December 19, 2008 Guest column Demoines Register
DAMON A. TERRILL was an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgRecent court orders to release suspected "enemy combatants" make plain how urgently the United States must act to replace the broken system of detention and trial embodied by the prison on Guantanamo Bay. But closing that prison is only one element of the greater imperative confronting American leadership.President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress must restore the rule of law to U.S. national security and foreign policy.It has been at tremendous cost to both the national interest and American values that President George W. Bush's administration has treated the law as a useless hindrance, rather than the vital instrument that generations of American leaders have known it to be. One result was tragically misguided policy.
Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretaps and the "torture memos" were the toxic fruits of a single vine. More costly still, the failure to honor existing legal commitments and to help develop new rules aimed at emerging problems has profoundly diminished American influence and made us less secure.Restoring the rule of law will require an effort as systematic as the Bush administration's attempts at its undoing. As with any restoration project, the work must begin with a thorough examination of exactly how much, and where, the rot has taken hold.Obama's national security adviser should coordinate a comprehensive review of the law of America's international relations as it has developed since 2000. A working group composed of the principal legal officers of the departments of state and defense, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, and the attorney general should perform that review, in consultation with Congress.
Within nine months, the working group should recommend where the law requires restatement, how to accomplish the most pressing procedural reforms, and what new law an effective national security and foreign policy necessitate.Three areas demand the working group's priority attention: detainees in the fight against terrorists; legislative oversight and disclosure; and the creation of binding executive legal opinions.- Detainees: Any decision to close Guantanamo raises, rather than resolves, the most difficult questions about detainees. The U.S. government needs a legally complete description, and then concrete prescriptions for reform, of how it apprehends, initially detains, interrogates, tries and imprisons (or releases) terrorism suspects. The men and women engaged in every aspect of the fight against terrorists must have - and deserve - unambiguous authority to wage it.- Oversight and disclosure: Successful presidents depend on an engaged Congress. The working group should evaluate and propose how Obama can best help to re-establish effective oversight and consultation in the design and application of American international legal policy.An initial reform agenda should have at least two objectives. First, presidential signing statements must not obscure the practical effect of legislation as it becomes the law; we must know what the law is, beginning with the content of our code. Second, disclosure must enable Congress to correct how the executive interprets and applies the law to him or her and to all Americans. The president and Congress should create durable mechanisms to require the orderly and secure disclosure of executive interpretations of statutes that purport to condition or to constrain the conduct of U.S. national security and foreign policy.- Binding executive legal opinions: Obama must restore rigor and transparency to the outdated arrangements that enabled the disastrous "torture memos."
A strengthened system would ensure that agencies with national-security and foreign-policy expertise adopt and issue - through the national security adviser - legal opinions that provide the president authoritative accounts of relevant U.S. law or international legal obligations. A single office in the Justice Department can no longer exercise that prerogative alone.Even the most diligent review and successful reforms will be incomplete until the international community and the American people understand their purpose and results. U.S. diplomacy should present an honest account of how the law failed under Bush, and what Obama and the Congress will do to regain confidence in America's commitment to shared values. No less important, the president must explain to an anxious American citizenry why and how the rule of law strengthens their government's foreign policy and makes them more secure.Closing Guantanamo is an indispensable beginning. But regaining what we have lost to eight years of malpractice and malfeasance will require much more. Obama and Congress must demonstrate that the United States will once again employ and develop the law to promote international stability, increase prosperity and re-establish the legitimacy of American leadership.
Related: Demands for War Crime Prosecutions Growing in the Main Stream
Glenn Greenwald at Salon dot com or Click
Also from Human Rights First dot org: # Guantánamo Will Be Closed: The debate over Guantánamo has moved from whether it should be closed to how it should be closed. HRF is a leading voice in this debate, backed by our extensive research, legal advocacy, and trial monitoring. Our How to Close Guantánamo blueprint is already in the hands of the administration's transition team and gives concrete steps on how to move forward: out of Guantánamo and into federal courts.
# Next Up: No More Torture: Over 70,000 people rallied in HRF's campaign to end torture during the election season to make sure that our next President was on the record opposing torture - and we succeeded! Add to this the fact that earlier in the year Congress passed a bill that would have held the CIA to the same standards as the military, and you can see that our work is having an impact. Although that bill was vetoed by President Bush, then-Senator Obama supported it, and we expect him to pursue this policy as President.
# New Voices Against Torture: The senior-level retired military officers that we've organized against torture were out in force this year, meeting with presidential candidates of both parties, writing op-eds, and appearing at special HRF receptions at both national conventions. Now we're working with a group of former interrogators who have a message to the new Congress and administration: torture doesn't get good intelligence and makes us less safe. Some would say that our partnership with these national security experts is unusual; but we share a common commitment to the rule of law and the values espoused in our Constitution and the international human rights norms that protect basic rights of all people. And these dedicated public servants are among the most effective advocates on this issue given their experiences and sacrifices for our country.
The FED who Blew the Whistle (Revealed - An Interview with the Reporter, Democracy Now) democracynow dot org
Startling Quote From Nuremburg Trials - US Supreme Court Chief Prosecutor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, serving as the chief prosecutor for the Allies during the Nuremberg trials , said then and the same speaks to the US designers of the war on terrorism with all its lies, torture, inhumanity and arrogance:
"The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war."