Daily Archive: 02/07/2013

Feb 07 2013

Not much to be fair and balanced about

Feb 07 2013

Many questions for John Brennan today and only a few hours to ask them

There are a lot of questions for John Brennan’s confirmation hearing today and only a few hours scheduled to ask them.  

Many questions have been published by various news organizations and blogs.  I very much want answers to their questions but I have one big, obvious question as well.  This is my question:

What has changed since 2008-9 when John Brennan was considered to be too toxic to be confirmed as Director of the CIA?  What is so different now that he is expected to be easily confirmed and that only a few hours are needed to question him?

In my opinion, he is even less confirmable in 2013 than he was in 2009.  So what has changed?  I’ll explain more about why I think he is even less suited for the job today, but first, let’s explore some of the questions posed by the media.  

Feb 07 2013

Live Streaming Video- John Brennan Senate Confirmation Hearing

Feb 07 2013

What the CIA Won’t Tell About Rendition and Torture

Since 9/11 and the start of the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT), the US government has denied that the CIA was involved in torture and extraordinary rendition despite the evidence to the contrary. Now the organization Open Society Foundations has released an extensive 216 page report, Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition (pdf), that details the clandestine program that extended to 54 countries.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency embarked on a highly classified program of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects. The program was designed to place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law. Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine “black sites” using torture techniques.

Globalizing Torture is the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims, and lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit.

More than 10 years after the 2001 attacks, Globalizing Torture makes it unequivocally clear that the time has come for the United States and its partners to definitively repudiate these illegal practices and secure accountability for the associated human rights abuses.

At FDL‘s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola takes “a comprehensive look” at the report and some of its findings:

It makes clear the Obama administration has not chosen to end rendition, the process of essentially kidnapping a person and transferring them  to another country for detention where they are likely to be abused or tortured. The administration has not disclosed policies or practices related to “intelligence transfers” (for example, when the CIA ships individuals to other countries). An executive order Obama signed was “crafted to preserve the CIA’s authority to detain terrorist suspects for short periods prior to ‘rendering’ them to another country for interrogation or trial.” This was a loophole that was designed to make it possible for the CIA to keep certain secret prison sites open. [..]

The report also mentions how the United States has declined to conduct criminal investigations into the CIA’s RDI program. The courts have failed to hold any person from the Executive Branch accountable for abuses associated with the RDI program. “To date, not a single case brought by an extraordinary rendition victim has reached the merits stage in a US court,” the report declares.

Meanwhile, there continues to be reports of secret detentions: in April 2011, the “Associated Press reported that suspected terrorists in Afghanistan were being secretly detained and interrogated for weeks at 20 temporary sites including one run by the military’s elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), at Bagram Air Base”; in July 2011, “it was reported that the Obama administration had secretly detained and interrogated Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali national, for two months aboard a US Navy ship, after seizing him on international waters between Yemen and Somalia”; Jeremy Scahill of The Nation reported in July 2011 the CIA was using a secret prison “in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters; and the Washington Post reported in August 2012 that “three European men with Somali roots were arrested by local authorities in Djibouti, where they were detained and interrogated for months-including by U.S. interrogators-even though no charges were pending against them.”

(my emphasis)

The senior legal officer at the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative and the reports author, Amrit Singh joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy! Now to discuss the report and CIA Director nominee, John Brennan’s role in the expansive program she’s documented.



Transcript can be read here

Feb 07 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial; To Kill an American

On one level, there were not too many surprises in the newly disclosed “white paper” offering a legal reasoning behind the claim that President Obama has the power to order the killing of American citizens who are believed to be part of Al Qaeda. We knew Mr. Obama and his lawyers believed he has that power under the Constitution and federal law. We also knew that he utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review such a decision in advance, or even after the fact.

Still, it was disturbing to see the twisted logic of the administration’s lawyers laid out in black and white. It had the air of a legal justification written after the fact for a policy decision that had already been made, and it brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.

Duncan Black, aka Atrios: 401Ks are a disaster

Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.

Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

Frankly, that’s an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay their rent.

Dean Baker: Tax Games and Redistributing Income Upward

The corporate profit share of national income is near a post-World War II high. The share of income going to the richest 1 percent is almost at its pre-Depression peak.

These would seem like impressive accomplishments but the process of upward redistribution, from Joe Sixpack to Joe Six Houses, is a never-ending struggle. Toward this end, Louisiana Governor and Republican wunderkind Bobby Jindal has just proposed replacing the state’s income tax with a sales tax.

Sales taxes will generally be more regressive than income taxes for the simple reason that low- and moderate-income people will spend a larger share of their income than upper-income people. That means that the portion of income that wealthy Louisianans save will escape taxation, imposing a larger burden on low- and middle-income families in any revenue neutral shift.

Amy Goodman; Brennan and Kiriakou, Drones and Torture

John Brennan and John Kiriakou worked together years ago, but their careers have dramatically diverged. Brennan is now on track to head the CIA, while Kiriakou is headed off to prison. Each of their fates is tied to the so-called war on terror, which under President George W. Bush provoked worldwide condemnation. President Barack Obama rebranded the war on terror innocuously as “overseas contingency operations,” but, rather than retrench from the odious practices of his predecessor, Obama instead escalated. His promotion of Brennan, and his prosecution of Kiriakou, demonstrate how the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.

Robert Reich: The Real Debate Over American Citizenship

Sometimes we have a national conversation without realizing it. We talk about different aspects of the same larger issue without connecting the dots.

That’s what’s happening now with regard to the meaning of American citizenship and the basic rights that come with it.

