Tag Archive: Department of Defense

Mar 23 2015

Espionage: It’s OK If You’re a White General

There is a double standard when it comes to the Obama administration prosecuting individuals for leaking information under the Espionage Act of 1917. If you’re a general in the US military leaking information to a reprter or head of the CIA having an affair, it’s fairly safe to say that you won’t be prosecuted for espionage. The sweetheart deal that was given former CIA director and retired General David Petraeus is a prime example, not a day in jail and he is still in good graces with the White House. I guess when you know where all the bodies are buried you can get away with anything. But that doesn’t excuse the Obama administrations fervor for prosecution the whistleblowers who outed crimes and constitutional violations.

Obama’s war on whistleblowers leaves administration insiders unscathed

By Spencer Ackerman and Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Five key political players enjoy ‘virtual impunity’ – while four lower-level figures are in prison or facing time

Since Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, his government has waged a war against whistleblowers and official leakers. On his watch, there have been eight prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act – more than double those under all previous presidents combined.

And yet other apparent leaks have gone entirely unpunished or have been treated, as in the case of General David Petraeus, as misdemeanors. As Abbe Lowell, lawyer for one of the Espionage Act eight, Stephen Kim, has argued in a letter to the Department of Justice, low-level officials who lack the political connections to fight back have had the book thrown at them, while high-level figures have been allowed to leak with “virtual impunity”.

Lawyers for CIA Leaker Cite Selective Prosecution After Petraeus Plea Deal

By Peter Maas, The Intercept

Lawyers for Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official convicted earlier this year of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, have requested a reconsideration of his conviction because two former generals, David Petraeus and James Cartwright, have received far more lenient treatment for what they call similar offenses. [..]

In January, Sterling was convicted by a jury on nine criminal counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, for leaking classified information to Times reporter James Risen about a CIA effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Sterling is to be sentenced in April and faces a maximum sentence of decades in jail. In a statement after the verdict was announced, Attorney General Eric Holder called the guilty verdict a “just and appropriate outcome.”

But the government is coming under increasing criticism for its uneven prosecution of leakers.

Earlier this month, Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the director of the CIA, reached an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information when he gave his lover and authorized biographer, Paula Broadwell, eight notebooks filled with highly-classified information about military plans and secret programs, covert agent names, and confidential discussions he had with senior officials including President Obama. Petraeus, who resigned from the CIA when his affair with Broadwell was revealed, also admitted to lying to the FBI, but he was not charged for that. The plea agreement calls for two years probation and a $40,000 fine but no jail time.

No charges have been filed against Cartwright even though it has been reported that federal prosecutors believe he leaked highly classified information to Times reporter David Sanger about a joint effort by the U.S. and Israel to cripple Iran’s nuclear centrifuges through a cyber-attack with a computer worm called Stuxnet. According to The Washington Post, the FBI has interviewed Cartwright on at least two occasions but has stopped short of indicting him.

National Security & Human Rights director Jesselyn Radack, who is also the lawyer for whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté about the White House’s double standard.



The full transcript can be read here

It’s OK if you’re a white general and know where all the bodies are.

Jun 25 2014

Obama, Barack Obama 007: License to Kill

Three years ago the Unites States on the orders of President Barack Obama assassinated a native born American citizen, Anwar al Awlaki, in Yemen, using the rational that he was an “immanent threat” and, well, because they could. To this day, other than al-Awlaki’s videos and writing, that are covered under the First Amendment, there has been no evidence that this man was an immanent threat to the security of United States. No evidence, no indictment, no trial. Just a clear violation of al-Awlaki’s rights as an American.

One of the memos that was used to justify this murder was released this week after the Obama administration’s loss of a FOIA request by the ACLU and the New York Times. Needless to say, the memo written by Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel, and now United States Circuit Judge, David Barron, is heavily redacted. The memo is, as the New York Times Editorial Board so blithely put it, “a slapdash pastiche of legal theories – some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law – that was clearly tailored to the desired result”.

Citing the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), that started the nebulous “global war on terror,” is hardly a defense for taking a man’s life without due process under our laws and wouldn’t hold water in any legitimate court like the Hague.

From Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian

The redacted version of the memo released Monday does not reveal much of the factual basis for the government’s claims that Awlaki represented an imminent threat to the United States.

In the disclosed portions, Barron’s memo does not explicitly vouch for the government’s case against Awlaki, referring instead to “the facts represented to us”. It refers instead to Awlaki as a “leader” who was “continuously planning attacks” against the US, without providing an evidentiary basis for claims central to the extraordinary circumvention of normal due process procedures. Nor do the public sections explain why capturing Awlaki was not feasible, nor why the Justice Department believes it need not have provided Awlaki with judicial process. [..]

The Justice Department memo “confirms that the government’s drone killing program is built on gross distortions of law”, said Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who challenged the Awlaki killing, who added that the “forced transparency comes years late”.

Rejecting a government argument that the release of the memorandum would chill attorney-client communications, the court wrote on Monday: “If this contention were upheld, waiver of privileges protecting legal advice would never occur. … We need not fear that OLC will lack for clients.”

The real in depth analysis of the memo comes from Marcy Wheeler, who dissects the memo paragraph by paragraph, here and here.

As Tim cushing at Techdirt writes, the “AUMF trumps all and rights are subject to revocation in times of war.”

The justifications listed below constantly cite 18 USC 1119(b), a law that simply states that it’s illegal for a US citizen to kill another US citizen residing outside US borders, making them subject to the United States’ laws on murder and manslaughter. But what looks simple and solid on the law books is apparently filled with loopholes and things Congress meant to make clear but apparently didn’t. [..]

On page 73, the DOJ notes that there’s actually no federal statute that grants the government the same “rights” (in terms of justified use of deadly force) local law enforcement agencies enjoy, but that doesn’t slow down the rationalizing. The DOJ looks back through legislative to find something that might apply to its drone attacks. But what it quotes here has nothing to do with executions. [..]

Technically, we’re not “at war” anywhere in the world. There’s no declared war, other than the one on terrorism, which the DOJ terms (using the AUMF wording) a “non-international armed conflict.” If this is the justification, terming anything a “war on…” would justify extrajudicial killing, because no one expects murder charges to be brought against them during normal acts of war (i.e., combatants killing other combatants).

Because the AUMF says we can detain a US citizen who is assisting our enemies, it also means we can kill a US citizen who does the same.

The question of what makes it legal to kill an American overseas is still unanswered.  

Feb 26 2014

The Truth About the Pentagon’s New Budget

The Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the upcoming Pentagon budget would focus on the 21st century realities of warfare with more emphasis on targeted assassinations and cyberwarfare. It also cuts the strength of the Army to pre-World War Two levels relying more heavily on the National Guard.

   Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001 [..]

   The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel’s budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will – at least for one year – maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11.

The Guard and Reserves, which proved capable in their wartime deployments although costly to train to meet the standards of their full-time counterparts, would face smaller reductions. But the Guard would see its arsenal reshaped.

The Guard’s Apache attack helicopters would be transferred to the active-duty Army, which would transfer its Black Hawk helicopters to the Guard. The rationale is that Guard units have less peacetime need for the bristling array of weapons on the Apache and would put the Black Hawk – a workhorse transport helicopter – to use in domestic disaster relief.

The proposed budget would also eliminate the old U-2 spy plane in favor of unmanned drones and eliminate the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft. However, it does keep the allocations for the controversial F-35 warplane, which has been extremely expensive and has run into costly delays, that the Air Force says it doesn’t want.

There will be pain for the troops, too.

The fiscal 2015 budget also calls for slowing the growth of tax-free housing allowances for military personnel and would reduce the $1.4 billion direct subsidy provided to military commissaries, which would most likely make goods purchased at those commissaries more expensive for soldiers.

The budget also proposes an increase in health insurance deductibles and some co-pays for some military retirees and for some family members of active servicemen.

The savings on groceries will reduced, costing a military family as much as $3000 per year, and pay raises will be capped:

Besides paring back grocery savings, the Pentagon would also cap military pay raises at 1% in 2015 and trim housing subsidies for families who don’t live on bases. They will also no longer be reimbursed for rental insurance.

