April 6th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Guantanamo Bay justice on trial

Editor’s Note: Matthew Waxman is Associate Professor at Columbia Law School, and he is also a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law. The following piece is his First Take, reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Matthew Waxman, CFR.org

On Wednesday, the Pentagon authorized a military commission trial at Guantanamo for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of orchestrating the September 11 attacks. The charges include murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians and civilian objects, hijacking aircraft, and terrorism. If convicted, the five suspects could face the death penalty.The headlines about this may sound very familiar. Back in 2008,the Bush administration had charged them in a military commission, but the Obama administration suspended the case upon coming into office. The Obama administration then planned to bring the case to a civilian federal court in New York, but congressional and local opposition forced it to shelve those plans. FULL POST

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Topics: Law
Evaluating Holder's speech on targeted killing
March 5th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Evaluating Holder's speech on targeted killing

Editor’s Note: Matthew Waxman is Associate Professor at Columbia Law School, and he is also a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.

By Matthew Waxman – Special to CNN

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a long-anticipated address providing the Obama Administration’s legal rationale for targeted killings of certain al Qaeda suspects - even U.S. citizens.  Ever since last fall when the it reportedly killed American-born Anwar al-Awlaki - an al Qaeda terrorist plotter and propagandist - with a drone strike in Yemen, the Obama Administration has faced strong pressure to explain its legal basis for such actions.

Holder’s remarks are unlikely to satisfy either the most vocal civil libertarians or security-hawks, but they reflect this administration’s pragmatic approach toward national security law issues.

Read on Security Clearance Blog: Not 'assassination' to target Americans in terror hunt

Holder’s remarks, which also reasserted the administration’s need for flexible discretion to use both military and civilian courts to prosecute some al Qaeda suspects, is the latest in a series of public speeches from senior Obama Administration legal and counterterrorism officials (including Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and State Department legal adviser Harold Koh).  A common theme of these presentations is that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda and its allies - a war authorized by Congress in 2001 - but that U.S. war-waging powers such as lethal force, detention, military commissions, and interrogation are bounded by both international and domestic law.  FULL POST

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Topics: Covert Operations • Law • Military
Why a cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream
October 27th, 2011
02:01 PM ET

Why a cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream

Editor's Note: Adam Segal is the Ira A. Lipman Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Matthew Waxman, also a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is Associate Professor at Columbia Law School and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.

By Adam Segal and Matthew Waxman - Special to CNN

With companies and governments seemingly incapable of defending themselves from sophisticated cyber attacks and infiltration, there is almost universal belief that any durable cybersecurity solution must be transnational. The hacker – a government, a lone individual, a non-state group – stealing valuable intellectual property or exploring infrastructure control systems could be sitting in Romania, China, or Nigeria, and the assault could transit networks across several continents. Calls are therefore growing for a global treaty to help protect against cyber threats.

As a step in that direction, the British government is convening next week the London Conference on Cyberspace to promote new norms of cybersecurity and the free flow of information via digital networks. International diplomacy like this among states and private stakeholders is important and will bring needed attention to these issues. But the London summit is also likely to expose major fault lines, not consensus, on the hardest and most significant problems. The idea of ultimately negotiating a worldwide, comprehensive cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream. FULL POST

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Topics: Internet • Security