Watching the Shadows
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Aug. 13 insisted that US drone strikes must operate within international law. The secretary-general hailed the country's lead role in UN peacekeeping operations and addressed the controversial weapons in a speech at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, stating, "[a]s I have often and consistently said, the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law. This is the very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties."
Military Judge Denise Lind on July 30 found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of violations of the Espionage Act for his disclosure of classified information to anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks. The judge, however, acquitted Manning of the more serious charge of "aiding the enemy." In 2010 Manning leaked more than 700,000 government documents, diplomatic cables and a controversial classified video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians and two Reuters journalists. The US Army formally charged Manning in July 2010, but his bench trial did not begin until last month at Fort Meade, Md., nearly three years after his initial arrest. Manning faces 136 months to life in prison. The court is expected to sentence Manning on later this week. Several advocacy groups have decried the verdict, with Wikileaks terming it "extremist," while members of the US government have praised it as evenhanded.
After being detained for a day or two by Panamanian authorities on a request from Interpol, retired US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief Robert Seldon Lady was released on July 19 and placed on a plane bound for the US. In 2009 an Italian court sentenced Lady in absentia to nine years in prison for the Feb. 17, 2003 kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and suspected terrorist also known as Abu Omar, on a street in Milan. Although 22 other US citizens were convicted in the kidnapping case, Italy has only been seeking Lady, who headed the CIA's Milan station; the others received lighter sentences that don't warrant extradition requests under Italian law.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 16 denied (PDF) a motion by Guantánamo Bay detainees to end forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. The petitioners maintained that the practice was cruel and that it would interfere with their religious practices during the month of Ramadan, which began on July 8 and requires fasting during daylight hours. In her opinion, Judge Rosemary Collyer found that the court does not have jurisdiction to decide the case. She also noted that even if the court had jurisdiction, she would not have granted the order, saying: "there is nothing so shocking or inhumane in the treatment of Petitioners—which they can avoid at will—to raise a constitutional concern that might otherwise necessitate review." Collyer also pointed out that the Guantanamo staff had plans to accommodate the petitioners' religious needs during Ramadan.
Four Guantánamo Bay prisoners filed a motion (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on June 30 asking the federal court to order the prison's officials to stop the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. In their motion, Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, Nabil Hadjarab and Abu Wa'el Dhiab alleged that the practice violates human rights law and medical ethics, while serving "no penological interest." They also noted that they have all been detained at Guantanamo for 11 years and have since determined that it is not likely they will ever be charged or released, and thus their being force-fed serves no military necessity. They requested an accelerated hearing on the issue in order to avoid any conflict with the upcoming Islamic holiday Ramadan, which begins on the evening of July 8. Currently, there are 166 detainees at the Guantanamo prison, of which 106 are on hunger strike.
A federal judge called June 18 on members of Congress and the president to give serious consideration to formulating a different approach for the handling of Guantánamo Bay detainee cases. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit released their opinion in the case of Abdul al-Qader Hussain v. Barack Obama (opinion, PDF) in which Judge Harry Edwards wrote a concurring opinion. The majority opinion found that Abdul al-Qader Ahmed Hussain had been affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and was therefore properly detained. In his concurrence Edwards conceded that while the president was authorized to detain Hussain under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), there was no evidence that he had "aided" those who engaged in terrorist attacks.
The US government on June 17 released (text, PDF) the names and nationalities of 46 men who are classified for "continued detention" at Guantánamo Bay detention center, ineligible for release, transfer or prosecution. The names were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Miami Herald and the New York Times. In the 2010 Guantanamo Review Task Force (PDF) the US government explained continued detention:
A Federal military commander's authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances...