Tag Archive: Eric Holder

Jul 17 2013

New DOJ Journalist Rules: For Thee But Not For Me

In the recent embarrassing uproar over Attorney General Eric Holder’s labeling a James Rosen, reporter for Fox News, a co-conspirator in a federal leak probe and issued a secret search warrant for his e-mails, Holder said that Department of Justice rules would be reviewed and revised as needed. The “New Rules” on media policy (pdf) were issued last week. The rules, as Marcy Wheeler at empty wheel points out, will only apply to explicitly to “members of the news media,” not journalists per se.

The definition might permit the exclusion of bloggers and book writers, not to mention publishers like WikiLeaks. [..]

That approach would have several advantages over protecting “the news media.” First, by protecting the act of journalism, you include those independent reporters who are unquestioningly engaging in journalism (overcoming the blogger question I laid out, but also those working independently on book projects, and potentially – though this would be a contentious though much needed debate – publishers like WikiLeaks), but also exclude those news personalities who are engaging in entertainment, corporate propaganda, or government disinformation.

The rules also are a move to set up an “official press.” More from Marcy who goes into detail:

The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press.

That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” They repeat over and over and over and over, “news media.” I’m not sure they once utter the word “journalist” or “reporter.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” [..]

The limitation of all these changes to the “news media” is most obvious when it treats the Privacy Protection Act – which should have prevented DOJ from treating James Rosen as a  suspect. [..]

The PPA, however, applies to all persons “reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” [..]

I’m clearly covered by the PPA. But the FBI could easily decide to exclude me from this “news media” protection so as to be able to snoop into my work product.

Congratulations to the “members of the news media” who have been deemed the President’s official press. I hope you use your privileges wisely.

Update: I’ve learned that the issue of whom this applied to did come up in background meetings at DOJ; in fact, DOJ raised the issue. The problem is, there is no credentialing system that could define who gets this protection and DOJ didn’t want to lay it out (and most of the people invited have never been anything but a member of the news media, making it hard for them to understand how to differentiate a journalist).

Ultimately, I think DOJ is so anxious for Congress to pass a shield law (which they say elsewhere in their report) because it’ll mean Congress will do the dirty work of defining who is and who is not a journalist.

The full article is a wealth of information and worth the time to read it, along with all the links.

The Obama administration and Congress are coming very close to creating a state sanctioned press, a true “Pravda on the Potomac,” as The Washington Post is unofficially called. This is Cass Sunstein’s dream come true.

Jul 11 2013

Comey Set To Be Confirmed

If anyone, at this point, thinks that President Barack Obama would a change from the Bush administration, his nomination of James Comey to be FBI Director should be proof that any change from the past was a delusion. Besides his record of approving torture, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping, at his confirmation hearing Comey defended current US surveillance practices.

James Comey defends US surveillance practices at FBI confirmation hearing

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Former deputy attorney general who famously rebelled against warrantless spying in 2004 declines to criticise current policy

James Comey, the former US deputy attorney general, said Tuesday that the secret surveillance court that approves wiretapping requests is “anything but a rubber stamp”, even though the so-called Fisa court approves nearly every surveillance request by the government.

“I think folks don’t understand that the FBI operates under a wide variety of constraints,” Comey testified during his confirmation hearing to succeed Robert Mueller as the second director of the bureau since 9/11. The combination of the Fisa court, investigative guidelines from the US attorney general, congressional scrutiny and internal inspectors general are “very effective” at checking FBI abuse, Comey argued.[..]

But Comey declined to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records when senators asked if they should be scaled back.

Having been out of government since 2005, Comey said that he was “not familiar with the details of the current programs” and did not wish to opine on them. “I do know, as a general matter, the collection and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counter-terrorism.”

When questioned about the use of drones, Comey said he did not think drones should be used to kill US citizens in America, but left the door open for cases of “imminent threats.” The precise definition of what circumstances would constitute an “imminent thread” were left unanswered.

Former FBI agent, Colleen Crowley, who was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police, joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss Comey’s testimony and inevitable confirmation.



Transcript can be read here

At his confirmation hearing to head the FBI, former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records of Americans and defended the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed to be enemy combatants. Comey also explained why he signed off on a memo authorizing waterboarding while serving under Attorney General John Ashcroft. We get reaction from former special FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who served with the Bureau from 1981 to 2004. The New York Times just published her op-ed titled “Questions for the FBI Nominee.” In 2002, Time magazine named her and two other female whistleblowers as Time’s “Person of the Year,” for warning about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks.

