Tag: Assassinations

Yes, We Did Assassinate Four Americans, But

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- VT) (pdf), Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen.

In conducting U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and its associated forces, the government has targeted and killed one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and is aware of the killing by U.S. drones of three others, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Holder said three other Americans were killed by drones in counterterrorism operations since 2009 but were not targeted. The three are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a native of Denver, who also was killed in Yemen two weeks later; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

AGLetter5-22-13

Attorney Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department ethics attorney who blew the whistle in the case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, in a blog post writes:

The biggest revelation in Holder’s letter  – that the U.S. has droned a fourth American, Jude Kenen Mohammed  – is also the greatest of many deficiencies. All Holder says is the U.S. killed but didn’t target these two American men (Mohammed and Samir Kahn) and one American child (al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son). [..]

Ms. Raddack points out that while the letter includes new and credulous accusations about al-Awlaki posing an “imminent threat”, it tells us nothing about how the other Americans ended up being killed by drones. Good question, that I doubt we’ll ever get an answer.

The other point MS. Raddack makes goes to the public’s right to know the legal justification that was given to the president by the Office of Legal Council:

If Holder wants to draw a distinction between Americans that the U.S. government targets and kills without due process and those Americans that the U.S. government kills without due process but doesn’t target, then the American people are entitled to know the legal basis for when the government finds it acceptable to make Americans collateral damage in the legally-unsustainable, morally-reprehensible unilateral drone drops.

There are lots of questions. If these three Americans were not the targets, then who were they targeting? And why?

In an interview this morning on Democracy Now, author and journalist, Jeremy Scahill say that this admission “raises more questions than it answers“:

“In Eric Holder’s letter,” Scahill stated, “he talks about how Anwar Awlaki was actively involved in imminent plots against the United States, that he had directed the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a U.S. airplane over the city of Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. And what’s interesting is that all of these allegations are made by Eric Holder, but no actual evidence has ever been presented against Awlaki to indicate that he played the role that Eric Holder is asserting. His trial was basically just litigated through leaks in the press. He was never indicted on any of these charges. And Holder, in fact, in his letter, says that we have all of this evidence, but it’s too dangerous to be made public. And so, there’s really a continuation of a posthumous trial of Anwar Awlaki through leaks and now through this letter from Eric Holder.”

Scahill notes that the details of the death of Jude Mohammad, who had been indicted, have not been released; that there were no criminal charges against Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American from North Carolina who was killed alongside al-Awlaki; and Holder used an curious phrase, “not specifically targeted,” referencing the death of 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.



Full transcript is here

He goes on:

“You know, what does that phrase mean? It’s almost like an Orwellian statement, ‘not specifically targeted.’ Well, it could mean that these individuals were killed in the signature strikes that you mentioned, which is a sort of form of pre-crime, where the U.S. determines that any military-aged males in a targeted area are in fact terrorists, and their deaths will be registered as having killed terrorists or militants. So, it’s possible that the other Americans that were killed were killed in these so-called signature strikes.

“But in the case of this 16-year-old boy, it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s a coincidence that two weeks after his father is killed, he just happens to be killed in a U.S. drone strike. And there were leaks at the time from U.S. officials telling journalists that, oh, he actually was 21 years old, he was at an al-Qaida meeting. But they’ve never been able to identify who they killed in that strike. And the Obama administration has never publicly taken on the fact that they killed one of their own citizens who was a teenage boy. There are no answers to that question. So, I think that there has to be a far more intense scrutiny of the statements of the attorney general and also what we understand the president is going to say later.”

Yes, the Obama administration assassinated four Americans, but …..

President Barack Obama’s speech on his never ending war on terror.

In short, war for without end anywhere on earth because the president said so.

 

From Spies to Assassins: The CIA Since 9/11

Cross posted at The Stars Hollow Gazette

The original mission of the Central Intelligence Agency was to provide national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers. The National Security Act of 1947 established the CIA, affording it “no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad“.

The primary function of the CIA is to collect information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to advise public policymakers, but it does conduct emergency tactical operations and carries out covert operations, and exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.

There has been considerable criticism of the CIA relating to: security and counterintelligence failures, failures in intelligence analysis, human rights concerns, external investigations and document releases, influencing public opinion and law enforcement, drug trafficking, and lying to Congress.

The Way of the Knife: NYT’s Mark Mazzetti on the CIA’s Post-9/11 Move from Spying to Assassinations

In his new book, “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti tracks the transformation of the CIA and U.S. special operations forces into man-hunting and killing machines in the world’s dark spaces: the new American way of war. The book’s revelations include disclosing that the Pakistani government agreed to allow the drone attacks in return for the CIA’s assassination of Pakistani militant Nek Muhammad, who was not even a target of the United States. Mazzetti’s reporting on the violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan – and Washington’s response – won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. The year before, he was a Pulitzer finalist for his reporting on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. [includes rush transcript]

The World Is a Battlefield

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Since after 9/11, the United States has been engaged in a global war on terror (GWOT). Even as the illegal was in Iraq has allegedly ended and the one in Afghanistan finally begins to wind down almost 2 years after Osama bin Laden’s assassination, the US has widened its war in East Asia to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa sending in military on the ground as “advidsors” and unmanned armed drones to carry out “targeted strikes.” The world is now the battlefield for the US military and its contractors who are bleeding the American tax payer under the guise os keeping us safe. But are they keeping us safe? The reality is starting to surface. According to news sources the alleged Boston Marathon bombing suspect told investigators that the attack was spurred by their anger at America’s continued wars and its assault in Islam.

Yemeni journalist Farea Al-Muslimi testified before the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and human rights. He told the committee what American’s need to hear:

“Just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers.

“The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.

“What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

We needed to hear this a very long time ago, long before 9/11.

Jeremy Scahill, author and National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine, joined Amy Goodman in an interview on Democracy Now to discuss the his project Dirty Wars which has produced a documentary and soon to be released book,“Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.”

The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later. Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed “intentionally.” “The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a – we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country,” says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine. Today the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality.

The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen

Bending to Paranoia and Fear

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

   Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Ben would not be pleased with the government he helped create. Since before 9/11/2001, our rights had been slowly eroding, since then the notion of the rule of law and the Constitution seems quaint. “American’s don’t believe in shredding the Constitution to fight terror,” that was the headline of an article written by Greg Sargeant in the Washington Post‘s Plum Line. he points out a poll done by the Post that asked respondents:

Q: Which worries you more: that the government will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights, or that it will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism?

48% were more concerned the government would go too far; while 41% said it would not go far enough. While not a majority, it is still encouraging that there is a plurality that would like to see our Constitutional rights protected. Yet there are still those who would throw those rights away for false feeling of security. Fueled by the rhetoric of a terrorist in every Muslim community, some of our elected representatives and voices in the mainstream media have called for stripping the Constitutional rights of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now charged with the bombings and deaths that resulted.

But the government and the media seem to be hung up on calling this incident, terrorism and labeling Tsarnaev a terrorist even before there was a motive or a connection to any terrorist organization. Writing at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald wonders why Boston is ‘terrorism’ but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine:

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either.

In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word “terrorism” is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that “we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had” and then said that “on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon”. But as (Ali) Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added his opinion that in light of the Boston bombing, the Constitution needs to be “reinterpreted”:

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” [..]

“Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms. New Yorkers probably know that as much if not more than anybody else after the terrible tragedy of 9/11,” he said.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to,” he said.

A noun, a verb and 9/11? Mr. Bloomberg wants us to fear those who would “take away our freedoms.” We should fear the Michael Bloombergs and Rudolph Guilianis of the world.

At a bedside hearing, Tsarnaev was advised of his rights and was appointed a lawyer. He freely answered questions in writing, denying that there was a connection with any terrorist organization and the idea was his brother’s. He also told the court that they were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs. But does that justify calling this terrorist act and labeling the brothers terrorists? Even so, is there ever a justification for denying a person their Constitutional rights?

