Archive for the 'Assassination' Category
Quietly and without much notice, the Air Force has reversed its policy of publishing statistics on drone strikes in Afghanistan as the debate about drone warfare hits a fever pitch in Washington. In addition, it has erased previously published drone strike statistics from its website. (Read more)
the speaker is the author of Family of Secrets.
The anti-Rand Pauls, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took to the Senate floor this morning to defend killing American citizens at presidential discretion. Graham is doing so live on C-SPAN2 right now, saying that everything you do is a danger to America no matter who or where you are, as long as the U.S. government has decided you have “joined al-Queda,” whatever the hell that means. (Read more)
Sen. Rand Paul took to the floor of the U.S. Senate just before noon Wednesday and vowed to stay there “at length” in order to filibuster John O. Brennan, whom President Obama has nominated to be the next CIA director.
The Kentucky Republican said he will hold up the nomination until he gets more information about the U.S. drone execution program, which has become a major sore point for many lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“I will speak today until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’” Mr. Paul said early on in the filibuster, that began at 11:47 and showed no signs of slowing more than four hours later.
Five hours into the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the floor to try to end it. He asked if Mr. Paul would agree to limit himself to another half-hour of remarks, and then the chamber would vote on the Brennan nomination — which likely has majority support.
Mr. Paul said he would be glad to end his filibuster immediately, but only if the administration would promise not to make Americans in the U.S. the subject of targeted killings.
Mr. Reid said he wasn’t in a position to speak for the administration and stalked off the floor.
“We’re through for the night,” he said, releasing senators who had stuck around thinking they might still vote on the Brennan nomination.
Speaking from his corner desk Mr. Paul, in red tie and gray suit and with a glass of ice water — within reach but rarely touched — spoke about political history and the origins of key constitutional precepts.
White House calls drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil ‘legal,’ ‘ethical’ and ‘wise’ – even without evidence of a pending attackPosted in Assassination, Constitution on February 16th, 2013
Swartz’s activism, I argued, was waged as part of one of the most vigorously contested battles – namely, the war over how the internet is used and who controls the information that flows on it – and that was his real crime in the eyes of the US government: challenging its authority and those of corporate factions to maintain a stranglehold on that information. In that above-referenced speech on SOPA, Swartz discussed the grave dangers to internet freedom and free expression and assembly posed by the government’s efforts to control the internet with expansive interpretations of copyright law and other weapons to limit access to information.
That’s a major part of why I consider him heroic. He wasn’t merely sacrificing himself for a cause. It was a cause of supreme importance to people and movements around the world – internet freedom – and he did it by knowingly confronting the most powerful state and corporate factions because he concluded that was the only way to achieve these ends.
Suicide is an incredibly complicated phenomenon. I didn’t know Swartz nearly well enough even to form an opinion about what drove him to do this; I had a handful of exchanges with him online in which we said nice things about each other’s work and I truly admired him. I’m sure even his closest friends and family are struggling to understand exactly what caused him to defy his will to live by taking his own life.
But, despite his public and very sad writings about battling depression, it only stands to reason that a looming criminal trial that could send him to prison for decades played some role in this; even if it didn’t, this persecution by the DOJ is an outrage and an offense against all things decent, for the reasons Lessig wrote today:
“Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The ‘property’ Aaron had ‘stolen’, we were told, was worth ‘millions of dollars’ — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.
“A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
“For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to ‘justice’ never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled ‘felons’.”
Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a “justice” system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation’s most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.
Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight – selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself – for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn’t an example of heroism; it’s the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It’s the attribute our country has been most lacking.
I always found it genuinely inspiring to watch Swartz exude this courage and commitment at such a young age. His death had better prompt some serious examination of the DOJ’s behavior – both in his case and its warped administration of justice generally. But his death will also hopefully strengthen the inspirational effects of thinking about and understanding the extraordinary acts he undertook in his short life.
PRESIDENT OBAMA has refused to tell Congress or the American people why he believes the Constitution gives, or fails to deny, him the authority to secretly target and kill American citizens who he suspects are involved in terrorist activities overseas. So far he has killed three that we know of.
