“Feigned” Surprise: William C. Snyder Discusses US Attorneys’ Dismissals with Sinclair

‘You’re fired’: Experts confirm Trump’s dismissal of 46 U.S. attorneys was totally normal

(Sinclair Broadcasting Group | March 13, 2017) Immediate outrage over any action taken by President Donald Trump has become the new normal, so it wasn’t a surprise to see a wave of criticism follow the administration’s call for the resignations of the remaining 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by Barack Obama.

Syracuse University law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney William C. Snyder made clear that all United States attorneys are presidential appointees who are typically replaced at the change of administration. “Any surprise at that is feigned.”

Within President Trump’s first month in office, 47 of the 93 U.S. attorneys offered their resignation. They were political appointees under Barack Obama and most if not all recognized the fact that after January 20, their days under the new administration were numbered. On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered the message for the remaining attorneys to immediately step down from their posts.

This kind of house-cleaning at the Department of Justice is entirely typical for a new administration, even though different presidents have approached the matter in different ways. On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer characterized the transition, saying it is “standard operating procedure for a new administration around this time to ask for the resignation of all the U.S. attorneys” …

… Syracuse University law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney William C. Snyder made clear that all United States attorneys are presidential appointees who are typically replaced at the change of administration. “Any surprise at that is feigned.” The way that process is done, however, differs depending on the administration …

… Bill Clinton was a different story. He broke with tradition in an even more dramatic way than President Trump, firing all 93 U.S. attorneys in one day. In March 1993, Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno penned a similar letter to the one Sessions sent out on Friday calling for every attorney to submit his or her resignation.

“I remember it well,” said Snyder, who was serving as an assistant U.S. attorney at the time. “I was with the person who was named Acting U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia that afternoon, and he was completely shocked and surprised to have been named. He had received no contact from anyone about that, prior to the call from the White House advising that he was named Acting U.S. Attorney.”

The man he was scheduled to replace, U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens, challenged the order to resign. The perception at the time was that his dismissal was politically motivated and intended to stop his ongoing investigation of a Clinton ally in Congress for financial crimes. Stephens, like Bharara, was ultimately fired and the scandal received ample press coverage at the time.

“The Clinton action in 1993 was viewed with outrage as a departure from the norm,” Snyder explained …

To read the complete story, click here.

David M. Crane Explains NC Commission’s Investigation of Rendition Program to The Independent

A major new inquiry has just been opened and it could reveal just how complicit the UK was in CIA torture

(The Independent | March 16, 2017) A major new inquiry has just been launched into the role of the US state of North Carolina in the CIA’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects after 9/11. The CIA apparently used an aviation contractor based in North Carolina to fly kidnapped captives to secret prisons around the world, where they were brutally tortured. It is estimated that at least thirty four individuals were transported by the CIA front company, Aero Contractors, including a number of Britons.

“Disclosures of new information could fuel litigation and serve as a ‘catalyst for further action.’”

Aero’s involvement in the CIA program was first revealed in 2005, prompting local activists to press for an official investigation. But, despite repeated meetings with state officials, including North Carolina’s Attorney General, no action was taken. According to Dr Christina Cowger, chair of the inquiry’s board, they were “taking their cue” from President Obama, who had decided in 2009 not to prosecute Bush officials. Their lack of cooperation led to the formation of a citizens’ inquiry, the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.

After years of preparation, that inquiry is now ready to go. It is led by several commissioners, including some with high-level government service. At a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, Jennifer Daskal, one of the commissioners and a former official in President Obama’s Justice Department, explained that the inquiry was “important” due to the “relative lack of significant accountability” for CIA wrongdoing so far and “particularly important” in light of President Donald Trump’s willingness to consider reviving CIA torture …

… “Certainly the UK will be brought into this,” said commissioner David Crane, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law and founding chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Other nations which held detainees transported by Aero Contractors, such as Morocco and Poland, will also be examined. The inquiry may help lift the lid on how many countries participated in the program. It was believed that 54 were involved, but new research shows that 15 more countries, including France and Japan, cooperated …

… The inquiry is unlikely to result in any criminal investigations, given the history of impunity for CIA torture so far. But disclosures of new information could fuel litigation and serve as a “catalyst for further action”, David Crane told me. Jonathan Freeman, another commissioner and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, hopes that the inquiry will create a “transparent process” and effect “a change in policy, even on a subtle level”. But the going might be tough, especially with Trump in the White House.

