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Report

The Report of The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment

In 2013, The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment published a groundbreaking report on the U.S. government’s treatment of suspected terrorists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. At the time of its release, it was the most comprehensive investigation and analysis of the issue. It filled a void left by the Obama administration’s refusal to carry out an official review of reported abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and helped pave the way for the public release of the executive summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The Task Force was chaired by former Representative and Undersecretary for Border and Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson (a Republican) and former Representative and Ambassador to Mexico Jim Jones (a Democrat), and counted retired generals; legal, medical, and ethics experts; a prominent former diplomat; and a former FBI director among its members. Their definitive finding “that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” was an important step toward reconstituting a bipartisan consensus against torture in the United States. The report also helped lead to a 2015 amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, that strengthened the legal prohibition on torture. Sections of the report are reprinted below.

The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon panel charged with examining the federal government’s policies and actions related to the capture, detention and treatment of suspected terrorists during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an account as authoritative and accurate as possible of how the United States treated, and continues to treat, people held in our custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.

On taking office in 2009, President Obama declined to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to “look backwards” rather than forward. Senator Leahy (D – VT) introduced legislation to establish an independent commission to look into the U.S. behavior in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, but Congress did not to act on it. In many respects, this Task Force report is the examination of the treatment of suspected terrorists that official Washington has been reluctant to conduct.

It is the product of more than two years of research, analysis and deliberation by the Task Force members and staff. It is based on a thorough examination of available public records and interviews with more than one hundred people, including former detainees, military and intelligence officers, interrogators and policymakers. Task Force staff and members conducted on-the-ground fact-finding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom, and also at Guantanamo Bay.

Although the investigation proceeded without the advantages of subpoena power or access to classified information, we believe it is the most comprehensive record of detainee treatment across multiple administrations and multiple geographic theatres yet published.

Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat – and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings – strengthens the nation, and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and the ones after that. We hope you find this website useful in igniting that dialogue.

View the full report, The Report of The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment [PDF].

For those who desire a quick read, the essence of the report can be gleaned by reading the Statement of the Task Force and the Findings and Recommendations. Two of the most important findings, those that concern the questions as to whether torture occurred and whether senior U.S. leaders bear some responsibility, are accompanied by thorough memos (provided as appendices at the end of the report) that detail the foundations for the Task Force’s deliberations and conclusions on those two issues.

Each of the chapters on subjects such as Guantánamo, the Obama administration, the role of the medical community, etc., is preceded by a brief summary and commentary in italics. These chapters combine previously reported material with new information gathered by the Task Force and its staff. One may, for example, read the italicized introduction to the chapter on Guantánamo to get a quick sense of the rest of the chapter.

In addition, this report contains a handful of sketches of individuals whose stories have not fully been told before. The Task Force believes the accounts of these people provide some special understanding of the history and consequences of the U.S. interrogation and detention program since September 11, 2001.

The sketches are of Albert Shimkus (the first commander of the detainee hospital at Guantánamo), Christophe Girod (an early representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross at Guantánamo), and three Libyans who helped lead the insurgency in their country against Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi. One Libyan, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, had earlier been rendered by U.S. forces to el-Gaddafi’s custody and apparently tortured there. Belhadj’s story is told along with those of other Libyans who suffered the same fate. In one of its most important findings, the Task Force concluded that the extraordinary rendition program — which has inherent problems with human rights and international legal standards — was extended, and thus abused, to deal with people like the Libyans, who had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the September 11 attacks. The ramifications of these transfers with no apparent connection to September 11 are outlined in Chapter 8, discussing the (mostly unintended) consequences of U.S. policy.

There are several features that are not included in the printed version but are available at www.detaineetaskforce.org, including transcripts of many of the interviews conducted by Task Force staff. In addition, the detainee task force website has a master timeline of important events.

Statement of the Task Force

This report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the result of almost two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.

The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.

The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.

Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.

But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.

Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to “look backwards” rather than forward.

In Congress, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to establish a “Truth Commission” to look into the U.S. behavior in the years following the September 11 attacks. The concept, successful in South Africa, Guatemala and several other countries, is predicated on recognizing the paramount value to a nation of an accurate accounting of its history, especially in the aftermath of an extraordinary episode or period of crisis. But as at the White House, Congress showed little appetite for delving into the past.

