the Disposition Matrix

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. «Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,» ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. «The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,» Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


Oct 27 2013, 9:55 AM ET

(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its «no-fly list», which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. «My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,» Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

«I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,» he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. «If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.»

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. «I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,» he told me.

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. «Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,» said Long. «Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.»

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

«What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

«It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.»

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

«The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

«None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.»

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

«It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?», he asked. «If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.»

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. «After many follow-up calls to the embassy,» he recounted, «they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.» On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called «redress control number» with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: «It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.» Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: «there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.»

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

«Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,» said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. «If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,» said Abbas, «we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.»

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with «current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies», Miller reports that as «the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down», the Obama administration «expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years» (the «capture» part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the «kill» part). Specifically, «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»
In pursuit of this goal, «White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.» All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates «the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.»
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that «CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones», which «reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.» The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

«JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.»

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: «disposition matrix». Writes Miller:

«Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
«The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.»

The «disposition matrix» has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is «to augment» the «separate but overlapping kill lists» maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s «matrix». As Miller describes it, it is «a single, continually evolving database» which includes «biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations» as well as «strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols». This analytical system that determines people’s «disposition» will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was «looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA».
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes «a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix» as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: «We had a disposition problem.»
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – «It is the keeper of the criteria,» says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the «massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States».
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes «records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records» – «literally anything the government collects would be fair game». In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper «disposition» of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which «meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans» – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC «to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years».
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

«All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
«All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.»

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a «matrix» that determines the «disposition» of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be «disposed» of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: «The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.» As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: «The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.»
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, «officials said no clear end is in sight» when it comes to the war against «terrorists» because, said one official, «we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us» but trying is «a necessary part of what we do». Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who «want to harm us». That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: «No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.» You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a «disposition matrix» to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: «If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?» The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

«It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.»

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade» – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the «end of hostilities» – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic «war on terror» proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, «missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman» and added: «the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.» Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he «should have a far more responsible father».
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out «that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.» Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

«Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'»

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is «bug splat». This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled «President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List». Here is his concluding paragraph:

«Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.»

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point's graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn't yet matched the president's words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. "Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes," ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. "The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead," Huffington Post, January 23, 2014




(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.



The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war


By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013


It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.


The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:
“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”
That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.




In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its "no-fly list", which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother's health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. "My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances," Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America's close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

"I don't understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me," he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. "If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing."

As compelling as Long's story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. "I'm scared that if I do, it'll only get worse," he told me.

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. "Obviously, I can't get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can't fly," said Long. "Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it's not affordable. If I can't fly, then I can't go back home."

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long's case, told me:

"What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

"It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors - being Muslim seems to be one of them - trigger one's placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process."

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

"The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

"None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names."

Long's case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

"It makes no sense, so it's obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?", he asked. "If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home."

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. "After many follow-up calls to the embassy," he recounted, "they finally gave me 'assistance' in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint." On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called "redress control number" with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: "It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel." Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: "there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer."

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed - who, to date, has never been charged with any crime - faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

"Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed's case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen's movement into the US from abroad," said Abbas. As modest - and self-evident - a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. "If he isn't allowed to fly home on the 8th," said Abbas, "we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq's predicament."

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.



Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty



The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
In pursuit of this goal, "White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration's approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced." All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates "the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war."
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."
The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch's "matrix". As Miller describes it, it is "a single, continually evolving database" which includes "biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations" as well as "strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols". This analytical system that determines people's "disposition" will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was "looking forward to the government's arguments explaining why it won't release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA".
This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States".
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" – "literally anything the government collects would be fair game". In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU's legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which "meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans" – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC "to collect and 'continually assess' information on innocent Americans for up to five years".
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:
"All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI's office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board aren't notified even of 'significant' failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
"All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11."
It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, "officials said no clear end is in sight" when it comes to the war against "terrorists" because, said one official, "we can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us" but trying is "a necessary part of what we do". Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:
"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."
In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes' question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post's estimates are correct – that "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade" – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the "end of hostilities" – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment - permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic "war on terror" proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, "missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people - including one woman" and added: "the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children." Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he "should have a far more responsible father".
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out "that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause." Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:
"Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: 'It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'"
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military's term for drone victims is "bug splat". This - this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset - is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:
"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix."
It's worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

Barry O’Bomber

Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

«I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,» she said in the statement. «I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.»

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html


The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end

In October, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a «disposition matrix» to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: «President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.»
There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the «War on Terror» will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:


By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.


By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. . . . We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.


By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm

This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).


From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.


By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the «worst of the worst,» only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that «people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.» Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was «easy.» Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of «internal deliberations in the executive branch.» No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the «testimony of two witnesses» or a «confession in open court,» not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using «signature strikes,» i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA’s criteria for identifying a terrorist «signature» were too lax. «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. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.»

Obama’s top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It’s true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don’t-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an «enemy combatant» and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign «dangerously seductive» because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. «It plays well domestically,» he said, «and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.»

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled «Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen,» shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. «The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders,» said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, «but they are also turning them into heroes.»

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama’s leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don’t agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. «Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?,» he asks. «When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, ‘Do you?'»


Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader

The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

– The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

– Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

– Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?


Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html





The 'war on terror' - by design - can never end


In October, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a "disposition matrix" to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."


The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU's Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: "President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended."
There's a good reason US officials are assuming the "War on Terror" will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:



By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.



By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. .?.?. We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.



By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm


This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).

From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.



By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don't speak their language, don't know their culture, don't understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world's greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst," only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman's justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good." Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was "easy." Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of "internal deliberations in the executive branch." No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the "testimony of two witnesses" or a "confession in open court," not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using "signature strikes," i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA's criteria for identifying a terrorist "signature" were too lax. "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. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued."

Obama's top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It's true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don't-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an "enemy combatant" and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign "dangerously seductive" because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. "It plays well domestically," he said, "and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled "Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen," shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims' relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. "The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders," said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, "but they are also turning them into heroes."

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama's leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don't agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. "Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?," he asks. "When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, 'Do you?'"





Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader


The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

- The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

- Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

- Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?

NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office

Published time: November 18, 2013 17:37

The number of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency has increased by 888 percent this fiscal year, according to USA Today, indicating an even broader interest exists in the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.

The newspaper reported on Monday that the amount of FOIA requests received by the NSA has surged exponentially in recent months, particularly after former contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden began releasing classified internal documents in June detailing the agency’s lesser-known intelligence gathering operations.

“Fueled by the Edward Snowden scandal, more Americans than ever are asking the National Security Agency if their personal life is being spied on,” Yamiche Alcindor wrote for USA Today.

Indeed, the thousands of FOIA requests filed by Americans since June far outnumber the mere hundreds that it received annually in previous years.

According to Alcindor, the NSA only received 257 FOIA requests during the last fiscal year. Shortly after the first Snowden leak appeared on June 6, however, the agency became flooded with 1,302 requests almost immediately. During the following three months, the paper reported, the NSA received 2,538 requests, the likes of which have inundated the government staffers tasked with responding for the open records requests.

Pamela Phillips, the chief of the NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office, told the paper that «This was the largest spike we’ve ever had.»

«We’ve had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that,” Phillips said.

Unfortunately for those thousands of Americans, however, the NSA isn’t being all that helpful. Even though the NSA is experiencing thousands of similar requests from Americans wanting to know if and how they’ve been targeted, the agency has been responding by refusing to admit what kind of intelligence, if any, it’s collected.

Thirty-five-year-old Joel Watts of West Virginia told the paper that he sent a request but was told in response that the NSA couldn’t say if they had any information on him.

«It’s a sign of disrespect to American citizens and the democratic process,” Watts, a health and safety administrator, told the paper. «I should have the right to know if I’m being surveyed if there’s no criminal procedures in process.»

That isn’t to say that the NSA is only now refusing to honor those requests, however. In August, Kevin Collier wrote for The Daily Dot that he filed a FOIA request with the agency for information on himself and was given a nearly identical response. Collier was quick to file a request shortly after Mr. Snowden first revealed proof of the NSA’s ever-expanding spy apparatus in June, only to be told by the NSA several weeks later that details about the agency’s programs cannot be discussed publically in order “to prevent harm to the national security of the United States.»

«[Y]our request is denied because the fact of the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter,» the agency wrote him.

«Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs,» the NSA said at the time to Collier. «Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries’ compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.»

Months later, the NSA is apparently still giving concerned Americans the same runaround.

«We know we’re dealing with frustrated people and people who are upset by what they’re hearing,» Phillips explained to USA Today, «But that’s the only response that we’re able to provide them on that topic.»

«People are legitimately troubled by the idea that the government is monitoring and collecting information about their e-mail traffic, phone calls and who knows what else,» chimed in Anne Weismann, a chief counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. «There is a growing sense of horror every time there is a new report about the data.»


It’s outrageous and profoundly chilling. British authorities detained the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA spying scandal by publishing documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
David Miranda was flying to the home he shares in Brazil with journalist Glenn Greenwald after visiting Laura Poitras in Berlin. Poitras, an American filmmaker, has been working with Greenwald to produce reporting on the NSA’s secret domestic spying programs. He was carrying flash drives containing documents that were part of the investigative reporting by Greenwald and Poitras.1
Normally British authorities need probable cause to detain someone for hours at Heathrow airport in London, deny them access to an attorney and confiscate their belongings. But not if they say you are suspected of being involved in terrorism.
That’s just what happened to Miranda. He was detained under Schedule 7 of the British Terrorism Act and held for nearly nine hours — the maximum allowed without levying charges. When anti-terrorism powers are invoked, Schedule 7 allows British authorities to stop and search anyone without warrant or reasonable suspicion. Miranda was eventually released but his cellphone, flash drives and computers were confiscated.
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Detaining their family members is unacceptable. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
Said Greenwald in reaction, «This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic.»2
The New York Times reports that Miranda was carrying as of yet unpublished documents from the Snowden trove of NSA evidence from Poitras back to Greenwald. He was clearly not targeted because he was a suspected terrorist — but rather because he was linked to investigative journalists working to expose the unconstitutional spying programs at NSA. But he was detained under a law intended to stop terrorism — a law that permits authorities to deny him access to a lawyer and take his possessions without a court order.
In the wake of the incident, Amnesty International charged, «It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance… The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analyzing the data released by Edward Snowden.»3
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Stop the war on journalists. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
This is not an isolated incident. There is an escalating war on journalists and whistleblowers in the U.S. who are increasingly threatened with prosecution by the current administration for investigating the executive branch. 4 And now the British authorities are taking a leading role by using anti-terror laws to suppress the exercise of a free press.
The uncovering of a far-reaching domestic spy operation only underscores the need for a strong and independent press to help expose abuses of power at the highest levels of our government and give the public the information we need to hold our government accountable to the Constitution.
It should never be allowed in a democracy to use the security apparatus to intimidate and harass a journalist investigating government abuse. And the UK’s targeting of a journalist’s spouse under the guise of an anti-terrorism investigation is clearly an escalation of the security state’s war on journalism.
Americans need to send a direct message to British officials who may be acting in coordination with U.S. military and intelligence agencies that this is unacceptable. We’ll deliver your signatures directly to Sir Peter Westmacott, the British Ambassador to the U.S., Philip Barton, Deputy Head of Mission to the U.S., and Major General Buster Howes, the Defence Attache to the U.S. at the British embassy in Washington, DC.
Thank you for standing up for a free and independent press.
Becky Bond, Politcal Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets


Edward Snowden, 29, is described by the paper as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The Guardian said his identity was being revealed at his own request.

The recent revelations are that US agencies gathered millions of phone records and monitored internet data.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Mr Snowden had been an employee for less than three months.

«If accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm,» the statement said.


The US National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans, according to the Guardian newspaper.

The newspaper published what it said was a secret court order directing the Verizon company to hand over data on its customers on an «ongoing» basis.

Civil liberties groups said the details of the report were «stunning».

The White House broadly defended the practice as a «critical» security tool but did not confirm the report.

US authorities need the information to protect the nation from terrorist threats, a senior Obama administration official told the BBC.



Published time: November 18, 2013 17:37
The number of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency has increased by 888 percent this fiscal year, according to USA Today, indicating an even broader interest exists in the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.



The newspaper reported on Monday that the amount of FOIA requests received by the NSA has surged exponentially in recent months, particularly after former contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden began releasing classified internal documents in June detailing the agency’s lesser-known intelligence gathering operations.

“Fueled by the Edward Snowden scandal, more Americans than ever are asking the National Security Agency if their personal life is being spied on,” Yamiche Alcindor wrote for USA Today.

Indeed, the thousands of FOIA requests filed by Americans since June far outnumber the mere hundreds that it received annually in previous years.

According to Alcindor, the NSA only received 257 FOIA requests during the last fiscal year. Shortly after the first Snowden leak appeared on June 6, however, the agency became flooded with 1,302 requests almost immediately. During the following three months, the paper reported, the NSA received 2,538 requests, the likes of which have inundated the government staffers tasked with responding for the open records requests.

Pamela Phillips, the chief of the NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office, told the paper that "This was the largest spike we've ever had."

"We've had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that,” Phillips said.

Unfortunately for those thousands of Americans, however, the NSA isn’t being all that helpful. Even though the NSA is experiencing thousands of similar requests from Americans wanting to know if and how they’ve been targeted, the agency has been responding by refusing to admit what kind of intelligence, if any, it’s collected.

Thirty-five-year-old Joel Watts of West Virginia told the paper that he sent a request but was told in response that the NSA couldn’t say if they had any information on him.

"It's a sign of disrespect to American citizens and the democratic process,” Watts, a health and safety administrator, told the paper. "I should have the right to know if I'm being surveyed if there's no criminal procedures in process."

That isn’t to say that the NSA is only now refusing to honor those requests, however. In August, Kevin Collier wrote for The Daily Dot that he filed a FOIA request with the agency for information on himself and was given a nearly identical response. Collier was quick to file a request shortly after Mr. Snowden first revealed proof of the NSA’s ever-expanding spy apparatus in June, only to be told by the NSA several weeks later that details about the agency’s programs cannot be discussed publically in order “to prevent harm to the national security of the United States."

"[Y]our request is denied because the fact of the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter," the agency wrote him.

"Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs," the NSA said at the time to Collier. "Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries' compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

Months later, the NSA is apparently still giving concerned Americans the same runaround.

"We know we're dealing with frustrated people and people who are upset by what they're hearing," Phillips explained to USA Today, "But that's the only response that we're able to provide them on that topic."

"People are legitimately troubled by the idea that the government is monitoring and collecting information about their e-mail traffic, phone calls and who knows what else," chimed in Anne Weismann, a chief counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "There is a growing sense of horror every time there is a new report about the data."


It's outrageous and profoundly chilling. British authorities detained the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA spying scandal by publishing documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden in the UK's Guardian newspaper.
David Miranda was flying to the home he shares in Brazil with journalist Glenn Greenwald after visiting Laura Poitras in Berlin. Poitras, an American filmmaker, has been working with Greenwald to produce reporting on the NSA's secret domestic spying programs. He was carrying flash drives containing documents that were part of the investigative reporting by Greenwald and Poitras.1
Normally British authorities need probable cause to detain someone for hours at Heathrow airport in London, deny them access to an attorney and confiscate their belongings. But not if they say you are suspected of being involved in terrorism.
That's just what happened to Miranda. He was detained under Schedule 7 of the British Terrorism Act and held for nearly nine hours -- the maximum allowed without levying charges. When anti-terrorism powers are invoked, Schedule 7 allows British authorities to stop and search anyone without warrant or reasonable suspicion. Miranda was eventually released but his cellphone, flash drives and computers were confiscated.
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Detaining their family members is unacceptable. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
Said Greenwald in reaction, "This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic."2
The New York Times reports that Miranda was carrying as of yet unpublished documents from the Snowden trove of NSA evidence from Poitras back to Greenwald. He was clearly not targeted because he was a suspected terrorist -- but rather because he was linked to investigative journalists working to expose the unconstitutional spying programs at NSA. But he was detained under a law intended to stop terrorism -- a law that permits authorities to deny him access to a lawyer and take his possessions without a court order.
In the wake of the incident, Amnesty International charged, "It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance… The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analyzing the data released by Edward Snowden."3
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Stop the war on journalists. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
This is not an isolated incident. There is an escalating war on journalists and whistleblowers in the U.S. who are increasingly threatened with prosecution by the current administration for investigating the executive branch. 4 And now the British authorities are taking a leading role by using anti-terror laws to suppress the exercise of a free press.
The uncovering of a far-reaching domestic spy operation only underscores the need for a strong and independent press to help expose abuses of power at the highest levels of our government and give the public the information we need to hold our government accountable to the Constitution.
It should never be allowed in a democracy to use the security apparatus to intimidate and harass a journalist investigating government abuse. And the UK's targeting of a journalist's spouse under the guise of an anti-terrorism investigation is clearly an escalation of the security state's war on journalism.
Americans need to send a direct message to British officials who may be acting in coordination with U.S. military and intelligence agencies that this is unacceptable. We'll deliver your signatures directly to Sir Peter Westmacott, the British Ambassador to the U.S., Philip Barton, Deputy Head of Mission to the U.S., and Major General Buster Howes, the Defence Attache to the U.S. at the British embassy in Washington, DC.
Thank you for standing up for a free and independent press.
Becky Bond, Politcal Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets





Edward Snowden, 29, is described by the paper as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The Guardian said his identity was being revealed at his own request.

The recent revelations are that US agencies gathered millions of phone records and monitored internet data.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Mr Snowden had been an employee for less than three months.
"If accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm," the statement said.




The US National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans, according to the Guardian newspaper.

The newspaper published what it said was a secret court order directing the Verizon company to hand over data on its customers on an "ongoing" basis.

Civil liberties groups said the details of the report were "stunning".

The White House broadly defended the practice as a "critical" security tool but did not confirm the report.

US authorities need the information to protect the nation from terrorist threats, a senior Obama administration official told the BBC.

Drones


By: Tuesday October 22, 2013 9:43 am

Family of Mamana Bibi, 68-year-old grandmother killed in US drone strike in Pakistan

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals.
Both of the drone strikes detailed in the report, “Will I Be Next?”, occurred in 2012 and were reported. In the aftermath of one of the strikes, there was particular focus on the fact that the US was deliberately attacking civilian rescuers after the first strike was launched against whomever had been targeted.
On July 6, 2012, laborers from the Zowi Sidgi village were gathered in a tent after working a long day in the summer heat. Residents nearby could clearly see four drones were flying overhead. Then, as the Amnesty International report describes, “the sound of multiple missiles” suddenly was heard “piercing the sky, hitting the tent and killing at least eight people instantly.”
Ahsan, a chromite miner who lives in Zowi Sidgi, said, “When we went to where the missiles hit to help people; we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. [I saw] bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces.”
There was panic, with people running to their homes, to trees, anywhere to escape. Some villagers chose to go see if there were any survivors.
One of the laborers, Junaid, recounted how people attempted to collect bodies. They carried stretchers, blankets and water. But, minutes later, another series of missiles were launched. They targeted those who had come to clean up the devastation and six people were instantly killed. Two others died from wounds.
In total, “18 people were killed in the drone strikes that evening and at least 22 others were injured, including an eight-year-old girl named Shehrbano who sustained shrapne linjuries to her leg.”
“Some people lost their hands,” Nabeel said of the second strike. “Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere on the ground. The bodies were burnt and it was not possible to recognize them.”
No more villagers went near where victims had been killed until the next morning. Just about everyone feared if they came close to the site they would be killed in another attack.
In another attack on October 24, 2012, which Amnesty International detailed in the organization’s report, a sixty-eight year-old grandmother named Mamana Bibi was killed instantly by two Hellfire missiles while she was gathering okra in the family fields for cooking that evening. Two grandchildren, Zuhair and Nabeela, witnessed the drone strike.
“There was a very bad smell and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes,” said Zubair.
Nabeela recalled the explosion had been “very close to us” and had been “very strong.” It took her into the air and pushed her to the ground. When she ventured to where her grandmother had been killed, Nabeela said, “I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” recalled Nabeela. “It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth.”
Following this attack, a “second volley of drone missiles” were fired. They hit a “vacant area of the field” nine feet from where their grandmother had been standing.
The report describes:

A few minutes after the first strike a second volley of drone missiles was fired, hitting a vacant area of the field around 9ft from where Mamana Bibi was killed. Mamana Bibi’s grandsons Kaleemul and Samadur Rehman were there, having rushed to the scene when the first volley struck. Kaleemul Rehman recalled: “I was sitting at my home drinking tea [when] suddenly I heard a sound of explosions. I ran outside and saw the rocket had left a big crater in the field and dead animals, and the area was full of smoke and dust. I could not see my grandmother anywhere.” As the two boys surveyed the area, they discovered their grandmother had been blown to pieces. Fearing further attacks, the two tried to flee the area when the second volley of missiles was fired. Kaleemul was hit by shrapnel, breaking his left leg and suffering a large, deep gash to that thigh. “This time I felt something hit my leg and the wave of the blast knocked me unconscious,” Kaleemul said. “Later I regained consciousness and noticed that my leg was wounded and my cousin was carrying me on his back to the main road, about 1.5 miles away.” From there a car drove Kaleemul to the Agency Headquarters Hospital.

Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, was not engaged in any fighting when she was hit. She may have been killed as a result of “faulty intelligence.” Or, perhaps, “drone operators deliberately targeted and killed” her. It is unknown what exactly happened because US officials refuse to provide additional information.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns has called this CIA tactic of targeting civilian rescuers a “war crime.”
“When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict,” he wrote in a recent UN report on drones.
Zalan, a resident of Mir Ali, which is a village in North Waziristan, told Amnesty International, “The people think that if we gather at the incident site after the drone attack there is a possibility of further attacks on them because the drones might think Taliban have gathered and fire again.”
Amnesty International contends that evidence of “follow-up attacks, possibly on the presumption that they too were members of the group being targeted by the USA,” makes it “virtually impossible for drone strikes to be surgically precise as claimed by US Administration officials, even if certain attacks comply with the necessary standards under international law.”
The report highlights two other attacks, which involved similar signature strikes, in less detail. On July 23, 2012, after targeting fighters from a group that is part of the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban, six were killed in a follow-up strike while trying to rescue those wounded. These people were not participating in “hostilities.”
On June 4, 2012, early in the morning, five men were killed in drone strike that hit a building in the village of Esso Khel. Locals arrived to assist victims. Those hit were likely Arabs or Central Asians that were members of al Qaeda. After this attack:

As one resident explained to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which also did research on this case, “They started rescue work and were collecting body pieces of the slain people and pulling out the injured from debris of the building when the drones started firing again.”

The use of drones has brought fear or terror to the innocent lives of Pakistanis. One resident said, “When the drone plane comes and we hear the sound of ‘ghommm’ people feel very scared. The drone plane can launch missiles at any time.”
But Pakistanis do not just have US drone strikes to fear. They have to fear attacks from Pakistani forces and other armed groups, particularly if they live in North Waziristan. Such armed groups have engaged in “unlawful killings” and committed war crimes. Pakistan has done a poor job of bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.
Each of the people who Amnesty International spoke to for the report “did so at great personal risk, knowing that they might face reprisals from US or Pakistani authorities, the Taliban, or other groups. They spoke out because they were anxious to make known the human cost of the drone program, and the impact on themselves and their communities of living in a state of fear.”
Chillingly, a person unnamed in the report who witnessed a drone strike, said, “It is difficult to trust anyone. I can’t even trust my own brother… After I spoke to you some men in plain clothes visited me [in North Waziristan]. I don’t know who they were, whether they were Taliban or someone else; they were not from our village.”
I was clearly warned not to give any more information about the victims of drone strikes. They told me it is fine if I continue to do my work but I should not share any information with the people who come here,” the person added.
To read the full report on drone strikes in Pakistan, go here.


Street Artist Behind Satirical NYPD “Drone” Posters Arrested

A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan, using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.

In a video interview with Animal New York prior to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identities on social networking sites.

The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the 29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.
It’s not the first time the NYPD has overreacted to unsanctioned public art. Earlier this year, the department arrested 50-year-old Takeshi Miyakawa after he illuminated the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with harmless LED lanterns made from plastic “I Heart NY” shopping bags. The crackdown in Attia’s case, however, seems to have more to do with the public embarrassment faced by the department as a result of the mock ads.

Attia now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property for his spree last September, with an additional charge of weapons possession after officers allegedly found an unloaded .22 caliber revolver under his bed during the raid. As for the drones themselves, the NYPD has still not revealed any plans to use aerial robotic enforcers. But if the expanding list of FAA authorizations and documented use of drones by local police in Texas and Miami, Florida are any indication, it may be only a matter of time.

(via thepeoplesrecord)


– Two top U.S. officials defended the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes in combating al Qaeda operatives. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called it a “targeted effort.”


» Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.»*

As it stands now, the Obama administration is without a solid codified system on using drone strikes, which are responsible for killing a disproportionately high number of «unknowns» and innocents. Cenk Uygur discusses the issue at length, explaining why solid, structured policy on drones is extremely necessary, but is only being reached as a «leisurely» pace.

*Read more from Scott Shane/ New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-bo…

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Why the Obama administration thought that Romney could not just issue new guidelines and ignore their new rules? If it is just a matter of administrative precedent, that can easily be overruled.

The US government should not be permitted to exercise violence abroad without a declaration of war and congressional approval and oversight. If it has to happen, it should be done by the Department of Defense, not the CIA or sub-contractors to the CIA, a civilian agency.

Cenk points out that ‘signature strikes,’ where the victims are unknown and the drone operators are just going by weapons going off, should be forbidden. (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. are places where celebratory fire is common).

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that US media consistently underestimate the number of non-combatant deaths that occur as a result of drone strikes.

With his usual erudition, Cenk cites the work of Gregory D. Johnsen on Yemen, who argues that al-Qaeda has tripled in size in the past few years there, in some large part because of US drone strikes.


Google Earth has published images of a secret US airfield in Nevada. The images indicate that the base is used to test and maintain unmanned drones. And now, the publication is fueling a debate about whether Google is compromising US security.

­Aviation website Flight Global found the Yucca Lake airfield image on Google Earth. The images allowed Flight Global to write a detailed description of site, claiming a 5,200 foot (1,580 meter) asphalt runway, with MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – also known as drones – being towed on the parking ramp. The image also shows four hangars, a parking lot and a security perimeter. Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Globalsecurity.org, said that the hangars could accommodate up to 10-15 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft. Flight Global estimates that the base can accommodate approximately 80 employees plus some specialized drone maintenance facilities.

One piece of evidence suggests that the airfield is used to test the new RQ-170 Sentinel, a drone nicknamed the «Beast of Kandahar»: a special clamshell hangar, used specifically to lodge the “Beasts,” can be seen at Yucca Lake.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the most sophisticated drones in the American arsenal. It features high-definition cameras, sensors that can scan for nuclear armaments, and an advanced stealth shell to hide it from radar detection. The Iranian government claims it recently captured an RQ-170 Sentinel it alleges was being used by the United States to spy on Iranian nuclear activities.

