Counterterrorism and the Rule of Law*
Man, Dan Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, sure picked an unlucky day to deliver a speech defending the Obama administration’s counterterrorism record to the International Peace Institute in New York:
Finally, our approach recognizes that our counterterrorism efforts can best succeed when they make central respect for human rights and the rule of law. Because as President Obama has said from the outset, there should be no tradeoff between our security and our values. Indeed, in light of what we know about radicalization, it is clear that navigating by our values is an essential part of a successful counterterrorism effort. We have moved to rectify past excesses of the past few years by working to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay…
To be serious, this is what retired Lt. Gen. Harry Soyster meant when he said that American adversaries can “feel they are making progress if in fact our initial stand is reversed” on the KSM trial. Because abrogating the rule of law to accomodate political fear-mongering creates an asterisk after speeches like this that stick up for a mutually reinforcing commitment to the rule of law and national security. Hypocrisy has real security consequences.