Tag Archive: ACLU

Mar 18 2019

The Trump Regime’s Handmaids

There are no words for the disgusting policies of the Trump regime but this one really will make you stomach turn: In November 2018, Scott Lloyd was removed from his post at the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) after an ACLU lawsuit revealed he was reportedly mishandling abortion requests from migrant teenagers. Elite Daily reached …

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Mar 10 2014

Ed Snowden’s conversation with the ACLU at SXSW this morning.

“A Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden”

Dec 31 2013

Every Stroke You Make

Yes, quite literally the NSA will be watching every keystroke you make on you computer, cell phone, or i-pad. How you say? Quite simply collusion with the the telecommunications industry along with companies like Microsoft and through its special unit of hackers within the agency’s department for Tailored Access Operations (TAO). In an article in Der Spiegel, these specialists are described as as “master carpenters” who step in when the usual hacking and data-skimming methods fail. These hackers at ANT, which may stand for Advanced or Access Network Technology, step in with their special tools to get the job done.

These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, and from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000. [..]

Some of the equipment available is quite inexpensive. A rigged monitor cable that allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor,” for example, is available for just $30. But an “active GSM base station” — a tool that makes it possible to mimic a mobile phone tower and thus monitor cell phones — costs a full $40,000. Computer bugging devices disguised as normal USB plugs, capable of sending and receiving data via radio undetected, are available in packs of 50 for over $1 million. [..]

The ANT division doesn’t just manufacture surveillance hardware. It also develops software for special tasks. The ANT developers have a clear preference for planting their malicious code in so-called BIOS, software located on a computer’s motherboard that is the first thing to load when a computer is turned on.

In another article at FDL‘s Dissenter, Peter Van Buren notes that private enterprise have also become the “tools of the national security state

Once the NSA identifies a “target” (whom we’ll refer here to as “You”), the NSA needs to know when You order a new laptop they want to intercept. That means the NSA has to spy on Your credit card, Your online activities and/or probe into the ordering systems of places like Amazon, Dell and the like. Perhaps there is a sort of “no fly” list distributed to manufacturers that requires notification to the NSA when someone like You on it buys something. Or all of the above.

The NSA then must know when and how Your laptop will be sent to you. That means they need to have been accessing the computer systems of Amazon, Dell and the like, and/or UPS, Fedex and other shippers. Or all of the above.

The NSA then has to have physical access to the warehouse of the shipping company. Or, the shipping company has to agree to mark your package, and deliver it instead to an NSA location. That all means the shipping companies are in on the NSA plot, or the NSA has to be hacking into the shipping companies’ data systems and substituting their address for Yours.

Once in NSA hands, Your package has to be opened, and Your laptop must be altered in some undetectable way. They can’t steam open a box like a letter in the old movies; someone has to open it physically and then get it all buttoned up again without a trace. Does the NSA have a way to unstick packing tape and reseal internal bags, or do they have a ready supply from Dell and Apple of packing materials?

Lastly, the NSA has to return the package into the shipping stream. That means the box, with say Amazon’s return address and Your home address, has to reenter say Fedex’s system from a third location without too many people knowing it happened. It would not do for the low-level UPS guy to pick up a ton of boxes everyday from a nondescript warehouse, all with third-party address labels. This strongly suggests cooperation by the shipping companies.

You then open Your new laptop on Christmas morning. Yeah, be sure to select a secure password. [..]

What we have here is an example of the depths into which You have fallen. The government has recruited private industry into its national security state, down to the level of the Fedex guy delivering packages to Your door in time for Christmas. For those of You who still foolishly insist that such spying is OK because they “have nothing to hide,” I sure as hell hope You are right, because whatever You do have now belongs to Them.

It is fairly certain that whether or not the NSA will be allowed to continues its bulk collection of data will be argued before the Supreme Court after two conflicting ruling from lower courts on the constitutionality of the program. Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director and director of its Center for Democracy; and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks joined Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! to discuss the court rulings and how the NSA can literally watch every keystroke you make.



Transcript can gbe read here.



Transcript can be read here

Thank you, Edward Snowden.

Jul 28 2013

Obama: Killing Children Is Above The Law

The government has killed a 16-year-old American boy. Shouldn’t it at least have to explain why?  

