Skip to content

Email John

Posts by John Bellinger

John B. Bellinger III is a partner in the international and national security law practices at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, DC. He is also Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as The Legal Adviser for the Department of State from 2005–2009, as Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council at the White House from 2001–2005, and as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice from 1997–2001. Full bio »

Report of the Stimson Center Task Force on Drone Policy

By
Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

The Stimson Center released today the report of its Task Force on US Drone Policy.  The ten-member task force, of which I was a member, was chaired by General John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks.   The report makes eight recommendations for overhauling US drone strategy; improving oversight, accountability, transparency and clarifying the international legal framework applicable . . .
Read more »

I Agree: Abu Khattala Belongs in Federal Court

By
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:25 AM

I want to pile on briefly to Jack’s and Ben’s support for prosecuting Ahmed Abu Khattala in federal court for violation of U.S. criminal laws. I have pointed out for many years that civil liberties groups have been disingenuous in suggesting that every individual detained or turned over to the U.S. military in Afghanistan in . . .
Read more »

The Bergdahl Swap: Who Kicked Off the “Political Football” Game?

By
Friday, June 6, 2014 at 10:23 AM

President Obama complained yesterday that Sergeant Bergdahl is “not a political football.”   That should be true, but unfortunately President Obama is responsible for kicking off the football game by announcing the Taliban-Bergdahl swap in a Rose Garden appearance, rather than leaving the announcement to Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey.  The White House should not be . . .
Read more »

Released Taliban Detainees: Not So “Innocent” After All?

By
Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 8:28 AM

Today’s Washington Post contains an interesting article about the backgrounds of the five released Taliban detainees entitled “Freed prisoners were battle-hardened Taliban commanders.” According to the Post, “One of the freed men was the head of the Taliban’s army. Another arranged for al-Qaeda trainers to visit Afghanistan. Another has been implicated by the United Nations . . .
Read more »

Samantar Again Seeks Supreme Court Review

By
Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 12:10 PM

For the third time in five years, the Samantar case is back before the Supreme Court. On May 5, former Somali Defense Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar again petitioned for certiorari, after the Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal of Judge Brinkema’s final judgment in the long-running ATS and TVPA suit against him for human rights violations committed . . .
Read more »

U.N. Security Council Referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court?

By
Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 2:45 PM

The New York Times reports that France has drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution referring the “situation” in Syria to the International Criminal Court that has been tailored “specifically to address American sensitivities” about the ICC. The Bush and Obama Administrations negotiated similar compromises when they agreed to Security Council referrals of human rights violations . . .
Read more »

Kiobel Anniversary Surprise: Judge Scheindlin Rules Corporations May Be Held Liable Under ATS, Despite Second Circuit Precedents

By
Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 2:39 PM

In a surprising decision issued on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel, Judge Scheindlin held, in the long-running Apartheid litigation, that corporations may be sued under the Alien Tort Statute.  Her decision directly conflicts not only with the Second Circuit’s original 2010 decision in Kiobel (holding that corporations are not subject . . .
Read more »

The Aboutalebi Visa Denial: U.S. Law and Historical Precedents

By
Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 4:11 PM

President Obama’s decision to deny a visa to Iran’s would-be Ambassador to the United Nations, Hamid Aboutalebi, is based on U.S. law dating back to 1947 and has numerous historical precedents.  Although the U.N. and other countries have occasionally criticized the U.S. for refusing to grant visas to individuals to come to the U.N., it . . .
Read more »

A Further Response to Ryan Goodman on an Alleged Extraterritorial Right to Privacy

By
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Continuing our dialogue about whether the ICCPR places limits on electronic surveillance by a state outside of its own territory, Ryan Goodman has posted a lengthy response to my response to his post about my PCLOB testimony last month.  His arguments deserve a longer response (and I hope some other Lawfare contributors may also respond), . . .
Read more »

A Reply to Ryan Goodman on the Application of the ICCPR to NSA Surveillance

By
Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM

In a post at Just Security on Thursday, my friend Ryan Goodman takes issue with my testimony before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, in which I said that even if the U.S. Government agreed that the ICCPR applies outside the territory of the United States, the ICCPR would still not apply to NSA surveillance . . .
Read more »

