Category: Barack Obama

Abusive Cop Co-Chairs Obama’s Reform Commission

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

By appointing a police chief with a history of overseeing an abusive police force, President Barack Obama has crested another farce of a commission much like his Cat Food Commission that was chaired by a corporate shill and a right wing curmudgeon.

Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, one of two co-chairs apppointed by President Obama to head a commission on ways to demilitarize local police, is known for leading repeated bloody and abusive crackdowns on protesters when he was Washington, D.C.’s chief a decade ago, according to a civil rights attorney who won millions in damages for 100s of citizens attacked by D.C. police.  

“If the president’s idea of reforming policing practices includes mass false arrests, brutality, and the eviscerating of civil rights, then Ramsey’s his man. That’s Charles Ramsey’s legacy in D.C.,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), speaking of the ex-D.C. chief and current Philadelphia Police Commissioner. “Obama should immediately rescind his appointment of Commissioner Ramsey, who is a mass violator of civil rights and civil liberties.”  [..]

More than a decade ago, when Ramsey was the D.C. police chief, he lead numerous crackdowns and mass arrests of protesters-starting in 2000. His most high-profile assault was in September 2002 at Pershing Park, where demonstrators protested World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. The police locked down the park and arrested everyone there-400 people-including journalists, legal observers and bystanders.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund sued and won millions for protesters. The April 2000 protest settlements totalled $13.7 million and Pershing Park/2002 settlement was $8.25 million. Verheyden-Hilliard said the settlements highlight a larger and especially bloody pattern of police crackdowns on protesters ordered by Ramsey. She listed the following six events in an e-mail that “are demonstrative of his leadership and the force under his command.” The first example is an earlier three-day World Bank/IMF protest from spring 2000 in downtown Washington.

If this is Obama’s idea finding credible and transparent solutions to the militarization of civilian police forces, his thinking is warped, sick joke and a slap in the face to the Americans who expect the police to serve and protect not violate their civil rights.

Net Neutrality May Soon Be Dead, Thank You, Mr. President

Cross posted from the Star Hollow Gazette

The headline in the Washington Post, “Obama’s call for an open Internet puts him at odds with regulators“, is misleading. Yes, President Obama made one of his flowery speeches supporting a free and equal internet but he was the one who appointed  industry lobbyist Thomas Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission.

The dissonance between Obama and Wheeler has the makings of a major policy fight affecting multibillion-dollar industries. The president wants clear rules to prevent Internet service providers from auctioning the fastest speeds to the highest bidders, a scenario that could favor rich Web firms over start-ups.

Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications industry, has floated proposals that aim to limit the ability of service providers to charge Web companies, such as Netflix or Google, to reach their customers. But critics have argued that his approach would give the providers too much leeway to favor some services over others. [..]

But the move by the White House has put Wheeler in an uncomfortable spotlight. The two men have long been allies. Wheeler raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s campaign and advised the president on his transition into the White House. Obama last year appointed Wheeler to lead the FCC as it was poised to tackle its biggest issue in years – the rules that govern content on the Web.

A growing source of frustration for White House and congressional Democrats is that they have three of their own on the five-member commission at the FCC, a majority that should give them the power to push through a policy of their liking. But if Wheeler charts a different course, he could bring the other members along with him.

And, as Wheeler reminded participants at his meeting with Web companies Monday, the FCC does not answer to the Obama administration.

The article states that Obama campaigned on Net Neutrality and, according to aides, made the statement to energize his base of  young, tech-savvy progressives. Seriously? He does this now, after the drubbing in the mid-terms? Now Obama wants to curry support of the Democrats in Congress. What happened during the last six years?

And don’t forget, he appointed Wheeler because they’re friends.

Obama Calls for Net Neutrality, But His Own Industry-Tied FCC Appointee Could Stand in the Way

According to The Washington Post, Wheeler met with officials from Google, Yahoo and Etsy on Monday and told them he preferred a more nuanced solution. Wheeler reportedly said: “What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business. What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.” On Monday, protesters called on Wheeler to favor net neutrality as they blockaded his driveway when he attempted to go to work. Protests also took place in a dozen cities last week after The Wall Street Journal reported the FCC is considering a “hybrid” approach to net neutrality. This would apply expanded protections only to the relationship between Internet providers and content firms, like Netflix, and not to the relationship between providers and users. We discuss the ongoing debate over the Internet’s future with Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice.



The transcript can be read here

There is only one person to blame if the FCC sides with the industry, Barack Hussein Obama, shill for the 1%.

Arming the Syrian Kurds. What Could Go Wrong?

The Obama administration has decided to arm the Kurdish militants in Kobnani to fight ISIS. What could possibly go wrong?

Isis claims it has US airdrop of weapons intended for Kurds

· Pentagon investigating claims but admits one load missing and it would be embarrassing if it ended up in terror group’s hands

· Turkey criticises arms airdrops saying the strategy will never lead to desired results

A US airdrop of arms to besieged Kurds in Kobani appears to have missed its target and ended up in the hands of Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Video footage released by Isis shows what appears to be one of its fighters for in desert scrubland with a stack of boxes attached to a parachute. The boxes are opened to show an array of weapons, some rusty, some new. A canister is broken out to reveal a hand grenade.

The Pentagon said it was investigating the claim but admitted that one of its airdrops had gone missing. If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment for the US, given the advanced technology available to its air force.

The seemingly bungled airdrop comes against a steady stream of US-supplied weapons being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.

After Ignoring ISIS Assault on Kobani, U.S. Launches Major Strikes & Arms Turkey’s Kurdish Foes

Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not act to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Kobani because the Syrian Kurdish town was not a “strategic objective.” But as news cameras on the Turkish-Syrian border showed Islamic State fighters assaulting a town in plain sight, the U.S.-led coalition responded with the most airstrikes of its Syria campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has also begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move it had resisted for weeks. Now Turkey says it will open its border with Syria to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters join the fight. The Turkish government had opposed aiding the Syrian Kurds in Kobani because of their links to Turkey’s longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. To help us sort out this complicated picture, we are joined by longtime international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who has just returned from four months in Turkey.

TBC: Morning Musing 10.20.14

I have 3 things for you all this morning.

First, this should be a great interview, and it will be live streamed. See the link for more info:

Lawrence Lessig interviews Edward Snowden

Institutional corruption and the NSA: Edward Snowden will be interviewed (via videoconference) by Lawrence Lessig about the NSA in a time of war, and whether and how the agency has lost its way.

Jump!

Are Syria Strikes an Illegal War?

Are the Syria strikes an illegal war? By what authority has President Barack Obama ordered these attacks? The administration says that it doesn’t need congress to approve it and congress, along with the courts, has surrendered its responsibility.

United States Bombs Syria In Latest Undeclared War

By Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Law Professor George Washington University

I just completed a two-city debate with former Bush official John Yoo on executive power with a focus on undeclared wars. It appears Yoo won the debate . . . at least with President Obama. Indeed, Yoo appears to have had Obama at “hello” to quote Jerry Maguire. Without any declaration of war, Obama has launched attacks against targets in Syria – an act of war by any measure and a violation of international law.

We have been discussing the growing concerns over President Barack Obama’s series of unilateral actions in ordering agencies not to enforce law, effectively rewriting laws, and moving hundreds of millions of dollars from appropriated purposes to areas of his choosing. One of the greatest concerns has been his unchecked authority asserted in the national security area.

The most serious acts of unilateral presidential action falls within war powers – powers that the Framers expressly and carefully limited to prevent precisely this type of attack. Of course, the Administration does not use the word “war.” I previously represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war without a declaration from Congress. In the case, President Obama insisted that he alone determines what is a war and therefore when he needs a declaration. Since the court would not recognize standing to challenge the war, it left Obama free to engage in war operations in any country of his choosing.

Professor Turley joined David Corn, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief, on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss just how legal are these attacks.

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Lawyers use Iraq’s right of self-defence and weakness of Syrian regime – which US has undermined – to justify failure to seek UN approval

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf. [..]

The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat. [..]

The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years. [..]

Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

But this means arguing that Isis is equivalent to al-Qaida, even though the groups are split – logic that several critics in Congress, such as Virginia senator Tim Kaine, have argued is flawed and requires a fresh authorisation to fix.