These responses were dismaying to the many people who believed it was important for a great democracy like the United States to help its citizens understand, albeit with appropriate limits for legitimate security concerns, what had been done in their name.

Our report rests, in part, on the belief that all societies behave differently under stress; at those times, they may even take actions that conflict with their essential character and values. American history has its share of such episodes, like the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, that may have seemed widely acceptable at the time they occurred, but years later are viewed in a starkly different light. What was once generally taken to be understandable and justifiable behavior can later become a case of historical regret.

Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat — and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings — strengthens the nation, and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and ones after that. Moving on without such a reckoning weakens our ability to claim our place as an exemplary practitioner of the rule of law.

In the absence of government action or initiative, The Constitution Project, a nonpartisan public- interest organization devoted to the rule of law principle, set out to address this situation. It gathered a Task Force of experienced former officials who had worked at the highest levels of the judiciary, Congress, the diplomatic service, law enforcement, the military, and parts of the executive branch. Recognized experts in law, medicine and ethical behavior were added to the group to help ensure a serious and fair examination of how detention policies came to be made and implemented.

The Task Force members include Democrats and Republicans; those who are thought to be conservatives and those thought to be liberals; people with experience in and sensitivity to national security issues and those who have an understanding that the government’s reach and authority is subject to both tradition and law to appropriate limits. The Task Force members also were able to bring to the project a keen collective understanding of how government decisions are made.

Although the report covers actions taken during three different administrations beginning with that of President Bill Clinton and ending with that of  President Barack Obama, most of the activity studied here occurred during the administration of President George W. Bush. This is unavoidable as Bush was president when the horrific attacks on U.S. soil occurred on September 11, 2001, and thus had the burden of responding quickly and decisively to the situation.

While the report deals largely with the period of the Bush administration’s response to the attacks, the investigation was neither a partisan undertaking nor should its conclusions be taken as anything other than an effort to understand what happened at many levels of U.S. policymaking.

There is no way of knowing how the government would have responded if a Democratic administration were in power at the time of the September 11 attacks and had to bear the same responsibilities. Indeed, one of the controversial methods examined here — capture and rendition of terror suspects to foreign governments known to abuse people in their custody — had its first significant use during the Clinton administration, well before September 11.

Any effort to understand how extraordinary decisions were reached on approving harsh treatment of detainees must begin with a recognition of the extraordinary anxiety that enveloped the nation after September 11. The greatest fears of Americans and their leaders in that period were of further attacks from those who had demonstrated that they were capable of wreaking havoc in New York and Washington. The abstract problems that might come with unchecked executive power were not a priority or an immediate concern for most Americans inside and outside of government.

Those already-intense anxieties were further stoked by the anthrax scares that played out in the following months.

Philip D. Zelikow, a historian at the University of Virginia who served as counselor in the State Department during the Bush administration and as executive director of the 9/11 Commission, said that following the collective national trauma of the attacks, “Officials tried to do everything they could think of, improvising frantically, making many mistakes while getting some things right.”

These officials were guided by a simple and compelling mandate from the president that was, by itself, worthy — but may have affected the way some decisions were made. President Bush’s order was to do whatever was necessary to prevent another such attack.

Task Force members generally understand that those officials whose decisions and actions may have contributed to charges of  abuse, with harmful consequences for the United States’ standing in the world, undertook those measures as their best efforts to protect their fellow citizens.

Task Force members also believe, however, that those good intentions did not relieve them of their obligations to comply with existing treaties and laws. The need to respect legal and moral codes designed to maintain minimum standards of human rights is especially great in times of crisis.

It is encouraging to note that when misguided policies were implemented in an excess of zeal or emotion, there was sometimes a cadre of officials who raised their voices in dissent, however unavailing those efforts.

Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.

This finding, offered without reservation, is not based on any impressionistic approach to the issue. No member of the Task Force made this decision because the techniques “seemed like torture to me,” or “I would regard that as torture.”

Instead, this conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal. The Task Force examined court cases in which torture was deemed to have occurred both inside and outside the country and, tellingly, in instances in which the United States has leveled the charge of torture against other governments. The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct.