Earlier images of the airfield showed other aircraft on the site – the Pilatus PC-12 and the Beechcraft King Air, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin also manufactures some of the most advanced drones for the US military – the Polecat technology demonstrator and the RQ-170 Sentinel – which were tested at airfields on the same range.

It is not yet clear which US government agency uses the Yucca Lake airfield. The airfield is located on the heavily restricted Tonopah Test Range, which makes use of land formally belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the US Department of Energy. The airfield’s isolation from other sites on the range has prompted speculation that it may be a secret CIA testing spot for hardware and software for its own drone program. The Department of Energy also frequently leases its facilities to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

According to archive images, the Yucca airfield was constructed around 2002. Two reports by the Department of Energy indicate that the base operates 4-6 UAV flights and 2-3 manned flights, over the dry Yucca lakebed at altitudes under 12,000 feet (3,650 meters), every day.

Google has already been the subject of controversy for publishing air base images. In 2009, images of the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan (taken in 2006) showed the presence of Predator drones, although the Pakistani government had previously said that the US did not base its drone operations in the country.

Journalist Russ Baker believes a national and international conversation must be had about the importance of privacy and national security.

“Google’s function is to send satellites around the world – to map the world for us – and that’s what they’re doing,” he noted.

But with so many secret locations across the US and around the globe, Google simply has no way of knowing about all of them. “They have to tell Google all their secret facilities first, and then ask them to go to great measures to secure them,” Baker told RT.

“We see more and more conflict because governments … want to be able to essentially pry into everyone’s lives, and have no one prying into what they are doing.»


Chris Woods writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually gets all the credit for the first US drone targeted killing beyond the conventional battlefield.

But it was the military which gave the final go-ahead to kill on November 3 2002.

Lt General Michael DeLong was at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida when news came in that the CIA had found its target. The deputy commander made his way down to the UAV Room, showing live video feeds from a CIA Predator high above Marib province in Yemen.

The armed drone was tracking an SUV on the move. The six terrorist suspects inside were unaware that a decision had already been made to kill them.

Interviewed by PBS, DeLong later recalled speaking by phone with CIA Director George Tenet as he watched the video wall:

‘Tenet goes “You going to make the call?” And I said, “I’ll make the call.” He says, “This SUV over here is the one that has Ali in it.” I said, “OK, fine.” You know, “Shoot him.” They lined it up and shot it.’

Eight thousand miles away and moments later, six alleged terrorists were dead. Among them was a US citizen.

‘Orchestrator’ killed
The media carried detailed accounts of the ‘secret’ attack within days. Yemen’s government, which had co-operated on the strike, also released the names of the six men killed, including that of US citizen Kemal Darwish.

Concerns he had been deliberately targeted were dismissed, as it was reported the intended CIA target was Qa’id Salim Sinan al-Harithi, al Qaeda’s ‘orchestrator’ of the lethal attack on the USS Cole.

As the New York Times noted at the time, ‘Mr. Harethi was not on the FBI’s list of the 22-most-wanted terrorist fugitives in the world,’ and added that ’although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation.’

A secret US cable, dated a fortnight prior to the strike, also shows that Yemen’s government had already incarcerated more than a dozen men wanted in connection with the Cole bombing. At least one of them, Fahd al Quso, was killed in a subsequent US drone strike.

Although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation’
New York Times, November 2002

US citizen Darwish was simply in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ that November, it was said. Yet just six weeks beforehand, the Lackawanna terrorist plot in upstate New York had been exposed. Kemal Darwish was named as a key suspect, and a ‘massive worldwide manhunt‘ for him was underway.

Questions remain about how much the CIA and Centcom actually knew about the presence of a US citizen that day.

When assistant US defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz openly discussed the strike with CNN on November 5, he noted only that a ‘successful tactical operation [has] gotten rid of somebody dangerous.’ It would be many years before senior officials would again openly acknowledge the covert drones project.

No inevitability
The way had been cleared for the November 2002 killings months earlier, when President Bush lifted a 25-year ban on US assassinations just after 9/11.

He later wrote that ‘George [Tenet] proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for the CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.’

Since then, under both Bush and Obama, the US has carried out targeted killings (or extrajudicial executions according to UN experts) using conventional aircraft and helicopter strikes; cruise missiles; and even naval bombardments.

Yet the drone remains the US’s preferred method of killing. The Bureau has identified a minimum of 2,800 (and as many as 4,100) killed in covert US drone strikes over the past ten years. What began as an occasional tactic has, over time, morphed into an industrialised killing process.

There was no inevitability to this when the strikes began. Time magazine opined in 2002 that covert drone attacks were ‘unlikely to become a norm.’ And in the early years of the programme this was true. The next covert drone strike took place in Pakistan in June 2004, followed by a further strike 11 months later.

Yet slowly, surely, the United States has come to depend on its drone killing programme. By Obama’s presidency drone use against alleged militants was sometimes daily. Six times more covert strikes have hit Pakistan under Barack Obama than under George W Bush. And as the Bureau’s work shows, when known strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are added together, they reveal a growing dependence upon covert drone killings.

Recent reports show that the US is now formalising the drone killing project. Some insiders talk of a decade or more of killing to come, with Mitt Romney noting that he would continue the policy if elected.

In Washington at least, a decade of targeted killings of alleged terror suspects appears to have normalised the process.

Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Speaking of killing children, the Afghanistan government said this morning that a NATO operation on Saturday killed three more Afghan children, ones who were tending to livestock.

UPDATE

There’s one other vital point to be made here. Klein says that «there is a really major possibility of abuse [of drone power] if you have the wrong people running the government» – in other words, we can trust Obama with it, but not the big bad Republicans. This was precisely what Bush followers used to say about his claimed powers of due-process-free eavesdropping and detention: maybe this would be scary if Hillary Clinton could do this, but I trust Bush to use it only against the Bad Guys.
Leaving aside the authoritarian willingness to trust certain leaders with unchecked power, this is not how the US government works. Once a power is legitimized and institutionalized, then it is vested in all presidents, current and future, Democratic and Republican. That is whyThomas Jefferson warned: «In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.» Those who cheer for the unchecked power to assassinate in secret because it’s Obama who currently wields that power will be the ones fully responsible when some leader they don’t trust exercises it – abuses it – in the future.

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 OctoberImran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country’s next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month. On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was «interrogated on [his] views on drones» and then added: «My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop.» He then defiantly noted: «Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance.» The State Department acknowledged Khan’s detention and said: «The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States.» Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that «our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband,» and added that the burden is on the visitor «to demonstrate that they are admissible» and «the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.» There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan – the potential next Prime Minister – to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur. But the most important point here is that Khan’s detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, «this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics.» Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled «The Other Side», which «revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan.» As he put it, «the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks» by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes. Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US. The month prior, Shahzad Akbar – a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights – was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted. There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public – the domestic public, that is – from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, «Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?» This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films – one from Iraq and the other from Yemen – that showed the views and perspectives of America’s adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters’ notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published – demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it – that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work. That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration. Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration’s view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year – in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones – granted anonymity to a «senior American counterterrorism official» to smear the Bureau’s journalists and its sources as wanting to «help al-Qaida succeed». For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor. That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration’s use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US. What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how «those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind,» That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.


http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/drone_war_13672 http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/revenge_of_the_drones

As a result of the unprecedented 41 drone strikes into Pakistan authorized by the Obama administration, aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there, about a half-dozen leaders of militant organizations have been killed–including two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban–in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants and civilians, according to our analysis.[1]
The number of civilian deaths caused by the drones is an important issue because in the charged political atmosphere of today’s Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, the drone program is a particular cause of anger among those who see it as an infringement on Pakistan’s sovereignty. A Gallup poll in August found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis favored the strikes, while two-thirds opposed them.
An important factor in the controversy over the drones is the widespread perception that they kill large numbers of Pakistani civilians. Some commentators have asserted that the overwhelming majority of casualties are civilians. Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed «687 innocent Pakistani civilians.» A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had «killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.» In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the «public outrage» they arouse.
A very different picture was presented earlier this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.
Our analysis suggests quite different conclusions than those of either Kilcullen and Exum or theLong War Journal.





By: Tuesday October 22, 2013 9:43 am


Family of Mamana Bibi, 68-year-old grandmother killed in US drone strike in Pakistan




Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals.
Both of the drone strikes detailed in the report, “Will I Be Next?”, occurred in 2012 and were reported. In the aftermath of one of the strikes, there was particular focus on the fact that the US was deliberately attacking civilian rescuers after the first strike was launched against whomever had been targeted.
On July 6, 2012, laborers from the Zowi Sidgi village were gathered in a tent after working a long day in the summer heat. Residents nearby could clearly see four drones were flying overhead. Then, as the Amnesty International report describes, “the sound of multiple missiles” suddenly was heard “piercing the sky, hitting the tent and killing at least eight people instantly.”
Ahsan, a chromite miner who lives in Zowi Sidgi, said, “When we went to where the missiles hit to help people; we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. [I saw] bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces.”
There was panic, with people running to their homes, to trees, anywhere to escape. Some villagers chose to go see if there were any survivors.
One of the laborers, Junaid, recounted how people attempted to collect bodies. They carried stretchers, blankets and water. But, minutes later, another series of missiles were launched. They targeted those who had come to clean up the devastation and six people were instantly killed. Two others died from wounds.
In total, “18 people were killed in the drone strikes that evening and at least 22 others were injured, including an eight-year-old girl named Shehrbano who sustained shrapne linjuries to her leg.”
“Some people lost their hands,” Nabeel said of the second strike. “Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere on the ground. The bodies were burnt and it was not possible to recognize them.”
No more villagers went near where victims had been killed until the next morning. Just about everyone feared if they came close to the site they would be killed in another attack.
In another attack on October 24, 2012, which Amnesty International detailed in the organization’s report, a sixty-eight year-old grandmother named Mamana Bibi was killed instantly by two Hellfire missiles while she was gathering okra in the family fields for cooking that evening. Two grandchildren, Zuhair and Nabeela, witnessed the drone strike.
“There was a very bad smell and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes,” said Zubair.
Nabeela recalled the explosion had been “very close to us” and had been “very strong.” It took her into the air and pushed her to the ground. When she ventured to where her grandmother had been killed, Nabeela said, “I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” recalled Nabeela. “It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth.”
Following this attack, a “second volley of drone missiles” were fired. They hit a “vacant area of the field” nine feet from where their grandmother had been standing.
The report describes:
A few minutes after the first strike a second volley of drone missiles was fired, hitting a vacant area of the field around 9ft from where Mamana Bibi was killed. Mamana Bibi’s grandsons Kaleemul and Samadur Rehman were there, having rushed to the scene when the first volley struck. Kaleemul Rehman recalled: “I was sitting at my home drinking tea [when] suddenly I heard a sound of explosions. I ran outside and saw the rocket had left a big crater in the field and dead animals, and the area was full of smoke and dust. I could not see my grandmother anywhere.” As the two boys surveyed the area, they discovered their grandmother had been blown to pieces. Fearing further attacks, the two tried to flee the area when the second volley of missiles was fired. Kaleemul was hit by shrapnel, breaking his left leg and suffering a large, deep gash to that thigh. “This time I felt something hit my leg and the wave of the blast knocked me unconscious,” Kaleemul said. “Later I regained consciousness and noticed that my leg was wounded and my cousin was carrying me on his back to the main road, about 1.5 miles away.” From there a car drove Kaleemul to the Agency Headquarters Hospital.
Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, was not engaged in any fighting when she was hit. She may have been killed as a result of “faulty intelligence.” Or, perhaps, “drone operators deliberately targeted and killed” her. It is unknown what exactly happened because US officials refuse to provide additional information.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns has called this CIA tactic of targeting civilian rescuers a “war crime.”
“When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict,” he wrote in a recent UN report on drones.
Zalan, a resident of Mir Ali, which is a village in North Waziristan, told Amnesty International, “The people think that if we gather at the incident site after the drone attack there is a possibility of further attacks on them because the drones might think Taliban have gathered and fire again.”
Amnesty International contends that evidence of “follow-up attacks, possibly on the presumption that they too were members of the group being targeted by the USA,” makes it “virtually impossible for drone strikes to be surgically precise as claimed by US Administration officials, even if certain attacks comply with the necessary standards under international law.”
The report highlights two other attacks, which involved similar signature strikes, in less detail. On July 23, 2012, after targeting fighters from a group that is part of the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban, six were killed in a follow-up strike while trying to rescue those wounded. These people were not participating in “hostilities.”
On June 4, 2012, early in the morning, five men were killed in drone strike that hit a building in the village of Esso Khel. Locals arrived to assist victims. Those hit were likely Arabs or Central Asians that were members of al Qaeda. After this attack:
As one resident explained to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which also did research on this case, “They started rescue work and were collecting body pieces of the slain people and pulling out the injured from debris of the building when the drones started firing again.”
The use of drones has brought fear or terror to the innocent lives of Pakistanis. One resident said, “When the drone plane comes and we hear the sound of ‘ghommm’ people feel very scared. The drone plane can launch missiles at any time.”
But Pakistanis do not just have US drone strikes to fear. They have to fear attacks from Pakistani forces and other armed groups, particularly if they live in North Waziristan. Such armed groups have engaged in “unlawful killings” and committed war crimes. Pakistan has done a poor job of bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.
Each of the people who Amnesty International spoke to for the report “did so at great personal risk, knowing that they might face reprisals from US or Pakistani authorities, the Taliban, or other groups. They spoke out because they were anxious to make known the human cost of the drone program, and the impact on themselves and their communities of living in a state of fear.”
Chillingly, a person unnamed in the report who witnessed a drone strike, said, “It is difficult to trust anyone. I can’t even trust my own brother… After I spoke to you some men in plain clothes visited me [in North Waziristan]. I don’t know who they were, whether they were Taliban or someone else; they were not from our village.”
I was clearly warned not to give any more information about the victims of drone strikes. They told me it is fine if I continue to do my work but I should not share any information with the people who come here,” the person added.
To read the full report on drone strikes in Pakistan, go here.


