The great debate in the media and on the internet is was the disclosure of the NSA’s massive spying apparatus in the United States and across the globe by Edward Snowden justified. Former National Security Agency lawyer Stewart Baker and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González to debate that question.
Snowden’s leaks to The Guardian and other media outlets have generated a series of exposés on NSA surveillance activities – from its collection of American’s phone records, text messages and email, to its monitoring of the internal communications of individual heads of state. Partly as a consequence of the government’s response to Snowden’s leaks, the United States plunged 13 spots in an annual survey of press freedom by the independent organization, Reporters Without Borders. Snowden now lives in Russia and faces possible espionage charges if he returns to the United States.
In a fascinating hour and a half, Jeremy Scahill, the National Security Correspondent at The Nation magazine, discusses his book and award winning documentary “Dirty Wars.” Joined by Spencer Ackerman, formerly of “Wired” now National Security Editor for The Guardian, they discuss President Obama’s drone program, preemptive war and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and two weeks later, his 16 year old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. They also talk about Obama’s roll in the jailing of Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, for his reporting of the US bombing of al-Majalah, a impoverished Yemeni village killing 46 people mostly women and children. Later in the talk, Jeremy took written questions from the audience, discussing Blackwater, Eric Prince and as well as the global impact and the legality of the perpetual drone war.
There is another way of looking at Pres. Obama’s speech the other day. And that is, he came out and did a full frontal defense of the US asserting the right to assassinate people around the world. . . that really is the take away. [..]
He is asserting the right of the Unites States to conduct these kinds of operations in perpetuity. [..]
The US does not recognize International Law unless it’s convenient. That true; it’s not a rhetorical statement. . . . There is one set of laws for the rest of the world and there another set of laws for the United States. [..]
There have been attempts to challenge many of these wars by the Center for Constitutional Rights, challenging under the War Powers Act and the idea that Congress cannot give these authorities to the president to wage these wars. The way they’ll get around it is they’ll say well, the Authority to Use Military Force (AUMF), that was passed after 9/11, gives us the right to strike in any country where we determine there be a connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda.
In some cases now, we are targeting persons who were toddlerson 9/11. How can we say that they were attached to it, So in Obama’s speech, when he says he wants to refine the Authorization for Military force and, ultimately, real it, I think the first step of that is really disturbing. They’re talking about making permanent the sort of perpetual war mentality, probably by removing the language necessitating a connection to 9/11 or to Al Qaeda from it, so they can broaden their justification.
Also this White House, like the Bush/Cheney people, relies very heavily on Article II of the Constitution and an i interpretation that Commander in Chief clause gives the president the right to unilaterally set these policies. . . .They effectively perceive themselves as, on a counter-terrorism and national security issues, to be a dictatorship. And that Congress plays a minimal roll in those operations only funding it and overseeing how the money os spent but not necessarily overseeing the operations themselves.
There are Constitutional law experts that would say that’s a ridiculous interpretation of Article II of the Constitution, but it is being asserted in in private.
It’s tough to stand up and be principled when someone like Obama is in office. It’s easy when to be against all this war and criminality when Bush/Cheney are there. They’re cartoonish villains.
Your principles are tested when someone like Obama is in office and you have the courage to stand up and say, “no. A principle is a principle and I’m against it when a Democrat does it and I’m against it when a Republican does it.”
There’s no such thing as Democratic cruise missile and a Republican cruise missile.
Jeremy recommended that everyone should watch California’s Democratic Rep. Barbra Lee’s speech on September 7, 2001. She was trembling as she gave one of the most epic speeches of this era. It took tremendous courage to stand up and say, “No.” She was right then and she is right now.
We need to all stand up for the principles on which this country was founded and on which the current president was elected. It’s not just the economy, stupid, it’s the Republic, if we can keep it..
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.
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 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.
“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 …..
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! spent an hour with Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism.
Pollan has written several best-selling books about food, including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” In his latest book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” Pollan argues that taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make our food system healthier and more sustainable. “There is a deliberate effort to undermine food culture to sell us processed food,” Pollan says. “The family meal is a challenge if you’re General Mills or Kellogg or one of these companies, or McDonald’s, because the family meal is usually one thing shared.” Pollan also talks about the “slow food” movement. “Slow food is about food that is good, clean and fair. They’re concerned with social justice. They’re concerned with how the food is grown and how humane and chemical-free it is.” He adds, “Slow food is about recovering that space around the family and keeping the influence of the food manufacturers outside of the house. … The family meal is very important. It’s the nursery of democracy.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called “nanny states.”
BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?
RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier-Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly.
The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States-a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.
So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.
For all its vaunted efficiency, capitalism has foisted wasteful inequality and environmental ruin on us. There is an alternative
What’s efficiency got to do with capitalism? The short answer is little or nothing. Economic and social collapses in Detroit, Cleveland and many other US cities did not happen because production was inefficient there. Efficiency problems did not cause the longer-term economic declines troubling the US and western Europe.
