Where’s the outrage?!?!


rageI like President Obama.  I thought he was a viable and even American alternative to the excesses of the Bush presidency,which were rooted in lies and secrecy that I thought threatened the existence of America as we know it.  However,  close examination of Obama’s record, vis-a-vis foreign policy shows that at the least there is no difference between the two administrations or worse that Obama has surpassed Bush’s excesses.

Unfortunately President Obama has gone from an America where detention of American citizens was something hinted at or debated in foreign policy circles in the Bush administration to indefinite detention being codified with NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act.  By widening the ‘war on terror’ or accepting as did Bush that it is an infinite conflict in both time and borders, and with the appropriate laws in place, Obama has made the federal government an usurper of the rights of American citizens to habeas corpus meaning any American anywhere in the world can be captured and held indefinitely for as long as the federal government wants.  This also means, should the government wish it could act  as  executioner of those it wants to target for assassination without giving them a chance to turn themselves in or  have access to the judicial system, so says this  latest bit of news to come out of Washington

…the president can order the killing of a US citizen who is a member of al-Qaida…(without any specificity on)  the “minimum legal requirements” for launching such an operation, (the Administration) insists that the killing would be constitutionally justified as the United States is engaged in an “armed conflict” as defined by international law and authorised by Congress, with al-Qaida and its affiliates.  In a key passage in the document – which is unsigned – (the Administration) argues that for a US citizen who has rights under the due process clause and the fourth amendment, “that individual’s citizenship would not immunise from a lethal operation”.

The Administration also goes on to assert all of this can be done without any over sight from the judiciary…..it is considered too intrusive and burdensome and would get in the way of the President’s ability to act swiftly  against citizens.  Obama also says that such lethal and deadly force can be carried out against Americans even if they are not in the planning stages of an attack or if they are “associated” with terror organizations.  Just what he means by associated with is left up to his discretion alone.  Therefore, it is conceivable that an American citizen can be targeted for assassination by his government because he knows someone who is a member of a terrorist organization even though he may not share the views of his friend or the group to which he belongs.  The prospect is frightening and  horrifying.

If there is any doubt that these measures are designed for Muslims and Muslim Americans, that doubt should be erased just by a casual glimpse of those organizations deemed terrorist by the US government….an overwhelming majority of them are situated in the Middle East and most likely made of those who call themselves Muslim by faith.  That does not mean that the organization is driven by any Islamic ideals or philosophy, however, because of the many different groups the one area of the Middle East which has the most groups designated as a terrorist organization is Palestine with 8 followed by Iraq with five.  Clearly while these groups may be made up of Muslims they  exist to drive out what their members consider invaders or occupiers of their territory, or violators of their sovereignty.  Absent such a foreign influence it may be safe to assume these groups would blend into a normal political structure consistent with governments and politics the world over.

The other indication that Muslims have become targeted by this Administration in ways that exceed what Bush did is with the denial of return to American citizens living and working abroad, forced exile,  or those who may want to travel from America to other countries.  We’ve written extensively here at Miscellany101 about the pesky no-fly list since it was imposed on the American public.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration has chosen to expand upon no fly lists and means of denying travel  in ways that seem to point to it targeting specifically American Muslims.  This from the president who spent most of his first term weathering rumors that he himself was Muslim, now seemingly oppressing Muslims in order to exorcise the label from him. Fix this America!

 

 

 

All hail the commander-in-chief


English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

While most of America, those who aren’t members of the fanatic fringe, celebrate Obama’s victory let’s not forget this is still going on under his watch.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that “the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.”

Worse, the Obama administration “lowered the bar for being added to the list”. As a result, reported AP, “now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list” but can be included if they “are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security”, a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country.

 

 

How the Right Wing bullied the Obama Administration and reinforced its racist agenda in government policy


President Obama promised change and in many cases it has been a part of his administration, but with regards to foreign policy vis-a-vis Muslims in America and Islam Obama and career civil servants in government have bowed to the prejudices of an American public towards Muslims and maintained a position that only Muslims in America are responsible for terrorism.  The Washington Post produced a startling piece on the Department of Homeland Security’s report  on Right Wing Terrorism in America and how that DHS in many cases walked back its own report and continued its almost exclusive focus on Muslims.  The article, Homeland Security Department curtails home-grown terror analysis, originally published in June, 2011 gives perspective to the reluctance found today by many to label acts like the Aurora, Colorado and Milwaukee, Wisconsin massacres as acts of domestic terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security has stepped back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.

The decision to reduce the department’s role was provoked by conservative criticism of an intelligence report on “Rightwing Extremism” issued four months into the Obama administration, the officials said. The report warned that the poor economy and Obama’s election could stir “violent radicalization,” but it was pilloried as an attack on conservative ideologies, including opponents of abortion and immigration.

In the two years since, the officials said, the analytical unit that produced that report has been effectively eviscerated. Much of its work — including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as “white supremacist” and “Christian Identity” — has been blocked.

The threat of Islamic-related terrorism in the United States has by all accounts captured the most attention and resources at DHS since it was formed in 2002. But a study conducted for the department last October concluded that a majority of the 86 major foiled and executed terrorist plots in the United States from 1999 to 2009 were unrelated to al-Qaeda and allied movements.

“Do not overlook other types of terrorist groups,” the report warned, noting that five purely domestic groups had considered using weapons of mass destruction in that period.

Conservatives are very good at playing the victim card, that they are plundered, misrepresented and unfairly singled out, but it would appear based on the WashPo article that conservatives during the administration of a newly elected and popular Democratic president were able to get the Obama administration to abandon its own report on domestic terrorism and pursue, rather persecute Muslim Americans even though the statistics don’t support that policy.

A look at the acts of terrorism committed  on US soil by various groups between 1980-2005 show that only 6% of them were committed  by Muslims or affiliated Muslim groups.  The only other group lower was Communists at 5%.  Yet there exists this proclivity in modern day America to base policy on the minute minority of cases that appear before government while ignoring the overwhelming majority of cases that beg for policy review and follow up.  It is also the reason why acts like Aurora and Milwaukee can get swept under the rug by government and media because the perpetrators of those crimes don’t fit the profile that has been carefully crafted by xenophobic policy wonks with an agenda to advance and a budget to get appropriated.  For them it is far easier to sell fear and loathing against what is for now an unknown, strange, eccentric group of people than  it is for people who look and sound like us.  That the GOP is leading the way in this savage attack against Muslim Americans should come as nothing new.  Unfortunately, that a Democratic administration swept into office because people wanted “Change” has decidedly not brought about that change but continued the status quo is fraudulent.

Twenty Examples of the Obama Administration Assault on Domestic Civil Liberties


by Bill Quigley

The Obama administration has affirmed, continued and expanded almost all of the draconian domestic civil liberties intrusions pioneered under the Bush administration.  Here are twenty examples of serious assaults on the domestic rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience that have occurred since the Obama administration has assumed power.  Consider these and then decide if there is any fundamental difference between the Bush presidency and the Obama presidency in the area of domestic civil liberties.

Patriot Act

On May 27, 2011, President Obama, over widespread bipartisan objections, approved a Congressional four year extension of controversial parts of the Patriot Act that were set to expire.  In March of 2010, Obama signed a similar extension of the Patriot Act for one year.  These provisions allow the government, with permission from a special secret court, to seize records without the owner’s knowledge, conduct secret surveillance of suspicious people who have no known ties to terrorist groups and to obtain secret roving wiretaps on people.

Criminalization of Dissent and Militarization of the Police

Anyone who has gone to a peace or justice protest in recent years has seen it – local police have been turned into SWAT teams, and SWAT teams into heavily armored military.  Officer Friendly or even Officer Unfriendly has given way to police uniformed like soldiers with SWAT shields, shin guards, heavy vests, military helmets, visors, and vastly increased firepower.  Protest police sport ninja turtle-like outfits and are accompanied by helicopters, special tanks, and even sound blasting vehicles first used in Iraq.  Wireless fingerprint scanners first used by troops in Iraq are now being utilized by local police departments to check motorists.  Facial recognition software introduced in war zones is now being used in Arizona and other jurisdictions.  Drones just like the ones used in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan are being used along the Mexican and Canadian borders.  These activities continue to expand under the Obama administration.

Wiretaps

Wiretaps for oral, electronic or wire communications, approved by federal and state courts, are at an all-time high.  Wiretaps in year 2010 were up 34% from 2009, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts.

Criminalization of Speech

Muslims in the US have been targeted by the Obama Department of Justice for inflammatory things they said or published on the internet.  First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, most recently stated in a 1969 Supreme Court decision, Brandenberg v Ohio, says the government cannot punish inflammatory speech, even if it advocates violence unless it is likely to incite or produce such action.  A Pakistani resident legally living in the US was indicted by the DOJ in September 2011 for uploading a video on YouTube.  The DOJ said the video was supportive of terrorists even though nothing on the video called for violence.  In July 2011, the DOJ indicted a former Penn State student for going onto websites and suggesting targets and for providing a link to an explosives course already posted on the internet.

Domestic Government Spying on Muslim Communities

In activities that offend freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and several other laws, the NYPD and the CIA have partnered to conduct intelligence operations against Muslim communities in New York and elsewhere.  The CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans, works with the police on “human mapping”, commonly known as racial and religious profiling to spy on the Muslim community.  Under the Obama administration, the Associated Press reported in August 2011, informants known as “mosque crawlers,” monitor sermons, bookstores and cafes.

Top Secret America

In July 2010, the Washington Post released “Top Secret America,” a series of articles detailing the results of a two year investigation into the rapidly expanding world of homeland security, intelligence and counter-terrorism.   It found 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence at about 10,000 locations across the US.  Every single day, the National Security Agency intercepts and stores more than 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications. The FBI has a secret database named Guardian that contains reports of suspicious activities filed from federal, state and local law enforcement.  According to the Washington Post, Guardian contained 161,948 files as of December 2009.  From that database there have been 103 full investigations and at least five arrests the FBI reported.  The Obama administration has done nothing to cut back on the secrecy.

Other Domestic Spying

There are at least 72 fusion centers across the US which collect local domestic police information and merge it into multi-jurisdictional intelligence centers, according to a recent report by the ACLU.  These centers share information from federal, state and local law enforcement and some private companies to secretly spy on Americans.  These all continue to grow and flourish under the Obama administration.

Abusive FBI Intelligence Operations

The Electronic Frontier Foundation documented thousands of violations of the law by FBI intelligence operations from 2001 to 2008 and estimate that there are over 4000 such violations each year.  President Obama issued an executive order to strengthen the Intelligence Oversight Board, an agency which is supposed to make sure the FBI, the CIA and other spy agencies are following the law.  No other changes have been noticed.

Wikileaks

The publication of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks and then by main stream news outlets sparked condemnation by the Obama administration officials who said the publication of accurate government documents was nothing less than an attack on the United States.  The Attorney General announced a criminal investigation and promised “this is not saber rattling.” Government officials warned State Department employees not to download the publicly available documents.  A State Department official and Columbia officials warned students that discussing Wikileaks or linking documents to social networking sites could jeopardize their chances of getting a government job, a position that lasted several days until reversed by other Columbia officials.  At the time this was written, the Obama administration continued to try to find ways to prosecute the publishers of Wikileaks.

Censorship of Books by the CIA

In 2011, the CIA demanded extensive cuts from a memoir by former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan, in part because it made the agency look bad.  Soufan’s book detailed the use of torture methods on captured prisoners and mistakes that led to 9-11. Similarly, a 2011 book on interrogation methods by former CIA agent Glenn Carle was subjected to extensive black outs.  The CIA under the Obama administration continues its push for censorship.

Blocking Publication of Photos of U.S. Soldiers Abusing Prisoners

In May 2009, President Obama reversed his position of three weeks earlier and refused to release photos of US soldiers abusing prisoners.  In April 2009, the US Department of Defense told a federal court that it would release the photos.  The photos were part of nearly 200 criminal investigations into abuses by soldiers.

Technological Spying

The Bay Area Transit System, in August 2011, hearing of rumors to protest against fatal shootings by their police, shut down cell service in four stations.  Western companies sell email surveillance software to repressive regimes in China, Libya and Syria to use against protestors and human rights activists.  Surveillance cameras monitor residents in high crime areas, street corners and other governmental buildings.  Police department computers ask for and receive daily lists from utility companies with addresses and names of every home address in their area.  Computers in police cars scan every license plate of every car they drive by.  The Obama administration has made no serious effort to cut back these new technologies of spying on citizens.

Use of “State Secrets” to Shield Government and Others from Review

When the Bush government was caught hiring private planes from a Boeing subsidiary to transport people for torture to other countries, the Bush administration successfully asked the federal trial court to dismiss a case by detainees tortured because having a trial would disclose “state secrets” and threaten national security.  When President Obama was elected, the state secrets defense was reaffirmed in arguments before a federal appeals court.  It continues to be a mainstay of the Obama administration effort to cloak their actions and the actions of the Bush administration in secrecy.

In another case, it became clear in 2005 that the Bush FBI was avoiding the Fourth Amendment requirement to seek judicial warrants to get telephone and internet records by going directly to the phone companies and asking for the records.  The government and the companies, among other methods of surveillance, set up secret rooms where phone and internet traffic could be monitored.  In 2008, the government granted the companies amnesty for violating the privacy rights of their customers.  Customers sued anyway. But the Obama administration successfully argued to the district court, among other defenses, that disclosure would expose state secrets and should be dismissed.  The case is now on appeal.

Material Support

The Obama administration successfully asked the US Supreme Court not to apply the First Amendment and to allow the government to criminalize humanitarian aid and legal activities of people providing advice or support to foreign organizations which are listed on the government list as terrorist organizations.   The material support law can now be read to penalize people who provide humanitarian aid or human rights advocacy. The Obama administration Solicitor General argued to the court “when you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs.”  The Court agreed with the Obama argument that national security trumps free speech in these circumstances.

Chicago Anti-war Grand Jury Investigation

In September 2010, FBI agents raided the homes of seven peace activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and Grand Rapids seizing computers, cell phones, passports, and records.  More than 20 anti-war activists were issued federal grand jury subpoenas and more were questioned across the country.  Some of those targeted were members of local labor unions, others members of organizations like the Arab American Action Network, the Columbia Action Network, the Twin Cities Anti-War Campaign and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.  Many were active internationally and visited resistance groups in Columbia and Palestine.  Subpoenas directed people to bring anything related to trips to Columbia, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Israel or the Middle East.  In 2011, the home of a Los Angeles activist was raided and he was questioned about his connections with the September 2010 activists.  All of these investigations are directed by the Obama administration.

Punishing Whistleblowers

The Obama administration has prosecuted five whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all the other administrations in history put together.  They charged a National Security Agency advisor with ten felonies under the Espionage Act for telling the press that government eavesdroppers were wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on misguided and failed projects.  After their case collapsed, the government, which was chastised by the federal judge as engaging in unconscionable conduct allowed him to plead to a misdemeanor and walk.  The administration has also prosecuted former members of the CIA, the State Department, and the FBI.  They even tried to subpoena a journalist and one of the lawyers for the whistleblowers.

Bradley Manning

Army private Bradley Manning is accused of leaking thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.  These documents expose untold numbers of lies by US government officials, wrongful killings of civilians, policies to ignore torture in Iraq, information about who is held at Guantanamo, cover ups of drone strikes and abuse of children and much more damaging information about US malfeasance.  Though Daniel Ellsberg and other whistleblowers say Bradley is an American hero, the US government has jailed him and is threatening him with charges of espionage which may be punished by the death penalty.  For months Manning was held in solitary confinement and forced by guards to sleep naked.  When asked about how Manning was being held, President Obama personally defended the conditions of his confinement saying he had been assured they were appropriate and meeting our basic standards.

Solitary Confinement

At least 20,000 people are in solitary confinement in US jails and prisons, some estimate several times that many.  Despite the fact that federal, state and local prisons and jails do not report actual numbers, academic research estimates tens of thousands are kept in cells for 23 to 24 hours a day in supermax units and prisons, in lockdown, in security housing units, in “the hole”, and in special management units or administrative segregation.  Human Rights Watch reports that one-third to one-half of the prisoners in solitary are likely mentally ill.  In May 2006, the UN Committee on Torture concluded that the United States should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in supermax prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”  The Obama administration has taken no steps to cut back on the use of solitary confinement in federal, state or local jails and prisons.

Special Administrative Measures

Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) are extra harsh conditions of confinement imposed on prisoners (including pre-trial detainees) by the Attorney General.  The U.S. Bureau of Prisons imposes restrictions such segregation and isolation from all other prisoners, and limitation or denial of contact with the outside world such as: no visitors except attorneys, no contact with news media, no use of phone, no correspondence, no contact with family, no communication with guards, 24 hour video surveillance and monitoring. The DOJ admitted in 2009 that several dozen prisoners, including several pre-trial detainees, mostly Muslims, were kept incommunicado under SAMS.  If anything, the use of SAMS has increased under the Obama administration.

These twenty concrete examples document a sustained assault on domestic civil liberties in the United States under the Obama administration.  Rhetoric aside, how different has Obama been from Bush in this area?

Terror from within


At the moment America is too consumed with news about Herman Cain’s sexual predilections to hear or be interested in the the latest terror plot. It seems, sex sells even better than terror, or at least good enough to obscure news about terror. The fact that the defendants are not the types we like to associate with terror, although they are of the demographic that is more likely to be terrorists here in America than any Muslim, makes our fascination with their case even more fleeting if not downright non existent.  Four men in their 60s and 70s have been charged with offenses that could only be considered terrorism given what it was they were accused of doing.

Federal authorities said the men held clandestine militia meetings, beginning in March, in which they discussed using toxic agents and assassinations to undermine federal and state government…

This will never get the play in the media that foreigners or foreign sounding terrorist names would get in the face of such revelations and that is one of the many problems with the politicization of terrorism in today’s America.  The four defendants aren’t just some  cranky old men hatching another isolated incident of terror inspired violence on America, they are a side of America which has always been around and views change as violent and necessarily so.

During the 60s and 70s people of similar mindset were paraded in front of our televisions and on the front pages of our newspapers as threats to our society, and politicians made their political fortune denouncing the likes of the Black Panthers, SDS, SNCC, SCLC and other alphabet soup organizations that we were told posed an imminent threat to our democracy.  These organizations and the people that participated in their activities bore the full brunt of an enraged federal government and its police agencies that trampled on their rights, spied on and at times even killed them because some one said it was necessary and the right thing to do and very few of us flinched nor protested. Rather we cheered on and elected those politicians who said such actions were necessary in order to preserve the social order.  That was the same response we had to the cries from neocons about the clash of civilizations meme.

Somehow we are not quite able to see the threat the same way when it’s presented to us in the form of four senior citizen white males who are members of groups we’ve been told since the beginning of the Obama Administration were equally vicious and threatening to the American fabric. (On a side note, I wonder how vociferous  would our denunciation be if Obama decided to unilaterally send a drone attack over one of the meetings these four defendants had to hatch their plots and  killed them and any of their relatives?)  Our minds still seem to be  focused only on the dark, seedy,murderous, savage fundamentalist Muslims who want to destroy what we stand for because they are unable to reach the greatness that is America.  Such imagery when attached to anything evokes a response of horror and disgust, revulsion and abject rejection even when that thing is notable and essential to the life of our Nation.  How else can we look at our indifference to the various  Occupy movements spreading across the country, and the hostility they face from political leaders and members of the media who conjure up images of opponents of a bygone era or radical associations of a more recent time.

This is the story that will probably not receive the attention it deserves, not because these men wanted to overthrow the country….they couldn’t, or not because they are symptoms of a wider problem, they are but we are a country of over 300 million people and we’ve got a lot of problems.  This story deserves attention because there are too many people who believe that in order to defend this country they have to go out and kill somebody to do it. How did we get to this point that people like 73 year old Frederick Thomas think, ‘when it comes to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die.”  Perhaps, his time would have been better spent joining #OccupyWallStreet in Atlanta where he could have affected real change rather than plotting acts of terror that would only lead, as it has, to his own ruin.

 

Stick and Carrot diplomacy


The wingnut “right” does have a place in American politics.  If one is perceptive enough you can vaguely see an outline of the foreign policy objectives of Washington spewing from the mouthpieces of right wing pundits/racists. Despite the apparent “hate” relationship between the present occupant of the White House and those on the vociferous “right” the pundits of insanity, plunder and racism give government an idea of just how far it, government, can go in its never ending battle for empire and dominion. It is not necessary for diplomacy or policy to be carried out in just the same way the racist homo/Islamophobes express but it probably comes close.  Case in point, Sean Hannity’s latest imperialistic diatribe.

With rising gas prices and a stagnant economy, Hannity’s solution of taking over another country’s natural resources because we can most likely strikes a chord in the minds of many a besieged listener who wants to settle scores with the Islamic/Muslim hordes they’ve so assiduously been warned about this last decade.  Current Washington probably has entertained the same ideas while former Bush administration officials said as much when making their case for war with Iraq.  The Obama administration on the other hand, supposedly carries a carrot not a stick, unlike its predecessor.  It must have the appearance of  remaining true to the kinder, gentler prescription for diplomacy, hence this from the Secretary of State, Clinton.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a scalding critique of Arab leaders here on Thursday, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” of unrest and extremism unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies.

Speaking at a conference in this gleaming Persian Gulf emirate, Mrs. Clinton recited a familiar litany of ills: corruption, repression and a lack of rights for women and religious minorities. But her remarks were striking for their vehemence, and they suggested a frustration that the Obama administration’s message to the Arab world had not gotten through.

Secretary Clinton, taking a page from the wingnuts, makes many in the Middle East who are victims the cause of their victimization.  Lest one forget, there were no WMDs in Iraq which was invaded after a decade long blockade that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; Gaza is an outdoor prison camp, with the West Bank merely an enclave within the modern state of Israel with no territorial sovereignty or integrity and the second largest recipient of US aid is a 30 year long dictatorship.  Notice the tone of the above article.  Words like “vehemence” and “frustration” are designed to send signals that unless things change diplomacy may give way to something harsher.  Let’s not forget that in the 80s Saddam Hussein was Washington’s leader of choice for Iraq, but only 20 years later encouraged and cheered on his execution.  That shouldn’t be lost on the leaders of oil producing countries that serve an insatiable American public the oil which fuels the American economy.  Hannity’s arrogant bluster and frustration regrettably is probably  an outline for future American policy.

Obama’s Hit List


I read this very interesting article that asserts President Obama is going down the same onerous road as his predecessor in dispensing justice to perceived enemies of the state…..at the expense of breaking the law and further endangering the national security as well as the national psyche.  What is the matter with America that she has become afraid of people, not nations mind you, but individual people, that it makes her break her own laws as well as the laws she has agreed with the international community upon for decades?!?

The Obama administration now claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, without notice, and without any chance for the marked men or women to object legally. The Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program has been radically expanded to include Americans far from any war zone. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified earlier this year that the targeting-to-kill decision depends only on “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us.”

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The Obama administration has decided to pursue a Bush administration policy of extra-judicial punishment for individuals anywhere in the world, even American citizens, and claim no one has the right to oversight.  It is an extraordinary position to take on the heels of an administration whose party was soundly defeated in the presidential elections in part one may argue for just such a disregard for law and the rights of US citizens.  There has been no hue and cry on the part of the people for their president to undertake this action, so why does he feel the need to do so?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

It’s clear to this viewer that the Obama approach to the war on terror, is  just as pernicious as Bush.  In fact it is a continuation of the former President’s policy at at time when the “threat” level is not as imminent as it was after 911 all the inaccurate and misleading press propaganda to the contrary.  What we are witnessing is the way in which government works; it’s march towards diminution of citizen rights is gradual, slow, deceptive and relentless.  New faces have little to do with changing the progress of government’s march toward this goal.  Obama isn’t ‘change we can believe in’, he’s more of the same.

 

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The main difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is that the Obama team publicly claims a right to do what Bush’s lawyers authorized behind closed doors. Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2006 that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury’s comments occurred during an “off-the-record briefing.” Newsweek’s report generated no media stir. Apparently, unless the government disclosed that it had actually begun assassinations within the United States, it was a non-story.

An article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times in mid-September noted that “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki.”

It is comforting to know that top political appointees concur that some “law” gives them the right to assassinate Americans. But this is the same “legal” standard the Bush team used to justify torture. Since Bush’s lawyers told him that waterboarding wasn’t torture—despite a hundred years of U.S. court decisions to the contrary—the president was blameless, or so he recently claimed to NBC’s Matt Lauer.

There are other ominous parallels with the worst abuses of the Bush administration. When Bush decreed in November 2001 that he had the authority perpetually to detain anyone as an enemy combatant, based solely on his own assertion, administration defenders rushed to assure the media that the new policy did not apply to Americans or inside the United States. Seven months later, after José Padilla was arrested in Chicago and labeled an enemy combatant, the administration acted as if only fools would believe the president would not use his boundless power any way he could.

Similarly, Obama’s power grab has not spurred much opposition, perhaps in part because it is assumed to apply only to killing Americans abroad. (Hopefully farther away than Niagara Falls, Canada.) But the basis of the policy is that the entire world is a battlefield, thus the president has unlimited “commander in chief” powers everywhere.

Once the principle is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without judicial nicety, the bureaucratic wish list of targets will continually expand. A similar metamorphosis occurred when the FBI decided to use illegal powers to target people who garnered official displeasure. Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.”

Blank checks for killing enemies of the state is the recipe for domestic tranquility that most dictatorships have used throughout history. And apparently this is a standard that many Americans might embrace. Some movement conservatives—such as columnist Jonah Goldberg—are already whooping for the U.S. government to assassinate people such as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Should the government be entitled to kill anyone who exposes its lies? Or should the standard be broader, permitting governments to kill anyone who is inconvenient?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

In fact, debacles over false charges against Gitmo detainees may have spurred the expansion of the targeted-killing program. Dead men file no appeals. Assassinations could be less embarrassing than trials because most of the American media will roll over and permit the government to blacken its victims however it pleases. As long as officials, speaking anonymously, assure reporters that the deceased were bad people, the story is closed.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed far more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. But while the feds are demanding extraordinary measures to inform people about private risks, nothing is being done to warn people of the health risks of an unleashed Leviathan.

What sort of warning labels would be appropriate for Obama’s killing program? A picture of a sniper’s crosshairs on a mother holding a baby in her cabin door, à la Vicki Weaver? A picture of young demonstrators lying dead on the ground after a National Guard volley, à la Kent State? A picture of children lolling in the streets moments before they are obliterated, courtesy of the helicopter gun-sight video from the Wiki-Leaked “Collateral Murder” recording made by the U.S. military in Iraq?

If Obama gets away with this power-grab, the rhetoric for the 2012 race for the White House should be retuned. Instead of listening to candidates compete based on the number of new benefits they promise to lavish upon voters, prudent citizens will focus on which presidential candidate seems least likely to kill them or members or their family. We might hear campaign slogans like “Vote for Smith: he won’t have you killed unless all of his top advisers agree you deserve to die.” Unfortunately, as with other campaign promises, there will be no way for voters to compel politicians to honor their pledges.

Obama’s doctrine enabling the targeted killing of American citizens is at least as much an assassination of the Constitution as anything George W. Bush perpetrated. Yet most of the media has ignored the issue or treated it like an arcane legal dispute of interest only to people in desert hideaways 6,000 miles away. The more power the government has seized, the more craven the media has become.

Thanks to sovereign immunity and cowardly judges, it is unlikely that any Obama administration official will be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government slays. Americans have had plenty of warnings that the federal government is destroying the leashes the Founding Fathers created. Once it is accepted that the executive branch is entitled to kill Americans without a trial, only damn fools should expect Leviathan to limit its ravages here and abroad.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy.

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15 Responses to “Assassin Nation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Roy F. Moore. Roy F. Moore said: RT @amconmag: James Bovard | Assassin Nation | http://bit.ly/gz0Wqu […]

  2. hahahahaha….this is your tide American Conservative, Obama’s just riding it. Where were you when Bush & Co. created this mess? Cheerleading. This is not Obama’s policy, it’s Bush’s and years ago when this was first raised as an issue you folks were calling such critics traitors.

    If Obama tried to loosen the efforts against Terrorism(TM) you would be calling him traitor. This article is rich with hypocrisy.

  3. The American Conservative was an early critic of the Bush administration and the war. Don’t confuse these folks with the National Review.

  4. […] today from the January issue of American Conservative […]

  5. river c. should read The Bush Betrayal written by the author of this article.

  6. good to see once again the Kenyan King walking in the very same foot steps of his predecessors, bashing Bush then doing likewise and more

  7. […] of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the Obama administration’s claim that they have the right to kill American citizens without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object; the […]

  8. @River C… Why don’t you ask TAC why they came out against invading Iraq while the NYTs was publishing neo-con propaganda day after day? Maybe you should ask why the refused to endorse Bush in 2004 while the NYTs was sitting on the story of Bush spying on US citizens as to not hur his chances of re-election?

    Oh, I know why you don’t ask because you’re an idiot (as your comment demonstrated). In fact, you Obama supporters are exactly the same as Bush supporters. It’s uncanny how similar the Obama apologists are to the Bush apologists. Go worship the state so more.

  9. “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    What part of that don’t people understand?

    If someone is actually in the act of perpetrating violence against American citizens, then the police or military have an exemption, but that’s all.

    You would think that a guy who has taught constitutional law might have known about this. . .

  10. Hasn’t anyone here seen a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster?

    American governments have been paying for the killing of Americans without a trial well before Obama was born (wherever that was)

    Just ask John Dillinger.

  11. Whatever the TAC has been doing all these years, Bovard has been a tireless critic of empire and chronicler of its consequences, through several administrations, and all the more energetically in recent times with Presidents GW Bush and Obama.

    The “where were you when Bush was doing it” whine is getting very tiresome. It identifies clueless partisans, making it all the easier to dismiss their boiler-plate bleating. We should instead ask the kool-aid drinking duckspeakers, “where were you when courageous people like Bovard were speaking out and being called ‘unpatriotic’ and even ‘treasonous’?” The river c’s of the world come very late to the party, then criticize the host for the crowding.

  12. Stefan, don’t be fooled. No person allowed to run for office gives a damn about the Constitution anymore. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore; we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. No candidate who believes that they should be governed by the Constitution will be allowed to run. They will be weeded out long before we even hear of them. Both parties are in on this. We will not see a patriot run for high office in this country again.

  13. OK, Stefan Stackhouse knows her constitution, ‘..“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    If they can authorize the killing of each of us then they can authorize the killing of our family members as other dictators have done.

    Need to read this new book just out about Americans who actually take a stand against tyranny (based in part on real people & events). It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

    http://www.booksbyoliver.com

    This is tyranny & way beyond what the TSA is doing at airports. No one would have ever thought this could happen in America. Great article, James

  14. Frank,

    Although your other points are well taken, you are guilty of the same type of thoughtless jumping to conclusions as river c. who is obviously ignorant of what TAC is. What part of his comment led you to conclude that he is an “Obama supporter”? He may or may not be. Why is it necessary to hurl insults? River c.’s ignorance will be obvious to the vast majority who read this. Correction and guidance without insult as per Anonymous and Tom Blanton is much more helpful.

  15. This is only possible thanks to George W Bush who rescinded habeus corpus. My pointing this out is in no way an endorsement of Obama. I am merely pointing out the historical facts. Without the Bush Junta’s idiotic reign, the excesses of the Obama plague would not have been possible, or even really imaginable.

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