The extensive research that led to the conclusion that the United States engaged in torture is contained in a detailed legal memorandum attached to this report. It should be noted that the conclusion that torture was used means it occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters. This judgment is not restricted to or dependent on the three cases in which detainees of the CIA were subjected to waterboarding, which had been approved at the highest levels.

The question as to whether U.S. forces and agents engaged in torture has been complicated by the existence of two vocal camps in the public debate. This has been particularly vexing for traditional journalists who are trained and accustomed to recording the arguments of both sides in a dispute without declaring one right and the other wrong. The public may simply perceive that there is no right side, as there are two equally fervent views held views on a subject, with substantially credentialed people on both sides. In this case, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that among those who insist that the United States did not engage in torture are figures who served at the highest levels of government, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

The second notable conclusion of the Task Force is that the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.

But this Task Force is not bound by this convention.

The members, coming from a wide political spectrum, believe that arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible.

The second notable conclusion of the Task Force is that the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.

The evidence for this finding about responsibility is contained throughout the report, but it is distilled in a detailed memo showing the widespread responsibility for torture among civilian and military leaders. [See Appendix 2] The most important element may have been to declare that the Geneva Conventions, a venerable instrument for ensuring humane treatment in time of war, did not apply to Al Qaeda and Taliban captives in Afghanistan or Guantánamo. The administration never specified what rules would apply instead.

The other major factor was President Bush’s authorization of brutal techniques by the CIA for selected detainees.

The CIA also created its own detention and interrogation facilities — at several locations in Afghanistan, and even more secretive “black sites” in Thailand, Poland, Romania and Lithuania, where the highest value captives were interrogated.

The consequence of these official actions and statements are now clear: many lower-level troops said they believed that “the gloves were off ” regarding treatment of prisoners. By the end of 2002, at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, interrogators began routinely depriving detainees of sleep by means of shackling them to the ceiling. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld later approved interrogation techniques in Guantánamo that included sleep deprivation, stress positions, nudity, sensory deprivation and threatening detainees with dogs. Many of the same techniques were later used in Iraq.

Much of the torture that occurred in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq was never explicitly authorized. But the authorization of the CIA’s techniques depended on setting aside the traditional legal rules that protected captives. And as retired Marine generals Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar have said, “any degree of ‘flexibility’ about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone — the rare exception fast becoming the rule.”

The scope of this study encompasses a vast amount of information, analysis and events; geographically speaking, much of the activity studied occurred in three locations outside the continental United States, two of them war zones. Fact-finding was conducted on the ground in all three places — Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — by Task Force staff. Task Force members were directly involved in some of the information-gathering phase of the investigation, traveling abroad to meet former detainees and foreign officials to discuss the U.S. program of rendition.

As the Task Force is a nongovernmental body with no authority in law, the investigation proceeded without the advantages of subpoena power or the obligation of the government to provide access to classified information.

Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of information already developed and Task Force staff and members have interviewed dozens of people over the course of the past few months; the passage of time seems to have made some people more willing to speak candidly about events.

The Task Force and its staff have surveyed the vast number of reports on the subject generated by the government, news media, independent writers and nongovernmental organizations, some more credible than others. The Task Force has attempted to assess the credibility of the many assertions of brutal treatment as far as possible. For example, accounts by former detainees, either previously reported or in interviews with Task Force staff, may be measured against the accounts of interrogators and guards who now speak more openly than they did at the time — or against such credible reports as those provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Senate Armed Services Committee, both of which had access to confidential information not available to the public.

The architects of the detention and interrogation regimes sought and were given crucial support from people in the medical and legal fields. This implicated profound ethical questions for both professions and this report attempts to address those issues.

Apart from the ethical aspects, there were significant, even crucial mistakes made by both legal and medical advisers at the highest levels.

On the medical side, policymakers eagerly accepted a proposal presented by a small group of behavioral psychologists to use the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program (SERE) as the basis to fashion a harsh interrogation regime for people captured in the new war against terrorism.

The use of the SERE program was a single example of flawed decision-making at many levels — with serious consequences. The SERE program was developed to help U.S. troops resist interrogation techniques that had been used to extract false confessions from downed U.S. airmen during the Korean War. Its promoters had no experience in interrogation, the ability to extract truthful and usable information from captives.

