Daily Archive: 03/06/2012

Mar 06 2012

Holder: We Can Kill You Because We Can

Yes, that is essentially what US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University.

   Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible.

   “Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” Mr. Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school. “In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.” […]

   “Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

In taking apart Holder’s justification for murder, David Swanson so chillingly describes the government can kill you anywhere, anyplace, anytime they choose without evidence, charges, arrest or approval:

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it’s legal to murder people – not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president.[..]

Nor can promising to imprison people without a fair trial justify murdering people.  But Holder does not do that.  He promises kangaroo courts:

   “Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions.  The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice – and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.” [..]

Holder then explains, sensibly enough, why non-military courts work just fine (unless an extreme record of nearly 100% convictions worries you):

   “Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison.  Not one has ever escaped custody.  No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack.” [..]

Holder turns next to the presidential power to imprison people that was signed into law on New Year’s Eve as part of the National “Defense” Authorization Act:

   “This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values.  Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act.  This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.

This legislation did nothing of the sort.  For one thing, Obama unconstitutionally altered it in a signing statement as it applied to a huge prison full of largely non-al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan.  In addition, there has been quite a bit of discussion of the power this bill creates to imprison U.S. citizens. [..]

And, despite tremendous, often willful, confusion, the history is clear that Obama insisted on the power to imprison U.S. citizens and to do so outside of the military.

This is madness. The Constitution does not permit any of this. Holder quoted no legal standards. As the New York Times reported in its article on Holder’s speech, “the speech had contained no footnotes or specific legal citations”:

{..} and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo – or in an account of its contents published in October by The New York Times based on descriptions by people who had read it.

The administration has declined to confirm that the memo exists, and late last year, The Times filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act asking a judge to order the Justice Department to make it public. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a broader lawsuit, seeking both the memo and the evidence against Mr. Awlaki.

And where are the Democrats and so-called “progressives”? As Glenn Greenwald at Salon writes, “Yet, with some righteous exceptions, the silence is deafening, or worse“:

How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’s executions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground. [..]

To recap Barack Obama’s view: it is a form of “terror” for someone to be detained “without even getting one chance to prove their innocence,” but it is good and noble for them to be executed under the same circumstances. To recap Eric Holder’s view: we must not accept when the Bush administration says “just trust us” when it comes to spying on the communications of accused Terrorists, but we must accept when the Obama administration says “just trust us” when it comes to targeting our fellow citizens for execution. As it turns out, it’s not 9/11/01 that Changed Everything. It’s 1/20/09. [..]

Find a defender of Obama’s assassination program and all you’ll hear is exactly the same thing: this is only being directed at The Terrorists like Awlaki, so we don’t need any court review or due process. Here was Holder yesterday: “it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks,” and assassination orders are only issued once “the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” [..]

He (Holder) said, for instance, that “the Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.” That part is true: in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that it could detain American citizens accused of Terrorism without any process for them to contest the accusations against them, though the Court held that something less than a full-scale trial could satisfy the Due Process clause. But as Marcy Wheeler points out, the Court imposed “due process” requirements that are the exact opposite of what the Obama administration is doing with its assassinations.

The very idea that presidential assassination powers will become accepted policy for every future president, that the core of the Constitutional protection of due process can be based solely on the word of the president and made in total secrecy without the opportunity to view, or even refute, any evidence is abhorrent and evil.

These articles with their extensive citations by credible authors are must reads:

Attorney General Holder Says Murder Is Legal

by David Swanson, anti-war activist and author of Day Break and War Is A Lie, who runs the websites DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org (formerly AfterDowningStreet.org)

Attorney General Holder defends execution without charges

by Glenn Greenwald, best selling author, former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and contributing writer at Salon

Eric Holder’s View on National Security: Three Branches. Except for When the Third becomes Inconvenient.

by Marcy Wheeler, author and runs website emptywheel

When the US Government Can Kill You, Explained

by Adam Serwer, writer for Mother Jones

Time to Play “What if Alberto Gonzalez Said That?”

by John Cole, blogger and runs website Balloon Juice

How We Can Help President Obama Today

by Charles P. Pierce, contributing write at Esquire

Assassinating U.S. Citizens: Holder says “Yes We Can”

by Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project.  

Mar 06 2012

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”.

Eugene Robinson: GOP Candidates Rush From Judgment

How’s this for political cowardice? Right-wing bloviator Rush Limbaugh launches a vile attack, full of sexual insults and smarmy innuendo, against a young woman whose only offense was to speak her mind. Asked to comment, the leading Republican presidential candidates-who bray constantly about “courage” and “leadership”-run from the bully and hide. [..]

What does this say about these men? To me, it suggests that maybe Romney isn’t as smart and disciplined as he’s said to be. Maybe Santorum isn’t as sincere, compassionate or moralistic as he appears. Maybe Gingrich’s vaunted intellectual courage is afraid of its own shadow.

Katrina vanden Heuval: Challenging the Self-Made Myth

Over the last thirty years, anti-government arguments by conservative pundits and politicians have gained prominence, and the rhetoric this 2012 campaign season seems more toxic than ever. Republicans are relentlessly pushing the notion that lower taxes, less regulation and small government (except for defense) will magically end the recession and create a better country, and “job creators” will lift all boats.

It’s BS. As Congressman Barney Frank recently said, “I’ve never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I’ve never seen a tax cut build a bridge.”

Americans benefit every day from government-from consumer protection to roads and bridges to food and safety regulation-even people who claim to hate an “activist government” are some of the prime beneficiaries of the safety net at a moment when there are still over four unemployed workers for every available job and nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty.

But the GOP has wagered its future on ruthlessly and relentlessly attacking government-it isn’t about to let reality get in the way of its crusade.

Henry A. Giroux: The Scorched-Earth Politics of America’s Four Fundamentalisms

Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001 and an attack on individual rights that suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Cuba “than anyone may like to admit.”(1) I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, educational fundamentalism and military fundamentalism. This is far from a exhaustive list, but it does raise serious questions about how the claim to democracy in the United States has been severely damaged, if not made impossible.

Carl Bloice: And Now, the Catfood Party

Like most establishment pundits, Thomas Friedman (and apparently most of the rest of the nation) came away from the awful reality show called the Republican Presidential debates quite discouraged. While some prominent conservatives in the party are openly casting about for a way to inject some sanity into the race and perhaps another candidate the New York Times columnist is talking up another party. “Eventually the `circular firing squad’ that is the Republican primary will be over and the last man standing will be the party’s nominee for president,” wrote the scribe of flat earth fame. “If that candidate is Rick Santorum, I think there is a good chance a Third Party will try to fill the space between the really `severely conservative’ Santorum (or even Mitt Romney) and the left-of-center Barack Obama.” (Notice how he puts the unnamed party in capital letters, probably to set it off from the already existing alternatives, like the Green Party, or Socialist Party.)

New York Times Editorial: A Weakened Miranda Rule

The Supreme Court recently did significant damage to the Miranda rule, which requires that suspects in custody be told of their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present, and that any statements they make could be used against them in criminal proceedings.

Without these warnings, statements made are inadmissible as evidence, the court said in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona, because “the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty, and trades on the weaknesses of individuals.”

That is exactly the principle violated by the court’s new ruling in Howes v. Fields. The case involved Randall Lee Fields, who was in jail in Michigan for disorderly conduct, was interrogated by sheriffs there and, based on what he said, was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for a sex crime.

George Monbiot: How Ayn Rand Became the New Right’s Version of Marx

Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Danny Schechter: Sweet Home Chicago: G8 Summit Moved but Protests Will Continue

Did the Obama alumni Association in Chicago—David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, and Bill Daley—get nervous and call the White House, or was it Barack himself, having disposed/co-opted one threat by the name of Netanyahu who recognized he had a more serious problem on the horizon.

