National Security, Civil Rights Experts to Put U.S. Drone Program on Trial at Penn State

Share Article

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 will be put on trial by law and international affairs experts in the next World on Trial episode.

International human rights advocate Randall Robinson

Randall Robinson, international human rights advocate and host of World on Trial

Our goal is to bring awareness to important human rights issues and the international treaties that govern state conduct,

World on Trial, an international human rights television and web program produced by Penn State Law, begins filming its second episode on June 26. The program will feature Judge James E. Baker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces as the jurist presiding over the legal, policy, and ethical questions presented by the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles to target suspected terrorists. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU and former F-14 pilot and law of war scholar Michael Lewis will act 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

Judge James E. 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. His book "Administration of Torture" (co-authored with Amrit Singh) was published by Columbia University Press in 2007.

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).

The "Use of Drones" episode will be offered online and nationwide to PBS stations. Episode one, which focused on the 2004 French headscarf ban, is online at http://www.worldontrial.psu.edu.

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

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Ellen Foreman
Follow us on
Visit website