~Nasser al-Awlaki~

Nasser al-Awlaki: “My Grandson Was Killed by His Own Government”

by Jim White, emptywheel

While the nation grieves over the senseless death of Trayvon Martin and the missed opportunity to hold his killer responsible for that death, there is another senseless death of an American teenager of color where an attempt is continuing, after previous failures, to hold accountable those responsible for the lawless way in which this life was arbitrarily ended.

Exactly one year ago today, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of Nasser al-Awlaki (father of Anwar al-Awlaki and grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) and Sarah Khan (wife of Samir Khan). The defendants in the case are former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Commander of Special Operations Command William McRaven, Commander of Joint Special Operations Command Joseph Votel and former CIA Head David Petraeus. The complaint cites violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments as well as violation of the Bill of Attainder Clause in the targeted killings of Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahaman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. [..]

Given what is known about the role of Barack Obama in these killings and his personal authorization of the “kill list” in his Terror Tuesday meetings, I find it perplexing that he is not also a defendant in this case.

The complaint seeks damages in an amount to be determined at the trial and any other relief the court deems just and proper.

Coincident with the filing of the complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia a year ago, the video above was released.

Sadly, we can state with confidence that even before the proceedings open the government will argue that it does not have to explain why it killed Abdulrahman. Because terror. Even more sadly, it is quite likely that the court will side with this senseless and lawless argument. Because terror.

What has our country become?

US government argues drone strikes are above the law

by David Sirota, Salon

A new lawsuit challenges whether counterterrorist officials should be allowed to operate without fear of litigation

Court cases are often cures for insomnia, but every so often a lawsuit is an eye-opening journey through the looking glass. One of those is suddenly upon us – and we should be thankful because it finally provides an unfiltered look at our government.

You may not know about this case, but you should. Called Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, it illustrates the extremism driving the policies being made in the public’s name. [..]

But perhaps the most important thing to know about this case is what the government is arguing about the law itself. In defending the administration, Hauck asserted that such suits should not be permitted because they “don’t want these counterterrorism officials distracted by the threat of litigation.”

The radical message is obvious: Yes, the government now claims that America should not want public officials to have to consider the constraints of the law.

If this harrowing doctrine sounds familiar, that’s because the sentiment behind it has been creeping into our political dialogue for years. [..]

Consider, though, what’s more dangerous: a government that has to momentarily think about following the law when using violence or a government that gets to use such violence without having to think at all?

Government officials pretend they have the only answer to that question. But Nasser Al-Aulaqi’s dead grandson suggests there is a far more accurate answer than the one those officials are offering.

 

Feb 15 2013

Drones: Now You See Them; Now You Don’t

I think the Obama administration has lost its collective mind and thinks that we are all too stupid to notice, but this is beyond absurd.

Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists

by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

As the nation spent the week debating the CIA assassination program, Obama lawyers exploit secrecy to shield it from all review

It is not news that the US government systematically abuses its secrecy powers to shield its actions from public scrutiny, democratic accountability, and judicial review. But sometimes that abuse is so extreme, so glaring, that it is worth taking note of, as it reveals its purported concern over national security to be a complete sham.

Such is the case with the Obama DOJ’s behavior in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU (pdf) against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama’s CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the “targeted killing” program: such as “the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out.”

Everyone in the world knows that the CIA has a targeted killing program whereby it uses drones to bomb and shoot missiles at those it wants dead, including US citizens. This is all openly discussed in every media outlet.

Key Obama officials, including the president himself, not only make selective disclosures about this program but openly boast about its alleged successes. Leon Panetta, then the CIA Director, publicly said all the way back in 2009 when asked about the CIA drone program: “I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective because they have been very precise.” In 2010, Panetta, speaking to the Washington Post, hailed the CIA drone program in Pakistan as “the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history”. This is just a partial sample of Obama official boasts about this very program (for more, see pages 15 to 28 here).

Despite all that, the Obama DOJ from the start has refused not only to provide the requested documents about the CIA drone program, but they refuse to say whether such documents even exist. They do so by insisting that whether there even exists such a thing as a “CIA drone program” is itself classified, and therefore, they can neither admit nor deny whether they possess any of the documents sought by the FOIA request: “the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified,” repeats the Obama DOJ over and over like some hypnotic Kafkaesque mantra.