On one side are those who think of citizenship as a matter of exclusion and privilege – of protecting the nation by keeping out those who are undesirable, and putting strict limits on who is allowed to exercise the full rights of citizenship.

On the other are those who think of citizenship inclusively – as an ongoing process of helping people become full participants in America.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why the Government’s Lawsuit Against Standard & Poor’s Matters

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to ponder the absurdity of a system in which:

a) for-profit corporations are allowed to call themselves “agencies”;

b) the government — that is, us — has given these for-profit companies trillion-dollar influence over the financial system; and

c) these “agencies” are paid by the very financial institutions whose work they’re expected to review objectively — institutions who will take their business elsewhere if their products aren’t rated highly .

We gave these “agencies” all this power, along with a huge financial incentive to rate garbage as if it were roses. Then we, in the form of government regulators, looked the other way. And now we’re shocked — shocked! — that these for-profit companies were behaving… well, like for-profit companies.

Feb 07 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial; To Kill an American

On one level, there were not too many surprises in the newly disclosed “white paper” offering a legal reasoning behind the claim that President Obama has the power to order the killing of American citizens who are believed to be part of Al Qaeda. We knew Mr. Obama and his lawyers believed he has that power under the Constitution and federal law. We also knew that he utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review such a decision in advance, or even after the fact.

Still, it was disturbing to see the twisted logic of the administration’s lawyers laid out in black and white. It had the air of a legal justification written after the fact for a policy decision that had already been made, and it brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.

Duncan Black, aka Atrios: 401Ks are a disaster

Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.

Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

Frankly, that’s an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay their rent.

Dean Baker: Tax Games and Redistributing Income Upward

The corporate profit share of national income is near a post-World War II high. The share of income going to the richest 1 percent is almost at its pre-Depression peak.

These would seem like impressive accomplishments but the process of upward redistribution, from Joe Sixpack to Joe Six Houses, is a never-ending struggle. Toward this end, Louisiana Governor and Republican wunderkind Bobby Jindal has just proposed replacing the state’s income tax with a sales tax.

Sales taxes will generally be more regressive than income taxes for the simple reason that low- and moderate-income people will spend a larger share of their income than upper-income people. That means that the portion of income that wealthy Louisianans save will escape taxation, imposing a larger burden on low- and middle-income families in any revenue neutral shift.

Amy Goodman; Brennan and Kiriakou, Drones and Torture

John Brennan and John Kiriakou worked together years ago, but their careers have dramatically diverged. Brennan is now on track to head the CIA, while Kiriakou is headed off to prison. Each of their fates is tied to the so-called war on terror, which under President George W. Bush provoked worldwide condemnation. President Barack Obama rebranded the war on terror innocuously as “overseas contingency operations,” but, rather than retrench from the odious practices of his predecessor, Obama instead escalated. His promotion of Brennan, and his prosecution of Kiriakou, demonstrate how the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.

Robert Reich: The Real Debate Over American Citizenship

Sometimes we have a national conversation without realizing it. We talk about different aspects of the same larger issue without connecting the dots.

That’s what’s happening now with regard to the meaning of American citizenship and the basic rights that come with it.

On one side are those who think of citizenship as a matter of exclusion and privilege – of protecting the nation by keeping out those who are undesirable, and putting strict limits on who is allowed to exercise the full rights of citizenship.

On the other are those who think of citizenship inclusively – as an ongoing process of helping people become full participants in America.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why the Government’s Lawsuit Against Standard & Poor’s Matters

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to ponder the absurdity of a system in which:

a) for-profit corporations are allowed to call themselves “agencies”;

b) the government — that is, us — has given these for-profit companies trillion-dollar influence over the financial system; and

c) these “agencies” are paid by the very financial institutions whose work they’re expected to review objectively — institutions who will take their business elsewhere if their products aren’t rated highly .

We gave these “agencies” all this power, along with a huge financial incentive to rate garbage as if it were roses. Then we, in the form of government regulators, looked the other way. And now we’re shocked — shocked! — that these for-profit companies were behaving… well, like for-profit companies.

Feb 07 2013

On This Day In History February 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 7 is the 38th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 327 days remaining until the end of the year (328 in leap years).

On this day in 1795, The 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified. It dealt with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country.

The Eleventh Amendment (Amendment XI) to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state’s sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country. This amendment was adopted in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793).]

Amendment Eleven:

   The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

By itself this Amendment is a little impenetrable. It was passed as a clarification of Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution, specifically Clause One which reads:

Clause 1:

   The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;–between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects

Basically what this boils down to is the concept of Sovereign Immunity. Basically you can not use the Federal Government unless it agrees to let the case be heard. Yes, you read that right. The Government reserves the right to prevent you from suing it, as a citizen, except under very specific circumstances. The exceptions are detailed in the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Tucker Act. These acts allow a citizen to sue the Government if there is a claim resulting from either the actions of a federal employee or if there is a case involving contracts with the Federal Government.

Now, Amendment 11 extends this same sovereign immunity to the States in terms of the Federal Courts. What that means is that you as a citizen can not use the Federal Courts to sue your State Government, without the consent of the State. The Dog believes the reason for this is to prevent citizens from tying up their government with suits that arise from the normal operation of the government. As a practical matter it forces citizens that don’t like the way things are being run to replace their government officials instead of just suing the government.

Now, this does not apply to crimes committed by members of the government or the government itself. There is what is called a Stripping Doctrine that says when a government employee or official commits a crime, they have lost their immunity. So, in the case of torture or War Crimes there can be no reasonable sovereign immunity defense.

h/t Something the Dog Said

Feb 07 2013

These Are the Memos You Want

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.