed His Grandson

Nasser al-Awlaki writes in the NYT today that "[t]he Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable" for the targeted killing of his grandson, Abdulrahman.  Al-Awlaki is also the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, also targeted and killed in a drone strike.

Al-Awlaki writes just a day before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments on the government's motion to dismiss his case (on Friday).  [UPDATE: The argument is tomorrow, Friday.]  We previously posted on that case here; the Center for Constitutional Rights has its case resource page here.  The government argues that the issue is a political question, that special factors counsel against a monetary damages remedy, and that officials enjoy qualified immunity.

Al-Awlaki's earlier suit, to stop the government from killing his son Anwar, was dismissed.  That court ruled that al-Awlaki lacked standing and failed to allege a violation of the Alien Tort Statute, and that the case raised non-justiciable political questions.

Here's our post on the DOJ white paper, the administration's analysis (leaked) on why targeted killing of U.S. citizens is legal.

SDS

July 18, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Judge Strikes Restrictions on Guantanamo Detainees' Access to Counsel

Judge Royce C. Lamberth (D.D.C.) ruled last week in In re Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation that Joint Detention Group, or JDG, restrictions on Guantanamo detainees' access to counsel violated the detainees' right to habeas proceedings in federal court.  The ruling was the second last week that invoked an increasingly personal challenge to President Obama and his policies on detention at Guantanamo Bay.  We posted on the other case, involving forced-feeding, here.

The court struck new and invasive search protocol for detainees before and after they meet with counsel; restrictions on the locations within the facility where certain detainees can meet with counsel; and even the new vans that guards use to transport detainees to meetings with counsel.  (The new vans are designed such that detainees have to sit in stress positions while traveling to their meetings with their attorneys.)  The court struck the restrictions under Turner v. Safley (1987), which set out factors to balance the interests in prison administration against the prisoners' fundamental rights.  In short, the court held that the restrictions had no "valid, rational connection" to the legitimate government interest of security, and that the government could serve that interest in other ways without unduly affecting the prison.

The case is notable for its close oversight of the conditions at Guantanamo that interfere with the detainees' access to their attorneys, and thus their access to habeas.  It's also notable for the courts increasingly personal appeals to, and critiques of, President Obama, his announced policies, and the way those policies play on the ground.  Judge Lamberth started the opinion with this:

On May 23, 2013, President Obama promised, concerning detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, that "[w]here appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system.  And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee."  This matter concerns whether the President's insistence on judicial review may be squared with the actions of his commanders in charge of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.  Currently, it cannot.

SDS

July 15, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, News, Opinion Analysis, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Federal Judge Urges Halt to Guantanamo Force-Feeding

Judge Gladys Kessler (D.D.C.) this week reluctantly denied a Guantanamo detainee's plea to stop his force-feeding.  Detainee Jihad Dhiab requested expidited consideration because of the risk that force-feeding during the day will deprive him of the Ramadan fast, which started July 8.  

Dhiab is an 11-year detainee at Guantanamo who has received no habeas or military commission proceeding to determine the merits of his case.  He was cleared for release two years ago.

Judge Kessler wrote that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear Dhiab's petition, because 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2241(e)(2) deprives courts of jurisdiction to hear an action related to "any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement" of an alien detainee at Guantanamo.  She wrote that "the Court feels just as constrained now, as it felt in 2009, to deny this Petitioner's Application for lack of jurisdiction."

Judge Kessler went on to address the merits, though, and to urge President Obama to stop the force-feeding:

The Court also feels constrained, however, to note that Petitioner has set out in great detail in his papers what appears to be a consensus that force-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. . . .

Even tough this Court is obligated to dismiss the Application for lack of jurisdiction, and therefore lacks any authority to rule on Petitioner's request, there is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue. . . . 

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that "[t]he Preisdent shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States . . ."  It would seem to follow, therefore, that the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority--and power--to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The White House responded at the daily press briefing yesterday that the President doesn't want these detainees to die, and that he maintains his position that Guantanamo should close.

