Feb 05 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole to Follow the Drone Attacks

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Lewis Carol has nothing on the Obama administration.

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

by Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not in our names.

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