Power reached for similar arguments in her letter to the UN, arguing that Tuesday’s separate attack on Khorasan rebels in Syria was also an act of self defence by the US due to the group’s closeness to al-Qaida.

Is Obama misleading the world to war? Depends how you define ‘misleading’

By Trevor Timm, The Gusrdian

When it comes to military strikes against Isis in Syria, his administration’s strategy relies on what the meaning of ‘is’ is

Want to decipher what the US military is really doing in Iraq and Syria, or figure out whether its regional war against the Islamic State (Isis) is legal? Good luck. The Obama administration’s secret efforts to redefine the ordinary meaning of key legal terms and phrases has made that near impossible.

For instance, in his Tuesday statement that US airstrikes that have expanded into Syria, Obama studiously avoided any discussion about his domestic legal authority to conduct these strikes. That dirty work was apparently left up to anonymous White House officials, who told the New York Times’s Charlie Savage that both the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 (meant for al-Qaida) and the 2002 war resolution (meant for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) gave the government the authority to strike Isis in Syria.

In other words: the legal authority provided to the White House to strike al-Qaida and invade Iraq more than a dozen years ago now means that the US can wage war against a terrorist organization that’s decidedly not al-Qaida, in a country that is definitely not Iraq. [..]

So when you hear the words “imminent attack”, “civilians”, militants” or “ground troops” from now on, be careful: if the government says they’re not misleading you, it might only be because they’ve secretly changed the definition of “misleading”.

Public Law 107-40  – the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001

Public Law 107-243 – The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq

Neither one of those laws applies to this situation. The president is in violation of his oath of office.

Khorasan Who?

First it was Al Qaeda, then it was ISIS (or Is, or ISIL, whatever), now a new “monster under the bed” has been marched out as the latest excuse to bomb another Muslim country, number seven for President Barack Obama, who has managed to surpass any of his predecessors. So who and what is “Khorasan”? Are we now suppose to believe a proven liar, James Clapper, that this group is such a threat to US national security that it’s necessary to violate Syria’s sovereignty, further enabling terrorist groups to attract members? All of a sudden this group is an imminent threat when as recently as Monday weren’t even on the radar.

Marcy Wheeler isn’t biting into this either:

It appears the legal logic behind the attack (besides the fact that Congress hurriedly approved funding for war through December so it could get back to the campaign trail) is that in addition to striking ISIS in Syria (an attack we don’t have any reasonable  legal justification for) we are also attacking a group that James “Too Cute by Half” Clapper just rolled out, “Khorasan,” which unlike ISIS has not been kicked out of Al Qaeda and therefore might be targetable under the 2001 AUMF. [..]

Today’s continuation of that narrative appears in CNN (and ABC, which I won’t link to because of their infernal auto-play ads), which doesn’t ask how the US hoped to surprise Khorasan if they had just rolled them out as the big new boogeymen. [..]

The threat of Ibrahim al-Asiri – who with one bomb that could not have worked and several more claimed attacks identified by double agents in Saudi employ not only created the excuse for millions of dollars in TSA scanner profits, but also the ability to label Yemen an “imminent” threat and therefore bomb it – has moved to Syria.

Label the country an “imminent” threat. Then bomb.

In Obama’s statement, he emphasized the Khorasan tie.

She’s not the only one questioning the latest excuse to start another war:

So far the only source for any information about this new group comes from two people, who as Marcy says, “have a somewhat strained relationship with the truth and a very cozy relationship with disinformation,” Clapper and Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

This latest US military intervention has gone from a humanitarian rescue, to assisting the Iraq army fighting ISIS to bombing another sovereign nation under the guise of “national security” in a mere 6 weeks. While there is no dispute that ISIS and Kordasan are terrorist groups and some very bad people, but this has the whiff of being just another excuse to overthrow Syrian President Bashir Assad.  

Here We Go Again: US Strikes Syria

US launches air strikes against Isis targets in Syria

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

  • US and allies have deployed jets and missiles against militants
  • Isis stronghold of Raqqa is among targets, says US official
  • ‘Dozens’ of fighters are killed, says monitoring group
  • Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan involved

The United States stepped up its war against the Islamic State militant group, launching air strikes on targets in Syria for the first time.