What digbt said: What do you have to do to not be eligible for promotion in official Washington?

I’ve always thought it was a mistake for the administration not to pursue prosecutions for the torture regime. It seems like a bad idea for a powerful nation to ignore war crimes. You have to assume that it could blow back on it some time in the future. But since we now know that the presidency is largely a ceremonial position without any power to shape the debate, affect legislation or influence the military industrial complex, it’s clearly awfully tough to do anything at all. Best stick to nice pictures with foreign leaders and leave it at that.

However, even those who view the office as nothing more than a symbol of leadership would have to grant that the president surely has the discretion not to promote the people who signed off on the war crimes.

Jul 05 2013

Comey’s Torture Advocacy Questioned

Try as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder might to denounce torture their actions with the last round of nominees and appointments to crucial positions speak louder than their words. First is was John Brennan to head the CIA, whose dubious record during the Bush/Cheney regime on torture and covering up war crimes was glossed over by Obama. Then there is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, an inveterate liar who has a memory problem as well, “I forgot the Patriot Act.” Really? Clapper also served as an executive for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security company contracted to gather data for the NSA, who employed Edward Snowden.

Now, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Robert Mueller is retiring and who does Obama choose to replace him? Another Bush crony, James B. Comey, who served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Comey, as has been hammered by the Obama administration supporters, blocked, along with Mueller, the Bush administration’s attempt to renew a still secret and illegal surveillance program on Americans’ electronic communications. That incident is only part of Comey’s record at DOJ which includes his support of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. In her article at The Guardian, Laura Murphy reviews Comey stands on these issues and questions just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it?

On Torture

On 30 December 2004, a memo addressed to James Comey was issued that superseded the infamous memo that defined torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure”. The memo to Comey seemed to renounce torture but did nothing of the sort. The key sentence in the opinion is tucked away in footnote 8. It concludes that the new Comey memo did not change the authorizations of interrogation tactics in any earlier memos.

In short, the memo Comey that approved gave a thumbs-up on waterboarding, wall slams, and other forms of torture – all violations of domestic and international law. [..]

On Warrantless Wiretapping

While, to his credit, (Comey) he immediately began raising concerns (pdf), the program was still in existence when the New York Times exposed it in December 2005. This was a year and a half after Comey’s hospital showdown with Gonzales and Card. In fact, the warrantless wiretapping program was supported by a May 2004 legal opinion (pdf) produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and signed off by Comey, which replaced the 2001 legal opinion Comey had problems with (pdf).

This, of course, raises the question: just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it? Last weekend, the Washington Post provided a new theory: the Marina program, which collects internet metadata. Now, the Senate has an opportunity to end the theorizing and find out what exactly Comey objected to.

On Indefinite Detention

The final stain on Comey’s record was his full-throated defense of the indefinite military detention of an American citizen arrested on American soil. In a June 2004 press conference, Comey told of Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida member accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb as well as blow up apartment buildings in an American city. By working for al-Qaida, Padilla, Comey argued, could be deprived of a lawyer and indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant on a military brig off the South Carolina coast for the purpose of extracting intelligence out of him

In a letter to Comey, two Democratic senators, Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, expressed concern on Wednesday about Mr. Comey’s views on waterboarding and his role in approving “enhanced interrogation techniques” while at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration. They are asking Comey to explain his e-mail of April, 2005, where he gave his approval of 13 interrogation techniques that included waterboarding.

. . Mr. Comey gave his assent to a Justice Department legal opinion that authorized the C.I.A. to use 13 interrogation methods, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation. The opinion “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

But he said in the e-mail that he disagreed with another legal opinion addressing the “combined effects” of the harsh methods, suggesting that their use in combination might be illegal. He recorded his views in e-mails to Chuck Rosenberg, then his chief of staff, as if deliberately creating a record in case his position might become relevant to his record in the future, as it has.

Appointing Comey to head the FBI is a another slap in the face to voters to whom Mr. Obama promised that he would end the Bush era abuses. Instead, Mr. Obama and his appointees not only continued these programs but covered up the wrong doing of the past, reinforcing and expanding the abuses.

This is what Barack believes.