Glenn joined Amy Goodman on Monday’s Democracy Now to discuss the issues that surround this case.



Transcript can be read here.

Drones: How America Kills

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

How America kills using drones has been a hot topic for many on the left who feel that the Obama administration has gone too far with the ubiquitous “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) when the president ordered the assassination of Anwar Al Awlaki and two weeks later his 16 year old son. The disagreement over this policy became even more heated when the Justice Department released an undated White Paper that outlined the memos that allegedly justifies extrajudicial executions by the Executive branch without due process. Constitutional lawyer and columnist at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald observed that the memo has forced many Democrats “out of the closet as overtly unprincipled hacks:”

Illustrating this odd phenomenon was a much-discussed New York Times article on Sunday by Peter Baker which explained that these events “underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush’s approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces.” [..]

Baker also noticed this: “Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama’s hands, not Mr. Bush’s.” As but one example, the article quoted Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor and fervent Obama supporter, as admitting without any apparent shame that “if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms” because, she said “we trust the president“. Thus did we have – while some media liberals objected – scores of progressives and conservatives uniting to overtly embrace the once-controversial Bush/Cheney premises of the War on Terror (it’s a global war! the whole world is a battlefield! the president has authority to do whatever he wants to The Terrorists without interference from courts!) in order to defend the war’s most radical power yet (the president’s power to assassinate even his own citizens in secret, without charges, and without checks). [..]

What this DOJ “white paper” did was to force people to confront Obama’s assassination program without emotionally manipulative appeal to some cartoon Bad Guy Terrorist (Awlaki). That document never once mentioned Awlaki. Instead – using the same creepily clinical, sanitized, legalistic language used by the Bush DOJ to justify torture, renditions and warrantless eavesdropping – it set forth the theoretical framework for empowering not just Obama, but any and all presidents, to assassinate not just Anwar Awlaki, but any citizens declared in secret by the president to be worthy of execution. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee wrote that the DOJ memo “should shake the American people to the core”, while Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman explained “the revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process” ushered in by this memo and said it constituted a repudiation of the Magna Carta.

In doing so, this document helpfully underscored the critical point that is otherwise difficult to convey: when you endorse the application of a radical state power because the specific target happens to be someone you dislike and think deserves it, you’re necessarily institutionalizing that power in general. That’s why political leaders, when they want to seize extremist powers or abridge core liberties, always choose in the first instance to target the most marginalized figures: because they know many people will acquiesce not because they support that power in theory but because they hate the person targeted. But if you cheer when that power is first invoked based on that mentality – I’m glad Obama assassinated Awlaki without charges because he was a Bad Man! – then you lose the ability to object when the power is used in the future in ways you dislike (or by leaders you distrust), because you’ve let it become institutionalized. [..]

What’s most remarkable about this willingness to endorse extremist policies because you “trust” the current leader exercising them is how painfully illogical it is, and how violently contrary it is to everything Americans are taught from childhood about their country. It should not be difficult to comprehend that there is no such thing as vesting a Democratic President with Power X but not vesting a GOP President with the same power. To endorse a power in the hands of a leader you like is, necessarily, to endorse the power in the hands of a leader you dislike.

Like Bob Herbert’s statement – “policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House” – this is so obvious it should not need to be argued. As former Bush and Obama aide Douglas Ollivant told the NYT yesterday about the “trust” argument coming from some progressives: “That’s not how we make policy. We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish.

Hypocrisy thy name is Obama loyalists.

This weekend on Up with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes and his guest examined he government’s use of drone strikes and its “targeted killing” program in light of the release of the White Paper and the confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA. They discussed what the law allows, what the constitution allows, what American’s think should be allowed and the what are the moral and ethical implications.