The Pentagon press secretary, rear admiral John Kirby, confirmed that the US and allied nations sent fighter jets, bomber aircraft and Tomahawk missiles in an operation against Isis that he described as “ongoing”.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that Raqqa, a Syrian stronghold of Isis, was among the targets of the operation, which began in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time.

The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later at around 10pm EDT (2am GMT), but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours. [..]

The US was joined in the Syria operation by Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, an official said.

The strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft, while the Tomahawk missiles were launched from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush is in the Gulf.

Kirby said the strikes were ordered by army general Lloyd Austin, the commander of US forces in the Middle East and South Asia “under authorisation granted to him by the commander in chief”. [..]

Syria’s foreign ministry says the US informed Damascus’ envoy to the United Nations before launching the raids.

As Doc Maddow would say, “watch this space.”

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of “The Last Word.” spoke with several MSNBC contributors and observors.


US Middle East Presence Just Making Things Worse

While Congress is holding hearings on whether or not President Barack Obama’s current plan to contain ISIS and assist so-called moderates of the rebel Syrian army, the CIA expressed its doubts on what the agency most likely perceives as an encroachment on their not so covert operations to train these un-vetted rebels that has been going on for a year in Jordan. That was reported earlier this week by Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein:

One Democratic member of Congress said that the CIA has made it clear that it doubts the possibility that the administration’s strategy could succeed.

“I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,” the congressman said in an email. “Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.”

He added that, as the CIA sees it, the ramped-up backing of rebels is an expansion of a strategy that is already not working. “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands,” the congressman said, echoing intelligence sources.

Probably for all the wrong reasons, the CIA is right. President Obama’s plan is not just doomed to failure but may well make matters worse.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Ann Cury, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his doubts about the strategy and condemned ISIS

           

“Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?” Rouhani said.

“If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.

“Maybe it is necessary for airstrikes in some conditions and some circumstances,” he added. “However, air strikes should take place with the permission of the people of that country and the government of that country.”  [..]

Asked about the extremists’ beheading of American James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Rouhani said ISIS’ actions are at odds with Islamic tenets.

“They want to kill humanity,” he said. “And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it’s the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind.”

But he also took issue with the American-led coalition, saying members include nations that helped ISIS with weapons and training.

At emptywheel, Jim White, noticed what the MSNBC article failed to mention

Rouhani told the NBC that the US-led coalition against the ISIL group was not a serious movement and added that US had been present in the region since 2001 to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan but it not only did not solved the terrorism problem but exacerbated the crisis.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has emphatically stated that foreign ground troops are not needed or wanted

Al-Abadi praised the U.S. aerial campaign targeting the militants who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq and carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border, saying it has helped efforts to roll back the Sunni extremists.

But he stressed that he sees no need for the U.S. or other nations to send troops into Iraq to help fight the Islamic State.

“Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.” [..]

The comments provided a sharp rebuttal to remarks a day earlier by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if President Barack Obama’s current strategy fails.

And the insanity will continue

Torture: The Whole Truth and Nothng But the Truth

News that journalist James Foley was waterboarded before he was brutally beheaded by his ISIS captors should come as no surprise. It is past time that the United States come clean on its war crimes and release the entire 6300 page congressional report, unredacted and let the chips fall where they may.

What Charlie Pierce said:

Please, somebody, goddammit, just leak the damn report. All of it, CIA concerns be damned. Because now not only do we have a moral right and a moral duty to know everything that was done in our name, but we also have a national interest in determining to what extent the behavior of our government differed from the behavior of ISIS, besides the fact that (as far as we know) none of our captives were beheaded. That’s a pretty low bar for an evolved democracy, but there it is. I no longer care about phantom “national security” concerns. Fk the torturers and fk their enablers in Congress, and fk all redactors, and fk the pet lawyers and bureaucrats that made torture legal and acceptable. Let what’s going to happen to them happen. Let justice be done though the heavens fall and John Yoo loses his job. They opened the door to this, with their memos and their barely stifled giggles. They grafted sadism onto the Constitution. They taught ISIS its techniques. James Foley, a fellow Warrior, god rest his brave soul, was tortured before he was murdered using techniques that barbarians learned from the oh-so-civilized heroes of our National Security state. This is what we teach the world now. Are you guys proud? Does your heart swell in the faculty lounges and in the cozy think-tanks? Does it swell with pride at the impact you’ve had on the world?

How do you like your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death?

They had to be carefully taught.  

Sexy Sadie

From wikipedia-

Lennon originally titled the song “Maharishi”, but changed the title to “Sexy Sadie” at George Harrison’s request. Lennon was disillusioned after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had allegedly made a sexual advance at one of the female members attending the course the Maharishi was teaching at his ashram.

Leaders or spiritual gurus making fools of everyone….

There are entire political establishments that routinely screw the people they claim to be advocates for.

FCC Moves To End Net Neutrality

In a vote this afternoon the Federal Communications Commission voted open debate on a proposal that would essentially end net neutrality. In a 3 – 2 vote, Chairman Thomas Wheeler and the two other Democratic members voted to allow Internet service providers charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users.

Critics worry the rules would create “fast lanes” for companies that pay up and slower traffic for others, although Wheeler has pledged to prevent “acts to divide the Internet between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.'”

The FCC’s proposal tentatively concludes that some pay-for-priority deals may be allowed, but asks whether “some or all” such deals should be banned and how to ensure paid prioritization does not relegate any traffic to “slow lanes.” [..]

Consumer advocates want the FCC to reclassify Internet providers as utilities, like telephone companies, rather than as the less-regulated information services they are now.

Opponents have told Wheeler that stricter regulations would throw the industry into legal limbo, discourage investment in network infrastructure and still not prevent pay-for-priority deals.

Numerous technology companies, including Google Inc and Facebook Inc, have spoken out against allowing pay-for-priority, although they have not called for reclassification.

At the moment, nothing has change but as Mike Masnick at Techdirt put it, the door is now open to a very messy process that didn’t need to happen because the FCC has the power to declare the Internet a public utility:

At this point, what we basically have is open season on lobbyists trying to influence the FCC one way or another, eventually leading to some sort of rulemaking, followed (inevitably) by a bunch of lawsuits from broadband providers who aren’t going to be happy with any solution. And, of course, the potential (unlikely as it may be) for Congress to get involved. [..]

And while Wheeler has suggested that the FCC is willing to knock down laws that block competition, we’ll believe it when we see it in action. On top of that, Wheeler made it clear today that he still sees the interconnection issue as a separate issue, even thought it’s becoming clear that that’s where the real problem is. Oh, and while lots of people are calling for Title II reclassification, and there are many reasons to believe that may be the best solution, it’s also exceptionally messy as well, because Title II has lots of problems as well. The FCC would need to deal with those problems, via forbearance, which creates a whole different set of headaches. [..]

But, that doesn’t mean that everyone should just throw up their hands and go home to their (increasingly slow) internet. The broadband lobbyists will not be doing that. And, of course, they know quite well how to play the lobbying game and how to work the ins-and-outs of everything above. It is why it’s going to become increasingly important to become much more informed on a variety of these issues and the true implications of the choices the FCC makes in the coming months. If you would like to weigh in, and I do suggest everyone seek to share their comments with the FCC, I would suggest first spending a little time more deeply reading through the full set of issues and what the pros and cons of different options may be. You can file comments directly with the FCC or via a very, very handy Dear FCC tool that the EFF put together.

Time to take action by sending this easy letter to the FCC that the Electronic Freedom Foundation has put together:

 photo neutrality-3_zps2fd0f4dd.png

It’s our Internet. We made it, and it has re-made us, changing the way we communicate, learn, share and create.

We want the Internet to continue to live up to its promise, fostering innovation, creativity and freedom. We don’t want regulations that will turn our ISPs into gatekeepers, making special deals with the few companies that can “pay to play” and inhibiting new competition, innovation and expression.

Start your letter to the FCC by clicking here

Keep the Internet Neutral

Obama Court Nominee OK’d Targeted Assassinations

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This week Senator Rand Paul has threatened to filibuster President Barack Obama’s nominee to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The nomination of David Barron, who was a Justice Department lawyer at the start of the administration and is now a Harvard Law School professor was the author of the contentious memo that authorized the assassination of an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki.  

