“Going About His Business:” Bloomberg Discusses the Mueller Probe’s Effect on the Midterms with William C. Banks

William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University Law School, discusses the latest progress in the Mueller Probe, and how the probe, which began in the spring of 2017, could impact the midterm elections.


Banks’ segment begins at 8m 25s. 

Setting the Terms: William C. Banks Discusses Christopher Wray’s Senate Testimony

Professor Emeritus William C. Banks discusses the recent Senate testimony by FBI director Christopher Wray, who named China as the number one threat to the US. Banks also discusses the FBI’s handling of the second Justice Kavanaugh background check and the future of domestic unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) regulation, among other topics raised at the hearing.

Banks’ segment starts at 6m 09s

INSCT Video: Elections, Violence, and Apathy: Crisis in the Congo, with Jason Stearns

Jason Stearns is Director of the Congo Research Group at New York University and author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. He obtained his Ph.D. from Yale University and has served in various roles for Congolese and international NGOs and the United Nations.

This talk was part of the David F. Everett Postconflict Reconstruction Speaker Series.

Co-sponsors: Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and Maxwell African Scholars Union

“Questions About Character”: William C. Banks Speaks to Bloomberg About Kavanaugh Probe

Trump Advocates “Very Comprehensive” Kavanaugh Probe

(Bloomberg Law | Oct. 1, 2018) William Banks, professor at Syracuse University Law School, discusses President Trump’s Monday comments, where he supported a “very comprehensive” investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Plus, Bloomberg News Supreme Court reporter Greg Stohr, discusses the start of the Supreme Court’s fall term and how Kavanaugh’s confirmation is impacting the high court. They speak with Bloomberg’s Peter Barnes and Amy Morris.


NCCIT Publishes Report on “Torture Flights” from North Carolina Airfields

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT)—which counts as one of its Commissioners INSCT Research and Practice Associate David M. Crane—has published Torture Flights: North Carolina’s Role in the CIA Rendition and Torture Program.

“The report demonstrates to state officials across the country how illegal activity at the federal level may come to implicate state actors in potential liability.”

The report presents NCCIT’s investigatory findings on the issue of whether individuals or business entities located in the state of North Carolina, and acting out of its territory, participated in the US Government’s CIA-led torture program during the President George W. Bush Administration.

The report’s sobering finding is that they did.

The connection between North Carolina and the government-sponsored torture of the era is clear, write the authors. Aircraft operated by at least one local company—flown by North Carolina pilots out of North Carolina airfields that were subsidized by North Carolina revenues and subject to a measure of North Carolina regulation—were engaged in the transport of dozens of captive individuals to multiple foreign sites, some managed by US officials, others by foreign governments, to be tortured.

Torture Flights not only documents North Carolina’s connection to torture, it helps illuminate one of the least known aspects of the CIA’s infamous “Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation” program, the rendition element.

According to the authors, the “torture taxi” system that transported prisoners relied on a network of private contractors that were engaged in this activity, both important cogs in the machinery of torture.

“There are many dark corners that need to see the light of truth related to America’s so called War on Terror,” says Crane. “This import report shines that light of truth.”

Furthermore, the report demonstrates to state officials across the country how illegal activity at the federal level may come to implicate state actors in potential liability.

“Indeed, because the commission of torture or conspiring in the commission of torture is a crime in North Carolina (as it is in every state), it would be surprising if North Carolina state authorities would not now launch their own investigation to determine whether or not state laws were broken or whether evidence relevant to open investigations in other countries should not be sought,” suggest the authors.

Read the report here.

Elections, Violence, and Apathy: Crisis in the Congo, with Jason Stearns

Oct. 4, 2018
Eggers 060 (Global Collaboratory)

Jason Stearns is Director of the Congo Research Group at New York University and author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. He obtained his Ph.D. from Yale University and has served in various roles for Congolese and international NGOs and the United Nations.

Jason Stearns

Part of the David F. Everett Postconflict Reconstruction Speaker Series


“A Saturday Night Massacre on a Monday?” William C. Banks Speaks to Bloomberg Law

Rosenstein, Trump Set Thursday Meeting at White House

(Bloomberg Law | Sept. 24, 2018) William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University Law School, discusses Rod Rosenstein’s future in the Justice Department after Monday reports that he offered his verbal resignation to the White House. Plus, Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, discusses Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, which is in further doubt on Monday after a second woman accused the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct. They speak with Bloomberg’s June Grasso.