Families are likely to feel the sharpest pain every week when they shop for their grocery. By the end of the third year, the savings will be slashed by about two-thirds, a senior defense official acknowledged on Monday.

Currently, a family of four can save $4,500 a year at commissaries on average, according to the Defense Commissary Agency, which puts savings around 30% compared to retail grocery stores. Under the new proposal, the savings for a similar family would be closer to $1,500 a year or 10% of a grocery bill at other stores.

Despite these cuts and the claims, this hardly an austerity budget still exceeding the budgets of next ten military budgets in the world combined.

A better idea, as suggested by DSWright at FDL News Desk would be “to rethink 800 military bases and a $700 billion annual budget to defend against an enemy that no longer exists.” But the fear mongers will persist regardless:

Despite ‘historic’ cuts, the US will still have 450,000 active-duty soldiers

By Michael Cohen, The Guardian

The Pentagon is able to maintain a bloated and extravagant military force even when the US faces no actual security threats

Rather than a reflection of a changing global security environment, the growing and continued obsolescence of inter-state war and the country’s lack of interest in future military adventures, the cuts announced yesterday by Hagel are an indication of something else altogether: how tenaciously the Pentagon is able to maintain a bloated and extravagant military force even when the US faces no actual security threats.

Indeed, what was missing from yesterday’s headlines was some much needed context. For example, “smallest size since 1940” sounds, on the surface, like quite a step back. Did Neville Chamberlain rise from his grave and become president of the United States? Let’s put aside for a second that the size of the army in 1940 was about 270,000 and the Marine Corps stood at about 30,000 – a far cry from the proposed 180,000 today.

The truth is the military budget is still bloated with wasted tax dollars that could got to rebuilding the US infrastructure that would create jobs increasing economic growth and reducing income disparity.

Oct 18 2013

Homeland Security Nominee an Assassination Apologist

A high up administration official, speaking anonymously, confirmed rumors that former Defense Department general counsel, Jeh Johnson, is President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Napolitano stepped down in August to become president of the University of California.

In an article at Washington’s blog that outlines Johnson’s career at DoD, it is not surprising that as the top Pentagon lawyer Johnson was the lead apologist for the endless war on terror and the abuses of the Obama administration, including arguing for the justification of targeted assassinations including American citizens, as reported by the Associated Press in 2011.

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.

***

The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

In a speech at Yale Law School in 2012, Johnson said

Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives.

Washington Blog also noted a major concern about Johnson’s Yale speech:

[..] Johnson invoked a lawsuit filed by Mr. Awlaki’s father before the killing that had sought an injunction against targeting his son, citing with approval a district judge’s decision to dismiss the case and saying that targeting decisions are not suited to court review because they must be made quickly and based on fast-evolving intelligence.

***

“The legal point is important because, in fact, over the last 10 years Al Qaeda has not only become more decentralized, it has also, for the most part, migrated away from Afghanistan to other places where it can find safe haven,” Mr. Johnson said.

This is particularly concerning since the U.S. wants to expand the assassination program to cover “ASSOCIATES of ASSOCIATES” of Al Qaeda … and blurs the lines between bad guys and average Americans.    This violates a little thing called the Fifth Amendment.

The Washington Post points out:

[A senior administration official] added that Johnson was “responsible for the prior legal review and approval of every military operation approved by the president and secretary of defense” during Obama’s first term.

That presumably includes supporting Al Qaeda in Libya.

This is the Wikipedia summation of Johnson’s tenure at the Defense Deaprtment that began in January of 2009:

As General Counsel of the Defense Department, Johnson was a major player in certain key priorities of the Obama Administration, and he is considered one of the legal architects of the U.S. military’s current counterterrorism policies. In 2009, Johnson was heavily involved in the reform of military commissions, and testified before Congress numerous times in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2009. [..]