(M)embers of both parties say they are disturbed by Mr. Barron’s authorship of legal memos that justified the United States’ killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to all 100 senators on Monday urging them to put off a vote on Mr. Barron’s confirmation until the White House allowed them to read all of his writings on the drone program. [..]

The A.C.L.U.’s objections, along with the announcement by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, that he would use his power to slow down the confirmation unless the administration released one of the legal memos written by Mr. Barron, raised fresh questions on Capitol Hill on Monday about whether the nomination would survive. [..]

Two Democrats who are up for re-election in states where Republicans have a political edge – Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana – are said to be unsure if they will vote yes on Mr. Barron.

A court has ordered the administration to release some of Mr. Barron’s legal work as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. But White House lawyers have not done so while they weigh whether to appeal. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who is in a tight race, said Monday that he would vote no unless the White House released what the court ordered.

Republicans are not alone in their objections of this nominee. Democrats, who are up for reelection and those who have questioned the administration’s legal right to assassinated American citizens without due process and the drone program, have expressed doubts about voting to confirm Mr. Barron

But with so many Democrats concerned about the administration’s drone policy, sufficient support for Barron is uncertain. Senate leaders have yet to set a vote on his nomination to join the appeals court with jurisdiction over federal cases in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. He faces opposition from a mix of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans concerned with his involvement in establishing the administration’s drone policy.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and a frequent critic of Obama’s counterterrorism policies, said Thursday that “the public has a right to know” the administration’s justification for drone strikes on American citizens.

“To me, the central question has always been on intelligence matters,” Wyden told reporters. “There is a difference between secret operations. They have to be kept secret, because otherwise Americans can die and be hurt. But the rules and the underlying policies — those ought to be public.”

Other Democrats, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mark Udall (Colo.), have also expressed concern about Barron’s work and this week called for the public release of Barron’s memos.

Marcy Wheeler of emptywheel, writing for The Week, weighs in on why Sen. Paul’s threat of filibuster should be taken seriously

Eleven years ago, the Senate confirmed Jay Bybee to a lifetime appointment on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. At the time, almost no senators knew about – much less had reviewed the contents of – a set of memos authorizing torture that Bybee had signed when he was head of the OLC in 2002. Paul is trying to prevent similarly rewarding Barron before senators can review the legal arguments he made authorizing another troubling executive branch action: killing an American citizen with no due process.

Barron, who is currently a Harvard Law School professor, served as the acting head of the OLC from 2009 until 2010. The office provides legal advice to executive branch agencies that can provide (usually secret) legal sanction for controversial positions.

A July 16, 2010, memo written by Barron authorizing the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the extremist Yemeni-American cleric, is one such opinion. Awlaki died in a CIA drone strike (along with Samir Khan, another American citizen who had become an extremist propagandist) on Sept. 30, 2011. [..]

Eventually, at least 31 members of Congress made at least 23 attempts to obtain the memo permitting the executive branch to kill an American citizen with no due process. Most of Congress still hasn’t seen it. [..]

Paul may have the courts on his side. He invoked an April 21 decision by New York’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the government must release a redacted version of the memo to the ACLU and two New York Times reporters who had sued in 2011 to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request for the memo. The court order makes it easier to for Paul to call for a public release, rather than just a release to Congress. [..]

Four years ago, David Barron opened a Pandora’s box, giving presidents an inadequately limited authority to kill Americans outside all normal judicial process. As Paul notes in his letter, it would simply be “irresponsible” for the Senate to confirm his nomination without discovering what the memo could reveal about his views on due process, civil liberties, and international law. In a letter to all 100 senators, the ACLU echoed this language, recalling the precedent of Jay Bybee. “No senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.”

The Senate took such an irresponsible step in 2003 with Jay Bybee. It can avoid that mistake here.

Instead of appointing those who justify torture, rendition and assassinations to hight courts, we should be looking into their criminal culpability in the crimes that they are justifying in their legal briefs. Yet those briefs and memos remain classified as our representatives are asked to appoint these people to high positions for life.

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