President Obama: Put Words Into Action

May 24, 2013

On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).
On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

As I watched President Obama’s speech yesterday on national security, I thought of all the people who have been detained, tortured or illegally killed by the US government since 9/11 and about all of the individuals and communities that have been discriminated against based on their race, religion or identity.

I thought about how these terrible human rights violations were committed in the name of keeping me safe. It made me angry and ashamed. With that perspective, I was also angry that President Obama has said too little, too late. Did he even mention human rights in the speech?

But at another level, I was glad to see that there has been enough pressure on the President, from the hunger strikers, to impacted communities to the public, such that he felt he had to address these issues.

President Obama was right to reaffirm the need to close Guantanamo, address the need for greater transparency, and acknowledge the troubling issues surrounding his killer drone program.

Now it’s time for him to take immediate and further action and get the job done.

  • Transfers can and must resume today¬†– why, for example, is Shaker Aamer still held, after being cleared to leave twice and the UK government wanting him with his wife and children in London? But it’s not only about the detainees cleared for transfer. All must either be fairly tried in federal court or released. President Obama was right not to endorse the concept of indefinite detention, but his proposal to restart unfair military commissions in the mainland U.S. should be rejected as both unlawful and unnecessary.
  • What’s needed on drones is not a “kill court,” but critically, much more transparency regarding the legal basis for the drones program, including the release of the newly approved presidential guidance as well as independent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions and remedy for victims.
  • There’s no need to wait to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The Obama administration should immediately end reliance on the flawed “global war” legal theory at the heart of indefinite detention, military commissions and unlawful killings.

Also, Congress must stop hindering reform. Elected officials should repeal the remaining legislative obstacles to closing the detention facility and make the Senate report on CIA torture public.

President Obama is right that the country is at a crossroads. It’s time for the path not chosen over a decade ago. It’s time for human rights.

Take Action

  • Call the White House comment line at 202.456.1111 and say you support human rights, closing Guantanamo and reforming US drone strike policy.
  • E-Mail the President about transferring Shaker Aamer and all others cleared to leave Guantanamo