To discuss “How America Kills,” Chris was joined by Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine; Jennifer Draskal, Associate law professor at Georgetown University and fellow at the school’s Center on National Security; Richard Epstein, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, professor of law at New York University Law School; and Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project for the ACLU.

Drone Wars & War Crimes Will Continue

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A major topic that was never mentioned during any of the campaign speeches or debates from either of the two major party candidates was the continued, and escalating, use of drones in the eternally, nebulous war on terror. During the election night coverage at Democracy Now!, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich discuss the expansion of the drone war and the targeted assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen struck by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.

In Obama’s 2nd Term, Will Dems Challenge U.S. Drones, Killings?

The transcript can be read here.

The Drone Wars: Obama’s “Kill List”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On Up with Chris Hayes, Chris and his guests exam the drone war and President Barack Obama’s ‘kill list’ that was revealed in a much read and discussed article in the New York Times. In the following three segments Chris along with Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst; Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project; Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine; and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, discuss new revelations about the Obama administration’s drone program, including a reported “kill list” overseen directly by President Obama. They also examine the possibility that the Obama administration has been classifying civilian casualties as combatant deaths, as well as, the Obama administration’s contention that its targeted killing program is constitutional, and asks whether Congress is failing to hold the president accountable.

What Has Happened To Democrats?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

   [I]t is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

   It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.

~Thomas Paine~, The Age of Reason

During the Bush administration the Democrats were opposed to the unitary executive powers that Bush assumed. When they realized how intrusive the government had becomes post 9/11 with surveillance, warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens, torture, indefinite detention, military commissions, Guantanamo and the general disregard for the rule of law, the Democrats railed against those policies. What happened that all these polices and now, targeted assassinations without due process have become acceptable? It is incomprehensible that under a Democratic president the right wing shredding of the Constitution is reasonable and defended by those who most vociferously opposed it.

In a New York Times Editorial, Andrew Rosenthal wrote this about President Obama’s “Kill Lists” and the use of unmanned drones:

Apologists for the president’s “just trust me” approach to targeted killings emphasize that the program is highly successful and claim that the drone strikes are extraordinarily precise. John Brennan, the president’s counter-terrorism adviser, said in a recent speech that not a single non-combatant had been killed in a year of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And today’s Times article quoted a senior administration official who said that civilian deaths were in the “single digits.”

But it turns out that even this hey-it’s-better-than-carpet-bombing justification is rather flimsy. The Times article says “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties …It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

The logic, such as it is, is that people who hang around places where Qaeda operatives hang around must be up to no good. That’s the sort of approach that led to the false imprisonment of thousands of Iraqis, including the ones tortured at Abu Ghraib. Mr. Obama used to denounce that kind of thinking.

So now just living in a village where the US thinks, there are insurgents, be they really Al Qaeda or just people defending their country from invaders, all men in the vicinity are enemy combatants, the President can have you killed and they can prove their innocence post mortem. As Cenk Uygur stated, “This is deeply immoral

“Memorial Day weekend brought news of more U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan as The New York Times raises new questions about President Obama’s so-called “Kill List” of terrorists targeted for assassination. An extensive report in Tuesday’s paper looks at the use of targeted attacks to take out terrorism suspects in other parts of the world, an increasingly important part of the government’s anti-terrorism policies that Barack Obama himself has taken personal responsibility for. According to the story, the President approves every name on the list of terrorism targets, reviewing their biographies and the evidence against them, and then authorizing “lethal action without hand-wringing.”

As the president has slowly drawn down American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of drone attacks to take out senior leaders of al-Qaeda

and the Taliban has become the primary tactic for fighting terrorism overseas. However, it raises a lot of legal and ethical questions about extra-judicial killings of individuals, particularly those who happen to be American citizens…”.

Will Bunch expressed his outrage in his Philadelphia Daily News column

{T]oday the harm that’s caused by raining death from machines in the sky down onto far too many civilians — including someone’s son, brother, or father who wasn’t “up to no good” at all — vastly outweighs any good. Righteous anger over the killing of civilians creates new terrorists faster than the killing of any old ones. As for the morally indefensible position that any male killed in such an attack is “probably up to no good,” isn’t the Obama administration saying the EXACT same thing that George Zimmerman said about Trayvon Martin? [..]

