counterterrorism/GTMO

With the President delivering his final State of the Union address as I write these lines, I couldn’t help but have a look at my own very early endorsement of and pledge to work for (as a member of his campaign’s Human Rights Policy Committee) then-Senator Barack Obama. It holds up pretty well 8 years later, even if not everything turned out as, well, hoped. Here, once again, is my Jan. 3, 2008, IntLawGrrls post:

(An Iowa Caucus Day item) Soon after the 2d inauguration of George W. Bush, whose Presidency already had been marked by abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, by the folly of the Iraq invasion, and by the failure to incapacitate Osama bin Laden, I began to prepare for the next election cycle. 
My road to 2008 began on the freeway, listening to politicians read aloud the books in which they endeavored to tell their own stories in their own words. My Life, the memoir by Bush’s immediate predecessor, Bill Clinton, filled in some details about a man who in the 1990s had dominated current events. In Living History his wife, Hillary Clinton, read her precise account of those same times. The works left me appreciative yet disengaged.
Then, on a colleague’s recommendation, I listened to Barack Obama read Dreams from My Father, the “story of race and inheritance” he’d written a decade earlier. The last thing I expected to discover were things in common. And yet here was someone who’d also moved about as a child, been raised at times by grandparents. Who’d also witnessed Harold Washington’s milestone mayoral election while working in Chicago — who’d worked a few years before moving on to law school, then to law teaching. Whose family ties put him in close contact with newcomers to America and with relatives overseas. (Yesterday, in the Voice of America interview here, Obama urged political rivals in Kenya, his father’s homeland, to “address peacefully the controversies that divide them.”) A progressive Illinoisan who preferred consensus to conflict.
His campaign’s followed lines sketched in Dreams and detailed in his 2d book, The Audacity of Hope. The operative word remains “hope” — discussed by means not of doe-eyed promises of the impossible, but of substantive policy prescriptions. There’s a focus on building a movement, one that underscores the significance of a fact seldom studied despite the reams of copy written about Obama: This is someone whose sensibilities were shaped by years of organizing poor people in job-starved communities, a real world experience that all politicians could use but few have. The campaign’s unabashed reaching across the aisle, moreover, comes as a relief to all exhausted by the pitched political battles of the recent past.
And then there’s Obama’s foreign policy.
This is a candidate who fears not to speak with favor of the United Nations and other international bodies. Who speaks of the essential need for the United States not simply to demand from its allies, but rather to earn from them, respect and assistance. Who understands “security” to mean more than military might. A candidate who persists in a plan to meet personally with world leaders of all political persuasion, to cut in on diplomatic dances of avoidance that sometimes extend distance between cultures.
Not least is Obama’s denunciation of Guantánamo and all it stands for: indefinitedetention for purposes of interrogation, abandonment of habeas corpus, cruelty and torture. It’s unequivocal and delivered to all audiences.
Aiding Obama are scores of foreign policy experts and international lawyers. They include many noted and respected women, among them: Pulitzer Prizewinning Harvard ProfessorSamantha Power; Patricia Wald, former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District ofColumbia Circuit and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; and Dr. Susan E. Rice, formerly assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs.
It may seem odd that someone who’s spent nearly a year blogging the achievements of the world’s women leaders is working for this candidate. Would I welcome as President a woman who’s made her own way, who stands on her own feet, who promises to bring the best to the job? Certainly. I’ll embrace that candidate, when she emerges.
Now, though, this IntLawGrrl’s honored to be doing her wee bit for Barack Obama, the human who pushes people to “Change the World.”

dotyDelighted to announce that Kathleen A. Doty has taken up the post of Associate Director for Global Practice Preparation at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law. Having worked with Kate both when she was a law student and in the years that she’s practiced as an international lawyer, I’m confident she’ll do wonders with her portfolio, which includes administration of: Global Externships; the Brussels Seminar on Global Governance; a four-decades-old summer study abroad offering; exchanges with law faculties overseas; international advocacy; and other academic and research initiatives.

She joins Laura Tate Kagel, our Center’s Director of International Professional Education (in charge of our LLM program and our trainings of judges and other practitioners), and me, as core staff. For nearly 4 decades the Center – named after the former U.S. Secretary of State and longtime member of GeorgiaRUSK_LOGO_MAIN Law’s faculty – has been a global nucleus of education, service, and scholarship in international, transnational, comparative, and foreign affairs law and policy.