Street Artist Behind Satirical NYPD “Drone” Posters Arrested

A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan, using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.
In a video interview with Animal New York prior to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identities on social networking sites.
The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the 29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.
It’s not the first time the NYPD has overreacted to unsanctioned public art. Earlier this year, the department arrested 50-year-old Takeshi Miyakawa after he illuminated the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with harmless LED lanterns made from plastic “I Heart NY” shopping bags. The crackdown in Attia’s case, however, seems to have more to do with the public embarrassment faced by the department as a result of the mock ads.
Attia now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property for his spree last September, with an additional charge of weapons possession after officers allegedly found an unloaded .22 caliber revolver under his bed during the raid. As for the drones themselves, the NYPD has still not revealed any plans to use aerial robotic enforcers. But if the expanding list of FAA authorizations and documented use of drones by local police in Texas and Miami, Florida are any indication, it may be only a matter of time.
(via thepeoplesrecord)






– Two top U.S. officials defended the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes in combating al Qaeda operatives. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called it a “targeted effort.”


" Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory."*

As it stands now, the Obama administration is without a solid codified system on using drone strikes, which are responsible for killing a disproportionately high number of "unknowns" and innocents. Cenk Uygur discusses the issue at length, explaining why solid, structured policy on drones is extremely necessary, but is only being reached as a "leisurely" pace.







*Read more from Scott Shane/ New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-bo...

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Why the Obama administration thought that Romney could not just issue new guidelines and ignore their new rules? If it is just a matter of administrative precedent, that can easily be overruled.

The US government should not be permitted to exercise violence abroad without a declaration of war and congressional approval and oversight. If it has to happen, it should be done by the Department of Defense, not the CIA or sub-contractors to the CIA, a civilian agency.

Cenk points out that ‘signature strikes,’ where the victims are unknown and the drone operators are just going by weapons going off, should be forbidden. (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. are places where celebratory fire is common).

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that US media consistently underestimate the number of non-combatant deaths that occur as a result of drone strikes.

With his usual erudition, Cenk cites the work of Gregory D. Johnsen on Yemen, who argues that al-Qaeda has tripled in size in the past few years there, in some large part because of US drone strikes.





Google Earth has published images of a secret US airfield in Nevada. The images indicate that the base is used to test and maintain unmanned drones. And now, the publication is fueling a debate about whether Google is compromising US security.



­Aviation website Flight Global found the Yucca Lake airfield image on Google Earth. The images allowed Flight Global to write a detailed description of site, claiming a 5,200 foot (1,580 meter) asphalt runway, with MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – also known as drones – being towed on the parking ramp. The image also shows four hangars, a parking lot and a security perimeter. Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Globalsecurity.org, said that the hangars could accommodate up to 10-15 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft. Flight Global estimates that the base can accommodate approximately 80 employees plus some specialized drone maintenance facilities.

One piece of evidence suggests that the airfield is used to test the new RQ-170 Sentinel, a drone nicknamed the "Beast of Kandahar": a special clamshell hangar, used specifically to lodge the “Beasts,” can be seen at Yucca Lake.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the most sophisticated drones in the American arsenal. It features high-definition cameras, sensors that can scan for nuclear armaments, and an advanced stealth shell to hide it from radar detection. The Iranian government claims it recently captured an RQ-170 Sentinel it alleges was being used by the United States to spy on Iranian nuclear activities.

Earlier images of the airfield showed other aircraft on the site – the Pilatus PC-12 and the Beechcraft King Air, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin also manufactures some of the most advanced drones for the US military – the Polecat technology demonstrator and the RQ-170 Sentinel – which were tested at airfields on the same range.

It is not yet clear which US government agency uses the Yucca Lake airfield. The airfield is located on the heavily restricted Tonopah Test Range, which makes use of land formally belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the US Department of Energy. The airfield’s isolation from other sites on the range has prompted speculation that it may be a secret CIA testing spot for hardware and software for its own drone program. The Department of Energy also frequently leases its facilities to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

According to archive images, the Yucca airfield was constructed around 2002. Two reports by the Department of Energy indicate that the base operates 4-6 UAV flights and 2-3 manned flights, over the dry Yucca lakebed at altitudes under 12,000 feet (3,650 meters), every day.

Google has already been the subject of controversy for publishing air base images. In 2009, images of the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan (taken in 2006) showed the presence of Predator drones, although the Pakistani government had previously said that the US did not base its drone operations in the country.

Journalist Russ Baker believes a national and international conversation must be had about the importance of privacy and national security.

“Google’s function is to send satellites around the world – to map the world for us – and that’s what they're doing,” he noted.

But with so many secret locations across the US and around the globe, Google simply has no way of knowing about all of them. “They have to tell Google all their secret facilities first, and then ask them to go to great measures to secure them,” Baker told RT.

“We see more and more conflict because governments … want to be able to essentially pry into everyone’s lives, and have no one prying into what they are doing."




Chris Woods writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually gets all the credit for the first US drone targeted killing beyond the conventional battlefield.

But it was the military which gave the final go-ahead to kill on November 3 2002.

Lt General Michael DeLong was at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida when news came in that the CIA had found its target. The deputy commander made his way down to the UAV Room, showing live video feeds from a CIA Predator high above Marib province in Yemen.

The armed drone was tracking an SUV on the move. The six terrorist suspects inside were unaware that a decision had already been made to kill them.

Interviewed by PBS, DeLong later recalled speaking by phone with CIA Director George Tenet as he watched the video wall:

‘Tenet goes “You going to make the call?” And I said, “I’ll make the call.” He says, “This SUV over here is the one that has Ali in it.” I said, “OK, fine.” You know, “Shoot him.” They lined it up and shot it.’

Eight thousand miles away and moments later, six alleged terrorists were dead. Among them was a US citizen.

‘Orchestrator’ killed
The media carried detailed accounts of the ‘secret’ attack within days. Yemen’s government, which had co-operated on the strike, also released the names of the six men killed, including that of US citizen Kemal Darwish.

Concerns he had been deliberately targeted were dismissed, as it was reported the intended CIA target was Qa’id Salim Sinan al-Harithi, al Qaeda’s ‘orchestrator’ of the lethal attack on the USS Cole.

As the New York Times noted at the time, ‘Mr. Harethi was not on the FBI’s list of the 22-most-wanted terrorist fugitives in the world,’ and added that ’although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation.’

A secret US cable, dated a fortnight prior to the strike, also shows that Yemen’s government had already incarcerated more than a dozen men wanted in connection with the Cole bombing. At least one of them, Fahd al Quso, was killed in a subsequent US drone strike.

Although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation’
New York Times, November 2002

US citizen Darwish was simply in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ that November, it was said. Yet just six weeks beforehand, the Lackawanna terrorist plot in upstate New York had been exposed. Kemal Darwish was named as a key suspect, and a ‘massive worldwide manhunt‘ for him was underway.

Questions remain about how much the CIA and Centcom actually knew about the presence of a US citizen that day.

When assistant US defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz openly discussed the strike with CNN on November 5, he noted only that a ‘successful tactical operation [has] gotten rid of somebody dangerous.’ It would be many years before senior officials would again openly acknowledge the covert drones project.

No inevitability
The way had been cleared for the November 2002 killings months earlier, when President Bush lifted a 25-year ban on US assassinations just after 9/11.

He later wrote that ‘George [Tenet] proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for the CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.’

Since then, under both Bush and Obama, the US has carried out targeted killings (or extrajudicial executions according to UN experts) using conventional aircraft and helicopter strikes; cruise missiles; and even naval bombardments.

Yet the drone remains the US’s preferred method of killing. The Bureau has identified a minimum of 2,800 (and as many as 4,100) killed in covert US drone strikes over the past ten years. What began as an occasional tactic has, over time, morphed into an industrialised killing process.


There was no inevitability to this when the strikes began. Time magazine opined in 2002 that covert drone attacks were ‘unlikely to become a norm.’ And in the early years of the programme this was true. The next covert drone strike took place in Pakistan in June 2004, followed by a further strike 11 months later.

Yet slowly, surely, the United States has come to depend on its drone killing programme. By Obama’s presidency drone use against alleged militants was sometimes daily. Six times more covert strikes have hit Pakistan under Barack Obama than under George W Bush. And as the Bureau’s work shows, when known strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are added together, they reveal a growing dependence upon covert drone killings.

Recent reports show that the US is now formalising the drone killing project. Some insiders talk of a decade or more of killing to come, with Mitt Romney noting that he would continue the policy if elected.

In Washington at least, a decade of targeted killings of alleged terror suspects appears to have normalised the process.

Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.



Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Speaking of killing children, the Afghanistan government said this morning that a NATO operation on Saturday killed three more Afghan children, ones who were tending to livestock.

UPDATE

There's one other vital point to be made here. Klein says that "there is a really major possibility of abuse [of drone power] if you have the wrong people running the government" - in other words, we can trust Obama with it, but not the big bad Republicans. This was precisely what Bush followers used to say about his claimed powers of due-process-free eavesdropping and detention: maybe this would be scary if Hillary Clinton could do this, but I trust Bush to use it only against the Bad Guys.
Leaving aside the authoritarian willingness to trust certain leaders with unchecked power, this is not how the US government works. Once a power is legitimized and institutionalized, then it is vested in all presidents, current and future, Democratic and Republican. That is whyThomas Jefferson warned: "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Those who cheer for the unchecked power to assassinate in secret because it's Obama who currently wields that power will be the ones fully responsible when some leader they don't trust exercises it - abuses it - in the future.
guardian.co.uk, Imran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country's next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month. On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was "interrogated on [his] views on drones" and then added: "My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop." He then defiantly noted: "Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance." The State Department acknowledged Khan's detention and said: "The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States." Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that "our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband," and added that the burden is on the visitor "to demonstrate that they are admissible" and "the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility." There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan - the potential next Prime Minister - to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur. But the most important point here is that Khan's detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, "this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics." Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled "The Other Side", which "revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan." As he put it, "the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks" by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes. Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US. The month prior, Shahzad Akbar - a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights - was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted. There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public - the domestic public, that is - from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, "Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?" This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films - one from Iraq and the other from Yemen - that showed the views and perspectives of America's adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters' notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published - demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it - that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work. That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration. Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration's view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year - in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones - granted anonymity to a "senior American counterterrorism official" to smear the Bureau's journalists and its sources as wanting to "help al-Qaida succeed". For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor. That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration's use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US. What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how "those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind," That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.

http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/drone_war_13672 http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/revenge_of_the_drones
As a result of the unprecedented 41 drone strikes into Pakistan authorized by the Obama administration, aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there, about a half-dozen leaders of militant organizations have been killed--including two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban--in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants and civilians, according to our analysis.[1]
The number of civilian deaths caused by the drones is an important issue because in the charged political atmosphere of today's Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, the drone program is a particular cause of anger among those who see it as an infringement on Pakistan's sovereignty. A Gallup poll in August found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis favored the strikes, while two-thirds opposed them.
An important factor in the controversy over the drones is the widespread perception that they kill large numbers of Pakistani civilians. Some commentators have asserted that the overwhelming majority of casualties are civilians. Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed "687 innocent Pakistani civilians." A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the "public outrage" they arouse.
A very different picture was presented earlier this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.
Our analysis suggests quite different conclusions than those of either Kilcullen and Exum or theLong War Journal.

David Petraeus

The email accounts of Generals David Petraeus and John Allen aren’t the only ones being targeted by the feds. Google has released its bi-annual transparency report and says that the government’s demands for personal data is at an all-time high.

Internet giant Google published statistics from their latest analysis of requests from governments around the globe this week, and the findings show that it is hardly just the inboxes of the Pentagon’s top-brass that are being put under the microscope. Details pertaining to nearly 8,000 Google and Gmail accounts have been ordered by Uncle Sam during just the first six months of the year, and figures from the periods before suggest that things aren’t about to get any better for those wishing to protect their privacy.

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google acknowledges in a blog post published Tuesday, November 13.

From January through June, the US government filed more than 16,000 requests for user data from Google on as many as 7,969 individual accounts, the report shows.

The Silicon Valley company notes that “The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year,” but says that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the government that’s ramping up the acceleration into a full-blown surveillance state. According to Google’s take, “The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.”

For all of those requests in the US, Google says they complied with the government’s demands 90 percent of the time; but while it seems like a high number, that figure actually constitutes the smallest success rate the feds have had since Google began tracking these numbers in 2010. In a separate report published earlier this year by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based advocacy group awarded Google high praise for doing more than other industry titans in terms of letting feds force them into handing over information without good reason, citing specifically their efforts — albeit unsuccessfully — in handing over user info to the Justice Department during the start of its ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.

Of the 20,938 user data request sent from governments around the globe, the United States came in first with the number of demands at 7,969, with India at a distant second with 2,319 requests. The US government’s success rate in terms of getting that information trumps most every other country, however, with full or partial compliance on the part of Google rarely exceeding 70 percent.

