Public must have access to U.S. report on military aid

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A coalition of press freedom, civil liberties, and human rights groups is urging President Joe Biden to release a new report to Congress about U.S. military aid and human rights to the press and the public. Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A coalition of press freedom, civil liberties, and human rights groups sent a letter to President Biden today, calling on his administration to make public a new report to Congress on U.S. military assistance to foreign countries and those countries’ compliance with international human rights law.

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The report is due tomorrow, on May 8. But the administration hasn’t yet made clear whether it will be made available to the public or the press. It should be.

Caitlin Vogus, deputy advocacy director at Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), said, “The public has a profound interest in understanding how the U.S. ensures that its military aid doesn’t go to human rights abusers.”

Vogus added, “If the Biden administration can stand behind its decisions about defense assistance, it should have no reason to withhold the report that members of Congress will see from the press and the public.”

In addition to FPF, the letter was signed by Amnesty International USA, Defending Rights & Dissent, National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, and Reporters Without Borders.

In February, Biden issued a national security memorandum known as NSM-20 that’s intended to ensure that foreign recipients of U.S. military aid are following international humanitarian law by requiring them to provide assurances of their compliance to the U.S. NSM-20 authorizes the president to take measures against noncompliant countries, up to and including suspending military assistance.

The Biden administration created the NSM-20 process in the wake of significant pressure from Democrats in Congress about whether Israel was complying with international law during the Israel-Gaza war and whether it may be using U.S. weapons and other military assistance in ways that violate human rights.

There have been numerous allegations that Israel has used U.S. assistance in a manner that violates international and U.S. law, and claims that Israel is violating human rights more broadly, including by intentionally targeting journalists. An internal State Department memorandum that recently leaked to the press shows that some U.S. officials believe Israel is violating international law in Gaza.

But NSM-20 isn’t just about Israel. It requires the U.S. to assess all of the countries to which it provides defense articles, and evaluate assurances those countries have provided about their compliance with international law.

The press and the public must have access to the Biden administration’s report to Congress under NSM-20, so it can evaluate elected leaders’ decisions on foreign military aid and the thoroughness and accuracy of the assessments the U.S. will conduct under this new process.

Read the full letter here or below.

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