A reported plan to transfer the United States targeted killing program from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Defense Department could improve transparency and accountability, though a number of other concerns with the program would remain.
Recent revelations about the scope of US national security surveillance highlight how dramatic increases in private digital communications and government computing power are fueling surveillance practices that impinge on privacy in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. There is an urgent need for the US Congress to reevaluate and rewrite surveillance laws in light of those technological developments and put in place better safeguards against security agency overreach.
United States President Barack Obama’s new call to transfer detainees from Guantanamo and wind down the “war” with al-Qaeda could jumpstart a US counterterrorism policy more consistent with US human rights obligations.
On May 23, 2013, US President Barack Obama will give a speech at the National Defense University on counterterrorism policy. Human Rights Watch has long reported on US counterterrorism policy, and has recently made a number of recommendations that address issues on the president’s agenda.
On May 16, 2013, the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled “The Law of Armed Conflict, the Use of Military Force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force”. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, gave the following testimony before the committee.
In order to ensure the Executive Branch response is as objective and comprehensive as possible, we strongly urge you to designate a senior White House official to coordinate a single Executive Branch response, incorporating the views of all the relevant agencies.
On April 23, 2013, the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held a hearing entitled “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing”. Letta Tayler, Senior Researcher in the Terrorism/Counterterrorism Division submitted the following testimony for the record.
A bipartisan study finding “indisputable” evidence of torture for which the highest United States officials bear responsibility should spur the US government to thoroughly investigate detainee abuse since September 11, 2001, and provide redress to victims.
We write to convey a statement of shared concerns regarding US targeted killing policy. Our statement, attached, urges the administration to take essential steps to: publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria; ensure that US lethal force operations abroad comply with international law; enable meaningful congressional oversight and judicial review; and ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.