Presidents had never before, to our knowledge, targeted specific Americans for military strikes. There are no court decisions that tell us if he is acting lawfully. Mr. Obama tells us not to worry, though, because his lawyers say it is fine, because experts guide the decisions and because his advisers have set up a careful process to help him decide whom he should kill.
He must think we should be relieved.
The three Americans known to have been killed, in two drone strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011, are Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico; Samir Khan, a naturalized American citizen who had lived in New York and North Carolina, and was killed alongside Mr. Awlaki; and, in a strike two weeks later, Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was born in Colorado. (Read more)
New York, December 24, 2012–Indian authorities must immediately investigate the death of a cameraman who was fatally shot by police on Sunday while covering protests against the sexual assault of women. The Associated Press identified the journalist as Bwizamani Singh, a reporter for the news division of the satellite-distributed Prime News channel that covers northeast India. Other reports have provided different spellings of Singh’s name.
Singh was covering a rally in Imphal, the capital of Manipur state, when he was shot by police firing on protesters. Local news accounts reported that police said Singh was shot by accident while they were trying to disperse protesters with live ammunition. Five police officers have been suspended, the reports said. (Read more)
Polish investigators found traces of explosives on the wreckage of the government jet that crashed in Russia two years ago, killing Poland’s president and 95 others, daily Rzeczpospolita reported on Tuesday.
Without citing sources, the newspaper said prosecutors and explosive experts who examined the remains of the plane in Russia found signs of TNT and nitroglycerin on the wings and in the cabin, including on 30 seats.
Traces of explosives were also found in the area where the Tu-154 crashed during its approach to a small airport near the Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010, the daily reported.
Poland’s military prosecutor’s office plans to respond to the report later on Tuesday, its spokesman said.
Russian investigators had blamed the Polish crew for trying to land in heavy fog, while their Polish counterparts also said the airport controllers should not have allowed the plane to attempt an approach.
Some rightist groups in Poland, including main opposition party Law and Justice, had rejected the findings and suggested the crash could have been an assassination of President Lech Kaczynski and political and military leaders who flew with him. (Read more)
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe program this morning, which focused on Monday’s night presidential debate, the former right-wing Congressman and current host Joe Scarborough voiced an eloquent and impassioned critique of President Obama’s ongoing killing of innocent people in the Muslim world using drones. In response, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, a stalwart Obama supporter, offered one of the most nakedly sociopathic defenses yet heard of these killings. This exchange, which begins at roughly the 7:00 minute mark on the video embedded below, is quite revealing in several respects.
. . . .
(1) Klein’s justification – we have to kill their children in order to protect our children – is the exact mentality of every person deemed in US discourse to be a “terrorist”. Almost every single person arrested and prosecuted over the last decade on terrorism charges, when asked why they were willing to kill innocent Americans including children, offered some version of Joe Klein’s mindset.
. . . .
Leaving aside the sociopathic, morally grotesque defense of killing 4-year-olds with a “joystick from California”, Klein’s claims are completely false on pragmatic grounds. Slaughtering Muslim children does not protect American children from terrorism. The opposite is true. That is precisely what causes the anti-American hatred that fuels and sustains terrorism aimed at Americans in the first place, as even a study commissioned by the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon recognized almost a decade ago.
. . . .
This exchange is a perfectly vivid expression of the Obama legacy. Here we have a standard Democratic/progressive pundit who is one of the media’s most stalwart Obama fanatics defending indiscriminate slaughter of Muslim children. Meanwhile, it’s left to a former right-wing, Gingrich-era congressman to raise objections, call for more public scrutiny, and cite the moral and strategic dangers, one of the very few commentators on MSNBC – the progressive network – who has ever voiced such passionate criticism of Obama’s ongoing killings. (Read more)
A federal investigation alleged Enrique Prado’s involvement in seven murders, yet he was in charge when America outsourced covert killing to a private company.
It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. “The move was historic,” says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. “It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.”
The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that “in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress,” but that “President Bush’s 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself — and all elected authority — from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency’s most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater’s self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.” None of this is new information, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time.
Isn’t that bizarre?