In January 2011, Johnson provoked controversy when, according to a Department of Defense news story, he asserted in a speech at the Pentagon that deceased civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite King’s outspoken opposition to American interventionism during his lifetime. Johnson argued that American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq were playing the role of the Good Samaritan, consistent with Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs, and that they were fighting to establish the peace for which Dr. King hoped. Jeremy Scahill called Johnson’s remarks “one of the most despicable attempts at revisionist use of Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve ever seen,” while Justin Elliott of Salon.com argued that based on Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War, he would likely have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the covert wars in Pakistan and Yemen. Cynthia Kouril has defended Johnson’s remarks, arguing in her blog that his speech has been misinterpreted.

In a February 2011, speech to the New York City Bar Association, Johnson “acknowledged the concerns raised” about the detention of alleged WikiLeaks source Private Bradley Manning and “stated that he had personally traveled to Quantico to conduct an investigation.” Human rights attorney and journalist Scott Horton wrote that “Johnson was remarkably unforthcoming about what he discovered and what conclusions he drew from his visit.

Johnson’s tenure as General Counsel was also notable for several high-profile speeches he gave on national security. In a speech he delivered at the Heritage Foundation in October 2011, Johnson warned against “over-militarizing” the U.S. government’s approach to counterterrorism: “There is risk in permitting and expecting the U.S. military to extend its powerful reach into areas traditionally reserved for civilian law enforcement in this country.”  

Finally, at the Oxford Union in England in November 2012, shortly before his resignation, Johnson delivered a widely noted address entitled “The conflict against al Qaeda and its affiliates: how will it end?” in which he predicted a “tipping point” at which the U.S. government’s efforts against al Qaeda should no longer be considered an armed conflict, but a more traditional law enforcement effort against individual terrorists.

Johnson’s speech in England was highly praised for the acknowledgment that the war on terror would eventually come to an end but, as Bob Deyfuss noted in his article at The Nation on Johnson’s nomination, actions speak louder that words:

Problem is, of course, until that as-yet-undefined moment when the “war” against Al Qaeda ends and the “counterterrorism effort against individuals” begins has not, it appears, yet occurred-at least in the eyes of the Obama administration. So, as a result, the White House continues to order drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere, launch Special Forces raids to kill or capture alleged Al Qaeda officials in Africa and Asia, and, in Afghanistan, insist on the continuing right of U.S. forces to seek and destroy Al Qaeda units in that country, even though experts say only about 75 members of the organization remain there. And, as long as the “war” continues, then everything that goes with it-extra-judicial detention of captured fighters, vast electronic surveillance of U.S. and foreign citizens by the National Security Agency and its partners, the Guantanamo prison, and the rest, continues too. All of that, in his Oxford speech, Johnson-as the then-DOD lawyer-was willing to support, justify and explain, even while admitting, as he did:

Some legal scholars and commentators in our country brand the detention by the military of members of al Qaeda as “indefinite detention without charges.” Some refer to targeted lethal force against known, identified individual members of al Qaeda as “extrajudicial killing.”

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal, in reporting Johnson’s 2012 speech, noted that in fact it was delivered primarily as a justification to the Europeans for Obama’s widely reviled counterterrorism policies:

Pentagon officials and legal experts also noted that Mr. Johnson chose to deliver the speech in the United Kingdom, in part to reassure European allies about the Obama administration’s legal justification for its continuing war on al Qaeda as well as other counterterrorism operations.

“It’s important that the DOD General Counsel has chosen to give this speech in Britain where many legal experts disagree with the concept that the U.S. is in a war with al Qaeda,” said John Bellinger, a former State Department legal adviser during the George W. Bush administration. “Most of the previous speeches by administration officials have been given inside the U.S.”

Anyone who thought that New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly was a terrible choice for head of DHS was just proven wrong. Don’t let Johnson;s support of the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” fool you, he makes Kelly look like a good guy.  

May 23 2013

Yes, We Did Assassinate Four Americans, But

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- VT) (pdf), Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen.

