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Presidential Assasination Program





jwellsy
Another step down the road to tyranny.

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/08/olbermann
Quote:
Olbermann on Obama's assassination program
By Glenn Greenwald

MSNBC

(updated below - Update II)

There are many legitimate criticisms voiced about Keith Olbermann, but he deserves substantial credit for his coverage last night of a story that is as self-evidently significant as it is under-covered: Barack Obama's assassination program aimed at American citizens. He not only led off his show with this story, but devoted the first two segments to it, and made many of the key observations and asked virtually all of the right questions. The videos of those two segments, worth watching, are below.

What's most striking to me about all of this is that -- as I noted yesterday (and as Olbermann stressed) -- George Bush's decision merely to eavesdrop on American citizens without oversight, or to detain without due process Americans such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, provoked years of vehement, vocal and intense complaints from Democrats and progressives. All of that was disparaged as Bush claiming the powers of a King, a vicious attack on the Constitution, a violation of Our Values, the trampling on the Rule of Law. Yet here you have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping on or detaining Americans without oversight, but ordering them killed with no oversight and no due process of any kind. And the reaction among leading Democrats and progressives is largely non-existent, which is why Olbermann's extensive coverage of it is important. Just imagine what the reaction would have been among progressive editorial pages, liberal opinion-makers and Democratic politicians if this story had been about George Bush and Dick Cheney targeting American citizens for due-process-free and oversight-less CIA assassinations.
deanhills
Thanks for posting this jewellsy. I thought this paragraph quoted by Glenn Greenwald of the original assassination story in the New York Times was particularly interesting:
Quote:
Just consider how the NYT reports on Obama's assassination order and how it is justified:

    The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday. . . .

    American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

    It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .


"The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words," said an American official, who like other current and former officials interviewed for this article spoke of the classified counterterrorism measures on the condition of anonymity. "He’s gotten involved in plots."

No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he has done vehemently through his family). None of that.

Source: Salon .com
ocalhoun
This is sad and scary...

Perhaps I should start investigating what country to go to if I feel compelled to leave.
It's not to that point yet... But we seem to be headed irrevocably in that direction.
Bikerman
Very interesting.
As a 'neutral' I think the one question I would have to ask is:
given that Bush/Cheney also supported assassinations, how much of Obama's stance is principled and how much simply happen-stance. ie if Bush/Cheney had the same intelligence on a US citizen, would they have held-back from any assassination on the grounds that the target was a US citizen? Is it simply that it never occurred during their 'watch', or is there some difference of principle now being applied?
I have always found this particular issue quite difficult. To take an oft-quoted example, if a US or UK leader could have authorised the assassination of Hitler in 1936, then should they have done so? The utilitarian argument would seem to be clear - yes, the greater good would have been served by the act and therefore it would have been morally 'just' to do so. That is not something I am comfortable with, however.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
if a US or UK leader could have authorised the assassination of Hitler in 1936, then should they have done so? The utilitarian argument would seem to be clear - yes, the greater good would have been served by the act and therefore it would have been morally 'just' to do so. That is not something I am comfortable with, however.

Hitler was not a citizen of the US or UK. Though it's an ugly fact, and they go to great lengths to hide it, I suspect most countries in the world order foreign assassinations more or less routinely through intelligence/special ops operations.

An international assassination may occasionally be justified as an act of war to defend your own country, when the victim country would not cooperate with a more civil solution to the problem. For example, the US would be justified in assassinating Osama if his whereabouts were discovered in a country that would not cooperate by arresting him. (Assuming he really was behind the 9/11 attacks and planning more, that is.)

But, for a citizen of your own country... If you have enough evidence to justify assassination, then you should have enough evidence for an arrest and fair trial. Since you shouldn't have a problem with your own country cooperating, the possible justification for assassination mentioned above will not occur.
Bikerman
Bikerman wrote:
But, for a citizen of your own country... If you have enough evidence to justify assassination, then you should have enough evidence for an arrest and fair trial. Since you shouldn't have a problem with your own country cooperating, the possible justification for assassination mentioned above will not occur.
I don't follow that at all. What if Osama is American? Do you assassinate or arrest/try? Why does it matter - why not arrest anyway? Being or not being a citizen doesn't necessarily have any bearing on the ease of arresting someone, and it is perfectly possible that a non-citizen could be extradited to his/her home country to face due process.
I fail to see any principled difference between the citizen and the non-citizen in this instance....
What about a Brit? Do you assassinate a Brit terrorist? Presumably not, because Britain would co-operate? But would we? Probably not if the person faced the death penalty......
In fact I could argue that you have more right to assassinate your own citizens than you do those of another country...and that way you won't get another state angry either...
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
But, for a citizen of your own country... If you have enough evidence to justify assassination, then you should have enough evidence for an arrest and fair trial. Since you shouldn't have a problem with your own country cooperating, the possible justification for assassination mentioned above will not occur.
I don't follow that at all. What if Osama is American? Do you assassinate or arrest/try? Why does it matter - why not arrest anyway? Being or not being a citizen doesn't necessarily have any bearing on the ease of arresting someone, and it is perfectly possible that a non-citizen could be extradited to his/her home country to face due process.
I fail to see any principled difference between the citizen and the non-citizen in this instance....
What about a Brit? Do you assassinate a Brit terrorist? Presumably not, because Britain would co-operate? But would we? Probably not if the person faced the death penalty......
In fact I could argue that you have more right to assassinate your own citizens than you do those of another country...and that way you won't get another state angry either...

