Tag: Drone War

Live Streaming Video- John Brennan Senate Confirmation Hearing

Down the Rabbit Hole to Follow the Drone Attacks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Lewis Carol has nothing on the Obama administration.

Will Senators Filibuster Chuck Hagel’s Nomination to Get the Targeted Killing Memo?

by Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

Eleven Senators just sent President Obama a letter asking nicely, for at least the 12th time, the targeted killing memo. They remind him of his promise of transparency and oversight. [..]

And asks – yet again – for “any and all memos.” [..]

But perhaps the most important part of this letter is that it refers not just to John Brennan’s nomination, but to “senior national security positions.”

   As the Senate considers a number of nominees for senior national security positions, we ask that you ensure that Congress is provided with the secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.

There are eleven signers of that letter: Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); Mike Lee (R-Utah); Mark Udall (D-Colo.); Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Susan Collins (R-Maine); Dick Durbin (Ill.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Tom Udall (D-N.M.); Mark Begich (D-Alaska); and  Al Franken (D- Minn.).

Wyden, Mark Udall, and Collins sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee that will consider John Brennan’s nomination to the CIA. Brennen is considered the architect of President Obama’s drone program and targeted assassination program.

While there is still a battle over the original memo that laid out the legal premise for the drone and assassination program, NBC News national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff, has obtained a 16 page white paper memo (pdf) that “provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices:

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.    

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow doesn’t think that the Republicans would be foolish enough to filibuster Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and risk Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoking the nuclear option to end filibuster altogether. There is the slim possibility that the Senate Intelligence Committee could reject Mr. Brennan’s nomination for the CIA from a vote of the full Senate.

Ms. Maddow talked with Mr. Isikoff about the details of the memo and the legal justification for targeted drone attacks that American citizens without trial in the name of national security.

Not in our names.

These Are the Memos You Want

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The secret memos giving the legal justification for drone attacks and “kill lists,” that President Barack Obama has refused to say even existed, are to be released to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees

Until Wednesday, the administration had refused to even officially acknowledge the existence of the documents, which have been reported about in the press. This week, NBC News obtained an unclassified, shorter “white paper” that detailed some of the legal analysis about killing a citizen and was apparently derived from the classified Awlaki memorandum. The paper said the United States could target a citizen if he was a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda involved in plots against the country and if his capture was not feasible.

Administration officials said Mr. Obama had decided to take the action, which they described as extraordinary, out of a desire to involve Congress in the development of the legal framework for targeting specific people to be killed in the war against Al Qaeda. Aides noted that Mr. Obama had made a pledge to do that during an appearance on “The Daily Show” last year.

Don’t get too excited, these memos are still classified and will only be released to the members of the two congressional committees consisting of 35 people selected by party leaders. Keep in mind two of those 35 members are Representatives Michelle Bachmann (R-MI) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA).

A point that Marcy Wheeler makes is this is being misreported, there is more than one memo. President Obama and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Dianne Weinstein (D-CA) have all referred to memos, plural, but people persist in reporting that there is one memo.  The white paper that MSNBC’s Michael Isikoff reported was given to Congress was not the memo we were looking for

Indeed, Ron Wyden has been referring to memos, in the plural, for a full year (even before, if Isikoff’s report is correct, this white paper was first provided to the Committees in June 2012).

And there is abundant reason to believe that the members of the Senate committees who got this white paper aren’t convinced it describes the rationale the Administration actually used. Just minutes after Pat Leahy reminded the Senate Judiciary Committee they got the white paper at a hearing last August, John Cornyn said this,

   Cornyn: As Senator Durbin and others have said that they agree that this is a legitimate question that needs to be answered. But we’re not mere supplicants of the Executive Branch. We are a coequal branch of government with the Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight and to legislate where we deem appropriate on behalf of our constituents. So it is insufficient to say, “pretty please, Mr. President. pretty please, Mr. Attorney General, will you please tell us the legal authority by which you claim the authority to kill American citizens abroad?” It may be that I would agree with their legal argument, but I simply don’t know what it is, and it hasn’t been provided. [my emphasis]

More importantly, one question that Wyden keeps asking would be nonsensical if he believed the content of this white paper reflected the actual authorization used to kill Awlaki.

I have no idea how this will effect John Brennan’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence but it should be interesting considering some of the questions that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) intends to ask.

    Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.

   The Justice Department memo that was made public yesterday touches on a number of important issues, but it leaves many of the most important questions about the President’s lethal authorities unanswered.  Questions like ‘how much evidence does the President need to decide that a particular American is part of a terrorist group?’, ‘does the President have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender?’ and ‘can the President order intelligence agencies or the military to kill an American who is inside the United States?’ need to be asked and answered in a way that is consistent with American laws and American values.  This memo does not answer these questions.

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