To read the complete story, click here.

See also: Associate Press/Charlotte Observer: Citizens’ group aims to investigate CIA rendition program (March 15, 2017) 

Robert Murrett to Speak on UB Panel on Terrorism and Homeland Security

INSCT Deputy Director Robert B. Murrett, a former Director of Naval Intelligence and Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will speak on the SUNY-University at Buffalo (UB) Alumni Panel on Terrorism and Homeland Security on March 9, 2017, Army-Navy Club, Washington, DC.

Other distinguished UB alumni who will offering their insight into critical issues that confront the United Sates are:

  • Pam Benson, Managing Editor, Cipher Brief, and former Senior Producer for National Security, CNN, will moderate the panel.
  • MAJ Donald T. Zajackowski, Political and Military Analyst, US Marine Corps.
  • Christine A. Potosnak, Branch Chief, Administrative Appeals Office, Citizenship and Immigration Services, US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Gregory Michaelidis, Founder and Director, Security Awareness Lab, and former Senior Advisor for Public Affairs, US Department of Homeland Security.


UPDATED: David M. Crane to Serve as Commissioner on North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture

David M. Crane will be joining other distinguished members of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture project for a conference call press event on March 15, 2017, at 10 a.m. (for details contact John Bagwell).

Other speakers will include Lawrence Wilkerson, Retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Chief of Staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell; Rev. Ben Boswell, Senior Minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC; Jennifer Daskal, former counsel at the US Department of Justice and law professor at American University in Washington, DC; Christina Cowger, Chair of the Board of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture; and Richard Mahoney, Arizona’s former Secretary of State, and current director of North Carolina State University’s School of Public and International Affairs (moderator). 

As the media advisory states: “In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the CIA secretly used North Carolina as a staging ground to launch flights which picked up suspected terrorists abroad and transported them to CIA ‘black site’ prisons in Eastern Europe and Asia. There, US personnel could operate beyond the reach of US law and use ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ or torture, to gather information and intelligence.

“Declassified documents and news reports have confirmed the CIA front company Aero Contractors used North Carolina’s aviation infrastructure and public airports to launch these ‘torture taxi’ flights as part of the United States’ Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program.

“This is the first non-governmental inquiry of its kind established to promote transparency and accountability for a state’s role in supporting the CIA’s unlawful RDI program.”

INSCT Affiliated Faculty Member David M. Crane, a resident of North Carolina, has agreed to serve as a Commissioner on the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT).

NCCIT is a non-profit, non-governmental organization created to address the issue of North Carolina’s role in torture and rendition and to craft a model of accountability “that can inspire efforts elsewhere.”

According to the NCCIT website, the state has been closely involved with extraordinary rendition efforts, such as the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program, which potentially violate national and international laws. The NCCIT writes that whether in the “black site” jails of proxy nations or in facilities belonging to the US, “captives were held secretly, denied access to families or lawyers, and tortured during their interrogations.”

According to NCCIT, North Carolina’s specific role in the practice of extraordinary rendition revolves around the presence of special forces in the state; its proximity to Langley, VA, the headquarters of the CIA; and the existence rural airports alleged to be staging posts for rendition initiatives. Several aviation companies in the state also are alleged to have helped the CIA with its RDI program and, in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, to have run the “Guantanamo Express” air route:

“So far, human rights investigators have documented that over 135 persons were subjected to extraordinary rendition. In at least 34 documented cases, North Carolina-based jets, pilots, and crews ferried detainees to torture sites for the CIA, and at least 18 of those cases appear in the executive summary of the Senate Torture Report.”

The NCCIT’s mission is to probe North Carolina’s role in CIA extraordinary rendition, enhance transparency, and help build momentum for genuine accountability for US torture, including acknowledgment and redress for the victims and survivors.

Over the next 18 months, NCCIT staff, board members, and volunteers will prepare briefing documents for commissioners, organize expert testimony, coordinate logistics for a hearing, and assist commissioners with publishing a report containing findings and recommendations.

Documenting War Crimes: David M. Crane Discusses Sednaya Prison Report With Orient TV

(Orient TV | March 2, 2017) Amnesty International’s report on the execution of more than 13,000 prisoners at Sednaya Prison, which is considered the most prominent development in documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and how it helps in the case against Bashar al-Assad and his regime.


