Blog of Rights

Hina Shamsi (@HinaShamsi) is the Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, which is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights. She has litigated cases upholding the freedoms of speech and association, and challenging targeted killing, torture, unlawful detention, and post-9/11 discrimination against racial and religious minorities.
Her work includes a focus on the intersection of national security and counterterrorism policies with international human rights and humanitarian law. She previously worked as a Staff Attorney in the National Security Project and was the Acting Director of Human Rights First's Law & Security Program. She also served as Senior Advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions.
Hina appears regularly in the media and has been quoted as a national security expert by numerous outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters, and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, NPR, ABC News, and the BBC. She is the author and coauthor of publications on targeted killing, torture, and extraordinary rendition, and has monitored and reported on the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. She is also a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a course in international human rights. Hina is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Northwestern University School of Law.
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The Legacy of 9/11: Endless War Without Oversight

The Legacy of 9/11: Endless War Without Oversight

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 4:33pm
Almost ten years after 9/11, in May of this year, a majority of the US House of Representatives voted to give President Obama — and all future presidents — more war authority than Congress gave to President Bush two days after the 9/11 attacks: a president would no longer have to show a connection to 9/11, or even any specific threat to America, before using military force anywhere in the world that a terrorism suspect may be found, including within the United States.

DHS Should Focus on Criminal Activity, Not Beliefs

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project & Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 4:34pm

Last week, The Washington Post reported that for the last two years, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) intelligence gathering and analysis unit devoted to rightwing groups and militias has been "effectively eviscerated," while…

Targeted Killing: "A Unique and Extraordinary Case"

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 4:55pm

"A unique and extraordinary case" is how a federal judge described our lawsuit, with the Center for Constitutional Rights, challenging the Obama administration's targeted killing policy.

We brought the case on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi,…

Wikileaks Doc: U.S. Tried to Stop Accountability Abroad

Wikileaks Doc: U.S. Tried to Stop Accountability Abroad

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 6:50pm

We’re still reviewing the most recent mass of Wikileaks documents, but already they reveal improper government conduct: Bush administration officials pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for the kidnapping, extraordinary…

Honor Bound

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 1:11pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

It's a safe bet that future generations will judge the U.S. military's detention, treatment and trial of prisoners at Guantánamo harshly, as one of the lowest points in this country's history. But…

Prosecutors Desert a Sinking Ship

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 12:37pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

As previously noted, we learned late yesterday that Army Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, the lead prosecutor in the military commissions case against Mohammed Jawad, has resigned in protest because the prosecution team was withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense. Jawad was a teenager when he was captured in Afghanistan and he’s one of the two youngest prisoners at Guantanamo.

The reason for the prosecutor’s resignation is only the latest in a series of deeply disturbing revelations in Jawad’s case. In July, we learned that Jawad was subjected to the euphemistically-named “frequent flyer” program, in which detainees at Guantanamo were subjected to sleep deprivation for days on end as punishment for failing to cooperate with their jailors or for misbehaving. Jawad’s treatment, which his lawyers say is chronicled in prison logs, appears to have been particularly harrowing. In May 2004, a few months after Jawad tried to hang himself in his cell, prison officials deprived him of sleep for two weeks by moving him 112 times in 14 days – and they did so after the government claims it officially discontinued the “program.”

High-Stakes Absurdity in Guantánamo

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 12:30pm
(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

When the 9/11 defendants first emerged from years of torture and detention in secret CIA custody, it was for arraignment in a Guantanamo courtroom. The government immediately made it clear that any public mention of the prisoners' abuse was off limits. The audio feed to the spectators' room (where we observers and the media sit behind soundproof glass) was cut off any time a defendant mentioned being tortured. In today's hearing, though, it was perfectly acceptable for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to mention he was waterboarded (the government apparently realized it's futile to censor what the head of the CIA himself admits).

Almost Back to Square One

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 2:29pm

Even as the proceedings in the 9/11 defendants' cases were stalled, the chief military commissions prosecutor, Col. Lawrence Morris, was telling journalists yesterday he wants trials in five other cases to be finished before the next president takes office. In two of Morris' flagship cases, the United States has the distinction of being the first nation in modern times to prosecute child soldiers for war crimes: Omar Khadr was 15 when he was picked up, and Mohammad Jawad was about 16. Each was severely abused in U.S. custody and Jawad appears to have been subjected to deliberate and systematic cruelty; he has tried to commit suicide. The third case on Morris' list is against Ahmed al-Darbi, who has said he was subjected to torture at the U.S. detention center at Bagram, in Afghanistan, during the time that some of the worst abuses there took place. In the remaining cases, those of Ibrahim al-Qosi and Ali Hamza Ahmed al-Bahlul, it doesn't look like the accused will participate in the trial; each defendant has said he will boycott the proceedings because he thinks the system is stacked against him.

Raise the Red Flags

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 5:03pm
The lead article in today's New York Times raises all sorts of red flags about the likelihood of prisoner abuse in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The article describes a Red Cross complaint about the treatment of prisoners at the United States' Bagram…

The First and Fifth Amendments are Not Optional

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 11:51am
Ponder this: A U.S. citizen joins an organization to advance political goals. Some in the group engage in illegal activity but the citizen's own goals and activities are legitimate. The government blacklists the organization and says that working…
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