In conducting U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and its associated forces, the government has targeted and killed one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and is aware of the killing by U.S. drones of three others, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Holder said three other Americans were killed by drones in counterterrorism operations since 2009 but were not targeted. The three are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a native of Denver, who also was killed in Yemen two weeks later; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

AGLetter5-22-13

Attorney Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department ethics attorney who blew the whistle in the case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, in a blog post writes:

The biggest revelation in Holder’s letter  – that the U.S. has droned a fourth American, Jude Kenen Mohammed  – is also the greatest of many deficiencies. All Holder says is the U.S. killed but didn’t target these two American men (Mohammed and Samir Kahn) and one American child (al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son). [..]

Ms. Raddack points out that while the letter includes new and credulous accusations about al-Awlaki posing an “imminent threat”, it tells us nothing about how the other Americans ended up being killed by drones. Good question, that I doubt we’ll ever get an answer.

The other point MS. Raddack makes goes to the public’s right to know the legal justification that was given to the president by the Office of Legal Council:

If Holder wants to draw a distinction between Americans that the U.S. government targets and kills without due process and those Americans that the U.S. government kills without due process but doesn’t target, then the American people are entitled to know the legal basis for when the government finds it acceptable to make Americans collateral damage in the legally-unsustainable, morally-reprehensible unilateral drone drops.

There are lots of questions. If these three Americans were not the targets, then who were they targeting? And why?

In an interview this morning on Democracy Now, author and journalist, Jeremy Scahill say that this admission “raises more questions than it answers“:

“In Eric Holder’s letter,” Scahill stated, “he talks about how Anwar Awlaki was actively involved in imminent plots against the United States, that he had directed the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a U.S. airplane over the city of Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. And what’s interesting is that all of these allegations are made by Eric Holder, but no actual evidence has ever been presented against Awlaki to indicate that he played the role that Eric Holder is asserting. His trial was basically just litigated through leaks in the press. He was never indicted on any of these charges. And Holder, in fact, in his letter, says that we have all of this evidence, but it’s too dangerous to be made public. And so, there’s really a continuation of a posthumous trial of Anwar Awlaki through leaks and now through this letter from Eric Holder.”

Scahill notes that the details of the death of Jude Mohammad, who had been indicted, have not been released; that there were no criminal charges against Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American from North Carolina who was killed alongside al-Awlaki; and Holder used an curious phrase, “not specifically targeted,” referencing the death of 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.



Full transcript is here

He goes on:

“You know, what does that phrase mean? It’s almost like an Orwellian statement, ‘not specifically targeted.’ Well, it could mean that these individuals were killed in the signature strikes that you mentioned, which is a sort of form of pre-crime, where the U.S. determines that any military-aged males in a targeted area are in fact terrorists, and their deaths will be registered as having killed terrorists or militants. So, it’s possible that the other Americans that were killed were killed in these so-called signature strikes.

“But in the case of this 16-year-old boy, it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s a coincidence that two weeks after his father is killed, he just happens to be killed in a U.S. drone strike. And there were leaks at the time from U.S. officials telling journalists that, oh, he actually was 21 years old, he was at an al-Qaida meeting. But they’ve never been able to identify who they killed in that strike. And the Obama administration has never publicly taken on the fact that they killed one of their own citizens who was a teenage boy. There are no answers to that question. So, I think that there has to be a far more intense scrutiny of the statements of the attorney general and also what we understand the president is going to say later.”

Yes, the Obama administration assassinated four Americans, but …..

President Barack Obama’s speech on his never ending war on terror.

In short, war for without end anywhere on earth because the president said so.

 

Mar 22 2013

CIA Drones War Shift To Pentagon

Earlier this week it was leaked to the press by those “anonymous White House sources” that the CIA’s drone program would be gradually transferred to the Pentagon supposedly making oversight by Congress more transparent and according to Daniel Klaidman, who first reported the shift at the Daily Beast it would also toughen the “criteria for drone” strikes and “strengthen the program’s accountability:”

Currently, the government maintains parallel drone programs, one housed in the CIA and the other run by the Department of Defense. The proposed plan would unify the command and control structure of targeted killings and create a uniform set of rules and procedures. The CIA would maintain a role, but the military would have operational control over targeting. Lethal missions would take place under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs military operations, rather than Title 50, which sets out the legal authorities for intelligence activities and covert operations. [..]

Officials anticipate a phased-in transition in which the CIA’s drone operations would be gradually shifted over to the military, a process that could take as little as a year. Others say it might take longer but would occur during President Obama’s second term. [..]

uring that time, CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles. Officials told The Daily Beast that a potential downside of the agency’s relinquishing control of the program was the loss of a decade of expertise that the CIA has developed since it has been prosecuting its war in Pakistan and beyond. At least for a period of transition, CIA operators would likely work alongside their military counterparts to target suspected terrorists.

Spencer Ackerman at The Wire, doesn’t think that this is much of a change. The CIA will still be involved telling military personnel what and who to target. Nor does Ackerman think that the program will be more transparent:

The congressional reporting requirements for so-called Title 50 programs (stuff CIA does, to be reductive) are more specific than those for Title 10 (stuff the military does, to be reductive). But the armed services committees tend to have unquestioned and broader oversight functions than the intelligence committees enjoy, not to mention better relationships with the committees: Witness the recent anger in the Senate intelligence committee that the CIA lied to it about its torture programs. The military is more likely than the CIA to openly testify about future drone operations, allow knowledgeable congressional staff into closed-door operational briefings and allow members of Congress to take tours of drone airbases.

As, Klaidman pointed out this could lead to even less transparency since there is nothing in the law that requires the military to account for its lethal operations while the CIA is obligated to report its activities.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which has oversight of the CIA, expressed her concerns

Feinstein told reporters her “mind, certainly, is not made up.” But she quickly added she has reservations about turning over to the military the CIA’s armed drone fleet and the missions they conduct.

   During the last few years, she said, “We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program: how they function. The quality of the intelligence. Watching the agency exercise patience and discretion,” Feinstein said.

   “The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well,” she said. “That causes me concern. This is a discipline that is learned, that is carried out without infractions…. It’s not a hasty decision that’s made. And I would really have to be convinced that the military would carry it out that way.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) preferred the program be transferred to Defense bringing it under the House and Senate Armed Services Committees:

“I believe the majority of the responsibility for this should rest with the military,” McCain told reporters Tuesday. [..]

“The majority of it can be conducted by the Department of Defense,” McCain said. “It’s not the job of the Central Intelligence Agency. … It’s the military’s job.”

Transferring the program to the Pentagon — and under the auspices of the House and Senate Armed Services committees — would create more “openness” and “oversight” and public hearings about the program, he said.

In reality, the Obama administration would still be running a secretive and questionably legal program.

Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” gives a a short history of the CIA and talks with former congressman and now MSNBC contributor, Patrick Murphy, who served on the House Armed Services Committee, about oversight of the drone program.

Mar 30 2012

The Generals Strike Back

It would seem the Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) thinks that that he knows more about what the Defense Department needs to spend than the Generals that run the Pentagon:

   House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed skepticism Thursday that U.S. military leaders were being honest in their budget requests to Congress.

   “We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice,” Ryan said during a forum on the budget sponsored by the National Journal. “We don’t think the generals believe their budget is really the right budget….

   He went on to say that while there were certainly inefficiencies that could be reduced in the Pentagon’s budget, fighting wars in the Middle East and a “dangerous world” necessitated keeping defense spending level.

   The comments were in response to a question from National Journal managing editor Kristin Roberts, who asked Ryan why the committee chose “to go against the advice of the generals” in rolling back $487 billion in proposed cuts to the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade.

Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly must have been smiling when he noted that the interview got even better:

   After Ryan’s initial remarks, Roberts noted that the budget was something that came from the Defense Department itself, not the Obama administration.

   “You don’t believe the generals?” Roberts asked.

   “What I believe is this budget does hollow out defense,” Ryan responded. “I believe this budget goes beyond where we should go to keep people safe.”

So this “genius” budgeter, whose party is always happy to defer to the generals when the generals say what they want to hear, is putting a couple of stars on his shoulder and dictating what the Pentagon needs to “keep people safe.” That’s particularly amazing since General Ryan is under fire from every direction for failing to offer a credible plan to reach his own arbitrary deficit reduction targets.

