Building National Security on Inalienable Rights

Thu, 14 September, 2017 9:00am

NATSECDEF is an annual conference organized by attorneys of the Military Commissions Defense Organization, the National Coalition for the Protection of Civil Freedoms, and Witness Against Torture.

NATSECDEF 2017 is the third annual meeting of the minds from the fields of law, community activism, religion, national security, and journalism. The relationship between national security and human rights is a delicate balance, as consistently illustrated through the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. This conference will bring together experts, scholars, advocates, and activists to discuss the most pressing national security issues, how they are being constructed and addressed, and how to maintain the balance between effective security and the human rights protections necessary to a democratic United States.

This event is open to all, although pre-registration is strongly encouraged due to space constraints.

Members of the press must register in advance. 


  • Alberto Mora, Former General Counsel, United States Navy
  • Amina Masood Janjua, Activist and Chair, Defense of Human Rights Pakistan
  • Arjun Sethi, Counter-terrorism Expert and Professor of Law
  • William Lietzau, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense on Detainee Policy
  • Chris Anders, Deputy Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
  • Juan Méndez, Former United Nations Specual Rapporteur on Torture
  • Linda Sarsour, Political Activist and Women's March Organizer
  • Robin Maher, Death Penalty Expert, Attorney, and Professor of Law
  • Lakhdar Boumediene, named plaintiff in Boumediene v. Bush, former Guantanamo prisoner, co-author of Witnesses of the Unseen
  • Mustafa Ait Idir, former Guantanamo prisoner, co-author of Witnesses of the Unseen
  • Sean Murphy, GW Law, United Nations International Law Commission
  • Andrea Prasow, Deputy Washington Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Andrew Mitchell, UK Member of Parliament
  • Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, Reprieve
  • Maya Foa, Reprieve


Thursday, September 14

9 am: Introductory remarks

  • Dean Blake D. Morant, The George Washington University Law School

9:15 am – 10:15 am: Session 1 – “The GTMO Military Commissions - Where We Are and the Way Forward”

16 years after September 11, 2001, Brigadier General John Baker will offer his thoughts on the status of the Guantanamo military commissions, including the 9/11 proceedings, the current programs, and potential solutions.

10:30 am – Noon: Session 2 – 15 Years Later: Lessons from Guantanamo Bay

Jess Bravin (Wall Street Journal) will moderate a lively discussion between Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch and former counsel of Salim Hamdan and William Lietzau, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy looking back at the most important lessons from the controversial prison.

Noon – 1:30 pm: Lunch break (not provided)

1:30 – 4:30 pm: Session 3 – Voices from the Ground – International

This session aims to amplify the voices of those most impacted by the United States counterterrorism polices since 9/11. Amina Masood Janjua, a prominent advocate from Pakistan, will frame the legal, political, and human costs of the U.S. drone program. Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and Maya Foa of Reprieve will share the stories of drone strike victims and other rights violations stemming from U.S. policies. Lakhdar Boumediene, the named plaintiff in the 2008 case of Boumediene v. Bush, and Mustafa Ait Idir will discuss their detention and abuse at Guantanamo Bay and their struggle to reintegrate in the years since their release, which they have detailed in a new book together entitled Witnesses of the Unseen. All named speakers will join via videoconference.

Friday, September 15

9 am - 10:30 am: Session 4: Voices from the Ground - Domestic

This session complements the Friday afternoon discussion with examination of the impact of U.S. counterterrorism policies on vulnerable communities in the United States. Women's March organizer and Palestinian-American advocate Linda Sarsour, professor and attorney Arjun Sethi, and ACLU Legislative Director Chris Anders will discuss the challenges of defending civil liberties in a national security state and what steps the public can take to help.

10:45 - Noon: Session 5: Voices from the Top

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, Sean Murphy, GW Law professor and member of the United Nations International Law Commission, and the Right Honorable Andrew Mitchell (Member of Parliament, UK) will discuss with Sabrina Siddiqui from The Guardian about the legal and political ramifications of controversial U.S. policies since 9/11, including effects on allies and the international community.

12:15 - 1 pm: Session 6: The Death Penalty and Torture

In light of the 9/11 capital proceedings at Guantanamo, prominent death penalty defense attorney Robin Maher will offer her thoughts on imposition of the death penalty on victims of torture and imposition of the death penalty as a form of torture.

1:30 - 2:30 pm: Session 7: Keynote Address and Lunch Break

Alberto Mora, former General Counsel of the Navy and one of the first opponents of abuse at Guantanamo Bay, will share his thoughts on fifteen years of combating the stigma of U.S. torture and rights violations, and ways to strengthen U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Lunch provided by NATSECDEF for registrants.

2:45 - 3 pm: Thanks and Closing Remarks by Alka Pradhan

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