National Security

Amnesty International USA believes that governments should not violate human rights in the name of national security, and advocates for critical changes in US policy and practice.


Last updated on December 5, 2023

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  • Tell The US Government: Help Civilians Harmed By US Drone Strikes

    5 min

  • Urge President Biden: Close Guantánamo

    5 min


What is the problem?

On multiple fronts, the United States government is violating human rights in the name of national security.

  1. Muslim men have been held for years at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba without even being charged with a crime. Prisoners have been tortured and mistreated, without accountability. None have been given fair trials. Read more about Guantánamo here.

  2. The U.S. has used lethal force, including through drone strikes, in many countries, often in secret, leading to civilian deaths. Military operations have also exposed many people to toxins that have led to devastating medical conditions.

  3. Surveillance and targeting of Muslims – based on who they are, not what they’ve done – has fueled harassment, discrimination, and violence.

  4. The U.S. government has allowed officials to torture people through horrific techniques that violate U.S. and international law.

Why is national security a human rights issue?

By the numbers
Number of people deported under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System program, without being convicted of any crimes, before it was dismantled

By the numbers
Number of protests Amnesty International USA held in the weeks after President Trump issued his first Muslim Ban

By the numbers
Number of people detained at Guantanamo in September 2023

Who is most impacted?

The Trump administration dramatically expanded the use of lethal strikes, including with drones, killing thousands of civilians and increasing the risk of unlawful killings. Amnesty International has documented large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries from air strikes that the US government refuses to acknowledge, including in Syria and in Somalia. Some of these killings may have violated international law, but the US military is keeping the evidence secret. Take action to tell the United States government to stop killing civilians.

Our research uncovers individual cases of people whose human rights are violated by US national security policies, and we campaign to secure their rights. We campaign to close Guantánamo and ensure accountability for torture. We are urging the Biden administration to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo and close the prison once and for all.

What is the solution?

Amnesty International helps expose and end national security policies that violate human rights. We’ve secured fair treatment for people in individual cases, we’ve helped force the government to release information about its activities, and we’ve played a key role in helping end practices that abuse human rights.

We mobilize grassroots activists to push for federal policies that protect safety and human rights together.

SIMFEROPOL, CRIMEA – AUGUST 17: People walk by fresh graffiti depicting Vladimir Putin in Simferopol on August 17, 2015 in Simferopol, Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill in March 2014 to annex the Crimean peninsula but Ukraine and most of the international community do not recognize its annexation. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
Arms Control, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights Defenders, Individuals At Risk, LGBTQI+ Rights, National Security  

Amnesty International USA urges the State Department to protect human rights in Ukraine as the risk of further conflict with Russia grows

February 16, 2022 | Government Relations

Residential building destroyed by an airstrike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on 25 August in Faj Attan, Sana’a, killing 16 civilians and injuring 17 more. This photo was taken on 25 August. On 25 August, an air strike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition hit a cluster of houses in Sana’a, severely damaging three of them, and killing seven children including all five of Buthaina’s brothers and sisters. The bomb that destroyed a residential building in Yemen’s capital last month, killing 16 civilians and injuring 17 more – including five-year-old Buthaina who lost her entire family in the attack – was made in the USA.
Arms Control, Government Relations, National Security  

Joint Letter: Congress Must Block Biden Administration’s Wrongful $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia or Risk Fueling Further U.S. Complicity in Rights Violations and Yemeni Civilian Suffering

November 29, 2021 | Government Relations

NEW JERSEY, USA – JULY 30: Mohamed Soltan, an Egyptian-American human rights Advocate who was a political prisoner in Egypt from August, 2013 to May, 2015 is seen in New Jersey, United States on July 30, 2017. Mohamed was shot, imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to life in prison on trumped-up and politically motivated charges. The U.S. government intervened at the highest levels and successfully facilitated his release and return to the United States on 31 May 2015. He stated that I tried forgetting the feeling of guilt that I was taking up the time and effort of the doctors in the makeshift hospital for a minor bullet wound when others, who are critically injured, needed their attention. I tried forgetting the pain I walked around with after getting the wound stitched up or the sound of bullets for 11 straight hours. I tried forgetting the smell of death, the rusty iron smell of blood and the smoky sharp smell of gunpowder as I laid on the floor unable to move, feeling debilitated, hopeless and helpless unable to scream or even utter a cry for help, just waiting for the bullet that missed my head to take me far away from that bloody war zone. I tried forgetting being shot at while running back to the hospital hours later to try and take refuge in a place that is suppose to have some sanctity. I tried forgetting the feeling of suffocation as a ton of people like me got shoved into the hospital. I tried forgetting the broken smile on little Ali’s face as he sat next to me on his injured dad’s lap, gasping for air. I tried forgetting Ali’s dad twisting his wrist holding the makeshift paper fan he was using to air his suffocating son so he could do the same for me. I tried forgetting drifting in and out of consciousness as tear gas was shot inside crowded room full of injured people. I tried forgetting being in excruciating pain and suffocating at the same time. I tried forgetting being told that a safe exit was negotiated 11 hours later, but it was every man/woman f
Arms Control, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights Defenders, Individuals At Risk, National Security, Refugee and Migrant Rights  

Biden Administration’s U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue Was a Human Rights Failure – Joint Statement from International, Egyptian Human Rights Groups

November 23, 2021 | Fair Trials