Lawyers in the Justice Department provided legal guidance, in the aftermath of the attacks, that seemed to go to great lengths to allow treatment that amounted to torture. To deal with the regime of laws and treaties designed to prohibit and prevent torture, the lawyers provided novel, if not acrobatic interpretations to allow the mistreatment of prisoners.

Those early memoranda that defined torture narrowly would engender widespread and withering criticism once they became public. The successors of those government lawyers would eventually move to overturn those legal memoranda. Even though the initial memoranda were disowned, the memorable language — limiting the definition of torture to those acts that might implicate organ failure — remain a stain on the image of the United States, and the memos are a potential aid to repressive regimes elsewhere when they seek approval or justification for their own acts.

The early legal opinions had something in common with the advice from psychologists about how to manipulate detainees during interrogation: they both seemed to be aimed primarily  at giving the client — in this case, administration officials — what they wanted to hear.

Information or arguments that contravened the advice were ignored, minimized or suppressed.

The Task Force report also includes important new details of the astonishing account — first uncovered by Human Rights Watch — of how some U.S. authorities used the machinery of the “war on terror” to abuse a handful of Libyan Islamists involved in a national struggle against Libyan dictator Muammar el-Gaddafi, in an effort to win favor with el-Gaddafi’s regime. The same Libyans suddenly became allies as they fought with NATO to topple el-Gaddafi a few short years later.

Task Force staff also learned that procedures in place in Afghanistan to evaluate prisoners for release are not as independent as they have been presented. Decisions of review boards, in some cases, are subject to review by a Pentagon agency that often consults with members of Congress as to whether to release prisoners from Bagram.

Stepping back from the close-quarters study of detention policies, some significant, historical themes may be discerned. The first is a striking example of the interplay of checks and balances in our system, in which the three branches of government can be seen, understandably, to move at different speeds in responding to a crisis. Following the September 11 attacks, the immediate responsibility for action fell appropriately on the executive branch, which has direct control of the vast machinery of  the government. It encompasses not only the nation’s military might but the president himself as the embodiment of the nation’s leadership and thus the individual best positioned to articulate the nation’s anger, grief and considered response.

The other branches of government had little impact in the early years on the policies put in place by the Bush administration. The judiciary, the “least-dangerous branch” as noted by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, is designed to be more deliberate in its involvement; courts cannot constitutionally pronounce on policies until they are presented with a “case or controversy” on which they may render judgments. Thus, in those first few years, the executive branch was essentially unimpeded in its actions in regard to treatment of detainees.

That would change. When cases involving U.S. detention policies slowly made their way into the judicial system, a handful of judges began to push back against administration actions.

Decisions ultimately handed down by the Supreme Court overturned some of the basic premises of the administration in establishing its detention regime. Officials had counted on courts accepting that the U.S. Naval base at Guantánamo, Cuba, was outside the legal jurisdiction of the United States. As such, the officials also reasoned that detainees there would have no access to the right of habeas corpus, that is, the ability to petition courts to investigate and judge the sufficiency of reasons for detention.

The Supreme Court upset both assumptions.

But the limits of judicial authority soon became evident. As various judges issued rulings based on the Supreme Court pronouncements, both the courts and the administration engaged warily. While often in direct disagreement, both judges and executive branch officials seemed to be always sensitive to the potential for constitutional confrontation and sought to avoid outright conflict. Courts, ever anxious about the possibility of defiance undermining their authority, generally allowed the administration to delay action. The administration, for its part, often worked to make cases moot, sometimes even freeing prisoners who were the subject of litigation, even though officials had once described those very detainees as highly dangerous.

Congress proved even slower than the courts to take any action that would create a confrontation with the White House. That would change, however, with the election of President Obama.

Another evident trend is that the detention policies of the Bush administration may be, in a loose sense, divided into two different periods. The aggressive “forward-leaning” approach in the early years changed, notably beginning in the period for 2005 to 2006. There were, no doubt, many reasons for this, probably including the limited pushback of the courts.

