May 20, 2014
Senator Paul: We Stand With You for the Rule of Law
Dear Senator Paul,
The undersigned groups stand with you in objecting to cloture on the nomination of David J. Barron to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. We share your concerns regarding Barron’s authorship of secret memos purporting to give legal justification for drone strikes against U.S. citizens and others outside of a legal armed conflict or imminent threat to the United States. We agree that before the Senate votes on Barron’s nomination, the Administration should share all of these memos with the Senate and the public, implementing the letter and spirit of the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in its April 21 ruling.
As the American Civil Liberties Union noted in its statement on May 16 on the filing of the cloture petition:
“No senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation of providing ‘advice and consent’ on the nomination without reading all of Mr. Barron’s opinions on the drone program. The White House has continued to play hide the ball by not providing all of the opinions written or signed by Mr. Barron on targeted killing, regardless of citizenship. The memos raise fundamental due process and rule of law issues, and no senator should agree to vote on the nomination without first getting each and every one of his memos on targeted killing.”
As you wrote in your New York Times op-ed on May 11,
Democratic Senator Mark Udall has said that he will oppose David Barron's nomination to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals unless the White House complies with a recent *court order* to release to the public a redacted version of its legal justification for killing a U.S. citizen with a drone strike – a justification that was written by David Barron when he was at the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. 
Call your Senators' offices (the Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121) and urge them to tand with Senators who are demanding that the Administration comply with a court order to share with the public its legal justification for drone strikes, written by David Barron, before a Senate vote on Barron’s confirmation. Report your call using the form below.
The Obama Administration has established a new precedent by implementing sanctions against Russian officials for violations of international law in the wake of Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea. So we thought: let's get civil society organizations in the United States and around the world to invoke this precedent in calling U.S. officials to account for the U.S.'s own violations of international law!
John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is playing a central role in shielding the agency from accountability to international law on three key issues: the CIA's use of torture during the Bush Administration; the CIA’s use of drone strikes; and the CIA’s arming of Syria rebels, which the Obama Administration has acknowledged is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty under international law,  just as Russia’s actions in Crimea violate Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law.
Join us in calling for boycott and sanctions on John Brennan until the CIA takes concrete steps to comply with international law by signing our petition at MoveOn:
Here is the petition text:
John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, should be subject to boycott and sanctions for the CIA's failure to comply with U.S. and international law. John Brennan should not receive any award, honor, or recognition until the CIA takes concrete, minimal steps to transparently comply with U.S. and international law, including:
- supporting declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture and the CIA's internal “Panetta review” on the CIA's use of torture;
by Robert Naiman
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently took an important step by passing an intelligence authorization which would require for the first time - if it became law - that the Administration publicly report on civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes.
Sarah Knuckey, Director of the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at New York University School of Law and a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, calls this provision "an important step toward improving transparency," and notes that "Various U.N. officials, foreign governments, a broad range of civil society, and many others, including former U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Koh ... have called for the publication of such basic information."
This provision could be offered as an amendment in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act. It could be offered in the House as an amendment on the intelligence authorization, or as a freestanding bill. But it's not likely to become law unless there's some public agitation for it (you can participate in the public agitation here.)
Below is the text of the drone strike transparency provision of the Senate intelligence authorization. [You can urge Congress and the President to support this provision here. The full bill is here.]
SEC. 312. UNCLASSIFIED ANNUAL REPORT ON THE USE OF TARGETED LETHAL FORCE OUTSIDE THEUNITED STATES.
Next week, I'm heading to Yemen on a delegation of US peace advocates, where we'll be meeting Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. We'll urge Ambassador Feierstein to use his influence to end U.S. drone strikes in Yemen—especially "signature strikes" in which the US doesn't even know who it is targeting—and to ensure that Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo who the US government has cleared for release are sent home without delay.
Add your voice! Sign our petition and I'll hand-deliver it—with your signature—to Ambassador Feierstein:
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Just Foreign Policy
Help support my trip to Yemen! Our delegation will help draw the media spotlight to the US's ongoing drone war in Yemen and put further pressure on the Administration to reform US drone strike policy.
On April 23, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the ethics, legality, constitutionality, and political costs of the drone strike policy. This will be the first time in the history of the drone strike policy that there has been a public Congressional hearing like this focused on the policy.
If you live in Illinois, Minnesota, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Texas, South Carolina, or Utah, you have a Senator who serves on the subcommittee.  That means you're in a position to influence what takes place during next week's hearing.
Urge your Senator to publicly call for a Congressional subpoena of the Office of Legal Counsel memos during the hearing and ask pointed questions about key issues that the Administration has tried to obscure.
Senate committees are supposed to oversee Administration agencies, including the CIA and the Justice Department. But they can't do effective oversight if the Administration won't disclose key documents such as the Office of Legal Council memos that detail elements of the drone strike policy that the Administration has refused to share with Congress. Senator Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has threatened that his committee will issue a subpoena of the drone strike memos if the Administration doesn't hand them over. But the Administration hasn't complied.
In addition, key questions about the drone strike policy have been obscured by the Administration's secrecy, including:
- How many civilians have been killed, and why is government information about this classified?
- Is the CIA low-balling civilian deaths by automatically classifying "military age males" as "militants" when they are killed by US drone strikes, as the New York Times reported in May?
As US Attorney General, Eric Holder has been instrumental in keeping the Justice Department's drone memos detailing the legal justification for US drone strikes a secret from the public—and from Congress.
But on Wednesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to question Holder on anything related to his role at the Department of Justice.
If you live in AL, AZ, CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, IA, MN, NY, RI, SC, TX, or VT, you have a Senator on the Judiciary Committee. That means you can have an influence on what Holder is asked. Don't you think Holder should have to face some questions on drones?
If so, write to your Senator today to tell him/her to demand the release of the secret drone memos and to question Holder on drones!
Here are some questions we think members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Attorney General Holder:
- Will you release the Justice Department drone memos detailing the legal justification for US drone killings? If not, why?
- What are the mechanisms in place for the investigation of unlawful killings during a drone strike? What are the mechanisms for redress of such killings?
- Has the Justice Department investigated allegations of secondary drone strikes targeting civilian first responders and other extrajudicial killings, such as that of 16 year-old US citizen Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki? If not, why?
- What is the Justice Department's definition of “imminent threat”?
- Is it true that the CIA is counting every “military age male” killed in a US drone strike as a “militant”? What would this imply about CIA claims that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare”?
If you think Holder should have to face these questions and others, let your Senator know.