Elsewhere in the report, Google says it’s more than just surveillance of individual users that is on the rise. The US has also been adamant with censoring the Web, writing Google five times between January and June to take down YouTube videos critical of government, law enforcement or public officials. In regards to the five pleas to delete seven offending videos, Google says, “We did not remove content in response to these requests.”

The company was more willing to side with authorities in other cases, though, admitting to taking down 1,664 posts from a Google Groups community after a court order asked for the removal of 1,754 on the basis of “a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family.” Google also followed through with around one-third of the requests to remove search results that linked to websites that allegedly defamed organizations and individuals (223 of the 641 pleas) and say “the number of content removal requests we received increased by 46% compared to the previous reporting period.”

According to the report, Google only received one request from the US government to remove a video from YouTube on the grounds of ensuring “national security” but does not disclose the results of that plea. No further information is available in the report as to what the government demanded removed, but in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi originally blamed by many on an anti-Islamic video clip linked to a California man, Google rejected demands from the US to delete the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from YouTube.

That isn’t to say that Washington is responsible for the bulk of the demands that end up on the desks of Google’s administrators. The report notes Google has received requests to remove search results that link to sites that host alleged copyright-infringing content more than 8 million times in just the last month, with more than 32,000 websites being singled out by the materials’ respective owners. Taking into account the last year and a half, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — the largest trade-group representing the US music industry — asked Google to stop linking to roughly 4.5 million URLs that they say hosted illegal content.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments to decide whether or not a case can go forth that will challenge the FISA Amendment Act of 2008, an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to eavesdrop on emails sent as long as one of the persons involved is suspected of being out of the country. When asked earlier in the year to give an estimate of how many Americans have their electronic communications wiretapped by the National Security Administration, the inspector general of the NSA declined to issue a response, even to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to statements made by NSA whistleblower Bill Binney at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York this year, the US government is “pulling together all the data about virtually every US citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing.»


US President Barack Obama has backed a senior general, despite reports that he exchanged «flirtatious» emails with Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

Spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama had «faith» in Gen John Allen, chosen to be the next Nato commander in Europe.

Harassment allegations by Mrs Kelley helped unmask an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Gen Petraeus resigned on Friday. Gen Allen says he has done nothing wrong.

«I can tell you that the president thinks very highly of Gen Allen and his service to his country, as well as the job he has done in Afghanistan,» spokesman Jay Carney said, in the first White House reaction since Gen Petraeus quit.

He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them”

He added that President Barack Obama was «very happy» with Gen Allen’s service and record.

Mr Carney also asked reporters «not to extrapolate too broadly» about whether the cases involving Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen suggested a wider cultural problem within the US military.

«He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them,» Mr Carney added.

Nomination on hold

The Pentagon says 20-30,000 pages of Gen Allen’s documents are being examined, with officials saying they contain «potentially inappropriate» emails between the general and Mrs Kelley over the past two years.

An anonymous senior US official who has read the emails told the Associated Press that the exchanges were relatively innocuous, even though they might be construed as unprofessional and flirty.

The official said the emails included pet names such as «sweetheart» and «dear», but did not suggest an affair or the exchange of classified information.

Gen Allen, 58, took over command of coalition forces in Afghanistan after David Petraeus moved to the CIA in 2011.

Currently commanding 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Gen Allen was due to face a confirmation hearing in the US Senate on Thursday for his new role as supreme commander of Nato forces in Europe.

That hearing has now been suspended at the request of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.


Michael Hastings, the journalist behind the Rolling Stone article which resulted in McChrystal’s ouster, recently wrote for Buzzfeed that spin was crucial to the Iraqi surge: “he [Petraeus] pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.”

Hastings characterized the policy as playing both sides in a civil war,
a policy which resulted in the death of 800 American soldiers and exponentially more Iraqis.

The sectarian fault lines resulting from this policy have left Iraq a powder keg waiting to go off. But it doesn’t matter as far as the target audience is concerned.

Quoting Petraeus’ 1987 Princeton dissertation, Hastings summed up the general’s professional philosophy:

«What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.»

In that light, the fall of Petraeus coincides with the one tragedy he managed where the perception and what actually occurred intersected: Benghazi.

During the Vice Presidential Debate in October, Joe Biden was accused of throwing the CIA under the bus by insinuating the agency had provided faulty intelligence regarding the 9/11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his diplomatic mission.

The defrocking of Petraeus came one step closer on November 1, when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton called Petraeus the night of the attack asking for help that never came. While the “State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security,»»the CIA didn’t have the same understanding about its security responsibilities,» the Wall Street Journal reported.

The writing was on the wall. Petraeus was set to testify in closed-door sessions before the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, and with the White House’s less than glowing review of his performance, he would have had a venue to vindicate himself.

That “one of the greatest generals in a generation” resigned five days before speaking out has only spurred speculation that he is a patsy for a White House cover-up. His resignation coincidentally came a mere three days after Obama was re-elected, raising speculation regarding the timing of the general’s less than fortunate affair.

And misery loves company, as the current head of ISAF forces in Afghanistan might soon learn.
The nomination of US General John Allen as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was suspended over the probe into CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was accused of exchanging “inappropriate” emails with a woman linked to Petraeus, though defense officials say the investigation will exonerate him.

There is no definite answer as to why Petraeus was exposed when he was, or who might go down with him. It might have simply been bad timing. Maybe Petraeus would have taken the hit for Benghazi and stayed on like a good soldier. Whatever the case, a few questions must be asked:

  • How long did the White House know about the affair?
  • Did the Obama Administration ask the FBI to suppress information regarding the case until after Election Day and if so, why?

­

Live by the media, die by the media

­The final cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and by extension Pakistan) could run as high as $4.4 trillion when it is all said and done. There have been over 3000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan and 4,486 US troop deaths in Iraq. Civilian casualties run into the six digits. But affairs, off-color comments in Music magazines and being more interested in the war one is prosecuting than “fawning” over visiting lawmakers and the Washington elite are the sins that end military careers.


The White House said Tuesday that it was «up to Congress» whether to call former CIA Director David Petraeus to testify about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

«Congress [makes] decisions about who is called to testify,» press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

The Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives had been set to hear from Petraeus about the attack on the American compound in separate closed-door hearings on Thursday. But aides to both panels indicated that the retired Army general would be replaced by Mike Morrell, the acting CIA director.

«The president is confident that Acting Director Morrell is fully informed and capable of representing the CIA in a hearing about the incidents in Benghazi,» Carney said.

Still, key senators have made it clear that Petraeus, whose shocking resignation came after the public disclosure of an extramarital affair, will ultimately need to be heard. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, told MSNBC on Monday that her panel «should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up.»

«But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient,» she continued. «And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus. And we will likely do that in closed session, but it will be done one way or the other.» Feinstein also said the Senate would fight, if necessary, to obtain a report from a Petraeus trip to Libya in late October.
«We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me he has read it, and then we tried to get it and they tell me it hasn’t been done. That’s unacceptable,» she said. «We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that.»


How a cyber-harassment complaint triggered a dragnet that toppled a CIA director

By

It’s hard to stay focused on what really matters in the unfolding David Petraeus story, but there’s one issue that every juicy new tidbit only underscores: the way a strange complaint to a lone FBI agent led to an electronic dragnet that toppled the CIA director and may yet bring down the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

I’ll admit to rubbernecking at each crazy new detail that emerges – the unnamed FBI agent who trigged the Petraeus probe had earlier sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley, the woman who asked for his help with anonymous harassing emails? Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case on behalf of Kelley’s sister? Kelley, who is of Lebanese Catholic descent, is “a self-appointed go between” with Lebanese and other Mideastern officials? She once cooked alligator on the Food Network?
But the real scandal is the way a complaint about cyber-stalking from a Tampa socialite unleashed the power of the modern surveillance state on Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell – and ultimately, ironically or not, on the top spook himself.

Defenders of the surveillance state may point to national security questions about whether Petraeus was a victim of some kind of cyber-attack as a justification for the intrusion into Broadwell’s privacy, and then Petraeus’, and then the complaining Jill Kelley herself, and then Gen. John Allen. And who knows, by the end, maybe they’ll get to the bottom of something that might arguably raise national security concerns. (Marcy Wheeler raises the possibility that Kelley herself had intelligence ties, which might help explain why the FBI took her cyberstalking complaint seriously.) But none of that seems to have been on the table when the FBI decided to open its investigation of Kelley’s complaint.

The fact that Kelley’s FBI acquaintance eventually went to House Majority Whip Eric Cantor when he felt the FBI wasn’t taking the investigation seriously enough just adds another layer of grime to the story. The New York Times reported that the agent “suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.” Cantor admits he took the “whistleblower’s” concerns to FBI director Robert Mueller – as though Mueller wouldn’t know of his own agency’s investigation – just 10 days before the Nov. 6 election. While we can’t be sure Cantor’s motives were political – perhaps an embarrassing White House secret could become an October surprise? – we can’t be sure they weren’t.

So far there’s no evidence that politics drove the Petraeus investigation, from either direction, but the fact that politics was involved should remind us how easily the surveillance state can be used to advance political agendas or settle political scores. Just today Google revealed that it has received more than 16,000 U.S. government requests for user data in the first six months of this year alone (it complies with about 90 percent of requests, the report said.)


The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.


FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning – «Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics» – illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it’s only adultery that causes «concern» over their «ethics»). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley – a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) – received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:

«The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like ‘stay away from my man’, a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .
«‘More like, ‘Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'» according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.
«The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender’s spite. . . .
«When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.
«No, ‘I’ll kill you’ or ‘I’ll burn your house down,» the source says. ‘It doesn’t seem really that bad.’
«The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.
«‘What does this mean? There’s no threat there. This is against the law?’ the agents asked themselves by the source’s account.
«At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.
«‘It was a close call,’ the source says.
«What tipped it may have been Kelley’s friendship with the agent.»

That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent «was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case» – indeed, «supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter» – and was found to have «allegedly sent shirtless photos» to Kelley, and «is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI».

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus’ schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI’s investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime – or the need for any search warrant:

«Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques – including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address – to identify who was writing the e-mails.
«Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus’s account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.»

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell’s physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime – at most, they had a case of «cyber-harassment» more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people – and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.
But that isn’t all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered «alleged inappropriate communication» to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now «on hold»). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

«The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications – mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 – between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .
«Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: ‘We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'»

So not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.


Since 2008, the NSA has had the legal power to intercept all phone calls, emails and text messages sent by American citizens without probable cause. However, although long suspected, the agency has never admitted that it is analyzing the content of such messages, conceding only that persons, dates and locations are part of the snooping process. However, in a recent sworn declaration to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Binney, a former NSA employee with the signals intelligence agency within the DoD, divulges that the federal agency, has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Using as many as twenty data intercept centers throughout the United States which can each store an almost unimaginable quantity of information, Binney notes that, The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting.

http://www.infowars.com/whistleblower-nsa-analyzing-conversations-in-real-time/


The dramatic downfall of CIA chief David Petraeus has given rise to political intrigue in Washington as a drip-feed of details concerning his clandestine affair mixes with serious questions over the timing of the resignation.

Over the weekend it emerged that his relationship with biographer Paula Broadwell was discovered by FBI agents while they investigated harassing emails she allegedly sent to a second woman, who was named on Sunday by the Associated Press as Jill Kelley, a state department military liaison.

The scandal comes at a particularly sensitive time. Petraeus had been due to give evidence before a Congressional body this coming Thursday concerning the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, including America’s ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

It is now thought that Petraeus will not attend the session, robbing politicians of the opportunity to question an «absolutely necessary witness», according to Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee.

White House and intelligence officials have suggested that there is no connection between the timing of Petraeus’s resignation and the evidence session on the Benghazi attack.

But in Washington, questions are being asked as to why the FBI appeared to have sat on the information it uncovered regarding the affair before handing it on to other authorities some time later.

Intelligence officials have suggested that Petraeus was first questioned over the nature of his relationship with Broadwell two weeks ago.

But it was only on the night of the presidential election that national intelligence director James Clapper was notified of the affair. It is thought that Clapper then advised the CIA chief to resign.

Even then, it was not until the next day that the White House was informed of the situation. It then took a further day before newly re-elected President Barack Obama was told that his intelligence chief was to tender his resignation.

Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee only heard about the matter on Friday, just hours before the CIA director announced he was to step down.

Further confusing the timeline of events were reports on Sunday that leading House Republican Eric Cantor had been informed by an FBI whistleblower of the brewing Petraeus scandal two weeks ago.

If true, it would raise the prospect that the affair was known in Washington circles before Friday’s resignation.

House Republican King said on Sunday that the account of who knew what and when «doesn’t add up», saying that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

The FBI had an «obligation» to tell the president as soon as they had identified a possible security breach, he told CNN’s State of the Union.

Meanwhile, other politicians said that Petraeus may still be compelled to give evidence concerning the 11 September attack in Benghazi.

«We may well ask him,» senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday.

Congress is keen to question the former four-star general over what the CIA knew in advance of the assault, and importantly, what it had told the White House in regards to the nature of the terrorist threat.

In the run-up to last week’s election, senior Republicans accused the White House of misleading Americans over claims that it was not made aware of requests to bolster security in advance of the assault.

It is on this point that Petraeus was expected to be questioned at Thursday’s Congressional hearing. Following his resignation, it is thought that his former deputy, Michael Morell, will testify before Washington in his place as acting director of the CIA.