Jun 12 2013

When You Support George W. Bush’s Policies, like Obama, I Get to Call You a Republican

Worse than a Republican; I get to call you a fawning sellout with even less principles than the Republican security soccer moms of 2004 that we all remember before. They really believed back then, and still do, that giving up their rights was worth a sense of (fake) security. And you know what? They were more principled than anyone who writes diaries excusing neoconservative policies from the Obama administration that were unacceptable to them when they came from the George W. Bush administration.

Period. End of story. Why? The RW soccer moms didn’t pretend to be outraged about this stuff during the Bush years. They have consistently supported it. So since that is an undeniable fact, I have to ask some of you how it feels to have even less principles than Republican voters who excused and supported some of the worst war crimes in history? How does it feel to enable a Justice Department that has now de facto codified some of the worst war crimes and financial crimes in history? How does it feel now that it is now exposed that, like Republican voters, you need a BS war on terror to feel safe?

How does it feel to repeat the same BS that cretins from the right did in the 2004 election to support their chosen leader? You know that fear mongering bit about “having nothing to hide so then having nothing to worry about?” That came from the RNC, and now that garbage is being recycled by people “who consider themselves Democrats or progressives based mostly on their feelings and nothing more. This similar zeitgeist all started during the run up to the Iraq war after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed when almost no one read the Bill in Congress.

Unlike apparently many people who didn’t really mean it, I was actually horrified by what went on during those years, and yet those same policies continue under President Obama. I’m also horrified that some of the same people who call themselves Democrats are not horrified anymore.

May 24 2013

Holder Must Resign

No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.

  ~Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Judge John Tyler (June 28, 1804)~

The perpetrator of a crime cannot investigate himself. Yet that is what Pres. Barack Obama has proposed over  growing concerns about press freedom following the Justice Department’s secret seizure of AP records and its accusation that Fox News reporter James Rosen could be part of a criminal conspiracy for soliciting information from a source. The president said that he would have Attorney General Eric Holder review the Justice Department guidelines for investigations that involve journalists. Although Holder did not sign the subpoena for the phone records of the Associated Press, Holder had to recuse himself from the investigation because he was in possession of the leaked information. Now, it has been revealed that Holder, himself, who signed the off on the warrant that allowed the Justice Department to search Fox News reporter James Rosen’s personal email.

The report places Holder at the center of one of the most controversial clashes between the press and the government in recent memory. The warrant he approved named Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation, causing many to warn that the Justice Department was potentially criminalizing journalism. The warrant also approved the tracking of Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, as well as his communications with his source, Stephen Kim. [..]

The Attorney General is usually required to approve requests to search journalists’ materials, but that rule does not extend to email records.

Now Pres. Obama says that it will be Holder who reviews the guidelines. This is the man who also said he doesn’t know how many times he had authorized the search of journalists’ records.

In an interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine, has called for Eric Holder’s resignation over spying on journalists and Occupy Wall Street protestors.

Full transcript can be read here and Part 2 of the interview is here

As much as many criticize Fox News and the Associated Press for their penchant for a right wing biased reporting, they are the press. The First Amendment applies to them, as well as, to the other news organizations and their reporters. In this we stand together.

May 15 2013

Trashing Freedom of the Press by the Obama DOJ

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.

~Benjamin Franklin~

   “On Freedom of Speech and the Press”, Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 November 1737

The latest Obama administration headache, “AP-Gate,” that it essentially created on its own, goes the core of the principles on which this country was founded. There is a good reason that the very first amendment addresses freedom of speech and a free press. Yes, at times they have appeared to be just another arm of the government, especially when they spewed the propaganda about 9/11 and Iraq. But every once in awhile they get it right, like the New York Times did on June 13, 1971 when they exposed the dirty secrets of the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration by printing the first segment of the Pentagon Papers. Looking at what happened in the aftermath of those revelations and how it all worked out in the end, reminds us that sometimes government functions in spite of itself.

It’s fairly obvious that the Obama administration is trying to cover its own complicity in what Attorney General Eric Holder labeled among “the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen” putting “the American people at risk.” Those proclamations about that leak are laughable since the reason Holder had recused himself from the investigation is that he, himself, is at the center of the storm, along with the new CIA Director John Brennan. All in the name of the continued cover up of the Bush and Obama war crimes.

