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Executive & Military

United States Stops Spying on Western Europe—for Now

The CIA has paused its espionage activities against “friendly governments in Western Europe,” according to a report by the Associated Press and ABC News that broke on Sept. 20. If true, the report raises the interesting question of whether Germany has achieved indirectly the “no-spy” agreement that it has sought since disclosures by Edward Snowden revealed last fall that the United States had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.…   continue »

President Obama to Preside over Flawed UN Security Council Resolution on Foreign Fighters

On Wednesday, President Obama will take the unusual step of chairing a session of the U.N. Security Council, which will consider a U.S.-sponsored draft resolution on foreign fighters. The resolution takes as its basis that “foreign terrorist fighters increase the intensity, duration and intractability of conflicts, and also pose a serious threat to their States of origin, the States they transit and the States to which they travel.” Its goal is to crack down on individuals – particularly from Western countries – who travel to the Middle East to fight for terrorist groups like ISIS.…   continue »

The DoD detainee directive and its definition of “unprivileged belligerency”

I appreciate both Professor Lederman’s (1 and 2) and Mr. Rona’s (1 and 2) thoughtful comments regarding the re-issued DoD Directive on detention (DoDD 2310.01E), and particularly the well-argued critique of the “unprivileged belligerent” definition.  As I suggested in my previous post, reasonable minds disagree on the proper conceptualization of unprivileged belligerency – including the appropriate analogies to status categories (i.e., combatant or civilian). …   continue »

Human rights groups petition UN on drone strikes

At the UN Human Rights Council this week, a coalition of human rights groups is calling on all governments to take steps to monitor and promote transparency and legal compliance with regard to targeted killings.

The human rights groups want states to:

  • publicly disclose their targeted killing standards; and
  • ensure that their use or facilitation of targeted killings complies with international law; and
  • enable meaningful oversight and remedies; and
  • ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.
  •   continue »

Unfinished Business: The Trickle-Down Effects of the War on ISIS on Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law

[Editors' NoteThe following post is the third installment of a new feature, "Monday Reflections," in which a different Just Security editor will take a longer view each Monday through a look back at the big stories from the previous week and/or a look ahead to key developments on the horizon.]

As members of Congress left town for the mid-term election campaigns last week, they managed to leave unresolved almost every important pending national security question before them. …   continue »

Ongoing “Covert” Training of Syrian Rebels: But is it still covert . . . and, if so, why?

[Cross-posted at Lawfare]

Last week Congress approved, and the President signed, legislation that authorizes the Secretary of Defense (see section 149) to “provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals,” for three specified purposes, including “defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and securing territory controlled by the Syrian opposition.”

Earlier in the week, in a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Tom Udall argued that in order to evaluate whether to authorize such spending, legislators had to learn more about the effectiveness of the U.S.’s ongoing efforts, for more than a year, to train those same Syrian rebels.  …   continue »

SFRC Access to Intelligence Information During Force Authorization Debate

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Administration’s proposed strategy to defeat the Islamic State featuring Secretary of State John Kerry.  Ryan wrote about the chilly reception, from both sides of the aisle, Secretary Kerry received as he advanced the Obama Administration’s theory of existing statutory authority under the 2001 AUMF to conduct military operations against the Islamic State.…   continue »

The unresolved problems with the DoD Directive definition of “unprivileged belligerency”: A response to Ryan Vogel [Updated]

Thanks so much to former DoD official Ryan Vogel for his important guest post explaining the origins and objectives of the new Department of Defense Directive 2310.01E, regarding DoD detention practices.  Professor Vogel confirms what I surmised in a post earlier this week–that there’s nothing suspicious about the effort to revise the Directive, nor is the Directive designed to stealthily introduce or reflect any unfortunate new DoD detention practices or policies.…   continue »