SDS

July 10, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Senate Judiciary Questions Comey

The Senate Judiciary Committee today questioned James Comey, Jr., President Obama's pick to replace Robert Mueller as the head of the FBI.  Comey was a deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush who gained fame after his 2004 confrontation with White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card over that administration's secret surveillance program at the hospital bedside of former AG John Ashcroft.  But, as Rick Perlstein argues at The Nation, and as Laura Murphy argues at the Guardian, Comey's record is a little more complicated.

As has been widely reported, Comey today told the Committee that he thought waterboarding was torture.  The Atlantic Wire has a summary of his responses to other, similar issues.  Here's the hearing on c-span.org.

SDS

July 9, 2013 in News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 8, 2013

EPIC Takes Surveillance Challenge Directly to Supreme Court

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, today asked the Supreme Court to vacate the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, compelling the disclosure of domestic phone records by Verizon.  We previously posted on the FISC order here.

EPIC filed a petition for a writ of mandamus directly with the Supreme Court, bypassing the usual route through the lower courts, because of the unique nature of the FISC order.  EPIC claims that FISC Judge Roger Vinson ordered the disclosure of domestic phone records in violation of the FISC's statutory authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.  But EPIC says that under the FISA, the only court that can reverse Judge Vinson's order is the Supreme Court.  Moreover, the order creates exceptional circumstances relating to the invasion of privacy, privileged communications, and the First Amendment that warrant mandamus relief.  Thus, the mandamus petition.

On the merits, EPIC argues that Judge Vinson exceeded his authority under FISA:

[T]he FISC issued an order requiring disclosure of records for all telephone communications "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls."  The Business Records provision does not enable this type of domestic programmatic surveillance.

Specifically, the statute requires that production orders be supported by "reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation. . . . ."  50 U.S.C. Sec. 1861(b)(2)(A).  It is simply unreasonable to conclude that all telephone records for all Verizon customers in the United States could be relevant to an investigation.  Thus, the FISC simply "ha[d] no judicial power to do what it purport[ed] to do."

Petition at 18.

EPIC also argues that the order violates the separation of powers, insofar as it compels the disclosure of phone records of the judicial and legislative branches to the executive branch.

SDS

July 8, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sorting Out Fact and Fiction in NSA's Surveillance Program

The Newseum will host a special program NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at 4:00 p.m., at the Knight TV Studio in Washington, D.C.  More information is here; the program will be streamed live online at newseum.org.  

The program includes an introduction by ABA President Laurel Bellows and a panel of experts on national security law, free speech, and the press.  Harvey Rishikof, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and the National Security Advisory Committee, will moderate.  James Duff, president and CEO of the Freedom Forum and CEO of the Newseum, will deliver welcoming remarks.

SDS

June 21, 2013 in Conferences, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers, Speech, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

President Obama on Drones, Guantanamo

President Obama spoke out today on his administration's use of drone attacks and argued (again) for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in a speech that looked to wind down the war on terror.  Politico reports here.

President Obama's speech came the same day as the administration released a "fact sheet" on U.S. policy standards and procedures for drone strikes and other hostile actions against terrorist suspects outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.  According to the document, there's a preference for capture (and other reasonable alternatives) over killing, but still the document sets out standards for the use of lethal force:

First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.

Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.  It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.

Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:

1. Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;

2. Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;

3. An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;

4. An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and

5. An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to the U.S. person.

Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally--and on the way in which the United States can use force.  The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.

The "fact sheet" makes some changes in emphasis and language, but seems to basically leave in place the substance of the three-part test outlined earlier this year in the White Paper.  The "fact sheet" emphasizes rule-of-law principles and broad government decisionmaking and oversight over hostilities, but it does not specifically address or define "imminence" or the process by which the administration will designate a person a target.  (Recall that the White Paper looked specifically at the question when lethal force could be used against a U.S. citizen who is a senior leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force; the "fact sheet" sweeps in a broader class of potential targets.  Recall, too, that the White Paper defined imminence rather broadly, and it counterbalanced a target's interest in life with the U.S. interest in forestalling attacks on other Americans, under Mathews v. Eldridge.)  The upshot: only time will tell whether the Fact Sheet represents a real change in the way the administration actually executes drone attacks.  

SDS

May 23, 2013 in Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, News, Procedural Due Process, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

The ACLU and 19 other organizations sent a letter this week to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel opposing the military's force-feeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the ACLU, 29 detainees are currently being force-fed.  We previously posted on a ruling by New York's high court upholding the practice of force-feeing in New York prisons.

