HOLDING OUR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE: FILING A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT FOR WAR CRIMES
It could have been any kind of gathering between friends as I sat with six others in Malachy Kilbride’s living room in Arlington, VA on the morning of May 21, 2013, drinking coffee and munching on pastries. Besides Malachy and me, we were joined by David Barrows, Max Obuszewski, Manijeh Saba, Ray McGovern, and Ted Majdosz. But there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air that morning. We have risked arrest together many times before acting in resistance to the illegal and immoral actions of our government, but today we were going to try something different.
For the last several months we, along with many other activists around the country, have been focusing on bringing an end to drone warfare. Our government has killed thousands of people in countries around the world, including over 200 children in Pakistan alone. We are all concerned about the unbelievable suffering of the innocent people who are victims of killer drones. We believe these drone strikes are illegal under US and international law and must stop immediately. In response we have held demonstrations, risked arrest, and contacted members of Congress, the White House, and the Department of Justice, all to no avail. The strikes continue.
We had an idea to try something different and so on that Tuesday morning in May we sat together and discussed our plans to deliver a criminal complaint to the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA (federal court with jurisdiction over the CIA), asking for an indictment of President Obama, CIA Director John Brennan, and others in the CIA involved in the CIA drone program for war crimes.
I think we all shared the feeling that this was an exciting new step in our resistance to the illegal and immoral actions of our government. I wondered what this day would bring as we continued our work for peace, trying a different tactic.
After discussing what we were going to do and making specific plans, Ray had to leave and wished us well as we set out for the US Attorney’s office at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria to deliver the criminal complaint to US Attorney Neil MacBride. If the system works the way it should, we would be allowed to file our complaint and an investigation would be launched. I also knew it was likely they would tell us to get lost and would not accept our complaint.
We met up at the Court House with Jack McHale from Pax Chrisiti. He would be going inside with us. Ted’s plan was to take pictures. Cameras are not allowed in the courthouse, but he got pictures of his entering and exiting the courthouse, and he waited outside while we were in our meeting. You can see the pictures at http://photobyted.smugmug.com/Category/We-delivered-a-criminal/29544514_zCKJBX#!i=2526493563&k=kdrTwzC
There are two public entrances to the courthouse around the corner from each other. We went to the entrance with the address listed as the US Attorney’s office and the guard at the door told us we had to go to the Clerk’s Office to file a complaint, and to get there we would have to take the other entrance. So we went around the corner, went through security, and went upstairs to the Clerk’s Office. We told her that we wanted to file a criminal complaint and she said that only the government can file a criminal complaint, and that citizens can only file a civil complaint. She let us know that we would need to go around the corner to the US Attorney’s office and ask to speak to a duty special and deliver our complaint there.
We went out the door, around the corner, and through security again. I believe they were getting a little worried about who we were and what we were doing. I told the guard that we were all committed to nonviolence and we were just trying to do our duty as citizens. We told the guard that we wanted to speak to a duty special to file a criminal complaint and he told us to have a seat in the lobby and someone would come down and talk to us there.
In a few minutes Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi came into the lobby with his assistant Clint Scott. He greeted us all in a very friendly manner, and announced to the guard that he would meet with us in a conference room upstairs, escorting us up there and down again when the meeting was over. I thought this was better than I hoped.
After settling in around the table we showed him our complaint and told him why we were there. We asked if we could get the complaint time stamped and officially accepted by the office. Mr. Rossi sent Mr. Scott to stamp the complaint and he gave us a stamped copy.
Mr. Rossi said that it was his job to accept the complaint and listen to us, and then give the complaint to US Attorney Neil MacBride who would make a decision on whether or not to take action. He also noted that this was really heavy – asking for indictment of the President of the United States, and way above his pay grade. If Mr. MacBride decides to investigate, a law enforcement person will be assigned to the case. One of the criteria for deciding if they will follow through with an investigation is whether or not there is a reasonable chance of conviction. Was this a way of letting us know it was unlikely that Mr. MacBride would act on our complaint?
Everyone in our group spoke eloquently about why we were there. Max started the discussion by explaining why we have to do this, and that we are following our Nuremberg obligations. Jack emphasized that we are doing this as a way of following process, but that we have also been involved in many other advocacy efforts to end drone warfare. We must try every avenue available to us to bring an end to the killing of so many people. David talked about the people who have been murdered by our government and said that the people being killed by drones are every bit as important as the people of this country. Manijeh spoke passionately about her experiences in coming to this country from Iran and how she is afraid of what our country is turning into. I noted that my reason for being there is because of the suffering and death our government is causing to others – suffering that can be stopped. Malachy noted that we were there because of morality, ethics, and the law, and that we were acting deliberately, and committed to nonviolence.