The House We Built: How the US Walked Away from Decades of Accountability

By David M. Crane

(Jurist | Sept. 22, 2018) JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane, the founding chief prosecutor of the international war crime tribunal called the Special Court for Sierra Leone, discusses America’s decreasing role in maintaining the international order and the Trump Administration’s recent attacks on the International Criminal Court…

As the world turns inward, nationalistic perspectives are on the rise. It feels like 1930, where the international order laid out in the Versailles Treaty, was about to be turned upside down. Today, something terrible is lurking around the corner, sitting in the shadows of anarchy and fascism. The rule of law tentatively steps forward afraid of what comes next. In this kaleidoscopic age, we do not know. All the international institutions laid out after World War II are being threatened by strongmen who seek their own personal power over the backs of citizens who seem too addled by consumerism or in the depths of social media. It has become a dog eat dog world and the dogs are the new nationalistic strongmen who have risen to power in an astonishingly short period.

The cornerstones to our system of international peace and security, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union among others, are faced with the reality of a diminished role by the United States in ensuring that the rule of law remains the fundamental currency of this international order. Since 9/11, the United States’ role in international peace and security has been more of a threat to peace than as a leader and champion of the rule of law. No more so than today.

By way of example related to this diminished role, the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is about to release its report on 27 September regarding the depths of the horror that was the Retention, Detention, and Interrogation Program led by the current director of the Central intelligence Agency. After the planes crashed into the buildings on that fateful September day, the United States began to slip down a slope that had no bottom. The world recoiled in horror at subsequent American policy and actions related to its misguided “war on terror.” A blind and bleeding giant, the Americans swung the club of illegality about the world trying to kill the fly that was international terrorism. The United States has never really recovered from this mindset and has lost all credibility as a nation of law.

The 21st Century has not been good to the United States and its Presidents have stumbled along trying to adjust to a new world order that they were not prepared for. They have shown the world, particularly its possible adversaries, that today it would have to move on without American leadership in maintaining the delicate balance of peace and security. American strength and resolve to uphold the rule of law was once the fulcrum that balanced the forces of good and evil that the international community struggled with during the Cold War and the kaleidoscopic age we now live in.

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, this slide into oblivion has accelerated. Unstable and petulant with no respect for law, he has thrown gasoline on the fire started by George W. Bush and the war on terror. Barack Obama, aware of this slide, drank the cool aid of the war on terror and did little to halt the movement away from global leadership on the rule of law. The arbitrary use of drones throughout the world and extrajudicial killings of human beings deemed “terrorist” is a good example of how much he embraced his predecessor’s policy. The fact that Guantanamo remained open under his watch moved the United States further down the dark and slippery slope of lawlessness.

Throughout this period, the rest of the world (minus China and Russia) focused on accountability and creating a system of international criminal law that was largely built by the United States. Initially begun at Nuremberg, the Americans were the leading advocates of fair and open tribunals to try those who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and eventually genocide. In the 1990’s, but for American leadership, the likes of the courts set up for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, even the International Criminal Court, would not have happened. We were the master carpenters that built the house that is modern international criminal law, and yet we have just given away the keys to that house!

Recently, the United States once again has decided to drive a stake into the heart of international criminal law and accountability by attacking the International Criminal Court (ICC). Led by the National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Americans laid out a breath taking policy that would have shocked the original architect of the house the United States built at Nuremberg, Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Bolton has always wanted to destroy the ICC, beginning with the famous “Bolton Letter”, which practically speaking pulled the United States out of any meaningful relationship with the ICC. Though modified over time, the US has never been a leader in ensuring that the ICC succeeds. That house we build was left to others to maintain and protect, but we always kept the key, the key of United States’ adherence to the rule of law …

Read the whole article.

Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

William C. Banks Speaks to the Media About FISA Declassification

Trump: Declassified Russia probe papers expose ‘bad things’

(Associated Press | Sept. 18, 2019) President Donald Trump is flexing his executive power to declassify secret documents in the Russia investigation, an extraordinary move he says will ensure that “really bad things” at the FBI are exposed. But the decision, made against the backdrop of Trump’s spiraling outrage at the special counsel’s Russia investigation, may expose sensitive sources and methods and brush up against privacy law protections, experts say.

“The Privacy Act is a big hurdle here unless Congress takes control of the materials and tries to release them themselves.”