In an editorial, the New York Times called out the Obama administration for its “chilling zeal for investigating leaks and prosecuting leakers” and its lack of a credible reason for it “for secretly combing through the phone records of reporters and editors at The Associated Press.”

Both Mr. Holder and Mr. Cole declared their commitment – and that of President Obama – to press freedoms. Mr. Cole said the administration does not “take lightly” such secretive trolling through media records.

We are not convinced. For more than 30 years, the news media and the government have used a well-honed system to balance the government’s need to pursue criminals or national security breaches with the media’s constitutional right to inform the public. This action against The A.P., as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press outlined in a letter to Mr. Holder, “calls into question the very integrity” of the administration’s policy toward the press.

As matter of fact, in September 2009, President Obama did a complete reversal of his position on the reporter shield law that he supported in 2007. What he proposed and Democrats opposed, would have gutted judicial review. Rachel Maddow overlooked that point last night, as well, in an otherwise interesting segment that walks us through the importance of freedom of the press and the serious disregard of the Constitution and rules by the Obama Justice Department. Her guest was David Schulz, a media attorney for more than 30 years now representing the Associated Press.

Eric Holder, like Alberto Gonzalez and John Mitchell, lacks the integrity to hold the office of Attorney General. He should resign immediately.

May 14 2013

Obama DOJ: What First Amendment

I’m proud to be here as you host World Press Freedom Day.  So everybody from the American press corps, you should thank the people of Costa Rica for celebrating free speech and an independent press as essential pillars of our democracy.

~President Obama

Remarks by President Obama and President Chinchilla of Costa Rica in a Joint Press Conference, in National Center for Art and Culture San Jose, Costa Rica, 10 days ago.

That was so ten days ago. The news broke that Obama Department of Justice had secretly seized two months of phone records of the Associated Press reporters and editors.

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.

The president and CEO of AP, Gary Pruitt sent a letter protesting the “massive and unprecedented intrusion” (pdf):

Last Friday afternoon, AP General Counsel Laura Malone received a letter from the office of United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. advising that, at some unidentified time earlier this year, the Department obtained telephone toll records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists. The records that were secretly obtained cover a full two-month period in early 2012 and, at least as described in Mr. Machen’s letter, include all such records for, among other phone lines, an AP general phone number in New York City as well as AP bureaus in New York City, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Connecticut, and at the House of Representatives. This action was taken without advance notice to AP or to any of the affected journalists, and even after the fact no notice has been sent to individual journalists whose home phones and cell phone records were seized by the Department.

There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.(my emphasis)

h/t to Marcy Wheeler who points out the two months, April to May of 2012, that were of interest covered the period that, now CIA Director, John Brennan had rolled out his drone propaganda campaign:

That would mean they’d get the sources for this Kimberly Dozier story published May 21 [..]

Within 10 days of the time Dozier published that story, John Brennan had rolled out an enormous propaganda campaign – based on descriptions of the drone targeting process that Brennan’s power grab had replaced, not the new drone targeting process – that suckered almost everyone commenting on drones that drone targeting retained its previous, more deliberative, targeting process, the one Brennan had just changed.

And that propaganda campaign, in turn, hid another apparent detail: that UndieBomb 2.0, a Saudi sting had actually occurred earlier in April, and that UndieBomb 2.0 preceded and perhaps justified the signature strikes done at the behest of the Yemenis (or more likely the Saudis).

Marcy listed the timeline of the AP stories that were focused on Brennan and the undie bomber. However, it was after the Dozier story that  Brennan began his propaganda campaign to cover up how illegal and uncontrollable the drone program is.

Comparing this to Nixon and Watergate, Charles P. Pierce goes full throttle on why Eric Holder should be fired:

This isn’t hard. This is what made Egil (Bud) Krogh famous. This is what got people sent to jail in the mid-1970’s. This is the Plumbers, all over again, except slightly more formal this time, and laundered, disgracefully, even more directly through the Department Of Justice. And of course, this is not nearly good enough. And even if you point out, as you should, that the AP is hyping this story a little — The government “secretly” obtained the records? Doesn’t that imply that nobody knew the records had been seized? Wasn’t there a subpoena? The phone companies knew. — the ignoble clumsiness of this more than obviates those particular quibbles.