The discussion lasted for almost 40 minutes and during that time Mr. Rossi maintained a very open and friendly demeanor. I tend to take people at face value and always trust what people say, but when we left the room others noted that it was his job to be very friendly and to get us out of there without any trouble. Malachy noticed that there were US Marshals stationed outside the door while we were having our meeting.
Now our complaint has been officially received, and we will wait and see whether Mr. MacBride follows up on it. After a reasonable time if we have not heard anything we will follow up with Mr. MacBride’s office. The action we took in delivering the complaint can lead to much more. If Mr. MacBride doesn’t follow up, we may want to organize demonstrations risking arrest outside of the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria and call attention to his inaction.
We also want to encourage activists to take similar actions across the country and file complaints with the US Attorney’s office in other locations. The complaint we filed was modeled after the indictment that the folks used at Hancock Air Force base. We can keep building on what others have done and so the complaint we filed in Alexandria is pasted in below and can be used as a template. It would probably make sense to find a connection with drones in your area and edit the template below, using what is going on in your area as the basis for the complaint. For example, in Wisconsin I will be talking with fellow activists about filing a complaint at the US Attorney’s office here. We have a military base that does drone training and we will file the criminal complaint in the US Attorney’s office that has jurisdiction in the area where the base is located. Just as we focused on the three areas in the April Days of action, the criminal complaints we can file can be based on a military bases, a company manufacturing drones, or a university doing research in drones.
There has been a lot going on to bring an end to the use of killer drones by our government, including the April days of action that have recently concluded. President Obama will be making a speech on drones tonight. Whatever he says, he is a war criminal and murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands. He may be making some concessions, but I don’t believe he will get close to doing what we want him to do. I believe we are making progress, but that we must keep up the work on this. And we must continue to hold people accountable for their crimes.
Please consider filing a similar criminal complaint in your area.
And don’t forget that NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance against killer drones at the CIA on Saturday June 29.
If you want information on any of this, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608 239-4327.
PLEASE JOIN US. KEEP UP THE HOPE.
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE
325 E. 25th Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
email@example.com 410 366-1637
May 21, 2013
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia,
United States Attorney’s Office
2100 Jamieson Ave
Alexandria, VA 22314
Dear Mr. MacBride,
We the undersigned citizens hereby petition the U.S Attorney in Fairfax County under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to wit, we are bringing a criminal complaint requesting a war crimes indictment against President Barack Obama, CIA Director John Brennan, and other government personnel for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) which are used for extrajudicial and illegal purposes, causing the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and other places around the world.
Please accept this criminal complaint and take appropriate action against these war crimes.
Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
WAR CRIMES INDICTMENT
When an individual becomes a public servant, serving in a government position, he or she publicly promises to uphold the United States Constitution. The US Constitution states:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the Constitution and laws of the U.S., including treaties made under authority of the U.S. shall be supreme law of the land.
The Supremacy Clause provides part of the Supreme Law of the Land.
One Treaty duly ratified by the U.S. is the United Nations Charter. It was ratified by a vote of 89 to 2 in the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President in 1945. It remains in effect today. As such, it is part of the supreme law of the land.
The Preamble of the U.N. Charter states that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war” and it further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”
This Treaty applies both collectively and individually to all three branches of government, on all levels, U.S. federal, state and local governments, starting with the executive branch: the U.S. President and the executive staff; the judicial branch: all judges and staff members of the judiciary; the legislative branch: all members of the U.S. Armed Forces and all departments of Law Enforcement and all civilian staff, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes Article VI.
Under the U.N. Charter and long established international laws, anyone--civilian, military, government officials, or judges- who knowingly participate in or support illegal use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.
The Central Intelligence Agency, overseen by President Obama and relevant US Congressional Committees, engages in the use of drones (UAVs) to target and kill people without guilt of any crime. Those following orders, from the president and down through the chain of command, after promising to uphold the United States Constitution, and promising to obey Treaties and International Law – as part of the Supreme Law of the Land, and furthermore, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the U.S., are required to disobey any clearly unlawful order from a superior.
Based on all the above,
WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA, DIRECTOR OF THE CIA, JOHN BRENNAN, THOSE PLANNING THE TARGETED KILLING BY THESE DRONES, THOSE OPERATING CIA DRONES, AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND WITH CRIMES AGAINST PEACE & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WITH VIOLATIONS OF PART OF THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS, WARS OF AGGRESSION, VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, AND KILLING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS.
These drones are being used not only in combat situations for the purpose of assassinations but also for killings far removed from combat zones without military defense, to assassinate individuals and groups far removed from military action.
Extra judicial killings, such as those the U.S. carries out by drones are an intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law.
It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq for targeted killings to target specific individuals which has nearly always resulted in the deaths of many others.
There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassinations.
We believe we have a responsibility to file this criminal complaint. We cite Misprision of a Felony, 18 USC § 4 - Misprision of felony, http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/4
“Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
In support of this indictment we also cite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who has said that the use of drones creates “a highly problematic blurring of the law applicable to the use of inter-state force.... The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum.... In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules.” See United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Study on Targeted Killings, 28, May 2010.
To further bolster our case, and to illustrate the seriousness with which others around the world view our actions, we quote from http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/05/09/pakistan-court-decision-finds-us-drone-strikes-are-war-crimes-which-are-absolutely-illegal/ which just recently reported, “A high court in Pakistan has found that United States drone strikes carried out in Pakistan by the CIA are war crimes, which are ‘absolutely illegal’ and a ‘blatant violation’ of Pakistan’s state sovereignty.”
The drone attacks supported, ordered, and executed by the CIA are a deliberate illegal use of force against another nation, and as such are a felonious violation of Article VI of the US Constitution.
By giving material support to the drone program, the individuals named in this complaint are violating the United States Constitution, dishonoring their oath, and committing war crimes.
We demand that the CIA stop immediately and end all drone attacks, being accountable to the people of United States and Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
As citizens of this nation, which maintains CIA bases around the globe with the largest, most deadly military arsenal in the world, we believe these words of Martin Luther King still hold true, ”the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government”.
There is hope for a better world when WE, THE PEOPLE, hold our government accountable to the laws and treaties that govern the use of lethal force and war. To the extent that we ignore our laws and constitution and allow for the unchecked use of lethal force by our government, allowing the government to kill whoever it wants, where ever it wants, however it wants with no accountability, we make the world less safe for children everywhere.
We appeal to the Court of Fairfax County, all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.
Joy First, Mt. Horeb WI
Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA
Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD
Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Also signing on:
Leslie Angeline, San Francisco, CA, CodePink - Women for Peace, Women in Black, Council of Grandmothers, Gaza Ark, Fasting in Solidarity with the Hunger Strikers of Guantanamo, Palestine and Pelican Bay, Peace with Iran
Ellen E Barfield, Baltimore, MD, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace,
War Resisters League, Baltimore Pledge of Resistance
David Barrows, Code Pink, Washington, DC
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Toby Blome, Physical Therapist, Bay Area CodePink
Sushila Cherian, Florida, CodePink group
Jessica Clark of Kalamazoo Michigan from the Peace Center
Nuala Cohen, Burke, VA
Trudy Cooper, Portland, Oregon, Code Pink Delegation to Pakistan
Margaret Copi MD, Oakland, CA 94602
Steve First, Mt. Horeb, WI
Mary FlanaganOakland, CA 94609
Christine Gaunt, Grinnell, IA
Carol E. Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council, Brick, NJ 08724
Jack Gilroy, Co-Chair, St James Peace/Justice, Johnson City, NY
Susan Harmen, Ed.D., Bay Area Code Pink
Wendy Hershey, Concord, CA, Citizen and taxpayer of the US
Stephanie Jennings, San Diego, CA, Women occupy San Diego, Karama, Arab & Islamic world information project
Dave Lambert, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Indiana Peace & Justice
Barbara Larcom, Baltimore, MD, Casa Baltimore/Limay
Norm Littlejohn, Madison, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
Br. John Mahoney, Baltimore, MD Maleki, Somerset, NJ
Theodore Majdosz, Alexandria, VA
Ray McGovern, Veterans for Peace
Jack McHale, Pax Christi, USA
Nick Mottern, Director-KnowDrones.com
G. Pacifica, Oakland Code Pink
Cynthia Papermaster, Berkeley, California, Codepink Golden Gate Chapter, Berkeley No More Guantanamos, National Accountability Action Network
Janet Parker, Madison, WI, Farley Center for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability
Lindis Percy, CAMPAIGN FOR THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF AMERICAN BASES – CAAB UK
Carleen Pikard, San Francisco, CA, Global Exchange
Lars Prip, Afton, WI 53501
Ward Reilly...Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War-OSS, Iraq Veterans Against the War...Advisory Board member
Laura Rolen, Richmond, CA
Margo Shafer, Berkeley, CA
Jay Wenk, Town Board councilman in Woodstock, NY
Bill Wylie-Kellermann, St Peter's episcopal church, Creative Resistance affinity Group