The order is likely to further divide the president from the intelligence agencies he oversees and raises new concerns that Trump is disclosing government secrets for his own political gain. Critics of the move say the president has a clear conflict by trying to discredit an investigation in which he himself is a subject …

… William Banks, a Syracuse University national security expert, said that by making the information public, Trump is essentially overruling the decisions of career officials intent on keeping it from foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups and other adversaries.

He said while there’s nothing to prevent Trump from releasing the bulk of the information identified by the White House, he may face some problems releasing the Russia-related text messages because of the federal Privacy Act, which governs the type of personal information the government can make public.

“The Privacy Act is a big hurdle here unless Congress takes control of the materials and tries to release them themselves,” Banks said.

The FBI earlier released in heavily redacted format 412 pages of surveillance applications and court orders related to Page. Monday’s declassification order covers 21 pages of a 101-page June 2017 application to renew the warrant — the last of four filed by the Justice Department. His communications were monitored for nearly a year starting in October 2016 …

Read the whole article.

Trump says declassifying Russia docs is about ‘total transparency,’ but some disagree

(WJLA ABC 7 | Sept. 18, 2019) President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants “total transparency” in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, calling some of the details revealed so far “a disgrace to our nation,” but critics say his latest effort to shine light on the probe is a self-serving attempt to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller.

“If you want a more complete understanding of what went on here, you wouldn’t declassify two pages here or four pages there. You’d declassify all of it, and that’s not what they did.”

“This is a witch hunt,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with President Andrzej Duda of Poland. “Republicans are seeing it. The Democrats know it’s a witch hunt, too, but they don’t want to admit it because that’s not good politics for them. But it’s a terrible witch hunt, and it’s hurt our country.”

In a statement issued Monday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the president is ordering the declassification of selected documents related to the FBI’s applications to a Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act court to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump’s campaign, and text messages sent by several officials involved in the investigation. Sanders said Trump was acting “at the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency” …

… “What’s being released here has been reviewed by officials in the executive branch already and they decided the documents should not be declassified,” said William Banks, former director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University.

National security law experts say there is no precedent for a commander in chief selectively declassifying materials from an investigation of his own conduct, but they agree it is within Trump’s authority to do so …

… According to Banks, FISA proceedings are secretive for good reason, and pulling back the curtain could demoralize intelligence and law enforcement officers.

“Anytime the FISA materials see the light of day, our adversaries can learn more about the processes we use to keep tabs on them,” he said …

… Experts and former DOJ officials have warned of the risk to intelligence-gathering methods in this investigation and others if the sources identified in the documents are exposed

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed these concerns, telling Fox News host Laura Ingraham Monday night it is “laughable” to claim this declassification endangers national security.

“This is really full transparency for the American people,” Nunes said.

Banks rejected the notion that declassifying 21 hand-picked pages of the FISA applications is about “full transparency.”

“If you want a more complete understanding of what went on here, you wouldn’t declassify two pages here or four pages there. You’d declassify all of it, and that’s not what they did,” he said …

Read the whole article.


Command and Control Doctrinal Challenges in the British Army, with Professor Gary Sheffield

Command and Control Doctrinal Challenges in the British Army: From the Trenches to the War on Terror

  • WITH: Professor Gary Sheffield, University of Wolverhampton
  • WHEN: Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 | Noon – 1:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Eggers 151 (History Department Conference Room)

World War I saw the greatest challenge to military command and control the world had ever seen. A combination of factors produced a “wicked” problem that profoundly changed land warfare. There were no easy solutions, and generals in all armies struggled to adjust. In this lecture, Professor Gary Sheffield looks at the British army’s experience, examining topics such as command philosophies, doctrine, communications and coalition warfare, and gives brief case studies of command at Gallipoli in 1915 and Douglas Haig as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front. He then looks at the same army from the Falklands War in 1982 to the present day, using the BEF’s experience to shed light on another period of dramatic transformation in C2.

Gary Sheffield is Professor of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. He works primarily on the armies of Britain and the Empire in the era of the two World Wars, 1914 to 1945. His publications include Douglas Haig: From the Somme to Victory (2016) and Forgotten Victory—The First World War: Myths and Realities (2001). Sheffield has previously held Chairs at King’s College London, where he was Land Warfare Historian on the Higher Command and Staff Course at the Joint Services Command and Staff ­College, and the University of Birmingham. He began his academic career at the Department of War Studies, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

 Co-sponsors: Department of History & INSCT