Capitalist corporations decided to relocate production: first, away from such cities, and now, away from those regions. It has done so to serve the priorities of their major shareholders and boards of directors. Higher profits, business growth, and market share drive those decisions. As I say, efficiency has little or nothing to do with it.
Many goods and services once made in the US and western Europe for those markets are now produced elsewhere and transported back to them. That wastes resources spent on the costly relocation and consequent return transportation. The pollution (of air, sea and soil) associated with vast transportation networks – and the eventual cleaning up of that pollution – only enlarges that waste.
As negotiations continue between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner, leading economist Dean Baker joins us to discuss the myths about the so-called fiscal cliff. With little more than two weeks before the deadline, President Obama insists on an immediate increase in the top two income-tax rates as a condition for further negotiations on changes to spending and entitlement programs. But Boehner said Washington’s “spending problem” is the biggest roadblock to reaching a deal and has urged the White House to identify more spending cuts. “This idea that, somehow, if we don’t get a deal by the end of the year we’re going to see the economy collapse, go into a recession, really that’s just totally dishonest,” says Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The basis for this is that we don’t have a deal all year. And the fact that you don’t have a deal December 31st does not mean you don’t get a deal by December 31st, 2013.”
As the most expensive presidential election in U.S. history comes to an end, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and professor, activist Dr. Cornel West join us to discuss President Obama’s re-election and their hopes for a national political agenda in and outside of the White House during Obama’s second term. At a time when one in six Americans is poor, the price tag for combined spending by federal candidates – along with their parties and outside groups like super PACs – totaled more than $6 billion. Together, West and Smiley have written the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Both Tavis and Smiley single out prominent progressives whom they accuse of overlooking Obama’s actual record. “We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president,” Smiley says. “And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. … To me, the most progressive means that you’re taking some serious risk. And I just don’t see the example of that.” West says that some prominent supporters of Obama “want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way.”
“In a recent interview on Democracy Now!, ex-Princeton professor and frequent Obama critic Dr. Cornel West lashed out against the president as well as pundits Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry and Rev. Al Sharpton.
West called Obama a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and said Dyson, Harris-Perry and Sharpton were all “for sale.”
West, along with TV personality Tavis Smiley, has been one of President Barack Obama’s loudest and harshest African-American critics. Although West endorsed and campaigned for Obama during the 2008 campaign, he has since complained that the first black president turned his back on impoverished Americans.”
Cenk Uygur and Jayar Jackson discuss West’s comments and racial attitudes toward Obama in general. Is there a way he should act as both the president and a leader for the black community? How would he manage that?
Besides deciding who would occupy the Oval Office for the next four years and which party would rule in the House and Senate, there were numerous ballot measures and amendments to state constitutions that voters decided. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! discuss the winners and losers of the ballot measures with her guests Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center; Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; and Laura Flanders, host of GritTV and author of many books, including Bushwomen: How They Won the White House for Their Man.
Advocates of marriage equality ended Tuesday with four out of four victories, as voters legalized same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland, upheld same-sex marriage in Washington state, and defeated a measure to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Maryland voters also affirmed the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition.
In Montana, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would limit corporate spending on elections, while Colorado voters also resoundingly approved a measure backing a constitutional amendment that would call for the same.
In a historic move, voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, becoming the first states to do so.
In California, voters defeated a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty and another that would have required labeling of genetically modified foods.
A separate measure to ease penalties for nonviolent offenses under California’s “three-strikes” law was approved.
California voters also rejected a measure that would have curbed the political influence of unions.
Florida’s Amendment 6, which would have banned state resources from funding abortions, was defeated by a 10 percent margin.
Montana also wrestled with abortion issues with LR-120, also known as the Montana Parental Notification Measure, which passed with 70 percent of the vote. LR-120 requires doctors to notify parents of minors under the age of 16 at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.
Church vs. State
Florida voters rejected Amendment 8, which would have overturned the so-called Blaine Amendment, which prohibits religious organizations from receiving direct state funding. The measure failed 56 to 44 percent.
“This proposed amendment would have done nothing to preserve religious liberty,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, claiming that it would have instead “stripped away key safeguards.”
Massachusetts’ Question 2, better known as the “Death with Dignity Act,” official was too close to call, but supporters nonetheless conceded defeat. The act would have legalized physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients expected to die within six months. The measure was strongly opposed by the state’s Catholic bishops.
Six states voted on measures concerning marijuana. Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana and Washington passed measures liberalizing marijuana use. Measures in Arkansas and Oregon failed.
The measures in Arkansas, Massachusetts and Montana dealt with medical marijuana, while the measures in Colorado, Oregon and Washington sought to legalize state-regulated recreational marijuana. Recreational pot use in Colorado and Washington state will now be legal once the measure is fully implemented, although many observers expect a conflict with federal drug laws.
Maryland approved Question 7, which greatly expanded casino gambling within the state, particularly in suburban Washington. Rhode Island voters approved two new casinos, and Oregon rejected private casinos.
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.