The White House on Monday said that other than press reports it had no knowledge of Justice Department attempts to seek AP phone records. “We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

That is all my arse. At the least, this was a counter-terrorism operation. (Why else would Brennan have been questioned already?). Which puts the whole business inside the White House. And you’d have to be a toddler or a fool to believe that Eric Holder could go off on his own and take as politically volatile a step as this. But, let us take the White House at its word. Eric Holder did this by himself. He should be gone. This moment. Not only is this constitutionally abhorrent, it is politically moronic. Nobody likes the press, I will grant you that, but the administration is soft if it thinks the public distrusts the press that much. And to have this genuinely chilling revelation emerge simultaneously with the Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! mummery and the IRS dumbassery is pretty much a full broadside below the water line of this administration’s credibility. Good god, this is going to be one long-ass summer.

Pres. Obama needs to do damage control starting with throwing Holder to the wolves. I suspect this will be the next congressional investigation in an effort to not just derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign but to build a case for impeachment of Obama for abuse of his executive powers. A long hot summer, indeed.

Mar 11 2013

The Shame of the Democrats and Progressives

The shame of the Democrats and the so-called progressives is that it was a Tea Party Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who stood up for civil liberties and the ever expanding executive power with his thirteen hour filibuster. In his article at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald shreds the progressive Democratic myths and distortions about Sen. Paul’s filibuster and its importance.

In Glenn’s first point, he notes the lack of any empathy for the those whose rights are most abused and dismissed with an “it’s not me; it’s them” attitude.

(1) Progressives and their “empathy gap”

The US government’s continuous killing, due-process-free imprisonment, and other rights abuses under the War on Terror banner has affected one group far more than any other: Muslims and, increasingly, American Muslims. Politically, this has been the key fact enabling this to endure. Put simply, if you’re not Muslim, it’s very easy to dismiss, minimize or mock these issues because you can easily tell yourself that they don’t affect you or your family and therefore there is no reason to care. And since the vast, vast majority of Democratic politicians and progressive media commentators are not Muslim, one continuously sees this mentality shaping reaction to these issues. [..]

For a political faction that loves to depict itself as the champions of “empathy”, and which reflexively accuses others of having their political beliefs shaped by self-interest, this is an ironic fact indeed. It’s also the central dynamic driving the politics of these issues: the US government and media collaborate to keep the victims of these abuses largely invisible, so we rarely have to confront them, and on those rare occasions when we do, we can easily tell ourselves (false though the assurance is) that these abuses do not affect us and our families and it’s therefore only “paranoia” that can explain why someone might care so much about them.

Second, what Sen. Paul’s critics missed, or just blithely ignored, was that this was about the president’s claim to have the authority to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, or for that matter, anywhere else.

(2) Whether domestic assassinations are imminent is irrelevant to the debate

To focus on that attack is an absurd strawman, a deliberate distraction from the real issues, a total irrelevancy. That’s true for two primary reasons.

First, the reason this question matters so much – can the President target US citizens for assassination without due process on US soil? – is because it demonstrates just how radical the Obama administration’s theories of executive power are. Once you embrace the premises of everything they do in this area – we are a Nation at War; the entire globe is the battlefield; the president is vested with the unchecked power to use force against anyone he accuses of involvement with Terrorism – then there is no cogent, coherent way to say that the president lacks the power to assassinate even US citizens on US soil. That conclusion is the necessary, logical outcome of the premises that have been embraced. That’s why it is so vital to ask that. [..]

Second, presidents change, and so do circumstances. The belief that Barack Obama – despite his record – is too kind, too good, too magnanimous, too responsible to target US citizens for assassination on US soil is entirely irrelevant. At some point, there will be another president, even a Republican one, who will inherit the theories he embraces. Moreover, circumstances can change rapidly, so that – just as happened with 9/11 – what seems unthinkable quickly becomes not only possible but normalized.

In his third and final point, debunks the argument that this was over Holder’s first letter to Sen Paul, not that his second was any more satisfactory.

(3) Holder did not disclaim the power to assassinate on US soil

Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a “combatant”, that he was “engaged in combat”, even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was “engaged in combat” at the time he was killed – and it clearly does – then Holder’s letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.

The phrase “engaged in combat” has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of “enemy combatant” have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture. [..]

