Thursday, February 9, 2012

Drones, Decency and Constitutional Rights

[Added link to Repulsive Progressive Hypocrisy, by Glenn Greenwald, with quote, 2/10/12]

Back on January 23rd, 2012, a Herald editorial made what I could only take as a snide and senseless remark about bloggers. The editorial thought that the rhetoric against the SOPA and PIPA internet censorship acts included both "slight exaggerations" and "hysterical claims." They went on to set up a hypothetical example, an example that is unhinged from the realities of the the two bills, between two bloggers expressing their opinions. They conclude with a dig at bloggers by incorrectly suggesting they would still be able to post their "opinion, ad nauseum" (sic), and suggesting that the opinions posted by bloggers everywhere which opposed SOPA and PIPA were "Conspiracy theories." I guess we can be glad that we still live in a country where small newspapers too, can issue their deriding, error prone editorials, ad nauseam.

Oh damn, here I go again with another blogger "ad nauseam" post questioning the behavior of our President and Congress when they violate our basic Constitutional rights. Thankfully the somnolent, apathetic and hypocritical herd can choose instead to read the fluff in the local papers about the Cattlemen's Association, the Super Bowl, or the "Art of the Spud."

Back in 2011, in one of those moments of ad nauseam conspiracy ferver, I had mentioned that killing American citizens by drone strike without formal charge and trial was a grave violation of our Constitutional protections and our long held right of Habeas Corpus and Due Process in courts of law as stated in the Bill of Rights, I.E. the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

See for example:

al-Awlaki Assassination Dramatically Steepened the Slippery Slope Leading to the Loss of Everyone's Constitutional Rights

It Must Be Presidential Campaign Season: Obama Produces "Terror" Plot By Iran

TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010
The "Hope" & the Reality: Obama--talking head pimp (or is that whore?) for corporate America

Now we have leaders from both political parties questioning the Obama administration's authority to order killings of American citizens without due process and asking for the Obama administration's secret interpretations of law that support these killings.

Here are a few recent signs of resistance:

McManus: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list'?
There has been remarkably little public debate in the U.S. about drone strikes, which have killed at least 1,300 people in Pakistan alone since President Obama came to office.

February 05, 2012|Doyle McManus

When it comes to national security, Michael V. Hayden is no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.

But the retired air force general admits to being a little squeamish about the Obama administration's expanding use of pilotless drones to kill suspected terrorists around the world — including, occasionally, U.S. citizens.

"Right now, there isn't a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel," Hayden told me recently.

As an example of the problem, he cites the example of Anwar Awlaki, the New Mexico-born member of Al Qaeda who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen last September. "We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him," Hayden notes, "but we didn't need a court order to kill him. Isn't that something?"


Former CIA Director Hayden Against Drone Strikes


Press Release of Senator Wyden
Wyden Continues to Press Justice Department to Explain the Extent of its Authority to Kill Americans

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Washington, D.C. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden called the Administration’s refusal to share legal opinions pertaining to the executive branch’s understanding of its authority to kill Americans “an indefensible assertion of executive authority.” Wyden has been pressing the Justice Department and other administration officials to share its legal interpretations of the government’s authority in this area for more than a year but, as the Senator writes, “it is increasingly clear that [the Justice Department] has no intention of doing so.”

“To be clear, I am not suggesting that the President has no authority to act in this area. If American citizens choose to take up arms against the United States during times of war, there can undoubtedly be some circumstances under which the President has the authority to use lethal force against those Americans,” wrote Wyden. “However, when the United States is engaged in a military conflict with a terrorist group, whose members do not wear uniforms but instead attempt to blend in with civilian populations in a variety of countries around the world, questions about when the President may use lethal force against Americans whom he believes are part of this enemy force become significantly more complicated.

“Members of Congress need to understand how (or whether) the executive branch has attempted to answer these questions so that they can decide for themselves whether this authority has been properly defined. But it is impossible for elected legislators to understand how the executive branch interprets its own authority if the secret legal opinions that outline the Justice Department’s understanding of this authority are withheld from Congress by the Administration.”

Wyden has long asserted that it is inappropriate for the Administration to rely on what he refers to as “secret law” or classified legal interpretations that grant the government authorities without the knowledge and consent of the American people.

“I understand that government officials who choose to rely on secret law almost invariably believe that their decision to do so is justified, and that their secret interpretations of the law would stand up to public scrutiny. But the only way to find out whether this is true is to ensure that this public scrutiny actually takes place,” wrote Wyden, “Intelligence agencies may sometimes need to conduct secret operations, but they should never be in the position of relying on secret law.”

The full text of the Senator’s letter is available below, for more information on Senator Wyden’s efforts to declassify other secret laws [Download letter here.]

And on Drone Strikes Generally:

From The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals

February 4th, 2012 | by Chris Woods and Christina Lamb

The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of  civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.

The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a ‘targeted, focused effort’ that ‘has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.’

Speaking publicly for the first time on the controversial CIA drone strikes, Obama claimed last week they are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called ‘this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly’.
‘Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties’, he told a questioner at an on-line forum. ‘This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans’.

But research by the Bureau has found that since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children.  A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.

There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days. Because the attacks are carried out by the CIA, no information is given on the numbers killed.
. . . .
The legal view
Naz Modirzadeh, Associate Director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University, said killing people at a rescue site may have no legal justification.

‘Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution’, she said. ‘We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.’


See also:

Repulsive Progressive Hypocrisy

By Glenn Greenwald
February 09, 2012 "Salon"

During the Bush years, Guantanamo was the core symbol of right-wing radicalism and what was back then referred to as the “assault on American values and the shredding of our Constitution”: so much so then when Barack Obama ran for President, he featured these issues not as a secondary but as a central plank in his campaign. But now that there is a Democrat in office presiding over Guantanamo and these other polices — rather than a big, bad, scary Republican — all of that has changed, as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll today demonstrates:

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party. . . . .

Repulsive liberal hypocrisy extends far beyond the issue of Guantanamo. A core plank in the Democratic critique of the Bush/Cheney civil liberties assault was the notion that the President could do whatever he wants, in secret and with no checks, to anyone he accuses without trial of being a Terrorist – even including eavesdropping on their communications or detaining them without due process. But President Obama has not only done the same thing, but has gone much farther than mere eavesdropping or detention: he has asserted the power even to kill citizens without due process.
. . . .

Top official: drone critics are Al Qaeda enablers


U.S. Accused of Using Drones to Target Rescue Workers and Funerals in Pakistan

1 comment:

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