National security, civil rights experts to put U.S. drone program on trial

Episode two of "World on Trial," an international human rights television and Web program produced by Penn State Dickinson School of Law, will feature Judge James E. Baker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces as presiding judge, and Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union, and former F-14 pilot and law of war scholar Michael Lewis as lead attorneys. The series presents both sides of sharply contested international human rights issues in the context of courtroom trials before live multinational juries.

“Our goal is to bring awareness to important human rights issues and the international treaties that govern state conduct,” said Penn State Law faculty member Randall Robinson. An acclaimed human rights advocate and author, professor Robinson is the creator and host of "World on Trial."

In the Courtroom

Baker will preside over the mock trial. He sits as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty and other people subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He is the author of “In the Common Defense: National Security Law for Perilous Times (2007)” and had a distinguished career in military and government service before being appointed to the bench in 2000. He regularly teaches courses in national security law and policy at Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Iowa College of Law.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, will lead the challenge to the drone program. Jaffer directed the ACLU's National Security Project from 2007 to 2010 and has litigated many cases concerning national security and human rights, including challenges to the CIA's targeted killing program and the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. He helped plan ACLU v. Department of Defense, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that led to the release of the "torture memos" authored by lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush Administration.

Michael Lewis, a former Navy Top Gun pilot and expert on the conflict between the U.S. and al Qaeda, will defend the United States. After a military career that included flying F-14s for the U.S. Navy in Operation Desert Shield conducting strike planning for Operation Desert Storm and deploying to the Persian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq, Lewis has had a distinguished legal career. He has published more than a dozen articles and essays on various aspects of the law of war and conflict between the U.S. and al Qaeda.

Legal Questions Presented 

The episode will explore the legal, policy and ethical questions presented by the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles to target suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond. The program will examine international humanitarian law principles of distinction and proportionality and international human rights laws mandating due process and the protection of human life.

Juries will deliberate and render verdicts from several countries. Episode one featured juries from University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Hebrew University (Israel), Sciences Po (France), Istanbul University (Turkey), Peking University of Transnational Law (China), University of Hong Kong (China) and University of Cape Town (South Africa).

Where to Watch 

Filming is set for June 2013 and the second episode will be offered online and nationwide to PBS stations. Episode one, which focused on the 2004 French headscarf ban, is online at www.worldontrial.psu.edu.

“World on Trial” is a production of Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Penn State Public Broadcasting, Penn State School of International Affairs and storyshop llc.

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Last Updated June 06, 2013