At best, Holder’s letter begs the question: what do you mean when you accuse someone of being “engaged in combat”? And what are the exact limits of your power to target US citizens for execution without due process? That these questions even need to be asked underscores how urgently needed Paul’s filibuster was, and how much more serious pushback is still merited. But the primary obstacle to this effort has been, and remains, that the Democrats who spent all that time parading around as champions of these political values are now at the head of the line leading the war against them.

This is not a country of secret laws and courts. It is incumbent on the Congress to do its Constitutional duty to question the Executive Branch and hold it in check when it over steps its Constitutional authority.

That this president has expressed the belief that he has the authority to assassinate Americans without due process, and in fact has, should be abhorrent to every American no matter which side of the aisle you favor.  

Mar 08 2013

Eric Holder’s Bad Week

Between having to admit that it was too big to prosecute (TBTP) the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks, his testimony on the legality of targeted assassinations and having to clarify lethal drone attacks on Americans in America after Rand Paul’s thirteen hour filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder has not has a good week.

In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, AG Holder responded to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s concern that the “mentality of too-big-to-jail in the financial sector” was leading to the spread of terrorism (re:HSBC) with this:

HOLDER: The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share. And I’m not talking about HSBC now. That (inaudible) be appropriate.

But I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.

Never mind laundering money for terrorist activity and giving it a pass, it’s all about protecting the world’s 1%. The Federal Reserve just keeps handing them $83 billion in handouts every year while Obama negotiates away Social Security and Medicare benefits at fancy dinners in Washington posh hotels with Republicans.

If they’re TBTP, then it time to break them up

Then came Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s pique over Mr. Holder’s failure to answer three inquiries regarding armed drone attacks on Americans on American soil. Sen Paul’s 13 hour filibuster which at times bizarre (you try talking for that long and not sound a little weird) causing Mr. Holder to back off on his assertion that the president can do just that. In his second letter, Mr. Holder told Sen. Paul that the president would not have the authority to order a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil who was “not engaged in combat.”. How nice, he can’t use drones. But AG holder can take solace, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, John Yoo, thinks thinks “President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing“:

“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.

Now that’s an endorsement you can take to a war crimes trial.

It is unconstitutional to target a group or an individual without due process under Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 of the Constitution which bans bills of attainder, and the Fifth Amendment.

So long as this president has a list of people he thinks can be targeted for assassination without due process, by armed drone or any other means, there are should to be questions and not just from a handful of Tea Party Libertarians. As for AG Holder, if he can’t prosecute banks or uphold the Constitution, then he should be fired, resign or impeached.

 

Mar 06 2013

Holder: The President Can Kill You

I’m not a fan of Rand Paul, the Tea Party backed Republican Senator from Kentucky but I have to give him credit for pushing for an answer to his question “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil.” Sen. Paul sent three letters to CIA director nominee John Brennan and finally got his answer from Brennan and from Attorney General Eric Holder. The answer, in so many words, yes, he can and on American soil without due process.

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The Obama administration has asserted that it believes that “under an extraordinary circumstance,” it has the power to assassinate an American citizen on American soil using lethal force.

…It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001…

Sen. Paul was appalled at Mr. Holder’s response,  “The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

At FDL’s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola had his observation about the letter:

Though Holder noted the country’s “long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located” in America “who pose a threat to the United States” and he contended “the use of military force” would be rejected “where well-established law enforcement authorities in the country provide the best means for incapacitating the terrorist threat,” the mere fact that his answer was a yes is outrageous. However, it fits the framework for fighting a permanent global “War on Terrorism” without any geographical limitations, which the Obama administration has maintained it has the authority to wage.

Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald, speaking at the Freedom to Connect conference, said today, “There is a theoretical framework being built that posits that the US Government has unlimited power, when it comes to any kind of threats it perceives, to take whatever action against them that it wants without any constraints or limitations of any kind.

Paul had to send three letters to Brennan and the question had to be raised by someone in a Google+ chat with the president before the Obama administration would give something resembling an appropriate answer because, as Greenwald suggested saying “yes” would “illustrate the real radicalism that the government has embraced in terms of how it uses its own power.” If they said “no,” it would “jeopardize this critical theoretical foundation that they very carefully have constructed that says there are no cognizable constraints on how US government power can be asserted.”

As it turns out, Holder, the Justice Department and the wider Obama administration opted to not jeopardize the framework.

What Charles Pierce said

This is that into which we have rendered ourselves. As a democracy, we now debate only what kind of monsters we may decide we have to be.

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