Morell is slated to meet with Congressional figures on Wednesday to discuss the Petraeus affair in a bid to curtail lingering suspicions over the timing of the resignation.

The political fallout from Friday’s resignation comes amid a personal crisis for a man often referred to as the leading American military mind of his generation.

In the days following his announcement to step down, a steady flow of leaks to the US media have given more detail to the affair that cost Petraeus his job.

The makings of his downfall were in a series of apparently vicious emails sent by his lover – a 40-year-old former army reservist who co-authored All In, a fawning biography of the CIA chief – to Kelley, a state department liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command.

It is thought that the threatening nature of the missives led the Florida-based recipient to seek the protection of the FBI.

An investigation of Broadwell’s personal email account uncovered letters of an explicit nature between her and Petraeus, who has been married for the past 38 years to his wife Holly.

It was then that agents approached the CIA chief directly. Having eliminated the threat of a security breach, it was decided that no further action would be taken by the FBI.

But the damage to Petraeus’s reputation was clear, and having consulted with Clapper, the decision to resign was made.

In a letter to staff explaining his move, the now outgoing CIA boss said: «Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours.»

Others close to Petraeus had an even more blunt assessment of the scandal. «He screwed up, he knows he screwed up,» said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and Petraeus’s former spokesman.


Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting an extramarital relationship, could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.

The affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, both of whom are married, began several months after his retirement from the Army in August 2011 and ended four months ago, retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus spokesman, told ABC News.

Broadwell, 40, had extraordinary access to the 60-year-old general during six trips she took to Afghanistan as his official biographer, a plum assignment for a novice writer.

«For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me,» former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor told ABC News.

The timeline of the relationship, according to Patraeus, would mean that he was carrying on the affair for the majority of his tenure at the CIA, where he began as director Sept. 6, 2011. If he carried on the affair while serving in the Army, however, Patraeus could face charges, according to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which reprimands conduct «of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.»
Whether the military would pursue such action, whatever evidence it accumulates, is unclear.

As the details of the investigation launched by the FBI unraveled this weekend, it became clear that the woman at the heart of the inquiry that led to Petraeus’ downfall had been identified as Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who volunteers to help the military. She is a family friend of Petraeus, who Broadwell apparently felt threatened by.

Kelley and her husband are longtime supporters of the military, and six months ago she was named «Honorary Ambassador to Central Command» for her volunteer work with the military. Officials say Kelley is not romantically linked to Petraeus, but befriended the general and his wife when he was stationed in Florida.

The Kelleys spent Christmases in group settings with the Petraeuses and visited them in Washington D.C., where Kelley’s sister and her son live.

«We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years.» Kelley said in a statement Sunday. «We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.»
Earlier this year, around the time that Petraeus and Broadwell were breaking off their affair, Kelly began receiving anonymous emails, which she found so threatening she went to authorities. The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell’s computer, where they found other salacious and explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus that made it clear to officials that the two were carrying on an affair.

Investigators uncovered no compromising of classified information or criminal activity, sources familiar with the probe said, adding that all that was found was a lot of «human drama.»

Broadwell, a married mother of two, had access to Petraeus while she was with him in Afghanistan as his official biographer. People close to the general had previously suspected Broadwell’s feelings for him had crossed a professional line.

They found Broadwell, who spent a year embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan, to be embarrassing and far too «gushy» about him. They said to one another they thought Broadwell «was in love with him,» sources told ABC News.

Petraeus is said to have been the one to have broken off the extramarital affair.

His storied career, first as the public face of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later as director of the CIA, came crashing down Friday when he announced his resignation from the intelligence agency, citing the indiscretion.

«After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,» Petraeus said in a statement Friday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was made aware of the Petraeus situation Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. by the FBI, according to a senior intelligence source.

After having several conversations with Petraeus that evening and the next day, Clapper advised Petraeus that the best thing to do would be for him to resign, the source said.

Clapper notified the White House the next afternoon that Petraeus was considering resigning, according to the source. Petraeus then went to the White House Thursday and told the president he thought he should resign, and Obama accepted his resignation the next day, the source said.

Despite the lengthy investigation into Broadwell by the FBI, the White House says it was not made aware of it until Wednesday, the day after the election, a revelation that surprised many.

«It just doesn’t add up. That the FBI would be carrying on this type of investigation without, again, bringing it to the president or the highest levels of the White House,» Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

Petraeus and his wife, Holly, who have been married for 38 years, are said to be staying in their Arlington Home and are doing «OK.»

«Knowing the family, I suspect it will be hard work, but given the effort, they will get through it,» Boylan, the former Petraeus spokesman, said.

Numerous questions still remain about the investigation, and some on Capitol Hill are also frustrated because Petraeus was schedule to testify to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

The timing of Petraeus’ resignation «was what it was,» an official told ABC News, adding that the time had come to tie up any loose ends in the investigation and confront the general.


One of America’s best known military leaders, and CIA head David Petraeus, has abruptly announced his resignation. Stepping down, Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair, saying he was guilty of «unacceptable» behavior. Ex-military intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Shaffer told RT there’s more behind the resignation than just moral issues.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – David Petraeus was a star on the battlefield, commanding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but was undone by «poor judgment» in engaging in an extramarital affair that led to his downfall as CIA director.

Petraeus, who was widely celebrated as a military commander and even occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, was sworn in as head of the CIA in September 2011 – and had kept a low profile since. Now speculation is sure to proliferate over whether that low profile resulted from Petraeus focusing on America’s intelligence gathering or on personal matters.

In particular, members of Congress and other officials demanding answers about the Benghazi attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens, and two CIA agents – will want to know if there was any link between Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance on the night of the Benghazi attack.

More broadly, the reason for Petraeus’s departure will raise questions about any compromising of US covert operations and intelligence. The potential for blackmail of intelligence officers is always a concern about the spy corps, but the involvement of the nation’s top spy in an extramarital affair takes the concern to a new level.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing Petraeus and the potential security risks posed by his affair, CNN reported late Friday afternoon.

In the weeks since the Benghazi attack, officials have leaked information, including how Petraeus kept information on the CIA’s role in Benghazi so private that even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was left to call Petraeus as the attack unfolded to try to get intelligence information from him.

Last week, CIA officials revealed that in fact, the intelligence agency’s operations in Benghazi dwarfed diplomatic operations at the consulate and that the CIA maintained what was described as an “annex,” about a mile from the diplomatic mission.

State Department officials have said there was an informal understanding that the annex and its agents would come to the assistance of the consulate (which had private contractors providing security) if a need arose. CIA officials insist their agents responded to the consulate’s distress calls within a half-hour.

Just two days after his 60th birthday, Petraeus stepped down from the spy agency where he had held the top office since September 6, 2011.

«After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation,» Petraeus told the shadow warriors he commanded at CIA.

It was a stunning downfall for a revered military man who was seen as one of the top American leaders of his generation and was once considered a potential contender for the White House.

Petraeus was credited with pulling Iraq from the brink of all-out civil war and for battlefield successes in Afghanistan after overseeing a surge of 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama in late 2009. He became known for counter-insurgency strategies that were seen as gaining ground against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

«I don’t think he was professionally overrated. His were genuine accomplishments,» said James Carafano, a war historian with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

At the time of his nomination to the CIA post, some Washington insiders had said the White House wanted to find a prominent position for Petraeus to ensure he would not be recruited by Republicans as a challenger to the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket.

When he was nominated to lead the CIA there were some concerns in intelligence circles that the high-profile four-star Army general might not be able to lead from the shadows as appropriate for a spy chief.

But once he took over the head office at the U.S. spy agency, Petraeus kept a decidedly low public profile.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, expressed regret about the resignation of «one of America’s best and brightest» and said it was an «enormous loss» for the country.
«At CIA, Director Petraeus gave the agency leadership, stature, prestige and credibility both at home and abroad. On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none,» she said.

RESIGNATION ACCEPTED

After accepting his resignation about a year-and-a-half after nominating Petraeus to the CIA post, Obama said: «By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end.»

Earlier this week, in a Newsweek article entitled «General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living,» he listed 12 lessons for leadership. Number 5 was: «We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors – drive on and avoid making them again.»

In 2010 Petraeus stepped into the breach as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to replace General Stanley McChrystal who was fired by Obama in a scandal over an article in which McChrystal and his aides made mocking comments about the president and some of his top advisers.

In 2009 Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment. The media-friendly general joked at that time at a Washington event that reporters were only gathered «to see if the guy is still alive.»

Petraeus, born in Cornwall, New York, lives in Virginia with his wife Holly. They have two grown children, a son who was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and a daughter.

Petraeus’s wife, Holly, is an activist and volunteer who champions military families, and she continued that work after her husband retired from the military and moved to the CIA.

She currently is assistant director of the office of servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she tries to keep unscrupulous lenders from taking advantage of military personnel. The bureau was championed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts this week.

Holly Petraeus is the daughter of four-star General William Knowlton, who was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when Petraeus was a cadet.

She briefed the press at the Pentagon on her efforts recently and was introduced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called her «a true friend of the Department of Defense and a dedicated member of our military family.»

Petraeus has four Defense Distinguished Service Medal awards, three Distinguished Service Medal awards, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, and the State Department Distinguished Service Award.

He has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick and Diane Bartz; Editing by Warren Strobel and Jackie Frank)

The email accounts of Generals David Petraeus and John Allen aren’t the only ones being targeted by the feds. Google has released its bi-annual transparency report and says that the government's demands for personal data is at an all-time high.



Internet giant Google published statistics from their latest analysis of requests from governments around the globe this week, and the findings show that it is hardly just the inboxes of the Pentagon’s top-brass that are being put under the microscope. Details pertaining to nearly 8,000 Google and Gmail accounts have been ordered by Uncle Sam during just the first six months of the year, and figures from the periods before suggest that things aren’t about to get any better for those wishing to protect their privacy.

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google acknowledges in a blog post published Tuesday, November 13.

From January through June, the US government filed more than 16,000 requests for user data from Google on as many as 7,969 individual accounts, the report shows.

The Silicon Valley company notes that “The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year,” but says that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the government that’s ramping up the acceleration into a full-blown surveillance state. According to Google’s take, “The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.”

For all of those requests in the US, Google says they complied with the government’s demands 90 percent of the time; but while it seems like a high number, that figure actually constitutes the smallest success rate the feds have had since Google began tracking these numbers in 2010. In a separate report published earlier this year by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based advocacy group awarded Google high praise for doing more than other industry titans in terms of letting feds force them into handing over information without good reason, citing specifically their efforts — albeit unsuccessfully — in handing over user info to the Justice Department during the start of its ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.

Of the 20,938 user data request sent from governments around the globe, the United States came in first with the number of demands at 7,969, with India at a distant second with 2,319 requests. The US government’s success rate in terms of getting that information trumps most every other country, however, with full or partial compliance on the part of Google rarely exceeding 70 percent.

Elsewhere in the report, Google says it’s more than just surveillance of individual users that is on the rise. The US has also been adamant with censoring the Web, writing Google five times between January and June to take down YouTube videos critical of government, law enforcement or public officials. In regards to the five pleas to delete seven offending videos, Google says, “We did not remove content in response to these requests.”

The company was more willing to side with authorities in other cases, though, admitting to taking down 1,664 posts from a Google Groups community after a court order asked for the removal of 1,754 on the basis of “a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family.” Google also followed through with around one-third of the requests to remove search results that linked to websites that allegedly defamed organizations and individuals (223 of the 641 pleas) and say “the number of content removal requests we received increased by 46% compared to the previous reporting period.”

According to the report, Google only received one request from the US government to remove a video from YouTube on the grounds of ensuring “national security” but does not disclose the results of that plea. No further information is available in the report as to what the government demanded removed, but in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi originally blamed by many on an anti-Islamic video clip linked to a California man, Google rejected demands from the US to delete the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from YouTube.

That isn’t to say that Washington is responsible for the bulk of the demands that end up on the desks of Google’s administrators. The report notes Google has received requests to remove search results that link to sites that host alleged copyright-infringing content more than 8 million times in just the last month, with more than 32,000 websites being singled out by the materials’ respective owners. Taking into account the last year and a half, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — the largest trade-group representing the US music industry — asked Google to stop linking to roughly 4.5 million URLs that they say hosted illegal content.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments to decide whether or not a case can go forth that will challenge the FISA Amendment Act of 2008, an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to eavesdrop on emails sent as long as one of the persons involved is suspected of being out of the country. When asked earlier in the year to give an estimate of how many Americans have their electronic communications wiretapped by the National Security Administration, the inspector general of the NSA declined to issue a response, even to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to statements made by NSA whistleblower Bill Binney at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York this year, the US government is “pulling together all the data about virtually every US citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing."



US President Barack Obama has backed a senior general, despite reports that he exchanged "flirtatious" emails with Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

Spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama had "faith" in Gen John Allen, chosen to be the next Nato commander in Europe.

Harassment allegations by Mrs Kelley helped unmask an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Gen Petraeus resigned on Friday. Gen Allen says he has done nothing wrong.

"I can tell you that the president thinks very highly of Gen Allen and his service to his country, as well as the job he has done in Afghanistan," spokesman Jay Carney said, in the first White House reaction since Gen Petraeus quit.

He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them”

He added that President Barack Obama was "very happy" with Gen Allen's service and record.

Mr Carney also asked reporters "not to extrapolate too broadly" about whether the cases involving Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen suggested a wider cultural problem within the US military.

"He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them," Mr Carney added.

