The Obama administration is claiming that US human rights law does not apply to the
mercenary rebels that the US is training and arming in Syria:
Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:
The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.
Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.
Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.
Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not “state-sponsored forces”? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?
Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about “state-sponsored forces”:
(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.
There is nothing about “state-sponsored” in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be “foreign”? Yes. Will they be “security forces”? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression “foreign security force”.
All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.
The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.
Barack Obama, who was a critic of the expansive view of the Unitary Executive advanced by the Bush administration, has become one of its biggest fans.
Worst Constitutional law professor ever.