Obama’s Reverse Imaginary Friend, the Assassination Robot

bt Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

The Obama Administration is getting more and more like that crazy old man in the park talking to an imaginary friend. Only it works in reverse. It sends out real people to engage in hours of conversations with other real people about a real topic and then pretends both were pretend.

It sends John Brennan to the Senate for 3.5 hours where he has conversations about drones over and over with people, never once claiming not to understand what they mean when they discuss drones and/or targeted killing. [..]

And yet in spite of the fact that Brennan talks about lethal strikes over and over, the government maintains (pdf) that none of these conversations – none of these mentions of lethal strikes – amounts to an admission that the government is, in fact, conducting lethal strikes.

   Plaintiffs also cite the transcript of the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the nominee for Director of Central Intelligence. They assert that “the nominee . . . and members of the committee extensively discussed various aspects of the CIA’s targeted killing program . . . .” However, plaintiffs identify no statement in which Mr. Brennan allegedly confirms purported CIA involvement in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for “targeted killing.” Rather, plaintiffs cite instances in which members of Congress mentioned “targeted killing,” and general discussions of “targeted killing” that do not address the involvement of any particular agency.

Well, fine. If John Brennan believes these to be imaginary conversations with an imaginary oversight committee, then it’s clear he is mentally ill-equipped to deal with the stress of running the CIA. [..]

What’s most interesting, however, is that this apparently batshit crazy man talking to ghosts, John Brennan, is going to have to deal with a woman, Dianne Feinstein, who said this, as one of his primary overseers.

   FEINSTEIN: I have been calling and others have been calling the rank – the vice chairman and I on the use of target – for increased transparency on the use of targeted force for over a year, including the circumstances in which such force is directed against U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike.

   I’ve also been attempting to speak publicly about the very low number of civilian casualties that result from such strikes. I have been limited in my ability to do so. But for the past several years, this committee has done significant oversight of the government’s conduct of targeted strikes and the figures we have obtained from the executive branch which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits. When I asked to give out the actual numbers, I’m told, “you can’t”, and I say, “why not?” “Because it’s classified. It’s a covert program. For the public, it doesn’t exist.” Well, I think rationale, Mr. Brennan, is long gone and I’m going to talk to you and my questions a little bit about that because I think it’s very important that we share this data with people.

This apparently batshit crazy person (according to the Administration, not me) is telling the Chair of the Committee that oversees the CIA that she’s delusional, the programs she’s talking about don’t exist.

There’s a lot of crazy old people talking on benches in DC, I guess.

And what abou those seven memos that the Senate Intelligence Committee requested before they vote on Brennan’s confirmation are imaginary, too?

What is even more incongruous is that Tea Party crazy Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul asked some very serious questions in two letters that no one else asked

  • Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? What about the use of lethal force against a non-U.S. person on U.S. soil?
  • Do you believe that the prohibition on CIA participation in domestic law enforcement, first established by the National Security Act of 1947, would apply to the use of lethal force, especially lethal force directed at an individual on a targeting list, if a U.S. citizen on a targeting list was found to be operating on U.S. soil? What if the individual on the targeting list was a non-U.S. person but found to be operating on U.S. soil? Do you consider such an operation to be domestic law enforcement, or would it only be subject to the president’s wartime powers?
  • Do you believe that the Posse Comitatus Act, or any other prohibition on the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, would prohibit the use of military hardware and/or personnel in pursuing terrorism suspects-especially those on a targeting list-found to be operating on U.S. soil? If not, would you support the use of such assets in pursuit of either U.S. citizen or non-U.S. persons on U.S. soil suspected of terrorist activity?
  • What role did you play in approving the drone strike that led to the death of the underage, U.S. citizen son of Anwar al-Awlaki? Unlike his father, he had not renounced his U.S. citizenship. Was the younger al-Awlaki the intended target of the U.S. drone strike which took his life? Further, do you reject the subsequent claim, apparently originating from anonymous U.S. government sources, that the young man had actually been a “military age male” of 20 years or more of age, something that was later proven false by the release of his birth certificate?
  • Is the U.S. drone strike strategy exclusively focused on targeting al Qaeda, or is it also conducting counterinsurgency operations against militants seeking to further undermine their government, such as in Yemen?
  • Do you support the Attorney General’s 2012 guidance to the NCTC that it may deliberately collect, store, and “continually assess” massive amounts of data on all U.S. citizens for potential correlations to terrorism, even if the U.S. citizens targeted have no known ties to terrorism?
  • And you thought Bush was stupid? This is too surreal.  

    May 02 2012

    Drones: Attack of the Killer Drones

    President Barack Obama has resumed drone attacks into Pakistan and sends one of is lackeys to defend it as legal, blithely dismissing civilian casualties:

    Fresh off of an interview yesterday in which he shrugged off civilian killings in the US drone war, top White House adviser John O. Brennan was ordered to provide more “openness” on the program at a speech today in Washington.

    Fresh off of an interview yesterday in which he shrugged off civilian killings in the US drone war, top White House adviser John O. Brennan was ordered to provide more “openness” on the program at a speech today in Washington.

    White House Admission of Drone Strikes Does Nothing to Justify Program’s Legality, ACLU Says

    ACLU National Security Experts Warn Program is Unlawful and Dangerous

    NEW YORK – April 30 – President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser today publicly confirmed that the United States conducts targeted killings of suspected terrorists using drones.

    In a speech this afternoon at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, John Brennan insisted the targeted strikes are a “wise choice” and “legal” and within the boundaries of international law. However, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said Brennan’s statement did not go far in explaining how the program passed constitutional muster.

    “This is an important statement – first because it includes an unambiguous acknowledgement of the targeted killing program and second because it includes the administration’s clearest explanation thus far of the program’s purported legal basis.” Jaffer said.

    “But Mr. Brennan supplies legal conclusions, not legal analysis. We continue to believe that the administration should release the Justice Department memos underlying the program – particularly the memo that authorizes the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects. And the administration should release the evidence it relied on to conclude that an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, could be killed without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

    Brennan maintained the Obama administration was committed to transparency when it came to deciding who would be subject to lethal drone strikes. But Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the program is both unconstitutional and overly broad.

    “We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield,” Shamsi said.

    “It is dangerous to give the President the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of any person – including any American – he believes to be a terrorist. The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.”

    Rights groups hit Brennan’s defense of ‘legal’ drone strikes

    Representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA said they welcomed the unprecedented public acknowledgement of the drone campaign by John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

    But they said there are still serious questions about whether drone attacks on suspected millitants are legal under international law.

    “Where there’s a war, for example in Afghanistan, [drone strikes] are a legitimate weapon of war,” said Tom Parker, a former British government security official who is now head of Amnesty International’s counter-terrorism program. “The problem comes when you make the unprecedented claim that you are in a world-wide conflict with a non-state actor.”

    “We don’t believe that the justification [offered by Mr. Brennan] stands up under international humanitarian law,” he added.

    Here is a report from Kevin Gosztola at FDL on Obama’s Death Panels and the videos of the speech given by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation:

    Activists, lawyers, human rights advocates, civil liberties defenders and others came together for a major international summit on drone warfare and the issues created by drone use yesterday. The summit was co-organized by CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve. An exceptional lineup of speakers addressed participants detailing salient and significant aspects around the Obama administration’s expansion of the covert drone wars in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. [..]

    Scahill opens his speech by saying, “The real death panels that we have in this country were unleashed on our own citizens. Republicans like to talk about death panels having to do with health care. President Obama is the one that is operating secret death panels” that include United States citizens and often include non-US citizens. The vast majority of the victims of this policy around the world are not US citizens.

    Apr 28 2012

    Drones: Killing Me By Remote

    The “secret drone” program is the biggest absurdity in town. Every one knows the CIA is using drones and has requested an expansion of their use, the Bush and Obama administrations have admitted to using drones, Obama has even joked about it. We know that Obama has assassinated American citizens with it, without due process, but it’s a secret Really? How stupid does the Obama administration think we are?

    From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

    Ten days ago, I wrote about a request made by CIA Director David Petraeus to expand the drone war in Yemen in accordance with the following, as expressed by the first paragraph of The Washington Post article reporting it [..]

    At the time, I wrote that “it’s unclear whether Obama will approve Petraeus’ request for the use of ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen,” though that was true only in the most technical sense. It was virtually impossible to imagine that a request from David Petraeus, of all people, to Barack Obama, of all people, for authority to target even more people in Yemen for death, now without even knowing who they are, would be anything but quickly and eagerly approved. And that is exactly what has now happened, as the Post’s Greg Miller reports today:

       The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. . . .

       The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year. . . .

       Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits. . .

       Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, has questioned . . . the wisdom of the expanded drone operations. . . . “I would argue that U.S. missile strike[s] are actually one of the major – not the only, but a major – factor in AQAP’s growing strength.”

    Drones knowns and drone unknowns

    The Up with Chris panelists discuss counter-terrorism  as the examine the increase of the US military’s use in a tactic that kills targets, civilians included, by remote

    Search and destroy by remote

    Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, a group representing the victims of drone strikes, joins from the Drone Summit in Washington, DC, an event set to investigate the expanding US drone program. The Up panelists key in on what this “expansion” means as the military continues to utilize drone strikes.

    Michael Hastings, featured writer for Rolling Stone and a guest panelist on Up with Chris, wrote this chilling analysis of the history and current use of drones and “how killing by remote control has changed the way we fight“:

    The use of drones is rapidly transforming the way we go to war. On the battlefield, a squad leader can receive real-time data from a drone that enables him to view the landscape for miles in every direction, dramatically expanding the capabilities of what would normally have been a small and isolated unit. “It’s democratized information on the battlefield,” says Daniel Goure, a national security expert who served in the Defense Department during both Bush administrations. “It’s like a reconnaissance version of Twitter.” Drones have also radically altered the CIA, turning a civilian intelligence-gathering agency into a full-fledged paramilitary operation – one that routinely racks up nearly as many scalps as any branch of the military.

    But the implications of drones go far beyond a single combat unit or civilian agency. On a broader scale, the remote-control nature of unmanned missions enables politicians to wage war while claiming we’re not at war – as the United States is currently doing in Pakistan. What’s more, the Pentagon and the CIA can now launch military strikes or order assassinations without putting a single boot on the ground – and without worrying about a public backlash over U.S. soldiers coming home in body bags. The immediacy and secrecy of drones make it easier than ever for leaders to unleash America’s military might – and harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of such clandestine attacks.

    “Drones have really become the counterterrorism weapon of choice for the Obama administration,” says Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor who helped establish a new Pentagon office devoted to legal and humanitarian policy. “What I don’t think has happened enough is taking a big step back and asking, ‘Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing? Are we fostering militarism and extremism in the very places we’re trying to attack it?’ A great deal about the drone strikes is still shrouded in secrecy. It’s very difficult to evaluate from the outside how serious of a threat the targeted people pose.”

    Apr 02 2012

    Warriors vs. Journalists, Obama vs. Truth

    This past week, several stories appeared which indicate the degree to which true investigative reporting about US efforts in the Global War on Terror is at odds with the desires of the Obama administration and the lengths to which the administration will go to create their preferred narrative and suppress reporting that fails to fit.  At the same time, the President and other administration officials have made public statements, unsupported by documentation, that they refuse for alleged “national security reasons” to release to the ACLU and journalists.

    This diary will continue some of the themes developed in a previous diary, President Obama’s Propaganda Wars regarding the Obama administration’s attempts to “dominate the information spectrum.”

    The stories this week suggest that sometimes in the Global War on Terror, it’s a matter of getting the images correct.  If the action is popular, we get, “Engaged-Commander-in-Chief-sweating-the-details Obama.”  If the action is controversial, or perhaps questionably legal, we get “Spectator Obama,” watching the action from the stands along with everybody else.

    obama cic or spectator lg

    Mar 27 2012

    Drones? Of What Drones Doth Thou Speak?

    President Barack Obama: “Drones? Drone attacks? Mr. Holder, do you know anything about this?

    United States Attorney General Eric Holder, “I’ve never heard of drones, Mr. President. Leon, what do you hear from the generals?

    Former Director of the CIA and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, “No, Eric, I have no information about drones. Perhaps, Director Petraeus would know about these drones”

    The three men look around the room for CIA Director David Petraeus. He’s  nowhere to be found.

    That fictional conversation never took place but the Obama administration would now like us all to believe that they cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security. Huh? They really don’t expect anyone to accept that statement that was made in response to an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act requesting the “the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.

    Glenn Greenwald in an in depth article at Salon dissected this laughable “defense” of national security about predator drones, targeted assassinations and Obama’s taking “Bush’s secrecy games one step further“:

    What makes this so appalling is not merely that the Obama administration demands the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough [..]

    What makes it so much worse is how blatantly, insultingly false is its claim that it cannot confirm or deny the CIA drone program without damaging national security.

    Numerous Obama officials – including the President himself and the CIA Director – have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks.

    “Cute little jokes”? Is that like President George W. Bush’s “cute” little video looking for weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office? I don’t think the people who have lost family and friends and had their lives destroyed by America’s misadventures in the Middle East think this is amusing.

    And just where is the secret? Everyone in the world is talking about the predator drone program that has killed more innocent people than Al Qaeda operatives and put the US relationship with ally Pakistan on very thin ice. Just this weekend there was a long article in The Washington Post with an unnamed CIA official who was directing drone attacks in Pakistan:

    Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington – the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.

    Glenn further notes that this fixation of the Obama administration on secrecy, as evidenced by its increased prosecution of whistleblowers, is a means to protect itself from rule of our laws. He quotes from President G.W.Bush DOJ lawyer Jack Goldsmith, who defended executive authority and secrecy powers but recognized that Obama was taking this too:

    First, it is wrong . . . for the government to maintain technical covertness but then engage in continuous leaks, attributed to government officials, of many (self-serving) details about the covert operations and their legal justifications.  It is wrong because it is illegal.  It is wrong because it damages (though perhaps not destroys) the diplomatic and related goals of covertness.  And it is wrong because the Executive branch seems to be trying to have its cake (not talking about the program openly in order to serve diplomatic interests and perhaps deflect scrutiny) and eat it too (leaking promiscuously to get credit for the operation and to portray it as lawful).

    This can be filed under the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” defense.

    Drones? What drones? Hmm. Ask Iran, maybe they know something about this drone thing.

    Sep 19 2010

    Liberal Democrats Set Terms for Torture Inquiry

    Sounds great only problem is that headline is from England. It seems that Liberal Democrats in Britain have far less problem “looking back” in order to “look forward” than the US.

    The Liberal Democrats today set out what they think the terms of the government’s upcoming inquiry into torture should be.

    In July David Cameron announced a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition since the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington, DC, in September 2001.

    The three-person inquiry panel will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge who is currently commissioner for the intelligence services. He will be assisted by Dame Janet Paraskeva, the head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell, the former Times political commentator who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.

    Most of the inquiry will be held in secret, but victims of torture and their representatives will be able to give evidence during open sessions, as will representatives of human rights groups.

    In a letter to Gibson, Cameron set out the “parameters” of the inquiry, but the final terms have yet to be made public. These parameters included the changing attitude of “other countries” towards counterterrorism detainees, although it makes clear that “this is an inquiry into the actions of the UK, not any other state”.

    Meanwhile despite all his campaign rhetoric, Pres Barack Obama defends torture, rendition, indefinite detention and denies detainees habeus corpus, claiming national security concerns and using state secrets to cover up war crimes.

    The President has used the courts and the power of his office to not only defend these horrific policies of the Bush/Cheney administration but has expanded them to include targeting American citizens for assassination and manipulating the law to prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of this practice that denies the victim not only his rights as a US citizen under the Constitution but the victim’s human rights .

    The administration’s legal team is debating how aggressive it should be in a brief responding to the lawsuit, which is due Sept. 24. The suit, filed last month, seeks an injunction that would prevent the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who is accused of playing a leading role for Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

    Justice Department lawyers are circulating a draft brief with several potential arguments for dismissing the case, and lawyers from national security agencies have met to discuss what should go into the final version. But they have not reached a consensus, according to officials familiar with the discussions, because the arguments seen as strongest also carry significant political and legal risks.

    “There are a lot of cross-cutting things going on here, and they have to be very careful about how they litigate this,” said Jack Goldsmith, who was a senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration. “It’s not just a question of winning the case. There is the public diplomacy side, and there are implications for everything else they are doing in the war on terrorism: detention and targeting and other things, too, I imagine.”

    The US is still in the shadows and descending even deeper into the darkness.

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