Well, if arrest and trial is possible, then that should be used first by all means, no matter what the citizenship.

But, I fail to see how assassination could be possible against a citizen of your own country when arrest is impossible. (If you can manage to hit him with a deadly weapon, you should also be able to hit him with a non-lethal, then move in for an arrest. -- Though if he violently resists arrest, police could be justified in defending themselves with lethal force.)

The only reason I'm apologetic about assassinating citizens of foreign states is that may be the only way available to remove the threat. If the foreign country will cooperate with an arrest and extradition and/or local trial, that's great... But oddly enough, threats seem to pop up more often in uncooperative countries.

The only thing that can justify a killing without due process of law is for the due process of law to be impossible to apply in the situation.
And, I see no in-country scenario where assassination is possible, but due process is not.


There's a reason our constitution guarantees a right to due process and a trial by peers before punishment (especially capital punishment) is meted out. That this target was taken out for political/religious/ethnic reasons is particularly troubling.
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Well, if arrest and trial is possible, then that should be used first by all means, no matter what the citizenship.
Ahh,,,,good. I hadn't understood you to mean that and I, of course, agree.
Quote:
But, I fail to see how assassination could be possible against a citizen of your own country when arrest is impossible. (If you can manage to hit him with a deadly weapon, you should also be able to hit him with a non-lethal, then move in for an arrest. -- Though if he violently resists arrest, police could be justified in defending themselves with lethal force.)
Yes - and the same is often true for foreign nationals. Did you see the video, for example, of Israeli troops killing the palestinian divers from their helicopter. No attempt to even get close, just popped them from range and height like a fairground shooting stall.
Quote:
The only reason I'm apologetic about assassinating citizens of foreign states is that may be the only way available to remove the threat. If the foreign country will cooperate with an arrest and extradition and/or local trial, that's great... But oddly enough, threats seem to pop up more often in uncooperative countries.
Well you also have to figure the facts of the last time it happened- Afghanistan. The Taliban asked the US to produce the evidence against Bin Laden and said that if such evidence were produced they would hand him over. Remember? Surprisingly few people do actually remember it, but I promise it happened.
The US reaction was outrage - how DARE they ask us for evidence. It wasn't even seriously considered in the press or other media.
Now, I maintain that in the light of events then the US should have simply produced what evidence they had. I suspect that the reason for not doing so was twofold:
a) They had nothing worthy of the name evidence
b) They badly wanted to have a war and no delays or, heaven forbid, resolutions could be permitted.

So instead Bush ridiculed the offer and the press lapped along at his heels.
Quote:
The only thing that can justify a killing without due process of law is for the due process of law to be impossible to apply in the situation. And, I see no in-country scenario where assassination is possible, but due process is not.
Hang on - you are assuming your nationals are in your country - I was making no such assumption, in fact I was sort of assuming they were not. Thousands of UK and other nationals went to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to various 'secret' sources, to fight with their brother muslims. I actually think it might have been tens or a few hundred at most, but some definitely went.

Now, just to develop this.
If due process is not possible then assassination is OK....is that it? What about the target? Does he have to be a clear and present danger? A potential danger according to that very accurate intelligence we know and love? Just an enemy?
You see at the moment the US is operating a policy of blow the bugger out of anyone in the presence of a listed target - using these little drones they have.
http://www.examiner.com/x-18425-LA-County-Nonpartisan-Examiner~y2010m1d8-Pakistan-unlawful-US-drone-war-kills-140-innocent-civilians-for-1-CIAalleged-terrorist
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6541928n

I think that if assassination is indeed valid - and I still have very mixed feelings about it - then it cannot surely be just for any old target. That is just cowardly killing at a distance. And it cannot be regardless of 'collateral damage' - that is out and out murder.
Quote:
There's a reason our constitution guarantees a right to due process and a trial by peers before punishment (especially capital punishment) is meted out. That this target was taken out for political/religious/ethnic reasons is particularly troubling.
[/quote]Yes, I agree completely.
ocalhoun
Hm, your own citizens who have gone over to fight for the other side are a difficult proposition.
The best option would be to try them for treason in their absence, with a best-effort made to arrest them, or at least get them in contact with their defense lawyer.

To help avoid abuse of this, use the (existing) law that says one can only be tried for treason during a time of declared war.

Bikerman wrote:

Now, just to develop this.
If due process is not possible then assassination is OK....is that it? What about the target? Does he have to be a clear and present danger? A potential danger according to that very accurate intelligence we know and love? Just an enemy?
You see at the moment the US is operating a policy of blow the bugger out of anyone in the presence of a listed target - using these little drones they have.
http://www.examiner.com/x-18425-LA-County-Nonpartisan-Examiner~y2010m1d8-Pakistan-unlawful-US-drone-war-kills-140-innocent-civilians-for-1-CIAalleged-terrorist
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6541928n

I think that if assassination is indeed valid - and I still have very mixed feelings about it - then it cannot surely be just for any old target. That is just cowardly killing at a distance. And it cannot be regardless of 'collateral damage' - that is out and out murder.

Well, this mostly is just the ugly reality of war. If you are at an advantage, you use it; you don't try to level the playing field before striking. War basically is institutionalized mass murder. Theoretically, you'd have a very good reason to justify such vicious acts. (Like saving your country's people from violent aggression.)

If some of the people you were fighting turn out to be your own citizens, it's just another cost of war... And a obvious risk that they surely realized they were taking when they chose to fight on the other side. This only applies in the (rather likely) scenario that you didn't know ahead of time that they were your citizens though.

Would I support the targeted assassination of a traitor who became a leader among the enemies?
This is one of those times I think that a trial in his absence would be required before ordering a strike. Hopefully, you would think far enough ahead to have the trial already completed by the time an opportunity arose... And if the trial found him not guilty due to lack of evidence -- no strike. (Also, no strike if the Judge sentenced him to anything less than death.)
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Well, this mostly is just the ugly reality of war. If you are at an advantage, you use it; you don't try to level the playing field before striking. War basically is institutionalized mass murder. Theoretically, you'd have a very good reason to justify such vicious acts. (Like saving your country's people from violent aggression.)
But you know as well as I that the US/UK or whoever routinely makes that defence even when it is laughable. The Iraq and Afghan wars were (and still are) supposed to make our country safer. It was obvious to me years ago that it would do the opposite, but the government held the line until last year when the 4th senior advisory body repeated what the others had said and confirmed that both invasions had put the UK at substantially greater risk.
So the justification will be used for everything in every conflict nomatter how remote - simply because politicians use that particular lie almost reflexively.
Quote:
If some of the people you were fighting turn out to be your own citizens, it's just another cost of war... And a obvious risk that they surely realized they were taking when they chose to fight on the other side. This only applies in the (rather likely) scenario that you didn't know ahead of time that they were your citizens though.
Hmm but what I am talking about is not battlefield stuff. I'm talking about waiting until a suspected commander of the taliban has gone to his 4yr old daughters birthday meal and taking the house out - with the quite obvious knowledge that the house will contain many children, the mother, the siblings and, likely, other mothers. I kid you not.
Quote:
Would I support the targeted assassination of a traitor who became a leader among the enemies?This is one of those times I think that a trial in his absence would be required before ordering a strike. Hopefully, you would think far enough ahead to have the trial already completed by the time an opportunity arose... And if the trial found him not guilty due to lack of evidence -- no strike. (Also, no strike if the Judge sentenced him to anything less than death.)
Can't happen here you see - no death penalty. It sort of decides me, actually, I don't think politicians are sufficiently trustworthy to have that power directly. Battle is different - the tactics and strategy go straight over to the military brass. Targetted assassination is directly from the President and therefore makes the President not just Commander in Chief, but the guy on the ground calling the strike. That is too dangerous for my liking. Do you doubt that Tricky Dicky would have used any opportunity presented to his own advantage - including blowing up a convoy with people he had his own reasons to get rid of? I don't doubt it for a minute. What about if Bush could take out the prisoners at Guantanemo before the story leaks and they can give their side. An 'accident' whilst they were being bussed to a plane...would he??? I don't rule it out, though I don't class Bush as the psychotic President that Nixon clearly was.
Nope...Kennedy had it correct for me....targetted assassinations are not something the US is justified in using at all in my now considered opinion. It already has massive superiority and already tends to bomb from great heights using 'smart' weapons (a cynical attempt to sanitise war, given that most of the 'smart' bombs dropped contain shrapnel or other anti-personell fitments which mean it doesn't really matter if they get it within a couple of feet - everything with the kill radius is still gone...and they miss much much more that they will admit. I'm finding that out from the wikileaks memos).
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