Actually, the similarity with Zimmerman is even greater than I first thought. What he said to the Sanford police dispatcher was that Trayvon Martin “looks like he’s up to no good.” Thank God Zimmerman didn’t have drones, huh?

Some of us on the left, many of whom supported President Obama in 2008, have some very serious issues with this President and those of his supporters who are choosing now to ignore all the horrendous violations of US and International law and the continued trampling of our rights and freedoms, but are now wholeheartedly accepting and defending these policies (Warning: link leads to a right wing Obama 527). They would love it if Obama’s critics would just sit down and shut up.

What has happened to Democrats who were willing to call for not just the impeachment but the arrest and prosecution of both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? Now Barack Obama has taken those same policies a step further and made them acceptable to his loyal supporters but not to those of us who still hold to the same principles we did eleven years ago.

The White House Appoints “Death Sentence Czar”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Meet the new “Death Sentence Czar” appointed by President Barack Obama to choose who will be targeted for assassination by unmanned drone without due process

WASHINGTON-White House counter-terror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.

The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.

The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults with the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the target list, making the Pentagon’s role less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government goes after terrorists.

John Brennan,a top CIA aide to George Tenet during the Bush Administration, was President Obama’s choice for CIA Director. He voluntarily withdrew his name because of the controversy over his support of the Bush policies of the torture of terrorist detainees and the governments extraordinary rendition program. Instead the president appointed Brennan as his counter-terrorism chief and now has put him in charge of killing accused terrorists around the world.

Glenn Greenwald reports that Brennan has been caught lying on a number of occasions about the circumstances surrounding some high profile cases.

{..}including falsely telling the world that Osama bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with U.S. forces entering his house and “used his wife as a human shield,” and then outright lying when he claimed about the prior year of drone attacks in Pakistan: “there hasn’t been a single collateral death.” Given his history, it is unsurprising that Brennan has been at the heart of many of the administration’s most radical acts, including claiming the power to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA without due process and the more general policy of secretly targeting people for death by drone.

Brennan will be the sole arbiter of who to recommend to President Obama to target for assassination. No evidence presented in court, no judge, no jury, no chance for the victim to defend himself and in total secrecy It has now become extremely easy to have someone killed, all this under the guise of “Change” with the blessing of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is even more disconcerting is the loyalists to this President who defend or conveniently ignore all of the things they decried just a short 4 years ago: Torture, the Patriot Act, warrant-less eavesdropping, rendition, Guantanamo, indefinite detention. All of this is now acceptable under this president. Dick Cheney must be so proud.

N.B. Greenwald provides links to two amazing exchanges by Charles Davis that demonstrate the twisted logic used by Obama fanatics to either justify or ignore Obama’s policies.  

The Day Due Process Died

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

US Attorney General Eric Holder asserted in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible. He did this without legal citations or footnotes to the speech. Eric Holder needs to reread the Constitution, in particular the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments, with an emphasis on the 6th

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

There are seven rights in just that one amendment that go to the heart of the principles of the judicial process:

   1. The right to a speedy trial

   2. The right to a public trial

   3. The right to be judged by an impartial jury

   4. The right to be notified of the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime

   5. The right to confront witnesses who will testify against the accused

   6. The right to find witnesses who will speak in favor of the accused

   7. The right to have a lawyer

Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects individual persons from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due-process violation, which offends against the rule of law.”

And according to the 5th Amendment‘s brief but very clear language, no person “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Law professor Jonathan Turley wrote at his blog that Holder has promised to kill citizens with care. That, in effect, is the pledge the Obama administration’s attorney general says has replaced our constitutional protections:

[..]The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport. Holder proclaimed that:

   “The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war – even if that individual happens to be a US citizen.”

