Today's column is a round-up of troubling news regarding government secrecy regarding the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus in November, as well as increased war-making, detention without charges or trial, and other police state powers by the Obama administration as it proceeds on its second term.
The Senate confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to be CIA director, began with sharp questioning by senators from both parties. Brenan's responses over 3 1/2 hours left Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and longtime member Jay Rockefeller, both Democrats, praising him as the most forthright nominee they could recall. Rockefeller said he had participated in confirmation hearings for 28 years. Republican questions also became lower-key over time.
Also just in is a report that the Petraeus affair was much deeper and darker than previously reported. This is part of the theme of my forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry. Bush biographer Russ Baker and co-author Douglas Lucas reported in collaboration with WikiLeaks that:
1) Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, shown with the general at left, nearly two years earlier than previously known;
2) Petraeus’s affair was known to "foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle" in which Petraeus was an active party; and
3) Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people.
Additional alarms documented below on related national security, civil rights, and due process topics are provided by commentators of widely diverse politics, including supporters of the president. A White House photo shows the president at right in the Situation Room. Two weeks ago, we provided coverage of his eloquent Inauguration speech and related uplifting developments at the beginning of the president's second term. Now comes an edition of the rest of the story.
The news items below are especially timely in view of the Senate confirmation hearing for Brennan. He is deputy national security director and chief of counter-terrorism at the White House, and was a career CIA employee for a quarter of a century aside from a three-year stint in the private sector. In 2008, Brennan was president of a private security company that performed government work, and he also served as national security advisor for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. On Feb. 6, the White House bowed to pressure to release its legal justification for the killings without trial. Details below n Obama will let lawmakers, see targeted-killings memo.
Under Obama, the the CIA's traditional intelligence capabilities have been augmented with paramilitary and drone warfare activities. Brennan is reputed to lead Tuesday briefings whereby the White House chooses kill targets for drones.
Columns below include an exclusive from NBC News describing the government's leaked analysis claiming a legal basis for such a killing program, which has included a U.S. citizen living in Yemen and regarded as a terror threat. Other columns analyze that rationale, as well as diminishing due process safeguards for terror suspects and domestic U.S. citizens accused of crime.
Among the authors are human rights advocates Ralph Nader and Naomi Wolf, each loss of traditional American freedoms.
Some of the commentaries become more compelling with the addition of biographical background about the authors. Former Reagan assistant treasury secretary and scholar Paul Craig Roberts, for example, raises the question of why guns rights advocates do not fear and protest vastly greater deprivations of their freedoms than gun laws. Chicago public defender Jeanne Bishop, whose sister and brother-in-law were murdered two decades ago by a thrill-killer in a mystery long unsolved by police pursuing mistaken leads, calls for stricter gun laws.
Related News Coverage
David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell
Daily Mail (United Kingdom), David Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and his own bodyguards who made sure his affair was exposed, claims new book, Michael Zennie, Feb. 10, 2013. The revelations come from 'Benghazi: The Definitive Report,' written by Brandon Webb, a retired Navy SEAL, and Jack Murphy, a former Army Ranger and Green Beret. EXCLUSIVE: David Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and his own bodyguards who made sure his affair was exposed, claims new book Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL, and Jack Murphy, a former Green Beret, reveal the new claims in their book 'Benghazi: The Definitive Report.' Petraeus was humiliated after a 'palace coup' by high-level intelligence officers who did not like the way he was running the CIA, authors say. The book also claims that Petraeus and Ambassador Chris Stevens were caught off guard by Benghazi consulate attack because they weren't briefed about on-goi. U.S. military operations in Libya. Webb and Murphy say Benghazi attack was a retaliation for secret raids authorized by Obama security adviser John Brennan.
WhoWhatWhy, Exclusive -– Petraeus: the Plot Thickens, Douglas Lucas and Russ Baker, Feb 5, 2013. Was the ambitious General David Petraeus targeted for take-down by competing interests in the US military/intelligence hierarchy—years before his abrupt downfall last year in an adultery scandal? Previously unreported documents analyzed by WhoWhatWhy suggest as much. They provide new insight into the scandalous extramarital romance that led to Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November after several years of rapid rise—going from a little-known general to a prospective presidential candidate in a stunningly brief time frame. Among other revelations the documents show that: 1) Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair nearly two years earlier than previously known; 2) Petraeus’s affair was known to foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle in which Petraeus was an active party; and 3) Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people.
Town and Country, Four-Star Scandal, Vicky Ward, March 2013. Sisters Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam invaded Tampa society like twin buccaneers. They were hilariously over-the-top, stars of their own imaginary reality show. But as they climbed ever higher, the revelations became ever more disturbing, with an FBI investigation, an American hero brought down, and, told here for the first time in detail, a tangled history of their own.
Huffington Post, Jill Kelley: The Real Story Lies in Tampa, Vicky Ward, Feb. 5, 2013. A couple of weeks back I laid into Howie Kurtz for printing an interview with Jill Kelley that was shamefully light on extracting answers, in particular the only answer we want from Jill Kelley: namely, how did a woman like her -- a voluptuous Tampan housewife who throws parties -- come to be such a close friend of the nation's former top military leader, David Petraeus? And are we safe as a result of this "friendship"? That's why I got so cross that Howie Kurtz wrote what he wrote. Because he didn't know the real story about Jill Kelley. The real story lies in Tampa -- where Jill Kelley was certainly not known to shy away from the press or the famous. David Petraeus was Tampa's George Clooney -- and she and her sister were blatant wannabe Stacey Keiblers.
WND, Media ignore Hillary’s bombshell Benghazi claim; Secretary insists she did not know about gun-running at U.S. mission, Aaron Klein, Jan. 24, 2013. During the Senate hearing on Benghazi yesterday, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed she did not know whether the U.S. special mission attacked on Sept. 11 was involved in gun-running. The remarks were perhaps the most important and telling of the entire hearing since they address a possible motive behind the jihadist attacks. Yet Clinton’s answers were largely unreported by U.S. news media. The exchange on the subject took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya? “To Turkey?” Clinton asked. “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me.” Continued Paul: “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?” “I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.” That section of the exchange with Paul was almost entirely ignored by media, which instead focused on the Republican senator’s earlier statement that if he were president he would have relieved Clinton of her post. WND has filed numerous reports quoting Middle East security officials who describe the mission in Benghazi as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East.
Paths to War, Drones
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), The cost of Obama's secret drone war, PJ Crowley (a former admiral and assistant U.S. Secretary of State), Feb. 8, 2013. By the time John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, finished three hours of public testimony before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, two things were clear. First, Mr Brennan will be confirmed. And second, despite nearly a dozen years of war, there are profound disagreements both within the United States and beyond about how this conflict has been and should be waged. Mr. Brennan provided a forceful defense of the Obama administration's war against al-Qaeda over the past four years, particularly its increased employment of drones in various countries he declined to specify. He made clear that the administration believes it has the legal authority to use lethal force in self-defence against al-Qaeda and associated forces wherever there is an imminent threat against the United States and capture is not feasible. "The drone campaign undercuts the very civilian government the United States is spending billions in aid to build up.” The committee was clearly supportive of the continued use of drones in the ongoing war against al-Qaeda. Americans by a wide margin share this view. But that is not the case outside the United States. The rest of the world questions the legality of their use, viscerally so in a country such as Pakistan, where drone attacks increased significantly during President Obama's first term. While Mr. Brennan declined to discuss where drones are employed, Ambassador Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, displayed no such reticence. In a discussion with reporters in Washington two days before Mr. