Saturday, May 7, 2011

us asassination program

SAT, 07 MAY 2011 02:22:00 ET
U.S. tries to assassinate U.S.
citizen Anwar al-Awlaki

Without being charged with a crime, the American-born cleric has drone missiles shot at him
in Yemen
BY GLENN GREENWALD BLOG: Glenn Greenwald
That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a
provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it(watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum -- Richard Perle's co- author for the supreme 2004 neoconservative treatise -- waxes admiringly about Obama's Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its "continuity" with Bush/Cheney). But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process. AsThe New York Times put it last April: It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post's Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens
had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post and the that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list. Yesterday, riding a wave of adulation and military-reverence,the Obama administration tried to end the life of this American citizen -- never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime -- with a drone strike in Yemen, but missed
and killed two other people instead: A missile strike from an American military drone in a
remote region of Yemen on Thursday was aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric believed to be hiding in the country, American officials said Friday. The attack does not appear to have killed Mr. Awlaki, the officials said, but may have killed operatives of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. The other people killed "may have" been Al Qaeda operatives. Or they "may not have" been. Who cares? They're mere collateral damage on the glorious road to ending the life of this American citizen without due process (and pointing out that the
Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law" -- and provides no exception for war -- is the sort of tedious legalism that shouldn't interfere with the excitement of drone strikes). There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least
understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance. But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process -- far from any battlefield, not during combat -- is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that
it's hard to convey in words or treat with civility.
How do you even engage someone in
rational discussion who is willing to
assume that their fellow citizen is
guilty of being a Terrorist without
seeing evidence for it, without
having that evidence tested,
without giving that citizen a
chance to defend himself -- all
because the President declares
it to be so?"I know Awlaki, my
fellow citizen, is a Terrorist and he
deserves to die. Why? Because the
President decreed that, and that's
good enough for me. Trials are so
pre-9/11." If someone is willing to
dutifully click their heels and spout
definitively authoritarian anthems
like that, imagine how impervious to
reason they are on these issues.
And if someone is willing to vest in
the President the power to
assassinate American citizens
without a trial far from any
battlefield -- if someone believes
that the President has that power:
the power of unilaterally
imposing the death penalty and
literally acting as judge, jury
and executioner-- what possible
limits would they ever impose on the
President's power? There cannot be
any. Or if someone is willing to
declare a citizen to be a "traitor" and
demand they be treated as such --
even though the Constitution
expressly assigns the power to
declare treason to the Judicial
Branch and requireswhat we call "a
trial"
with stringent evidence
requirements before someone is
guilty of treason -- how can any
appeals to law or the Constitution be
made to a person who obviously
believes in neither?
What's most striking about this is
how it relates to the controversies
during the Bush years. One of the
most strident attacks from the
Democrats on Bush was that he
wanted to eavesdrop on
Americans without warrants.
One of the first signs of Bush/Cheney
radicalism was what they did to Jose
Padilla: assert the power to
imprison this American citizen
without charges. Yet here you
have Barack Obama asserting the
power not to eavesdrop on
Americans or detain them without
charges -- but to target them for
killing without charges-- and
that, to many of his followers, is
perfectly acceptable. It's a "horrific
shredding of the Constitution" and
an act of grave lawlessness for Bush
to eavesdrop on or detain Americans
without any due process; but it's an
act of great nobility when Barack
Obama ends their lives without any
due process.
Not even Antonin Scalia was willing
to approve of George Bush's mere
attempt to detain(let alone kill) an
American citizen accused of
Terrorism without a trial. In a
dissenting opinionjoined by the
court's most liberal member, John
Paul Stevens, Scalia explained
that not even the War on Terror
allows the due process clause to be
ignored when the President acts
against those he claims have joined
the Enemy (emphasis added):
The very core of liberty secured
by our Anglo-Saxon system of
separated powers has been
freedom from indefinite
imprisonment at the will of the
Executive. Blackstone stated
this principle clearly: "Of great
importance to the public is the
preservation of this personal
liberty: for if once it were left in
the power of any, the highest,
magistrate to imprison
arbitrarily whomever he or his
officers thought proper… there
would soon be an end of all
other rights and immunities. …
To bereave a man of life, or
by violence to confiscate
his estate, without
accusation or trial, would
be so gross and notorious
an act of despotism, as
must at once convey the
alarm of tyranny
throughout the whole
kingdom." . . . .
Subjects accused of levying war
against the King were routinely
prosecuted for treason. . . .
The Founders inherited the
understanding that a
citizen's levying war
against the Government
was to be punished
criminally.The Constitution
provides: "Treason against the
United States, shall consist only
in levying War against them, or
in adhering to their Enemies,
giving them Aid and Comfort";
and establishes a heightened
proof requirement (two
witnesses) in order to "convic
[t]" of that offense. Art. III, §3,
cl. 1.
There simply is no more basic liberty
than the right to be free from
Presidential executions without
being charged with -- and then
convicted of -- a crime: whether it be
treason, Terrorism, or anything else.
How can someone who objected to
Bush's attempt to eavesdrop on or
detain citizens without judicial
oversight cheer for Obama's attempt
to kill them without judicial
oversight? Can someone please
reconcile those positions?
One cannot be certain that this
attempted killing of Awlaki relates to
the bin Laden killing, but it certainly
seems likely, and in any event,
highlights the dangers I wrote about
this week. From the start, it was
inconceivable to me that -- as some
predicted -- the bin Laden killing
would bring about a ratcheting down
of America's war posture. The
opposite seemed far more likely to
me for thereason I wrote on
Monday:
Whenever America uses
violence in a way that makes its
citizens cheer, beam with
nationalistic pride, and rally
around their leader, more
violence is typically
guaranteed. Futile decade-long
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
may temporarily dampen the
nationalistic enthusiasm for
war, but two shots to the head
of Osama bin Laden -- and the
We are Great and Good
proclamations it engenders --
can easily rejuvenate that war
love. . . . We're feeling good and
strong about ourselves again --
and righteous -- and that's
often the fertile ground for
more, not less, aggression.
The killing of bin Laden got the
testosterone pumping, the
righteousness pulsating, and faith in
the American military and its
Commander-in-Chief skyrocketing to
all-time highs. It made America feel
good about itself in a way that no
other event has since at least
Obama's inauguration; we got to
forget about rampant
unemployment, home foreclosures
by the millions, a decade's worth of
militaristic futility and slaughter,
and ever-growing Third-World levels
of wealth inequality. This was a week
for flag-waving, fist-pumping, and
nationalistic chanting: even --
especially -- among liberals, who
were able to take the lead and show
the world (and themselves) that they
are no wilting, delicate wimps; it's
not merely swaggering right-wing
Texans, but they, too, who can put
bullets in people's heads and dump
corpses into the ocean and then joke
and cheer about it afterwards. It's
inconceivable that this wave of
collective pride, boosted self-
esteem, vicarious strength, and
renewed purpose won't produce a
desire to replicate itself. Four days
after bin Laden is killed, a missile
rains down from the sky to try to
execute Awlaki without due process,
and that'll be far from the last such
episode (indeed, also yesterday,the
U.S. launched a drone attack in
Pakistan, ending the lives of 15 more
people
: yawn).
Last night, in a post entitled
"Reigniting the GWOT [Global War on
Terrorism]"
-- Digby wrote about why the
reaction to the killing of bin Laden is
almost certain to spur greater
aggression in the "War on Terror,"
and specifically observed: "They're
breathlessly going on about Al
Qaeda in Yemen 'targeting the
homeland' right now on CNN. Looks
like we're back in business." The
killing of bin Laden isn't going to
result in a reduction of America's
military adventurism because that's
not how the country works: when we
eradicate one Enemy, we just quickly
and seamlessly find a new one to
replace him with -- look over there:
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is
the True Threat!!!! -- and the blood-
spilling continues unabated (without
my endorsing it all,read this
excellent Chris Floyd post for the
non-euphemistic reality of what
we've really been doing in the world
over the last couple years under the
2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
A civil liberties lawyer observed by
email to me last night that now that
Obama has massive political capital
and invulnerable Tough-on-Terror
credentials firmly in place, there are
no more political excuses for what
he does (i.e., he didn't reallywant to
do that, but he had to in order not to
be vulnerable to GOP political attacks
that he's Weak). In the wake of the
bin Laden killing, he's able to do
whatever he wants now -- ratchet
down the aggression or accelerate it
-- and his real face will be revealed
by his choices (for those with doubts
about what that real face is).
Yesterday's attempt to exterminate
an American citizen who has long
been on his hit list -- far from any
battlefield, not during combat, and
without even a pretense of due
process -- is likely to be but a first
step in that direction.
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