The use of the word “abroad” is interesting since senior administration officials have asserted that the president may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including in the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added, “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.” [..]

Holder became particularly cryptic in his assurance of caution in the use of this power, insisting that they will kill citizens only with “the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.” What on earth does that mean? [..]

He was more clear in establishing that due process itself is now defined differently than it has been defined by courts since the start of this Republic. He declared that “a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.'” Of course, from any objective standpoint, that statement is absurd and Orwellian. It is basically saying that “we will give the process that we consider due to a target.” His main point was that “due process” will now no longer mean “judicial process.” [..]

This Administration has consistently maintained that courts do not have a say in such matters. Instead, they simply define the matter as covered by the Law Of Armed Conflicts (LOAC), even when the conflict is a war on terror. That war, they have stressed, is to be fought all around the world, including the United States. It is a battlefield without borders as strikes in other countries have vividly demonstrated.

Brian Sonenstein at FDL calls for action:

Since the whole world is a battlefield in the vague ‘war on terror,’ the only due process afforded to someone who has been targeted for extrajudicial execution is a secret ‘review’ by the panel of senior officials in the executive branch.

Just as the public demanded the release of the Bush Administration’s Torture Memos to expose the ludicrous rationale behind their secret torture program, we too must demand to know the legal rationale for a program that allows our president to unilaterally choose to deprive someone of life and liberty – without any oversight or recourse available to the victim.

Holder’s speech was a cheap attempt to feign transparency without actually releasing the legal memos that define the administration’s execution program. We need your help to demand the Obama administration release these memos immediately so there can be an open public debate about Executive power and the execution of American citizens without any due process or outside accountability.

Please sign our petition demanding the Obama administration produce the internal memos and legal justification for their targeted execution program.

Provoking A War With Iran

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In January a young Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a Tehran car bomb explosion, the fifth scientist to be killed since 2007. There were accusations by the Iranians that this was carried out by the Israelis with the blessings of the United States to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program. Of course there were the obligatory denials by the Israelis and the US through the State Department even though Israel had previously hinted about a covert campaign with Iran and told a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a “critical year” for Iran in part because of “things that happen to it unnaturally”.

Robert Baer, the long-time senior CIA officer who spent 21 years working the Middle East, was on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ saying that he believes Israel is assassinating Iranian scientists in an attempt to provoke Iran to fight back and draw the US into a full-scale war. Baer has made this argument before considering Israel’s “track record of assassinations, from the Palestinian perpetrators of the Munich Olympic attack of 1972, to the killing of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in early 2010″:

“If you look at the choice of target it really could only be Israel,” says Robert Baer, a former CIA agent in the Middle East, currently working on a book on assassination called The Perfect Kill. “If it was an internal group, like the MeK (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) it would be security official or policeman who had been torturing their guys. If you look at the motivation, it must be Israel.”

However, Baer adds that it is quite likely that Israel is acting in tandem with an Iranian dissident organisation. “To do this in the middle of the day, with a limpet charge and then getaway, you need a lot of people on the ground,” he says. ” You need an extensive network of the kind only someone like MeK can provide.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has labeled this, not murder, but terrorism

   Part of the problem here is the pretense that Terrorism has some sort of fixed, definitive meaning. It does not. As Professor Remi Brulin has so exhaustively documented, the meaning of the term has constantly morphed depending upon the momentary interests of those nations (usually the U.S. and Israel) most aggressively wielding it. It’s a term of political propaganda, impoverished of any objective meaning, and thus susceptible to limitless manipulation. Even the formal definition incorporated into U.S. law is incredibly vague; one could debate forever without resolution whether targeted killings of scientists fall within its scope, and that’s by design. The less fixed the term is, the more flexibility there is in deciding what acts of violence are and are not included in its scope.

   But to really see what’s going on here, let’s look at how a very recent, very similar assassination plot was discussed. That occurred in October when the U.S. accused Iran’s Quds Forces of recruiting a failed used car salesman in Texas to hire Mexican drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Let’s put to side the intrinsic ridiculousness of the accusation and assume it to be true […] when that plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador was “revealed,” virtually every last media outlet – and government official – branded it “Terrorism.” It was just reflexively described that way. And I never heard anyone – anywhere – object to the use of that term on the ground that targeted assassinations aren’t Terrorism, or on any other ground.

There is quite a bit of evidence to support this. The New York Times reported that there is more truth to the plot to draw Iran into a war than not:

   The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim on Wednesday when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran’s morning rush hour.

   The scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, a participant in what Western leaders believe is Iran’s halting but determined progress toward a nuclear weapon. He was at least the fifth scientist with nuclear connections to be killed since 2007; a sixth scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, survived a 2010 attack and was put in charge of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization […]

   “I often get asked when Israel might attack Iran,” Mr. (Patrick, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Clawson said. “I say, ‘Two years ago.’ ”

   Mr. Clawson said the covert campaign was far preferable to overt airstrikes by Israel or the United States on suspected Iranian nuclear sites. “Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high.”

Now flash forward to recent events with the attempt to kill Israeli embassy personnel in New Delhi and Tbilisi, Georgia. The Israelis were quick to accuse Iran without any evidence that there was any Iranian involvement and, of course the US media was quick to parrot the accusations as retaliation:

The rare coordinated attempts on the lives of Israeli diplomatic representatives came a month after the latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and were set against an escalating war of words between Israel and Iran over a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The attempted attacks also coincided with the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Lebanese group backed by Iran.

India has stated that they have no evidence that Iran was involved but they have their own motivations, as does Russia, to protect Iran. Both India and Russia are ignoring the international sanctions to get Iran back to the table for discussion of their nuclear program. But. as Glenn Greenwald noted in his article about media the push to a war with Iran the media failed to mention

….the glaring irony that the mode of attack in India is virtually identical to the one used to kill numerous Iranian scientists (“a magnetic bomb was slapped onto {the} car by a passing motorcyclist”). One thing is crystal clear, as macgupta put it in the comment section: “In any case, no matter who the perpetrators are, these attacks are a sign that we are moving closer to a war with Iran.

The Guardian has analysis of why Iran seems an unlikely culprit for the attacks on Israeli diplomats:

Tehran has good relations with Thailand, India and Georgia. Why would it endanger that by planting bombs there?

Let’s assume that sections of the military and security apparatus in Iran are responsible for the string of bombings in Georgia, Thailand and India. What would be the motive? The argument that Iran is retaliating for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran is not plausible. If Iran wanted to target Israeli interests, it has other means at its disposal. It is hard to imagine that the Iranian government would send Iranian operatives to friendly countries, completely equipped with Iranian money and passports – making the case against them as obvious as possible.

If the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are as professional, highly trained and politically savvy as we have been told repeatedly by Israeli politicians themselves, if they have successfully trained and equipped the cadres of Hezbollah and other movements with paramilitary wings in the region, then why would they launch such a clumsy and self-defeating operation?

And why India, Georgia and Thailand, three countries that Iran has had cordial relations with during a period when Iran is facing increasing sanctions spearheaded by the United States? A few days ago, India agreed a rupee-based oil and gas deal with Iran and resisted US pressures to join the western boycott of the Iranian energy sector. As a net importer of 12% of Iranian oil, India’s total trade with Iran amounted to $13.67bn in 2010-2011. What would be the motive for damaging relations with one of Iran’s major trading partners and regional heavyweights?

In December of 2010, Greenwald appeared on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough to why Iran is not a threat to the US or Israel. His argument still holds true.

Is this another run up to another unnecessary war in the Middle East? If it looks like a duck …….

Apparently, Yes We Can.