Kate arrived in Athens from Washington, D.C., where she’d been practicing treaty law as Assistant Counsel for Arms Control and International Law at the Office of the General Counsel, Strategic Systems Programs, U.S. Department of the Navy. Before that, she was Attorney-Editor at the American Society of International Law, where her duties included managing the American Journal of International Law and editing publications like ASIL Insights, International Law in Brief, International Legal Materials, and the Benchbook on International Law. Her own writings include a note in ILM and a chapter in the Benchbook, as well as a study of transitional justice in Darfur, published in the UC Davis Journal of International Law & Policy, and an analysis of a European Court of Human Rights adoption decision, published in the Tulane Journal of Law & Sexuality.

Doty earned her Juris Doctor degree and a Public Interest Certificate in 2008 from the University of California-Davis School of Law, where I was honored to be one of her professors. Then she was a law clerk on the Hawaiʻi Intermediate Court of Appeals. She returned to California-Davis to serve for two years as the inaugural Fellow of a unit I founded, the California International Law Center. During that time, she was principal author of CILC’s 2011 report, Towards Peace With Justice in Darfur: A Framework for Accountability, and co-instructor of the law school’s Appellate Advocacy course. Her achievements as a law student included competition in the international rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court and the national rounds of the National Moot Court, winner of the Best Brief Award at the National Moot Court, and service as a Moot Court Board officer. She is an inductee of the Order of Barristers.

Currently, Doty chairs the Non-Proliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. In 2013, she was an NGO observer on behalf of ASIL at the U.N. High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament, and in 2012, on behalf of the National Institute of Military Justice, she observed Guantánamo military commissions proceedings in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Her observations were published online at Jurist and at IntLawGrrls, the blog she co-edited for several years.

She received her undergraduate degree from Smith College with a major in Latin American Studies and a minor in Film Studies, and she worked for Engel Entertainment as a production assistant and sound recordist for documentaries before pursuing her career in international law. Fluent in Spanish and proficient in French, Doty has worked with community organizations in the Hispanic and French Caribbean and studied abroad at La Universidad de la Habana in Cuba.

Welcome!

New Orleans will be the site of what looks to be a terrific event next Thursday: “Blood Antiquities,” the Annual Cultural Heritage Seminar, on October 15, 2015. Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Tess Davis, an alumna and member of the Dean Rusk International Law Council at Georgia Law, sends this information:

isis-destroy-palmyra-shrineWith the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the world rightfully asked how a militant faction too extreme for Al-Qaeda transformed itself into ‘the world’s richest terror group ever.’ How?
ISIS jihadists earn millions by looting the region’s archaeological sites, and then selling its ancient treasures to the highest bidder.
In the last year alone, we have lost some of the Cradle of Civilization’s most iconic masterpieces and sites, many of which had survived for millennia. This threatens us all: at this moment, ISIS is converting these “blood antiquities” into weapons and troops, which are seizing cities, slaughtering soldiers, and beheading civilians.
Join the Federal Bar Association and the Antiquities Coalition to explore this growing threat to our national security and the world’s cultural heritage. A distinguished panel of archaeologists, lawyers, journalists, and military officials will expose this illicit industry, tracing the path of looted masterpieces from the war zones of Mesopotamia to the very heights of the global market. They will also explore how United States and international law is seeking to cut off this key means of terrorist financing, including recent action by the U.S. Congress and United Nations Security Council.

Details here. (photo credit)

kueblerShocked and saddened to read that U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler died from cancer on July 17, at age 44. (photo credit)

Bill’s representation of Omar Khadr, born in Canada and seized by U.S. forces in an Afghanistan battle, is recounted in an Ottawa Citizen obituary. I feel compelled to add my own recollection.

We met in December 2008, at Guantánamo. The occasion was the first set of military commissions hearings since November 4, 2008, when voters chose then-Sen. Barack Obama to become the next U.S. President. Because Obama had pledged to shut down GTMO, many of the lawyers, media, and observers aboard the chartered jet that took us to the U.S. military base at the southwestern tip of Cuba were calling this “The GTMO Farewell Tour.”

The week began with a failed attempt by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his codefendants to plead guilty to capital charges of masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It ended with a hearing in Khadr – a hearing in which Kuebler proved himself a master of his craft. As I wrote at page 13 of my report for the National Institute of Military Justice:

‘Of particular interest was the effort of Navy Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler (pronounced “keebler”), lead military counsel for Omar Khadr, to gain admission during this pretrial hearing of photos made during the firefight at which Khadr was captured. Kuebler argued that the photos would help the defense to make its case for compelling certain witnesses, whose testimony, it was said, would exonerate Khadr by indicating that he was buried beneath rubble at the time someone threw the grenade that killed a U.S. servicemember. The judge refused, and Kuebler went forward without the photos. But the dispute whetted the appetite of the media to see the photos, and some published a next-day story suggesting Khadr’s innocence.’