  • Stephen J. Rapp, Former Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Office of Global Criminal Justice
  • David M. Crane, Former Prosecutor, International Criminal Court; Head Of Syria Accountability Project; Professor of Practice, SU Law

Corri Zoli Assesses President Trump’s Speech to Congress on WSTM/WTVH

On Feb. 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump addressed a Joint Session of Congress to outline in more detail his foreign and domestic policy priorities. The wide-ranging speech touched on several national security issues, including immigration, border control, and the ongoing struggle against terrorism, both at home and abroad. Syracuse, NY-based TV news stations WSTM and WTVH asked INSCT Director of Research Corri Zoli to discuss Trump’s performance in live interviews after the address. 

The Future of International Justice: David M. Crane Joins NYU Panel


(L to R) Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecutors Stephen Rapp and David Crane. Photo courtesy of Amber Lewis.

New York University’s Center for Global Affairs hosted a scenarios workshop on “The Future of the Field of International Justice” on February 10th, 2017. CGA Professor Jennifer Trahan brought in an impressive roster of international justice practitioners, academics, and diplomatic representatives to discuss how the future of the field might look in 20 years. Borrowing from Professor Michael Oppenheimer’s scenarios techniques, Professor Trahan outlined three scenarios, each with a different international justice mechanism acting as the dominant international justice approach of the future. The expert participants responded by discussing if each scenario would be possible or likely, how it would come to fruition, what that might look like, and whether or not the situation would be desirable.

The first scenario focused on the International Criminal Court as the dominant international justice institution. The second highlighted hybrid and other tribunals, and the third put forth complementarity and national courts as the primary direction—focusing on whether there needs to be more coordination and centralization of capacity-building and how that might be accomplished. The last session allowed for more flexibility to discuss how the scenarios might complement each other, and to discuss other “unforeseen” future scenarios. The day started with a Keynote Address by Liechtenstein Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, and was opened and closed by remarks from Professor Trahan.

As a student note-taker, it was a privilege to hear some of the most well-known pioneers in the field of international criminal justice share their expertise and insights. Many of the expert participants were influential figures from civil society, including session moderators David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice and Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch. Patrick Luna, Second Secretary and Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN, and Dr. Carrie McDougall, Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN, also moderated session. Notable figures from the ad hoc tribunals, including David M. Crane and Stephen J. Rapp, both former Chief Prosecutors of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, provided a special lunch-time presentation of highlights from their respective tenures as Chief Prosecutors. Stephen J. Rapp also previously served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large, Office of Global Criminal Justice. Representatives and legal advisors from states’ permanent missions to the UN, other UN officials, and accomplished academics also participated in the discussion. Participation of ICC and ICTR defense counsel, Beth Lyons, contributed to the diverse array of perspectives and experiences at the table …

To read the full article, click below …



South Africa to Remain in ICC: David M. Crane Cited by Jurist

South Africa court denies government’s bid to withdraw from ICC

(Jurist | Feb. 22, 2017) South Africa’s High Court  on Wednesday blocked  the government’s attempt to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo found that the “decision by the national executive to deliver the notice of withdrawal of South Africa from the Rome Statute of the ICC without prior parliamentary approval is unconstitutional and invalid.” Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the denial was mostly procedural. Masutha went on to say that this ruling merely amounted to a delay and that it would not stop the government’s bid to withdraw.

Earlier this month leaders of multiple African countries announced that they have backed  a “strategy of collective withdrawal” from the ICC. In November Jurist Guest Columnist David Crane of Syracuse University College of Law discussed the need for the ICC to utilize politics to ensure its future. South Africa officially announced its intent to withdraw from the ICC in October and submitted a bill to withdraw  in November …

To read the full article, click here.


The Long Arm of International Law: David M. Crane Interviewed by British Forces Radio

INSCT Affiliated Faculty Member David M. Crane was a guest on the British Forces Broadcasting Service program SitRep.

Professor Crane discussed accountability for war crimes; the “long arm” of international law; the geopolitics of prosecuting crimes against humanity and war crimes; and whether or not the world will see a special tribunal for Basher al Assad, similar to one that is coming to an end for Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who was indicted by the special International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for genocide, crimes against humanity, and numerous war crimes.


Interview begins at 21:00.