Nomination on hold

The Pentagon says 20-30,000 pages of Gen Allen's documents are being examined, with officials saying they contain "potentially inappropriate" emails between the general and Mrs Kelley over the past two years.

An anonymous senior US official who has read the emails told the Associated Press that the exchanges were relatively innocuous, even though they might be construed as unprofessional and flirty.

The official said the emails included pet names such as "sweetheart" and "dear", but did not suggest an affair or the exchange of classified information.

Gen Allen, 58, took over command of coalition forces in Afghanistan after David Petraeus moved to the CIA in 2011.

Currently commanding 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Gen Allen was due to face a confirmation hearing in the US Senate on Thursday for his new role as supreme commander of Nato forces in Europe.

That hearing has now been suspended at the request of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.




Michael Hastings, the journalist behind the Rolling Stone article which resulted in McChrystal’s ouster, recently wrote for Buzzfeed that spin was crucial to the Iraqi surge: “he [Petraeus] pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.”

Hastings characterized the policy as playing both sides in a civil war,
a policy which resulted in the death of 800 American soldiers and exponentially more Iraqis.

The sectarian fault lines resulting from this policy have left Iraq a powder keg waiting to go off. But it doesn’t matter as far as the target audience is concerned.

Quoting Petraeus’ 1987 Princeton dissertation, Hastings summed up the general’s professional philosophy:
"What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred."
In that light, the fall of Petraeus coincides with the one tragedy he managed where the perception and what actually occurred intersected: Benghazi.


During the Vice Presidential Debate in October, Joe Biden was accused of throwing the CIA under the bus by insinuating the agency had provided faulty intelligence regarding the 9/11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his diplomatic mission.

The defrocking of Petraeus came one step closer on November 1, when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton called Petraeus the night of the attack asking for help that never came. While the “State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security,""the CIA didn't have the same understanding about its security responsibilities," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The writing was on the wall. Petraeus was set to testify in closed-door sessions before the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, and with the White House’s less than glowing review of his performance, he would have had a venue to vindicate himself.

That “one of the greatest generals in a generation” resigned five days before speaking out has only spurred speculation that he is a patsy for a White House cover-up. His resignation coincidentally came a mere three days after Obama was re-elected, raising speculation regarding the timing of the general’s less than fortunate affair.


And misery loves company, as the current head of ISAF forces in Afghanistan might soon learn.
The nomination of US General John Allen as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was suspended over the probe into CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was accused of exchanging “inappropriate” emails with a woman linked to Petraeus, though defense officials say the investigation will exonerate him.

There is no definite answer as to why Petraeus was exposed when he was, or who might go down with him. It might have simply been bad timing. Maybe Petraeus would have taken the hit for Benghazi and stayed on like a good soldier. Whatever the case, a few questions must be asked:

  • How long did the White House know about the affair?
  • Did the Obama Administration ask the FBI to suppress information regarding the case until after Election Day and if so, why?

­

Live by the media, die by the media


­The final cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and by extension Pakistan) could run as high as $4.4 trillion when it is all said and done. There have been over 3000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan and 4,486 US troop deaths in Iraq. Civilian casualties run into the six digits. But affairs, off-color comments in Music magazines and being more interested in the war one is prosecuting than “fawning” over visiting lawmakers and the Washington elite are the sins that end military careers.



The White House said Tuesday that it was "up to Congress" whether to call former CIA Director David Petraeus to testify about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

"Congress [makes] decisions about who is called to testify," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.


The Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives had been set to hear from Petraeus about the attack on the American compound in separate closed-door hearings on Thursday. But aides to both panels indicated that the retired Army general would be replaced by Mike Morrell, the acting CIA director.

"The president is confident that Acting Director Morrell is fully informed and capable of representing the CIA in a hearing about the incidents in Benghazi," Carney said.
Still, key senators have made it clear that Petraeus, whose shocking resignation came after the public disclosure of an extramarital affair, will ultimately need to be heard. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, told MSNBC on Monday that her panel "should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up."

"But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient," she continued. "And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus. And we will likely do that in closed session, but it will be done one way or the other." Feinstein also said the Senate would fight, if necessary, to obtain a report from a Petraeus trip to Libya in late October.
"We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me he has read it, and then we tried to get it and they tell me it hasn't been done. That's unacceptable," she said. "We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that."



How a cyber-harassment complaint triggered a dragnet that toppled a CIA director



It’s hard to stay focused on what really matters in the unfolding David Petraeus story, but there’s one issue that every juicy new tidbit only underscores: the way a strange complaint to a lone FBI agent led to an electronic dragnet that toppled the CIA director and may yet bring down the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

I’ll admit to rubbernecking at each crazy new detail that emerges – the unnamed FBI agent who trigged the Petraeus probe had earlier sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley, the woman who asked for his help with anonymous harassing emails? Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case on behalf of Kelley’s sister? Kelley, who is of Lebanese Catholic descent, is “a self-appointed go between” with Lebanese and other Mideastern officials? She once cooked alligator on the Food Network?
But the real scandal is the way a complaint about cyber-stalking from a Tampa socialite unleashed the power of the modern surveillance state on Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell – and ultimately, ironically or not, on the top spook himself.


Defenders of the surveillance state may point to national security questions about whether Petraeus was a victim of some kind of cyber-attack as a justification for the intrusion into Broadwell’s privacy, and then Petraeus’, and then the complaining Jill Kelley herself, and then Gen. John Allen. And who knows, by the end, maybe they’ll get to the bottom of something that might arguably raise national security concerns. (Marcy Wheeler raises the possibility that Kelley herself had intelligence ties, which might help explain why the FBI took her cyberstalking complaint seriously.) But none of that seems to have been on the table when the FBI decided to open its investigation of Kelley’s complaint.

The fact that Kelley’s FBI acquaintance eventually went to House Majority Whip Eric Cantor when he felt the FBI wasn’t taking the investigation seriously enough just adds another layer of grime to the story. The New York Times reported that the agent “suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.” Cantor admits he took the “whistleblower’s” concerns to FBI director Robert Mueller – as though Mueller wouldn’t know of his own agency’s investigation – just 10 days before the Nov. 6 election. While we can’t be sure Cantor’s motives were political – perhaps an embarrassing White House secret could become an October surprise? – we can’t be sure they weren’t.

So far there’s no evidence that politics drove the Petraeus investigation, from either direction, but the fact that politics was involved should remind us how easily the surveillance state can be used to advance political agendas or settle political scores. Just today Google revealed that it has received more than 16,000 U.S. government requests for user data in the first six months of this year alone (it complies with about 90 percent of requests, the report said.)





The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.





FBI's abuse of the surveillance state



The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning - "Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers' Ethics" - illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it's only adultery that causes "concern" over their "ethics"). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:
"The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like 'stay away from my man', a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .
"'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.
"The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender's spite. . . .
"When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.
"No, 'I'll kill you' or 'I'll burn your house down,'' the source says. 'It doesn't seem really that bad.'
"The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.
"'What does this mean? There's no threat there. This is against the law?' the agents asked themselves by the source's account.
"At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.
"'It was a close call,' the source says.
"What tipped it may have been Kelley's friendship with the agent."
That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent "was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case" - indeed, "supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter" - and was found to have "allegedly sent shirtless photos" to Kelley, and "is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI".

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus' schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant:
"Because the sender's account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques - including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address - to identify who was writing the e-mails.
"Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus's account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages."
So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.
But that isn't all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered "alleged inappropriate communication" to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now "on hold"). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

"The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications - mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 - between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .
"Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: 'We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'"
So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.





Since 2008, the NSA has had the legal power to intercept all phone calls, emails and text messages sent by American citizens without probable cause. However, although long suspected, the agency has never admitted that it is analyzing the content of such messages, conceding only that persons, dates and locations are part of the snooping process. However, in a recent sworn declaration to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Binney, a former NSA employee with the signals intelligence agency within the DoD, divulges that the federal agency, has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Using as many as twenty data intercept centers throughout the United States which can each store an almost unimaginable quantity of information, Binney notes that, The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting.

http://www.infowars.com/whistleblower-nsa-analyzing-conversations-in-real-time/




The dramatic downfall of CIA chief David Petraeus has given rise to political intrigue in Washington as a drip-feed of details concerning his clandestine affair mixes with serious questions over the timing of the resignation.

Over the weekend it emerged that his relationship with biographer Paula Broadwell was discovered by FBI agents while they investigated harassing emails she allegedly sent to a second woman, who was named on Sunday by the Associated Press as Jill Kelley, a state department military liaison.

The scandal comes at a particularly sensitive time. Petraeus had been due to give evidence before a Congressional body this coming Thursday concerning the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, including America's ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

It is now thought that Petraeus will not attend the session, robbing politicians of the opportunity to question an "absolutely necessary witness", according to Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee.

White House and intelligence officials have suggested that there is no connection between the timing of Petraeus's resignation and the evidence session on the Benghazi attack.

But in Washington, questions are being asked as to why the FBI appeared to have sat on the information it uncovered regarding the affair before handing it on to other authorities some time later.

Intelligence officials have suggested that Petraeus was first questioned over the nature of his relationship with Broadwell two weeks ago.

But it was only on the night of the presidential election that national intelligence director James Clapper was notified of the affair. It is thought that Clapper then advised the CIA chief to resign.

Even then, it was not until the next day that the White House was informed of the situation. It then took a further day before newly re-elected President Barack Obama was told that his intelligence chief was to tender his resignation.

Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee only heard about the matter on Friday, just hours before the CIA director announced he was to step down.

Further confusing the timeline of events were reports on Sunday that leading House Republican Eric Cantor had been informed by an FBI whistleblower of the brewing Petraeus scandal two weeks ago.

If true, it would raise the prospect that the affair was known in Washington circles before Friday's resignation.

House Republican King said on Sunday that the account of who knew what and when "doesn't add up", saying that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

The FBI had an "obligation" to tell the president as soon as they had identified a possible security breach, he told CNN's State of the Union.

Meanwhile, other politicians said that Petraeus may still be compelled to give evidence concerning the 11 September attack in Benghazi.

"We may well ask him," senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday.

Congress is keen to question the former four-star general over what the CIA knew in advance of the assault, and importantly, what it had told the White House in regards to the nature of the terrorist threat.

In the run-up to last week's election, senior Republicans accused the White House of misleading Americans over claims that it was not made aware of requests to bolster security in advance of the assault.

It is on this point that Petraeus was expected to be questioned at Thursday's Congressional hearing. Following his resignation, it is thought that his former deputy, Michael Morell, will testify before Washington in his place as acting director of the CIA.

Morell is slated to meet with Congressional figures on Wednesday to discuss the Petraeus affair in a bid to curtail lingering suspicions over the timing of the resignation.

The political fallout from Friday's resignation comes amid a personal crisis for a man often referred to as the leading American military mind of his generation.

In the days following his announcement to step down, a steady flow of leaks to the US media have given more detail to the affair that cost Petraeus his job.

The makings of his downfall were in a series of apparently vicious emails sent by his lover – a 40-year-old former army reservist who co-authored All In, a fawning biography of the CIA chief – to Kelley, a state department liaison to the military's Joint Special Operations Command.

It is thought that the threatening nature of the missives led the Florida-based recipient to seek the protection of the FBI.

An investigation of Broadwell's personal email account uncovered letters of an explicit nature between her and Petraeus, who has been married for the past 38 years to his wife Holly.

It was then that agents approached the CIA chief directly. Having eliminated the threat of a security breach, it was decided that no further action would be taken by the FBI.

But the damage to Petraeus's reputation was clear, and having consulted with Clapper, the decision to resign was made.

In a letter to staff explaining his move, the now outgoing CIA boss said: "Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours."

Others close to Petraeus had an even more blunt assessment of the scandal. "He screwed up, he knows he screwed up," said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and Petraeus's former spokesman.




Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting an extramarital relationship, could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.

The affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, both of whom are married, began several months after his retirement from the Army in August 2011 and ended four months ago, retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus spokesman, told ABC News.

Broadwell, 40, had extraordinary access to the 60-year-old general during six trips she took to Afghanistan as his official biographer, a plum assignment for a novice writer.

"For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me," former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor told ABC News.

The timeline of the relationship, according to Patraeus, would mean that he was carrying on the affair for the majority of his tenure at the CIA, where he began as director Sept. 6, 2011. If he carried on the affair while serving in the Army, however, Patraeus could face charges, according to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which reprimands conduct "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."
Whether the military would pursue such action, whatever evidence it accumulates, is unclear.

As the details of the investigation launched by the FBI unraveled this weekend, it became clear that the woman at the heart of the inquiry that led to Petraeus' downfall had been identified as Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who volunteers to help the military. She is a family friend of Petraeus, who Broadwell apparently felt threatened by.

Kelley and her husband are longtime supporters of the military, and six months ago she was named "Honorary Ambassador to Central Command" for her volunteer work with the military. Officials say Kelley is not romantically linked to Petraeus, but befriended the general and his wife when he was stationed in Florida.

The Kelleys spent Christmases in group settings with the Petraeuses and visited them in Washington D.C., where Kelley's sister and her son live.

"We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years." Kelley said in a statement Sunday. "We respect his and his family's privacy and want the same for us and our three children."
Earlier this year, around the time that Petraeus and Broadwell were breaking off their affair, Kelly began receiving anonymous emails, which she found so threatening she went to authorities. The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell's computer, where they found other salacious and explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus that made it clear to officials that the two were carrying on an affair.

Investigators uncovered no compromising of classified information or criminal activity, sources familiar with the probe said, adding that all that was found was a lot of "human drama."