The military's standard operating procedures (SOP) on fasting and force-feeding changed just recently (published on Al Jazeera), loosening protections against force-feeding.  (The earlier SOP is here.)  Most notably, the recent changes to the SOP charge the military commander of the base, not a medical doctor, with determining who is a hunger striker.

Here's the ACLU's legal case against force-feeding, from this week's coalition letter to Secretary Hagel:

Force-feeding as used in Guantanamo violates Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which bar cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.  It also could violate the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of prisoners "regardless of nationality or physical location."  Indeed, a 2006 joint report submitted by five independent human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the U.N. Commission on Human Rights) found that the method of force-feeding then used in Guantanamo, and which appears to remain in effect today, amounted to torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994.  The report asserted that doctors and other health professionals authorizing and participating in force-feeding prisoners were violating the right to health and other human rights, including those guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992.  Those concerns were reiterated this month by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and three UN Special Rapporteurs.

While the letter focuses on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, there may be other problems with force-feeding, too.  For example, force-feeding may infringe on hunger-striking detainees' free speech.  But First Amendment claims by hunger-strikers in regular detention in the U.S. ´╗┐have not been successful´╗┐; Guantanamo Bay detainees would almost certainly face even steeper First Amendment challenges in the courts.  There's also the right to refuse medical treatment.  As Michael Dorf (DorfonLaw.org) argues at jurist.org, "five Justices in [Cruzan v. Dir. Missouri Dep''t of Health] did say that they thought that competent adults have the right to refuse forced feeding, even if death will result."  But that runs up against Washington v. Harper, holding that prison officials could override a prisoner's objection to forcibly being administered medication, assuming it's in the prisoner's medical interest.

Anyway, as Dorf points out, some Guantanamo detainees might have a hard time even bringing a case.  Judge Kessler (D.D.C) dismissed a detainee force-feeding case in 2009, based on the jurisdiction-stripping provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.  That provision says,

Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

The difference here is that some of the hunger-strikers now have been cleared for release--the U.S. just can't find a place to send them.  Those detainees are not "determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or [are] awaiting such determination," and are not barred by 2241(e)(2) from bringing suit.

SDS

May 15, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Medical Decisions, News, Speech, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Drone Attacks Outside the Ongoing Conflict Zone

The Obama Administration has given us just a glimpse of its legal analysis authorizing its use of drone attacks on U.S. citizens in a foreign country outside the zone of active hostilities.  And that mere glimpse contains a telling, and deeply troubling, reference to an earlier episode, Nixon's bombing of Cambodia, writes Professor Mary Dudziak (Emory), author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences, in the NYT.

Dudziak points to a citation to a 1970 speech by Department of State Legal Adviser John R. Stevenson in the recently released "white paper" setting out the administration's legal justification for drone attacks.  In that speech, Stevenson argued that the U.S. had authority to take military action in Cambodia in self-defense against North Vietnamese attacks from that country.  Dudziak explains:

Since 1965, "the territory of Cambodia has been used by North Vietnam as a base of military operations," [Stevenson] told the New York City Bar Association.  "It long ago reached a level that would have justified us in taking appropriate measures of self-defense on the territory of Cambodia.  However, except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, we refrained until April from taking such action in Cambodia."

But there was a problem:

In fact, Nixon had begun his secret bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier.  (It is not clear whether Mr. Stevenson knew this.)  So the Obama administration's lawyers have cited a statement that was patently false.

Here's the full paragraph from page 4 of the white paper:

The Department has not found any authority for the proposition that when one of the parties to an armed conflict plans and executes operations from a base in a new nation, an operation to engage the enemy in that location cannot be part of the original armed conflict, and thus subject to the laws of war governing that conflict, unless the hostilities become sufficiently intense and protracted in the new location.  That does not appear to be the rule of the historical practice, for example, even in a traditional international conflict [i.e., a conflict between nations].  See John R. Stevenson, Legal Adviser, Department of State, United States Military Action in Cambodia: Questions of International Law, Address before the Hammarskjold Forum of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (May 28, 1970), in 3 The Vietnam War and International Law: The Widening Context 23, 28-30 (Richard A. Falk, ed. 1972) (arguing that in an international armed conflict, if a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent using its territory as a base of operations, the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state).  Particularly in a non-international armed conflict, where terrorist organizations may move their base of operations from one country to another, the determination of whether a particular operation would be part of an ongoing armed conflict would require consideration of the particular facts and circumstances in each case, including the fact that transnational non-state organizations such as al-Qa'ida have no single site serving as their base of operations. [Citation omitted.]

