Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NIMJ's continued commitment to openness and transparency

NIMJ continues to be committed to openness and transparency in the government.  In furtherance of this mission, NIMJ has regularly requested that the government open up the rule making process in various contexts.  Today, NIMJ wrote to Secretary Gates asking that the Department of Defense open the process for issuing regulations for the military commissions to allow meaningful pre-promulgation public participation.  NIMJ was joined in the request by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Constitution Project, International Justice Network, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.    

The request was made in light of the President's promise of openness in government.  The letter points out that the process leading to the issuance of the 2007 and 2010 Manuals for Military Commissions and the 2007 Regulation for Trial by Military Commission lacked transparency because they excluded the public and interested non-DoD parties from the discussion. Such a process needlessly detracts from public confidence in the administration of justice by military commissions.   

The letter is asking for the notice-and-comment process used throughout the federal government.  That process exists because public participation and openness in government are cornerstones of our democracy.  Allowing public input also adds legitimacy to the regulations, while avoiding potential pitfalls before proposed rules take effect.  For that reason, rule making for military commissions, like courts-martial, should be open to the public.  The considerable public interest in military commissions provides further justification for this reform.

Similarly, last month, NIMJ wrote to Secretary Gates requesting that the process leading to the issuance of the departmental rules currently being developed to implement the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.  NIMJ never received a response from Secretary Gates. 

NIMJ hopes the Department will open up these processes to public participation.  Until then, NIMJ will continue to press for openness.