Blog of Rights

Jameel
Jaffer

Jameel Jaffer (@JameelJaffer) is an ACLU deputy legal director and director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, which houses the organization's National Security Project, Human Rights Program, and Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. He has testified before Congress about issues relating to government surveillance and, since 2004, has served as a human rights monitor for the military commissions at Guantánamo. His book, Administration of Torture (co-authored with Open Society Justice Institute attorney Amrit Singh), was published by Columbia University Press in 2007. Prior to joining the ACLU, he clerked for Amalya L. Kearse, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada. He is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School. (Photo: Redwell Imaging)

While U.S. Elections Loom, It's Another Day at the Kangaroo Court

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 1:00am
Right now, Guantánamo Naval Base seems very far away from the election going on in the United States. There are restrictions on what members of the military can say in uniform, so there aren't a lot of public conversations about politics. I haven't seen any political posters or bumper stickers. And there are no voting booths here, because those who vote do so by absentee ballot. Here at Guantánamo, it would be easy to forget about the election altogether. This is ironic, because the outcome of the election is likely to have a profound effect on the lives of the 550 or so detainees who are imprisoned here. For the detainees who haven't been charged with any crime, the election may determine whether they're afforded a meaningful opportunity to challenge their continued detention. For the handful of detainees who've been charged, the election may determine whether they're tried in traditional courts martial, with all the protections those proceedings entail, or in military commissions like the one that over the last three days has been hearing motions in the case of David Matthew Hicks. Unfortunately, the hearing that took place in the Hicks case today confirmed what the ACLU and other legal and human rights organizations have been saying from the outset: the military commissions, at least as they're set up now, are simply not capable of providing anything resembling fair process. Frankly, the commission today did not even seem interested in fair process. The panel members peppered the defense with hostile questions about even the most conservative legal arguments; by contrast, even when the prosecution proposed outlandish interpretations of international law, the panel members just nodded approvingly. The panelists chuckled when the prosecution compared the defense's complaints about the process - which could result in a life sentence for Mr. Hicks - to a teenage girl's complaints about her prom date. On two occasions, the Presiding Officer, Col. Peter Brownback, dismissively referred to defense counsel Dan Mori as "sunshine." More troubling still, the panelists - two of whom have no legal training, remember - struggled to understand even the most basic legal concepts. One of the charges levied against Hicks is "destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent." The defense appropriately moved to dismiss the charge on the grounds that destruction of property is a war crime only if the property is "protected" under the Geneva Conventions; the defense pointed out that the prosecution had not alleged that the destroyed property was protected. Col. Bogdan treated this straightforward argument as frivolous. He asked, "Isn't the status of the property something we should decide at trial?" But, as any lawyer can tell you, the question of whether a crime has been alleged is certainly not something that should be decided at trial. We don't subject a person to a criminal trial if the government can't allege that he's committed a crime. It's astounding that a kangaroo commission like this one has been invested with the authority to decide whether David Hicks spends his life in prison. The likelihood of his being afforded a full and fair trial seems vanishingly small.
Selective Disclosure About Targeted Killing

Selective Disclosure About Targeted Killing

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 10:47am

This piece was originally published on JustSecurity.org on October 7, 2013.

For several years, the ACLU has been pressing the Obama administration to be more transparent about the targeted-killing program. I'm starting to wonder whether it…

First the 'targeted killing' campaign, then the targeted propaganda campaign

First the 'targeted killing' campaign, then the targeted propaganda campaign

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy & Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:10am

Originally posted on The Guardian.

A story in last week's New York Times painted a remarkably detailed picture of the US government's so-called "targeted killing" campaign, a campaign that involves the use of unmanned aerial vehicles…

Further Reflections About John Brennan's Targeted Killing Speech

Further Reflections About John Brennan's Targeted Killing Speech

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 11:48am

The president's chief counterterrorism advisor delivered a speech yesterday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. We issued a first reaction here. Here are some further thoughts:

1.…

ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Reject Government's Effort to Block Judicial Review of Surveillance Law

ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Reject Government's Effort to Block Judicial Review of Surveillance Law

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 1:15pm

In 2008, Congress enacted a statute that authorized the National Security Agency to carry out dragnet surveillance of Americans' international communications. Almost four years later, the statute — called the FISA Amendments Act — has…

RIP Hitch

RIP Hitch

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 3:53pm

Christopher Hitchens had many rare qualities – he was contrarian, original, devastatingly brilliant, skeptical of almost everything – and I take pride in the fact that he was once an ACLU client.  He was a plaintiff in our 2006 challenge…

A Framework for Impunity

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 6:04pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

Since 2003, the ACLU and other U.S. human rights organizations have filed dozens of cases relating to the abuse and torture of prisoners. Some of these cases seek to enforce requests under the Freedom of Information…

The Torture Report

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 10:25am

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

Since 2004, the ACLU and its partners — the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace — have been litigating under…

Accountability for Torture

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 6:04pm

Since 2004, the ACLU and its partners — the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace — have been litigating under the Freedom of Information Act for documents concerning…

Guantánamo: A Legal Black Hole

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 1:00am
The pre-trial hearings in the Hicks case came to an end today, so this may be my last dispatch from Guantánamo. Next week, the commission will hear motions in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 34-year old Yemeni who is accused of having served as a bodyguard…
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