This understanding of the importance of public scrutiny, combined with an ability to inform the public even as a request was denied, illustrated Kuebler’s diligent representation of his client, Khadr – who, today, is out of prison and living in Alberta, Canada, released on bail while appeals are pending. “Khadr owes more to Bill than to any other advocate,” the Citizen obituary aptly states. And so we pause in his memory.

networksWhat is Al Qaeda, and what does it matter? Cardozo Law Professor Deborah Pearlstein took on those questions in an Opinio Juris post yesterday, “Al Qaeda in the Headlines.”
Deborah notes the media fondness for attaching labels like “Al-Qaeda-linked” to a range of militant groups – a practice, she writes, that

a much more complicated reality than the one conjured by the brand name “Al Qaeda.”

Her post discussing the consequences of that blanket label, not only as a matter of law but also as a matter of international and domestic politics. (Calls to my mind a post I did a few years back on another at-times-uncritically-accepted label, “returned to the fight.”) The successful labeling – and with it the public perception – of an insurgent armed group as “Al Qaeda” is more likely to build in the United States “pressure to use force” in response. That is not a good thing, Deborah writes, if the label’s wrong, if the group is not really to a terrorist menace to the United States:

‘If it’s something else – a group with different aims, a different focus – then our strategy may well and wisely be quite different.’

A timely call for precision in a crucial policy debate.

(credit for diagram of mesh network)

gtmoVia a flight to Slovakia, United States has relinquished custody of all Uighurs – Muslim men from western China who’d been held at Guantánamo many years after executive and judicial officials agreed the men posed no threat to national security.

It didn’t have to take so long.

‘Way back in 2008, a federal judge (interviewed today by the Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg) ordered release of the men. And in spring 2009, some of these detainees came thisclose to freedom in the United States. They were to be hosted by the Uighur community in Northern Virginia. A plane was readied for their journey to the mainland. According to a May 2009 Newsweek report:

‘Then on May 1, Virginia GOP Rep. Frank Wolf got tipped off. Furious, he fired off a public letter to President Obama …. The flight never took off.’

Wolf’s stated concerns that, among other things, “the detainees might attack Chinese diplomats in D.C.,” ended the 2009 plan. Indeed, within a month, The New York Times then reported,

‘Congress overwhelmingly passed a rider to an appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan that banned resettling any of the Guantánamo detainees in the United States …’

That stalled the release of the 22 Uighurs (now living in 6 different countries) and other detainees at GTMO (photo credit), for years. Things have picked up this year, thanks to a congressional ease-up and to work by newly appointed State and Defense envoys. But as The Times’ Charlie Savage reports today, there’s still a way to go before the camp closes:

‘There are 155 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo. Of those, about half have long been approved for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country, the bulk of whom are Yemenis.’

Le Monde online debuts a novel feature today: articles en anglais. Prompting the presence of some English-language items is the Paris daily’s exposé of the degree to which the United States’ National Security Agency has been monitoring, well, everybody – including citizens of France.

patateNSA: un système géant d’espionnage mondial,” declares the banner headline. Beneath it are several sidebar articles, including, in a welcome mat from readers across the Channel and across the Pond, many with English titles and text. Examples: “Inside the NSA’s web of surveillance” and “France in the crosshair: Wanadoo and Alcatel targeted.”

There is much anger reported at these revelations. A leader of the National Assembly admitted that the fact that the NSA is surveilling France is not surprising. But he continued (my translation):

‘[T]he real discovery in this affair is the extent and the systematic nature of these wiretaps. These practices … damage considerably the image of this great democratic nation and question its conception of the world and of fundamental liberties.’

Despite that dark apparent reference to the United States’ global stature, a few cartoonists have approached the news with humor, telling the story “en patates.” The video published by Le Monde recounts the experiences of the “Lafrite” family  – the mother who works for Alcatel, the son who uses social media to keep in touch with a buddy in Turkey, and the father who stays clear of electronics (except to watch webcasts of “Game of Thrones”) – not to mention the sunglass-sporting NSA agent (above) who watches them. The video ends with President-Hollande-as-potato, peering at his own presumably compromised computer.

Comment la NSA vous surveille (expliqué en patates)” is here; Francophones, enjoy.