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Like his predecessor, George W. Bush, President Barack Obama went to his Office of Legal Council on how to circumvent an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war to “legally” order and successfully carry out the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki last month in Yemen. According to an article by reporter Charles Savage in the New York Times, the 50 page memorandum was completed in June of last year. It was written specifically in regard to only al-Awlaki and did not examine the evidence against him:

The legal analysis, in essence, concluded that Mr. Awlaki could be legally killed, if it was not feasible to capture him, because intelligence agencies said he was taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans, as well as because Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him.

The memorandum, which was written more than a year before Mr. Awlaki was killed, does not independently analyze the quality of the evidence against him.

[]

It was principally drafted by David Barron and Martin Lederman, who were both lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, and was signed by Mr. Barron. The office may have given oral approval for an attack on Mr. Awlaki before completing its detailed memorandum. Several news reports before June 2010 quoted anonymous counterterrorism officials as saying that Mr. Awlaki had been placed on a kill-or-capture list around the time of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009. Mr. Awlaki was accused of helping to recruit the attacker for that operation.

[]

Other assertions about Mr. Awlaki included that he was a leader of the group, which had become a “cobelligerent” with Al Qaeda, and he was pushing it to focus on trying to attack the United States again. The lawyers were also told that capturing him alive among hostile armed allies might not be feasible if and when he were located.

Based on those premises, the Justice Department concluded that Mr. Awlaki was covered by the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda that Congress enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – meaning that he was a lawful target in the armed conflict unless some other legal prohibition trumped that authority.

Mr. Savage goes on to detail how each legal obstacle was  considered and rejected:

The executive order the lawyers concluded only pertained to the assassination of political leaders outside of war;

The statute that makes it illegal to murder of US nationals on foreign soil did apply “because it is not “murder” to kill a wartime enemy in compliance with the laws of war.”;

It concluded that if the operator of the drone was a civilian of the CIA it wold not be a war crime and although it would violate the laws of Yemen, ti would be unlikely that Yemen would seek to prosecute;

Last to be considered and dispensed with were those pesky amendments in the Bill of Rights that guarantee “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and the right to due process:

The memo concluded that what was reasonable, and the process that was due, was different for Mr. Awlaki than for an ordinary criminal. It cited court cases allowing American citizens who had joined an enemy’s forces to be detained or prosecuted in a military court just like noncitizen enemies.

It also cited several other Supreme Court precedents, like a 2007 case involving a high-speed chase and a 1985 case involving the shooting of a fleeing suspect, finding that it was constitutional for the police to take actions that put a suspect in serious risk of death in order to curtail an imminent risk to innocent people.

The document’s authors argued that “imminent” risks could include those by an enemy leader who is in the business of attacking the United States whenever possible, even if he is not in the midst of launching an attack at the precise moment he is located.

Despite the argument that will be made by the right wing Obama supporters that the memorandum is specific to al-Awlaki, all the arguments that were made to justify his assassination could easily be made against any US citizen anywhwere and may already have been:

   American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate. . . . The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process. . . .

Glenn Greenwald at Salon in his excellent article considers that al-Awlaki won’t be the last victim:

Officials in the Obama White House and then the President decreed in secret that Awlaki should die.  So the U.S. Government killed him.  Republicans who always cheer acts of violence against Muslims are joined by Democrats who reflexively cheer what this Democratic President does, and now this death panel for U.S. citizens – operating with no known rules, transparency, or oversight – is entrenched as bipartisan consensus and a permanent fixture of American political life.  I’m sure this will never be abused: unrestrained power exercised in secret has a very noble history in the U.S. (Reuters says that the only American they could confirm on the hit list is Awlaki, though Dana Priest reported last year that either three or four Americans were on a  hit list).

Anyway, look over there: wasn’t it outrageous how George Bush imprisoned people without any due process and tried to seize unrestrained power, and isn’t it horrifying what a barbaric death cult Republicans are for favoring executions even when there’s doubt about guilt?  Even for those deeply cynical about American political culture: wouldn’t you have thought a few years ago that having the President create a White House panel to place Americans on a CIA hit list – in secret, without a shred of due process – would be a bridge too far?

The tales of through the looking glass continue.

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