By Mary Elizabeth Margolis

Top Items

Confirmation Hearings

Confirmation hearings will begin in the Senate this week for several nominees for key cabinet positions in the new administration including Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for attorney general, Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.) for secretary of defense, General John Kelly, USMC (Ret.) for secretary of homeland security, and Mike Pompeo (R-KS) for CIA director. Nominees will have to answer tough questions about how they intend to uphold the law and the constitution, including whether they intend to ensure that the United States never again returns to the use of waterboarding and other illegal and ineffective “enhanced interrogation” techniques in U.S. counterterrorism operations. Additionally, nominees will have to address if they intend to honor the longstanding American ideal of providing protection to the persecuted by maintaining a robust refugee resettlement and asylum system.

Human Rights First, along with 20 of the nation’s largest human rights and faith organizations, urged senators to evaluate nominees based on key principles including adherence to the U.S. Constitution and adherence to the rule of law.

Russian Hacking

On Tuesday the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its hearings looking into Russian hacking activities during the recent presidential election, with plans to question National Intelligence Director James Comey. As skeptical politicians including President-elect Trump continue to disavow the impact of Russian hacking, Senators at the hearing should press Comey to provide evidence and greater transparency into Russia’s strategy to undermine confidence in democratic institutions both at home and abroad. In drawing this connection between hacking and the Russian government’s larger goal, senators should spotlight the real threat Russia’s actions pose to human rights globally.

President Obama’s Farewell Address

President Obama is expected to give his final speech on Tuesday in Chicago, reflecting on the progress he has made during the past eight years and offering words of advice for the next administration. The Obama legacy includes advances for the promotion of human rights both at home and abroad, including the legislative ban on the use of torture, significant progress toward emptying the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and efforts to advance the human rights of LGBT people around the world. The speech comes one day before President-elect Trump will hold his first news conference since the election.

Quote of the Week

“As leaders in the global undertaking to end the exploitation of human beings for profit, we must always remember that our freedom is bound to the freedom of others. This month, let us find inspiration in America’s progress toward justice, opportunity, and prosperity for all and reaffirm our pledge to continue fighting for human rights around the world.”

-President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation—National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

We’re Reading

The New York Times discusses efforts by President-elect Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, General James N. Mattis, to halt the use of torture by the military.

Politico reports that the next administration’s deportation plan might not be feasible.

PRI’s The World discusses the failings of America’s asylum system.

The Washington Blade reports that a Kurdish group launched a new campaign in support of the human rights of LGBT people.

Al Jazeera features remarks by Saudi-born UK resident, and former Guantanamo detainee, Shaker Aamer that the detention facility is a stain on President Obama’s legacy.

The Washington Times reports on the recent transfer of four Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia.

Brian Dooley writes in The Huffington Post about the arrest and recent release of Ahmed Maher amid Egypt’s crackdown on civil society.

We’re Listening To

Human Rights First’s Raha Wala appeared on Southern California’s KPCC to discuss the future of Guantanamo under the incoming Trump Administration.

On the Hill

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. 9:30 AM, Russell Senate Office Building 325.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a hearing on Russian hacking activities. The hearing will feature Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers, and FBI Director James Comey. 1:00 PM.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. 9:15 AM.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a confirmation hearing for Representative Mike Pompeo to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 10:00 AM.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. 9:30 AM, Russell Senate Office Building 325.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces.” The hearing will feature Dr. Eliot Cohen, Robert E. Osgood professor of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; and Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 9:30 AM, Room SH-216, Hart Senate Office Building.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a confirmation hearing for General John Kelly, USMC (Ret.) to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2:00 PM, SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Thursday, January 12, 2017
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for General James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense. 9:30 AM.

Around Town 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The United States Institute of Peace will hold a webcast on “Passing the Baton: America’s Role in the World.” The webcast will feature Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Designated National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Designated Deputy National Security Advisor K. T. McFarland. 9:00 AM,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New America will hold a discussion entitled, “Guantanamo Bay Year 15: What’s Next for the Prison?” The discussion will feature Thomas B Wilner, co-founder of Close Guantanamo and counsel at Shearman & Sterling, LLP; Andy Worthington, co-founder of Close Guantanamo; and Peter Bergen, vice president of New America. 2:30 PM, New America, 740 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The American Red Cross, ASIL, Washington College of Law, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the American Bar Association host an event on the “Legal Prohibitions on Torture.” The discussion will feature Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture 2010-2016; Alberto Mora, former general counsel of the Navy; Annie Sovcik, director of the Washington office of the Center for Victims of Torture; Christie Edwards, director of International Humanitarian Law at the American Red Cross. 1:00 PM, 1730 E Street NW, Hall of Service, Washington, D.C.