This paper will examine the nature of the DOD and why is it is necessary to have a sound accountability process. It highlights that the Accountability Review Boards (ARBs) are too limited and prone to bias, as seen in the Benghazi ARB. Finally, it will argue that there needs to be an overhaul of the DOD processes to prevent unacceptable human rights abuses and misuse of power.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is one of the most important governmental bodies, because of its ability to take action against the sovereignty of other states. The DOD is a complex organization, so a brief overview of its components will be identified. The DOD consists of the military forces, which are army, navy, air force, and Marine Corps (DOD, 2013). It has commands all over the world, which includes the newly formed Africa Command in 2007 (DOD, 2013). In addition to its military functions, there are its support and homeland defense functions. These include the Guard & Reserve, Homeland Security and Homeland Defense (DOD, 2013). The wide range of activities means that there has to be increased accountability, because not every action on the ground can be overseen by the Pentagon. Failure to provide accountability can result in disastrous circumstance, loss of credibility and international and domestic action for misuse of power. Thus, this paper will identify the reason why accountability in the DOD and some of the functions in place.
Anecdotal Evidence why Accountability is Important:
A number of questionable activities have taken place, such as the use of Aid Agencies to disguise their covert operations (ANI, 2013; Human Rights Commission, 2012). The capture of Osama Bin Laden is one such action, because military operatives used the vaccination programs in Pakistan to gain access and intelligence on Osama Bin Laden (ANI, 2013; Human Rights Commission, 2012). This intelligence did lead to the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden, but the fallout of this operation has resulted in innocent aid workers being killed in Pakistan (ANI, 2013; Human Rights Commission, 2012; Abbotabad Report 2012). In addition, there is an increased distrust between Pakistan and the USA for these activities, especially as the result is threatening the Polio Vaccination Campaign.
Another controversy present is the DOD participating in or acquiescing in the torture of potential terror suspects outside of the US. The cases of Boumediene v Bush 553 U.S. 723 (2008), Rasul v Bush 542 U.S. 466 (2004) and Munaf v Geren 553 U.S. 674 (2008) indicate that there is an obligation on the DOD not to allow torture of citizens and non-citizens on and offshore; regardless of whether he/she is a terror suspect (Hooper, 2013; Endicott, 2009). The infamous Guantanamo Bay illustrates the problems of accountability and reputation. Thus, the implication is that there needs to be an enhanced accountability process in place; otherwise, actions that may have necessary goals are using illegitimate and unjustifiable means.
The Accountability Process:
The development of the accountability review boards (ARB) under 22 USC § 4831 have been designed, in order to determine the case of “serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at, or related to, a United States Government mission abroad”. The problem with these reviews is that they are only limited to serious acts. Thus, there is no need to review acts that are not serious, which can give rise to human rights abuses in the processes of the DOD.
In other words, it is unlikely that an ARB would be convened for covert operations, such as the Osama Bin Laden capture. The actions, in regards to acquiescing to torture of terror suspects, would not be investigated, which means that there is limited accountability.
Another problem is that when an ARB is convened then their truthfulness and adherence to accountability is questionable, as seen in the Benghazi ARB (Atkisson, 2013; Issa Report, 2013). Therefore, the concept of accountability and transparency does not work in the case of the military. The reason for this is that their powers are limited, the ARB’s are biased and the Secretary of Defense can dismiss the use of a board on the basis of no security concern (22 USC § 4831(a)(1)).
Accountability and transparency in the case of the DOD is limited, which means it is able to engage in or allow misuse of powers, which give rise to human rights abuses. The aftereffects of the Osama Bin Laden capture illustrate this, because there is an increased distrust in necessary vaccination programs and legitimate workers are being killed. It is essential that there is a better model of accountability, especially as the ARB’s, when being used are not working. Thus, a complete overhaul of the accountability processes in the DOD is essential.
- Abbottabad Commission (2012) Retrieved from: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/724833-aljazeera-bin-laden-dossier.html#document/p1′
- ANI (2013) “Livid foreign NGOs in Pak call on USAID to withdraw from anti-polio campaign over Abbottabad slur” 16th July 2013 Retrieved from: http://in.news.yahoo.com/livid-foreign-ngos-pak-call-usaid-withdraw-anti-104236007.html
- Atkisson, S (2013). Benghazi Accountability Review comes under Renewed Criticism CBS September , 2013 Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57603023/benghazi-accountability-review-board-comes-under-renewed-criticism/
- DOD (2013). About the Department of the Defense. Retrieved from: http://www.defense.gov/about/dod101.aspx#security
- Endicott, TAO. (2009). Habeas Corpus and Guantanamo Bay: A View from Abroad. Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No 6/2007
- Hooper, HJ. (2013) “Shining the Light on the Darkness? Rahmatullah v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Secretary of State for Defence. Public Law pp. 213
- Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (2012) State of Human Rights 2012 Human Rights Commission
ISSA Review (2013). Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Interim Report on the Accountability Review Board. Staff Report Prepared for Chairman Darrell Issa U.S. House of Representatives 113th Congress. Retrieved from: http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Report-for-Members-final.pdf