The Generals apparently did not take too kindly to Ryan calling them liars. This was Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey response:

“There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

Dempsey added that the budget “was a collaborative effort” among top military officers and combat leaders.

The military faces $487 billion in cuts in the next decade as part of a budget deal reached last summer. The cuts reflect ongoing drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rest, unfortunately, is behind the Wall Street Journal‘s firewall.

David Dayen had a good summery of the “spat” and just how much of a “hawk” Ryan is:

Now, keep in mind that the Obama Administration’s “cuts” to the military budget aren’t cuts. They just slow growth over time. And the Pentagon doesn’t even contemplate the mandated trigger cuts that are coming at the end of the year, which fall in large part on the defense budget. [..]

The proof that the military budgeting represented a collaborative effort, of course, is that it doesn’t cut the military budget all that much.

But it’s worth re-emphasizing that Paul Ryan called the entire military brass a bunch of liars who gave false testimony to Congress. And he will not listen to their calls for even modest trims to their funding. This makes him the very serious budget hawk in Washington.

Man the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! And damn the consequences.

 

Jul 16 2011

Obama Wants DADT Reinstated (Up Dated)

The Department of Justice has filed a brief in the 9th Circuit Court to reinstate DADT that was ordered immediately stopped by the court. The brief cited “real and immediate harm.” Now remember, the DOJ has decided not to enforce the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) or to defend it from being overturned as it winds its way through the courts. Knowing that, I would not want to be the US Attorney trying to explain the rational for this request to the judges of the 9th Circuit.

David Dayen at FDL sheds some light on this seemingly paradoxical pursuit:

The meat of the DoJ order is right here:

   In sum, the government argues that lifting the stay unjustifiably takes the authority for repealing DADT away from the executive branch and it does so, at least in part, because of confusion by the Ninth Circuit panel regarding the DOJ’s view of whether DADT is constitutional after the passage of the repeal act and regarding the application of the DOJ’s DOMA decisions to military laws like DADT.

The executive branch wants to defend its policy work and doesn’t want the court bigfooting around finding its laws unconstitutional. Unless we’re talking about DOMA, where that’s precisely what DoJ has requested.

It looks like a question of who gets the power to overturn DADT. The President wants his signing ceremony.

The court is confused? Well, they’re not alone and that twisted argument made my back hurt. The reality is that this is all about the president’s ego and reelection and those pesky gays should be grateful.

Up Date: From John Aravosis at AMERICAblog Gay

9th Circuit again tells Obama administration to stop discharging gays

Oral arguments are set for September 1st in Pasadena, CA.

Jul 07 2011

9th Circuit Court Orders Military To Stop Enforcing DADT

Court Rules Against Ban on Gays in the Military

The government must stop enforcing the law that prohibits openly gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from serving in the military, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a two-page order against the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” in a case brought by the group Log Cabin Republicans.

In 2010, a federal judge in California, Virginia A. Phillips, ruled that the law was unconstitutional and ordered the government to stop enforcing it. That decision was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which issued a stay allowing the government to continue enforcing the policy as it made its way through the courts.

Congress repealed the policy last year, but called for a lengthy process of preparation, training and certification, still under way, before ending it. While the government has significantly narrowed enforcement, some discharges continued. And while the Obama administration had advocated the Congressional repeal, it had asked the court to keep the stay in place until the policy could be ended in an orderly fashion.

This is very welcome news. Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog Gay gives the best explanation of what this ruling means:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay of the District Court’s injunction against enforcing DADT. When DADT was found unconstitutional in the Log Cabin case last October, the District Court judge issued an injunction against its enforcement. And, Judge Phillips refused to grant a stay pending appeal. Despite numerous requests (including 21 U.S. Senators) that the Department of Justice not appeal this decision, DOJ did. DOJ also immediately went to the Ninth Circuit asking for a stay pending appeal, which was granted. Today, the Ninth Circuit lifted that stay, meaning DADT can’t be enforced anywhere in the world.

It is still not safe for gays in the military to reveal themselves. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, deocrated US Air Force fighter pilot, appeared with Rachel Maddow to discuss the aspects of this latest ruling