A full explanation of how the aggressiveness of the detention policies was altered in this period would involve an examination of the apparent changes in the thinking of President Bush, a  difficult task and generally beyond the scope of this report. One factor, however, was certainly the disclosure of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib in 2004 and the ensuing condemnation both at home and abroad accompanied by feelings of — and there is no better word for it — shame among Americans, who rightly hold higher expectations of the men and women we send to war.

Over the course of this study, it became ever more apparent that the disclosures about Abu Ghraib had an enormous impact on policy. The public revulsion as to those disclosures contributed to a change in direction on many fronts; those in the government who had argued there was a need for extraordinary measures to protect the nation soon saw the initiative shift to those who objected to harsh tactics. Task Force investigators and members believe it is difficult to overstate the effect of the Abu Ghraib disclosures on the direction of U.S. policies on detainee treatment.

The Task Force also believes there may have been another opportunity to effect a shift in momentum that was lost. That involved an internal debate at the highest levels of the ICRC as to how aggressive the Geneva-based group should be with U.S. policymakers. The ICRC, by tradition, does not speak publicly about what its people learn about detention situations. But some officials were so offended by their discoveries at Guantánamo that they argued the group had to be more forceful in confronting the Defense Department. This report details for the first time some of the debate inside the ICRC over that issue.

In the end, the top leadership of the ICRC decided against confrontation and a valuable opportunity may have been missed.

Another observation is that President Obama came to quickly discover that his promised sweeping reform of the detention regime could not be so easily implemented. A major reason for this was that Congress, when finally engaged in the issue, resisted. The opposition to President Obama’s plans was sometimes bipartisan, notably to those proposals to close Guantánamo and bring some of the detainees onto U.S. soil for trial. Many believe President Obama and his aides did not move swiftly enough, thus allowing opposition to build in Congress.

This report is aimed, in part, at learning from errors and improving detention and interrogation policies in the future. At the time of this writing, the United States is still detaining people it regards as dangerous. But in some instances the treatment of supposed high-value foes has been transformed in significant ways.

The U.S. military, learning from its experience, has vastly improved its procedures for screening captives and no longer engages in large-scale coercive interrogation techniques. Just as importantly, the regime of capture and detention has been overtaken by technology and supplanted in large measure by the use of drones. If presumed enemy leaders — high-value targets — are killed outright by drones, the troublesome issues of how to conduct detention and interrogation operations are minimized and may even become moot.

The appropriateness of the United States using drones, however, will continue to be the subject of significant debate — indeed, it was recently the subject of the ninth-longest filibuster in U.S. history — and will probably not completely eliminate traditional combat methods in counter- terror and counter-insurgency operations in the foreseeable future. As we have seen, any combat situation can generate prisoners and the problems associated with their detention and interrogation. As 2012 ended, the U.S. military was believed to still be taking in about 100 new prisoners each month at the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan, most of them seized in night raids around the country. But interviews by Task Force staff with recent prisoners appear to show a stark change in their treatment from the harsh methods used in the early years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

While authoritative as far as it goes, this report should not be the final word on how events played out in the detention and interrogation arena.

The members of the Task Force believe there may be more to be learned, perhaps from renewed interest in the executive or legislative branches of our government, which can bring to bear tools unavailable to this investigation — namely subpoena power to compel testimony and the capability to review classified materials.

Even though the story might not yet be complete, the Task Force has developed a number of recommendations to change how the nation goes about the business of detaining people in a national-security context, and they are included in this report. We hope the executive and legislative branches give them careful consideration.

Asa Hutchinson (Co-Chair)

Asa Hutchinson is a senior partner in the Asa Hutchinson Law Group in Rogers, Arkansas, specializing in white collar criminal defense, complex litigation, international export controls and sanctions, corporate international relations, homeland security, and corporate investigations and compliance. He served in the administration of President George W. Bush as Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005, where he was responsible for more than 110,000 federal employees housed in such agencies as the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. He was Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration from 2001 to 2003.

Prior to joining the Bush Administration, Hutchinson represented the 3rd District of Arkansas as a Republican Congressman, first winning election in 1996. Hutchinson served on the House Judiciary Committee along with the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

In 1982, he was appointed as United States Attorney by President Ronald Reagan, at the time the youngest person to receive such an appointment. He earned a J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law.

James R. Jones (Co-Chair)

James R. Jones is a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. Prior to joining Manatt, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (1993-1997), where he was very successful in his leadership during the Mexican peso crisis, the passage and implementation of NAFTA and in developing new, cooperative efforts to combat drug trafficking. He also assisted U.S. businesses with commercial ventures in Mexico.

As a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma (1973-1987), he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee for four years and a ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he was active in tax, international trade, Social Security and health care policy. Jones was only 28 when President Lyndon Johnson selected him as Appointments Secretary, a position equivalent to White House Chief of Staff, the youngest person in history to hold such a position.

Jones’ previous experience also includes the position of President at Warnaco International, as well as Chairman and CEO of the American Stock Exchange in New York (1989-1993). He earned a LLB from Georgetown University Law Center in 1964.

Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte

A former President of the American Bar Association (1991-92), Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte was appointed President of Florida State University in 1993, serving in that capacity through January 2003. Prior to that, from 1984 to 1989, he served as Dean of Florida State University College of Law.

A member of the American Law Institute, D’Alemberte also served as President of the American Judicature Society (1982-84). He has won numerous national awards for his contributions to the profession. He is the author of The Florida Constitution. D’Alemberte served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1966 to1972.

He is currently a partner of D’Alemberte & Palmer, a Tallahassee firm specializing in appellate work. He continues to teach as a member of the University faculty at the FSU College of Law. He remains an active member of many legal and higher educational committees and boards. D’Alemberte received his juris doctor with honors from the University of Florida in 1962, and he has received nine honorary degrees.

Richard A. Epstein

Richard A. Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. He has served as the Peter and Kirstin Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution since 2000. Epstein is also the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1972. Prior to joining the University of Chicago Law School faculty, he taught law at the University of Southern California from 1968 to 1972.

He has published numerous books and articles on a wide range of legal and interdisciplinary subjects, and has taught courses in administrative law, civil procedure, constitutional law, and criminal law, among many others. He served as editor of the Journal of Legal Studies from 1981 to 1991, and of the Journal of Law and Economics from 1991 to 2001. From 2001 to 2010 he was a director of the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago.

He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1985 and has been a Senior Fellow of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago Medical School since 1983. He received an LLD from the University of Ghent in 2003.

David P. Gushee

Dr. David P. Gushee is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. Gushee teaches at McAfee School of Theology and throughout Mercer University in his specialty, Christian ethics. As Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, he organizes events and courses to advance quality conversations about major issues arising at the intersection of theology, ethics, and public policy. Gushee came to Mercer in 2007 from Union University, where he served for 11 years, ultimately as Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy.

Gushee has published fifteen books, with four more in development, and many hundreds of essays, book chapters, articles, reviews, and opinion pieces. He is a columnist for the Huffington Post and a contributing editor for Christianity Today, as well as an active voice on social media. He also currently serves on the board of directors of the Society of Christian Ethics, his primary professional association, and on the Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he has also taught a faculty seminar course.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts at the College of William and Mary (1984), Master of Divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1987) and both the Master of Philosophy (1990) and Doctor of Philosophy (1993) in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Azizah Y. al-Hibri

Dr. Azizah Y. al-Hibri is a professor emerita at the T. C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond, having served on the faculty from 1992 until her retirement in 2012. She is also a founding editor of “Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy,” and the founder and chair [president] of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.

For the last two decades, al-Hibri has written extensively on issues of Muslim women’s rights, Islam and democracy, and human rights in Islam. She has published in a number of legal publications, and authored several book chapters. Al-Hibri has also traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world in support of Muslim women’s rights. She has visited fourteen Muslim countries and met with religious, political and feminist leaders, as well as legal scholars, on issues of importance to Muslim women.

In 2011, al-Hibri was appointed by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She is the recipient of the Virginia First Freedom Award, presented in 2007 by the Council for America’s First Freedom, the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented in 2009 by the Journal of Law and Religion, and the Dr. Betty Shabazz Recognition Award, presented by Women in Islam in 2006. She earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1985. She was also named a Fulbright Scholar in 2001.

David R. Irvine

David Irvine is a Salt Lake City attorney in private practice, a former Republican state legislator, and a retired Army brigadier general.