Dudziak argues that the citation to Nixon's bombing of Cambodia illustrates a problem, instead of providing a precedent:

The Cambodia bombing, far from providing a valuable precedent for today's counterterrorism campaign, illustrates the trouble with secrecy: It doesn't work.  If Nixon had gone to Congress or announced the plan publicly, the historian Jeffrey P. Kimball has written, "there would have been an uproad."  But disclosure was ultimately forced upon him when he decided to send ground troops into Cambodia.  A new wave of giant antiwar protests erupted, and Nixon's ability to take further aggressive action became infeasible.

She writes that we expect more, and deserve more, of President Obama.

SDS

 

 

March 22, 2013 in Executive Authority, Foreign Affairs, History, International, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 15, 2013

D.C. Circuit Allows FOIA Case for Drone Files to Move Forward

The D.C. Circuit today rejected the CIA's non-response to the ACLU's FOIA request for documents related to the government's drone program and allowed the case to move forward.  Still, the ruling doesn't ensure that anyone will actually receive documents.  That's a question for the district court on remand.

The case, ACLU v. CIA, involves the ACLU's FOIA request for "records pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles ('UAVs')--commonly referred to as 'drones' . . .--by the CIA and the Armed Forces for the purpose of killing targeted individuals."  The CIA responded with a Glomar response--declining either to confirm or deny the existence of any responsive records.  The CIA claimed that confirming the existence of documents would confirm that it is involved in, or interested in, drone strikes, while denying the existence would confirm the opposite.  According to the CIA, its involvement or interest in drone strikes fell under exceptions to the FOIA.

The D.C. Circuit disagreed.  It ruled that the government had already publicized the targeted-killing-by-drone program, and that even the CIA chief had revealed its existence and the Agency's interest in it.  Because the reasons for withholding the documents wasn't really a reason, in light of these disclosures, the court said that the CIA can't hide behind a Glomar response.  

Moreover, the CIA justified its Glomar response on the ground that it was necessary to keep secret whether the CIA itself was involved in, or interested in, drone strikes.  But the ACLU's request swept more broadly--to any government drone strikes.  And the CIA's Glomar response also swept more broadly--too broadly.

The court also noted that the government appears to have acknowledged that the CIA has some records that could be responsive to the FOIA request.

The court remanded the case to the district court to sort out what documents the CIA has, and which ones, if any, it might have to turn over.  It's not clear that the CIA will ultimately have to turn over any documents.  The court gave specific suggestions to the district court as to how it might evaluate CIA records and determine which ones it has to release.

SDS

March 15, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Administration Won't Use Domestic Drones to Kill Americans, After All

It turns out that the administration won't use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil after all, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney earlier today.  This seems a very strange thing to be relieved about, but this is the level of discussion after AG Eric Holder earlier this week suggested in a letter to Senator Rand Paul that there might be extraordinary circumstances when the White House could order such a strike.  Senator Paul then engaged in a 13-hour talking filibuster, holding up a vote on John Brennan to head the CIA, in protest.

MQ-1_Predator_unmanned_aircraft

In response to a question whether "the president has authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil," Carney simply said "No."  "The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil," according to Carney.

Josh Gerstein at Politico posted the story here.

SDS

[Picture: Air Force]

March 7, 2013 in Executive Authority, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Paul's Filibuster and the Administration's Domestic Drone Authority

Senator Rand Paul started a talking filibuster today on the Senate floor, holding up John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA.  His problem?  The administration's use of drones.  In particular, a reply he received earlier this week from AG Holder in response to his question whether the government could use drones to target and kill U.S. citizens within the United States.  Here's Holder's answer:

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.  It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.  For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority.

Adam Serwer at Mother Jones was out front in reporting on AG Holder's letter.  Senator Paul's official web-site is posting his hour-by-hour comments on the floor.

SDS

March 6, 2013 in Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)