The president has been playing Ronald Reagan these days, talking tough while feinting towards the center. What he most decidedly does not want to do is play Hubert Humphrey and relive the summer of 1968 in Chicago. That’s why the G8 meeting was shifted from contested ground there to safe space in the ultra secure well-guarded environment of Maryland’s Camp David.

The last thing the president needs in the middle of his campaign is another police riot in the second city.

Mar 06 2012

Call me Snake

G-8 summit to be held at Camp David, not Chicago

By Christi Parsons Tribune reporter, Chicago Tribune

5:42 p.m. CST, March 5, 2012

Camp David will more closely approximate the remote settings in which the G8 leaders prefer to gather. Summits in large cities typically see clamorous protests, while those in the countryside are calmer and more sedate.



Chicago police estimated that 2,000 to 10,000 demonstrators were expected to show up for the overlapping G-8 and NATO summits.  At least two major demonstrations were already planned for downtown during the summit, and organizers said they wanted to send crowds of marchers down Michigan Avenue in the middle of the day.



The mayor had also sought tough changes in ordinances governing public demonstrations. But in the face of criticism from aldermen and civil rights groups, he was forced to scale them back.

(h/t Atrios)

Mar 06 2012

On This Day In History March 6

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.

March 6 is the 65th day of the year (66th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 300 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1857, the US Supreme Court hands down its decision on Sanford v. Dred Scott, a case that intensified national divisions over the issue of slavery.

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens. The court also held that the U.S. Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that, because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court. Furthermore, the Court ruled that slaves, as chattels or private property, could not be taken away from their owners without due process. The Supreme Court’s decision was written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

Although the Supreme Court has never overruled the Dred Scott case, the Court stated in the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873 that at least one part of it had already been overruled by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868:

   The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.

The Decision

The Supreme Court ruling was handed down on March 6, 1857, just two days after Buchanan’s inauguration. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court, with each of the concurring and dissenting Justices filing separate opinions. In total, six Justices agreed with the ruling; Samuel Nelson concurred with the ruling but not its reasoning, and Benjamin R. Curtis and John McLean dissented. The court misspelled Sanford’s name in the decision.

Opinion of the Court

The Court first had to decide whether it had jurisdiction. Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “the judicial Power shall extend… to Controversies… between Citizens of different States….” The Court held that Scott was not a “citizen of a state” within the meaning of the United States Constitution, as that term was understood at the time the Constitution was adopted, and therefore not able to bring suit in federal court. Furthermore, whether a person is a citizen of a state, for Article III purposes, was a question to be decided by the federal courts irrespective of any state’s definition of “citizen” under its own law.

Thus, whether Missouri recognized Scott as a citizen was irrelevant. Taney summed up,

   Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.

This meant that

   no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.

The only relevant question, therefore, was whether, at the time the Constitution was ratified, Scott could have been considered a citizen of any state within the meaning of Article III. According to the Court, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as

   beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

The Court also presented a parade of horribles argument as to the feared results of granting Mr. Scott’s petition:

   It would give to persons of the negro race, …the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, …the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.

Scott was not a citizen of Missouri, and the federal courts therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

Despite the conclusion that the Court lacked jurisdiction, however, it went on to hold (in what Republicans would label its “obiter dictum”) that Scott was not a free man, even though he had resided for a time in Minnesota (then called the Wisconsin Territory). The Court held that the provisions of the Missouri Compromise declaring it to be free territory were beyond Congress’s power to enact. The Court rested its decision on the grounds that Congress’s power to acquire territories and create governments within those territories was limited. They held that the Fifth Amendment barred any law that would deprive a slaveholder of his property, such as his slaves, because he had brought them into a free territory. The Court went on to state – although the issue was not before the Court – that the territorial legislatures had no power to ban slavery. The ruling also asserted that neither slaves “nor their descendants, were embraced in any of the other provisions of the Constitution” that protected non-citizens.

This was only the second time in United States history that the Supreme Court had found an act of Congress to be unconstitutional. (The first time was 54 years earlier in Marbury v. Madison).