Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013
"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html
In October, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a "disposition matrix" to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU's Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: "President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended."
There's a good reason US officials are assuming the "War on Terror" will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:
By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM
President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:
The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.
This is not a credible statement.
With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:
Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)
With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)
It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.
With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.
By Glenn Garvin
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.
“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. . . . We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”
The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.
The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.
The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)
Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.
The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”
There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?
Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.
After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.
But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?
The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.
The White House policy “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,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.
By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm
This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.
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 appeared on the program for the discussion.
Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”
“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.
Shamsi made a key point:
We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.
Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.
“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”
Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.
Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.
HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?
SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —
JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)
SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.
Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.
From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.
“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.
Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”
Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).
From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.
I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.
I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.
The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.
The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.
The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.
By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed
On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don't speak their language, don't know their culture, don't understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world's greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.
Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst," only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?
Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman's justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good." Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.
Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was "easy." Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of "internal deliberations in the executive branch." No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.
Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the "testimony of two witnesses" or a "confession in open court," not the say-so of the executive branch.
In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using "signature strikes," i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA's criteria for identifying a terrorist "signature" were too lax. "The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees 'three guys doing jumping jacks,' the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued."
Obama's top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It's true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.
Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don't-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an "enemy combatant" and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.
Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign "dangerously seductive" because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. "It plays well domestically," he said, "and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."
But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled "Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen," shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims' relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. "The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders," said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, "but they are also turning them into heroes."
Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.
One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama's leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don't agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.
Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. "Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?," he asks. "When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, 'Do you?'"
Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?
By Ralph Nader
The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.
Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.
Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.
As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.
The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.
The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.
As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.
What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.
The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:
- The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.
- Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.
- Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”
Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!
Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.
The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.
Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”
In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.
The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.
So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?
Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?