As I discuss in a piece over at Defense One, today is the deadline for the Trump administration to provide a detailed explanation to Congress on its legal and policy basis for using military force. As part of this major report the Trump administration must also explain and justify any departures from Obama-era legal interpretations or use of force policies.
As Daphne Eviatar noted on Friday, this includes reported changes to the Presidential Policy Guidance for lethal operations outside so called “areas of active hostilities” that have human rights groups, like my own, alarmed. But it also includes a whole host of other important questions about the use of military force, many of which Josh Geltzer flagged here at Just Security and Scott Anderson raised over at Lawfare.
The key question today is whether any of us outside of government will get to see this critical report. As Tess Bridgeman pointed out last month, there is a risk that the Trump Administration will make much (or all) of the report required by Section 1264 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, classified. While Section 1264 requires the administration to submit the framework report to the relevant congressional committees in unclassified form, the report may include a classified annex. There is concern that the administration will use this loophole to keep previously public information secret. Some question whether the Trump Administration will even get the report to Congress today.
As I argue over at Defense One, failing to provide the report to the public would be a mistake not just for democracy and human rights but for national security as well.