Irvine enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1962, and received a direct commission in 1967 as a strategic intelligence officer. He maintained a faculty assignment for 18 years with the Sixth U.S. Army Intelligence School, teaching prisoner of war interrogation and military law. He was the Deputy Commander for the 96th Regional Readiness Command. He served four terms in the Utah House of Representatives.

Claudia Kennedy

Claudia J. Kennedy is the first woman to achieve the rank of three-star general in the United States Army, taking her from the Women’s Army Corps in the late 1960’s to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Intelligence in 1997-2000. She oversaw policies and operations affecting 45,000 people stationed worldwide with a budget of nearly $1 billion.

During her military career, General Kennedy received honors and awards, including the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, four Legions of Merits which are awarded for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.”

She is the Chair of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. She has consulted for Essex Corporation and for Walmart, Inc. She has appeared as a military consultant for NBC and CNN and as a guest on Larry King Live, Aaron Brown, Wolf Blitzer and ABC’s Good Morning America among others. Kennedy holds a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Rhodes College.

Thomas R. Pickering

Thomas R. Pickering is vice chairman of Hills & Company, an international consulting firm providing advice to U.S. businesses on investment, trade, and risk assessment issues abroad, particularly in emerging market economies. Until 2006, he was senior vice president for international relations for Boeing.

From 1997 to 2001, Pickering served as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. From 1989 to 1992, he was Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations. In a diplomatic career spanning five decades, he has served as U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Pickering also served on assignments in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He also served as Executive Secretary of the Department of State and Special Assistant to Secretaries William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger from 1973 to 1974. Between 1959 and 1961, he served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department, in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and from 1962 to 1964 in Geneva as political adviser to the U.S. delegation to the 18-Nation Disarmament Conference. He earned the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. Most recently, he helped lead an independent State Department panel charged with investigating the attacks on the mission in Benghazi.

Pickering entered on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1956-1959, and later served in the Naval Reserve to the grade of Lieutenant Commander. He earned a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Upon graduation from Tufts, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and attended the University of Melbourne in Australia where he received a second master’s degree in 1956. He is also the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.

William S. Sessions

William S. Sessions served three United States presidents as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, earning a reputation for modernizing the FBI by initiating and developing the forensic use of DNA, the development and automation of digital fingerprinting capabilities with the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, as well as recruiting of women and minorities for service in the FBI. He initiated the “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” program for combating drug usage by young people.

Prior to joining the FBI, Sessions was the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, where he had previously served as United States Attorney. He also served on the Board of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., and on committees of both the State Bar of Texas and as the chairman of the Automation Subcommittee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Sessions is a partner in Holland & Knight’s Washington, D.C. office and the recipient of the 2009 Chesterfield Smith Award, the firm’s highest individual recognition given to a firm partner. Sessions served as an arbitrator and mediator for the American Arbitration Association, the International Center for Dispute Resolution, for the CPR Institute of Dispute Resolution and FedNet, for arbitration and mediation of disputes by former federal judges. Sessions holds a J.D. degree from Baylor University School of Law and was named as one of five lawyers, in 2009, as an Outstanding Texas 50-year lawyer by the Texas Bar Foundation.

Gerald E. Thomson

Dr. Thomson is the Lambert and Sonneborn Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University. Following his post graduate training at the State University of New York-Kings County Hospital Center, Thomson remained on the faculty there and directed one of the nation’s first artificial kidney units for the maintenance of patients with end stage renal failure. He joined the Columbia faculty in 1970, serving as Director of Medicine at the affiliated Harlem Hospital Center from 1970-1985. He was Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Columbia University Medical Center from 1985-1990 and Senior Associate Dean from 1990-2003. Thomson has served on and headed numerous National Institutes of Health and other agency advisory committees on hypertension, end stage renal disease, cardiovascular disease, public hospitals, minorities in medicine, human rights, and access to health care. Thomson is a 2002 recipient of the Columbia University President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Thomson is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and was Chair of an Institute of Medicine committee that issued a 2006 report that reviewed the National Institutes of Health Strategic Research Plan on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Thomson is a former Chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine and past President of the American College of Physicians.

Task Force Staff

Neil A. Lewis, Executive Director 

Kent A. Eiler, Counsel

Jacob A. Gillig, Administrator 

Katherine Hawkins, Investigator 

Alka Pradhan, Counsel