ATS/TVPA Suit Against Cisco Systems Dismissed on Political Question and Act of State Grounds

By
Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Another belated post: last week, a district court in Maryland dismissed a ATS and TVPA lawsuit filed in 2011 by members of the Chinese Falun Gong a group of Chinese dissidents against Cisco Systems, the California-based Internet technology provider, and its CEO, John Chambers, for allegedly aiding and abetting the arbitrary detention and torture of . . .
Read more »

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of ATS/TVPA Suit Against Former President Zedillo

By
Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 9:02 PM

I am late in reporting that last month the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the ATS and TVPA suit against former President Zedillo of Mexico, based on the Suggestion of Immunity signed by my successor Harold Koh and submitted by the Executive branch to the district court.  The Second Circuit also declined to allow plaintiffs . . .
Read more »

When Will President Obama Nominate a New Legal Adviser?

By
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 8:20 AM

Speaking of agency general counsels (as I did in my post yesterday morning about the appointment of Jim Baker as FBI General Counsel), many foreign governments are wondering when President Obama will nominate a new State Department Legal Adviser.   The position has been vacant for more than a year, since Harold Koh left in January 2013.  For an . . .
Read more »

Time To Terminate the Iran-US Claims Tribunal

By
Monday, January 27, 2014 at 1:56 PM

I have an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “This Other Deal With Iran Is Obsolete” in which I argue that the current discussions between the US and Iran to reach a permanent agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program provide a good opportunity to review the Algiers Accords, which were signed 33 years ago this month, . . .
Read more »

Jim Baker Appointed as FBI General Counsel

By
Monday, January 27, 2014 at 7:00 AM

FBI Director Jim Comey has appointed Jim Baker as FBI General Counsel.  This is an outstanding appointment.  The announcement is here. Jim Baker is one of the most experienced and conscientious intelligence professionals in the United States, with particular expertise in FISA, terrorism, cyber-security, and the intersection of criminal law and intelligence operations.  A career . . .
Read more »

Congressional Control of Intelligence Programs (sometimes)

By
Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 7:03 PM

In the last ten days, an interesting controversy has bubbled up over congressional control of the drone program.  The quarrel, which has been both internal to the Senate and between the Congress and the Executive, raises some important issues regarding Congress’s ability to control controversial but classified programs (such as the current drone program and . . .
Read more »

Private Sector Pay “Parity” for Federal Judges (and Agency General Counsels)?

By
Friday, January 24, 2014 at 8:00 AM

The Washington Post reported last week that the salaries for the federal judiciary increased on January 1 after federal judges won a class action lawsuit last year challenging Congress’s refusal to give them cost-of-living increases.  Federal judges had not received any pay increases for five years.  As a result of the lawsuit (not congressional action), . . .
Read more »

The Fifth Anniversary of President Obama’s Guantanamo Closure Order

By
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:15 AM

Today is the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s executive order directing the closure of Guantanamo within one year. I welcomed the President’s order at the time, but I commented on NPR and elsewhere that he would have a difficult time deciding what to do with the detainees, how to prosecute those who had committed crimes, and . . .
Read more »

The President’s Speech — A Striking Omission

By
Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial about the President’s speech faults the President for failing to give credit to Edward Snowden: One of his biggest lapses was his refusal to acknowledge that his entire speech, and all of the important changes that he now advocates, would never have happened without the disclosures by Mr. Snowden, who . . .
Read more »

Supreme Court Denies Samantar Cert Petition (but this may not be the end of the story)

By
Monday, January 13, 2014 at 7:34 PM

The Supreme Court today denied cert in the Samantar case, rejecting the Government’s recommendation to grant, vacate, and remand to the Fourth Circuit and instead allowing the Fourth Circuit’s decision to stand.  I have previously explained why I think the Fourth Circuit’s conclusion “under international and domestic law” that foreign government officials are not entitled to . . .
Read more »