The bulk of Wright’s e-book (full disclosure: I help edit the website of Byliner, publisher of the e-book) tells the story of Enrique Prado, a high-ranking CIA-officer-turned-Blackwater-employee who oversaw assassination units for both the CIA and the contractor. To whom was this awesome responsibility entrusted? According to Wright’s investigation, a federal organized crime squad run out of the Miami-Dade Police Department produced an investigation allegedly tying Prado to seven murders carried out while he worked as a bodyguard for a narco crime boss. At the time, the CIA declared him unavailable for questioning; the investigation was shut down before he was arrested or tried.
There’s a lot more to the story — Wright’s e-book is almost 50 pages long — but this bit is of particular note:
The reporting on Prado’s activities at Blackwater produced no evidence that the firm’s employees had ever killed anyone on behalf of the CIA. But I spoke to Blackwater employees who insisted that they had. Two Blackwater contractors told me that their firm began conducting assassinations in Afghanistan as early as 2008. They claimed to have participated in such operations — one in a support role, the other as a “trigger puller.” The contractors, to whom I spoke in 2009 and 2010, were both ex-Special Forces soldiers who were not particularly bothered by assassination work, although they did question the legality of Blackwater’s involvement in it.
According to the “trigger puller,” he and a partner were selected for one such operation because they were Mexican Americans, whose darker skin enabled them to blend in as Afghan civilians. The first mission he described took place in 2008. He and his partner spent three weeks training outside Kabul, becoming accustomed to walking barefoot like Afghans while toting weapons underneath their jackets. Their mission centered on walking into a market and killing the occupant of a pickup truck, whose identity a CIA case worker had provided to them. They succeeded in their mission, he told me, and moved on to another. This contractor’s story didn’t completely fit with other accounts about Prado’s unit at Blackwater. The e-mail written by Prado and later obtained by the Times seemed to indicate that the unit wouldn’t use Americans to carry out actual assassinations. Moreover, two CIA sources insisted that the contractors I spoke to were lying. As one put it, “These guys are security guards who want to look like Rambo.”
When I asked Ed O’Connell, a former Air Force colonel and RAND analyst with robust intelligence experience in Afghanistan, to evaluate these contractors’ claims, he first told me they were almost certainly a “fantastical crock of shit.” But a year later, in 2011, after a research trip in Afghanistan for his firm Alternative Strategies Institute, O’Connell had changed his assessment. He told me, “Your sources seem to have been correct. Private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA.”
What is wrong with the President sitting in a room, looking at lists and portraits of people—a Somali man, a seventeen-year-old girl, an American citizen—and deciding whom to kill? That, according to long and troubling articles in both the Times and Newsweek, is a job Barack Obama has assigned himself. His aides, notably John Brennan, his counter-terrorism adviser, portray it as a matter of taking responsibility—if we are going to assassinate someone, or call in a drone strike to take out a camp in Yemen, the President should make the call—as if our only alternative were some sort of rogue operation, with generals or C.I.A. agents shooting at will. But responsibility involves accountability, which is something, in this case, that appears to be badly lacking. Obama has not taken on a burden, but instead has given the Presidency a novel power.
The “kill list” story is a reminder of how much language matters, and how dangerous it is when the plain meaning of a word is ignored. Each might include a mini-glossary: “baseball cards,” for the PowerPoint slides with the biographies and faces of targets; “Terror Tuesday,” meetings where targets are sorted out; “nominations” for death-marked finalists; “personality strikes” that aimed to kill a person, and “signature strikes” that went after a group of people whose names one didn’t know because of the way they seemed, from pictures in the sky, to be acting. (From the Times piece, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane: “The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official.”) Signature strikes were also known as TADS, for terrorist-attack-disruption strikes, or just as “crowd kills.” Both articles explore Obama’s halting efforts to confine signature strikes to Pakistan, rather than Yemen and Somalia, and how he ultimately didn’t, really. This is the kind of attack that, in one incident mentioned by Daniel Klaidman in his Newsweek piece, led to “persuasive” reports of dozens of women and children dying. A lawyer who saw that on “Kill TV,” the feed that let the military and lawyers watch strikes, said later, “If I were Catholic, I’d have to go to confession.”
More disturbing than childish names for brutal things are the absurd meanings ascribed to more sober terms. The key ones are “civilians and combatants,” and “due process.”