Broadwell, a married mother of two, had access to Petraeus while she was with him in Afghanistan as his official biographer. People close to the general had previously suspected Broadwell's feelings for him had crossed a professional line.

They found Broadwell, who spent a year embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan, to be embarrassing and far too "gushy" about him. They said to one another they thought Broadwell "was in love with him," sources told ABC News.

Petraeus is said to have been the one to have broken off the extramarital affair.

His storied career, first as the public face of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later as director of the CIA, came crashing down Friday when he announced his resignation from the intelligence agency, citing the indiscretion.
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," Petraeus said in a statement Friday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was made aware of the Petraeus situation Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. by the FBI, according to a senior intelligence source.

After having several conversations with Petraeus that evening and the next day, Clapper advised Petraeus that the best thing to do would be for him to resign, the source said.

Clapper notified the White House the next afternoon that Petraeus was considering resigning, according to the source. Petraeus then went to the White House Thursday and told the president he thought he should resign, and Obama accepted his resignation the next day, the source said.

Despite the lengthy investigation into Broadwell by the FBI, the White House says it was not made aware of it until Wednesday, the day after the election, a revelation that surprised many.

"It just doesn't add up. That the FBI would be carrying on this type of investigation without, again, bringing it to the president or the highest levels of the White House," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

Petraeus and his wife, Holly, who have been married for 38 years, are said to be staying in their Arlington Home and are doing "OK."

"Knowing the family, I suspect it will be hard work, but given the effort, they will get through it," Boylan, the former Petraeus spokesman, said.

Numerous questions still remain about the investigation, and some on Capitol Hill are also frustrated because Petraeus was schedule to testify to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

The timing of Petraeus' resignation "was what it was," an official told ABC News, adding that the time had come to tie up any loose ends in the investigation and confront the general.



One of America's best known military leaders, and CIA head David Petraeus, has abruptly announced his resignation. Stepping down, Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair, saying he was guilty of "unacceptable" behavior. Ex-military intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Shaffer told RT there's more behind the resignation than just moral issues.



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - David Petraeus was a star on the battlefield, commanding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but was undone by "poor judgment" in engaging in an extramarital affair that led to his downfall as CIA director.

Petraeus, who was widely celebrated as a military commander and even occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, was sworn in as head of the CIA in September 2011 – and had kept a low profile since. Now speculation is sure to proliferate over whether that low profile resulted from Petraeus focusing on America’s intelligence gathering or on personal matters.

In particular, members of Congress and other officials demanding answers about the Benghazi attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens, and two CIA agents – will want to know if there was any link between Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance on the night of the Benghazi attack.

More broadly, the reason for Petraeus’s departure will raise questions about any compromising of US covert operations and intelligence. The potential for blackmail of intelligence officers is always a concern about the spy corps, but the involvement of the nation’s top spy in an extramarital affair takes the concern to a new level.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing Petraeus and the potential security risks posed by his affair, CNN reported late Friday afternoon.

In the weeks since the Benghazi attack, officials have leaked information, including how Petraeus kept information on the CIA’s role in Benghazi so private that even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was left to call Petraeus as the attack unfolded to try to get intelligence information from him.

Last week, CIA officials revealed that in fact, the intelligence agency’s operations in Benghazi dwarfed diplomatic operations at the consulate and that the CIA maintained what was described as an “annex,” about a mile from the diplomatic mission.

State Department officials have said there was an informal understanding that the annex and its agents would come to the assistance of the consulate (which had private contractors providing security) if a need arose. CIA officials insist their agents responded to the consulate’s distress calls within a half-hour.

Just two days after his 60th birthday, Petraeus stepped down from the spy agency where he had held the top office since September 6, 2011.
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation," Petraeus told the shadow warriors he commanded at CIA.

It was a stunning downfall for a revered military man who was seen as one of the top American leaders of his generation and was once considered a potential contender for the White House.

Petraeus was credited with pulling Iraq from the brink of all-out civil war and for battlefield successes in Afghanistan after overseeing a surge of 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama in late 2009. He became known for counter-insurgency strategies that were seen as gaining ground against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"I don't think he was professionally overrated. His were genuine accomplishments," said James Carafano, a war historian with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

At the time of his nomination to the CIA post, some Washington insiders had said the White House wanted to find a prominent position for Petraeus to ensure he would not be recruited by Republicans as a challenger to the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket.


When he was nominated to lead the CIA there were some concerns in intelligence circles that the high-profile four-star Army general might not be able to lead from the shadows as appropriate for a spy chief.

But once he took over the head office at the U.S. spy agency, Petraeus kept a decidedly low public profile.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, expressed regret about the resignation of "one of America's best and brightest" and said it was an "enormous loss" for the country.
"At CIA, Director Petraeus gave the agency leadership, stature, prestige and credibility both at home and abroad. On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none," she said.

RESIGNATION ACCEPTED

After accepting his resignation about a year-and-a-half after nominating Petraeus to the CIA post, Obama said: "By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end."

Earlier this week, in a Newsweek article entitled "General David Petraeus's Rules for Living," he listed 12 lessons for leadership. Number 5 was: "We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors - drive on and avoid making them again."

In 2010 Petraeus stepped into the breach as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to replace General Stanley McChrystal who was fired by Obama in a scandal over an article in which McChrystal and his aides made mocking comments about the president and some of his top advisers.

In 2009 Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment. The media-friendly general joked at that time at a Washington event that reporters were only gathered "to see if the guy is still alive."

Petraeus, born in Cornwall, New York, lives in Virginia with his wife Holly. They have two grown children, a son who was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and a daughter.

Petraeus's wife, Holly, is an activist and volunteer who champions military families, and she continued that work after her husband retired from the military and moved to the CIA.

She currently is assistant director of the office of servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she tries to keep unscrupulous lenders from taking advantage of military personnel. The bureau was championed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts this week.

Holly Petraeus is the daughter of four-star General William Knowlton, who was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when Petraeus was a cadet.

She briefed the press at the Pentagon on her efforts recently and was introduced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called her "a true friend of the Department of Defense and a dedicated member of our military family."

Petraeus has four Defense Distinguished Service Medal awards, three Distinguished Service Medal awards, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, and the State Department Distinguished Service Award.

He has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick and Diane Bartz; Editing by Warren Strobel and Jackie Frank)

The law of the free

In 2010, the Supreme Court handed down one of the worst decisions in its history, Citizens United v FEC. With a narrow 5-4 vote, the Court swept away almost 100 years of precedent in campaign finance law and opened the floodgates for big corporations and wealthy individuals to pour unlimited amounts of money into our elections.

On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear a case that many are calling the “next Citizens United” — a case that could completely dismantle what minimal campaign finance regulation we have left and pave the way for unlimited direct contributions to candidates by those wealthy individuals.

I urge every American to speak out for the need to restore our democracy for the people. That’s why I have introduced the Democracy is for People Amendment (S.J. Res. 11) to amend the U.S. Constitution, and make it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people, not big money and corporate special interests.

Grassroots support from organizations like People For the American Way and its members is absolutely vital to my work to move legislation forward to undo the harm of Citizens United and related cases. Thank you, and let’s keep up the fight.

Sincerely,

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator (I-VT)


Published on Aug 5, 2013
The basis for power elite membership is institutional power, namely an influential position within a prominent private or public organization. One study of power elites in the USA under George W. Bush identified 7,314 institutional positions of power encompassing 5,778 individuals.[15] A later study of US society found that the demographics of this elite group broke down as follows:

Age Corporate leaders average about 60 years of age. The heads of foundations, law, education, and civic organizations average around 62 years of age. Government-sector members about 56.
Gender Women are barely represented among corporate leadership in the institutional elite and women only contribute roughly 20 percent in the political realm. They do appear more among top positions when it comes to cultural affairs, education, and foundations.
Ethnicity White Anglo-Saxons dominate in the power elite, with Protestants representing about 80 percent of the top business leaders and about 73 percent of members of Congress.
Education Nearly all the leaders are college-educated with almost half having advanced degrees. About 54 percent of the big-business leaders and 42 percent of the government elite are graduates of just 12 heavily endowed, prestigious universities.
Social Clubs Most holders of top position in the power elite possess exclusive membership in one or more social clubs. About a third belong to a small number of especially prestigious clubs in major cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, and D.C.[16]

In the 1970s an organized set of policies promoted reduced taxes, especially for the wealthy, and a steady corrosion of the welfare safety net.[17] Starting with legislation in the 1980s, the wealthy banking community successfully lobbied for reduced regulation.[18] The wide range of financial and social capital accessible to the power elite gives their members heavy influence in economic and political decision making, allowing them to move toward attaining desired outcomes. Sociologist Christopher Doob gives a hypothetical alternative stating that these elite individuals would consider themselves the overseers of the national economy, appreciating that it is not only a moral but a practical necessity to focus beyond their group interests. Doing so would hopefully alleviate various destructive conditions affecting large numbers of less affluent citizens.

Mills determined that there is an «inner core» of the power elite involving individuals that are able to move from one seat of institutional power to another. They therefore have a wide range of knowledge and interests in many influential organizations, and are, as Mills describes, «professional go-betweens of economic, political, and military affairs.»[19] Relentless expansion of capitalism and the globalizing of economic and military power binds leaders of the power elite into complex relationships with nation states that generate global-scale class divisions. Sociologist, Manuel Castells, writes in The Rise of the Network Society that contemporary globalization does not mean that «everything in the global economy is global.»[20] So, a global economy becomes characterized by fundamental social inequalities with respect to «the level of integration, competitive potential and share of the benefits from economic growth.»[21] Castells cites a kind of «double movement» where on one hand, «valuable segments of territories and people» become «linked in the global networks of value making and wealth appropriation,» while, on the other, «everything and everyone» that is not valued by established networks gets «switched off… and ultimately discarded.»[21] The wide-ranging effects of global capitalism ultimately affect everyone on the planet as economies around the world come to depend on the functioning of global financial markets, technologies, trade and labor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite

In 2010, the Supreme Court handed down one of the worst decisions in its history, Citizens United v FEC. With a narrow 5-4 vote, the Court swept away almost 100 years of precedent in campaign finance law and opened the floodgates for big corporations and wealthy individuals to pour unlimited amounts of money into our elections.

On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear a case that many are calling the “next Citizens United” -- a case that could completely dismantle what minimal campaign finance regulation we have left and pave the way for unlimited direct contributions to candidates by those wealthy individuals.

I urge every American to speak out for the need to restore our democracy for the people. That’s why I have introduced the Democracy is for People Amendment (S.J. Res. 11) to amend the U.S. Constitution, and make it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people, not big money and corporate special interests.

Grassroots support from organizations like People For the American Way and its members is absolutely vital to my work to move legislation forward to undo the harm of Citizens United and related cases. Thank you, and let’s keep up the fight.

Sincerely,

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator (I-VT)







Published on Aug 5, 2013
The basis for power elite membership is institutional power, namely an influential position within a prominent private or public organization. One study of power elites in the USA under George W. Bush identified 7,314 institutional positions of power encompassing 5,778 individuals.[15] A later study of US society found that the demographics of this elite group broke down as follows:

Age Corporate leaders average about 60 years of age. The heads of foundations, law, education, and civic organizations average around 62 years of age. Government-sector members about 56.
Gender Women are barely represented among corporate leadership in the institutional elite and women only contribute roughly 20 percent in the political realm. They do appear more among top positions when it comes to cultural affairs, education, and foundations.
Ethnicity White Anglo-Saxons dominate in the power elite, with Protestants representing about 80 percent of the top business leaders and about 73 percent of members of Congress.
Education Nearly all the leaders are college-educated with almost half having advanced degrees. About 54 percent of the big-business leaders and 42 percent of the government elite are graduates of just 12 heavily endowed, prestigious universities.
Social Clubs Most holders of top position in the power elite possess exclusive membership in one or more social clubs. About a third belong to a small number of especially prestigious clubs in major cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, and D.C.[16]

In the 1970s an organized set of policies promoted reduced taxes, especially for the wealthy, and a steady corrosion of the welfare safety net.[17] Starting with legislation in the 1980s, the wealthy banking community successfully lobbied for reduced regulation.[18] The wide range of financial and social capital accessible to the power elite gives their members heavy influence in economic and political decision making, allowing them to move toward attaining desired outcomes. Sociologist Christopher Doob gives a hypothetical alternative stating that these elite individuals would consider themselves the overseers of the national economy, appreciating that it is not only a moral but a practical necessity to focus beyond their group interests. Doing so would hopefully alleviate various destructive conditions affecting large numbers of less affluent citizens.

Mills determined that there is an "inner core" of the power elite involving individuals that are able to move from one seat of institutional power to another. They therefore have a wide range of knowledge and interests in many influential organizations, and are, as Mills describes, "professional go-betweens of economic, political, and military affairs."[19] Relentless expansion of capitalism and the globalizing of economic and military power binds leaders of the power elite into complex relationships with nation states that generate global-scale class divisions. Sociologist, Manuel Castells, writes in The Rise of the Network Society that contemporary globalization does not mean that "everything in the global economy is global."[20] So, a global economy becomes characterized by fundamental social inequalities with respect to "the level of integration, competitive potential and share of the benefits from economic growth."[21] Castells cites a kind of "double movement" where on one hand, "valuable segments of territories and people" become "linked in the global networks of value making and wealth appropriation," while, on the other, "everything and everyone" that is not valued by established networks gets "switched off... and ultimately discarded."[21] The wide-ranging effects of global capitalism ultimately affect everyone on the planet as economies around the world come to depend on the functioning of global financial markets, technologies, trade and labor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite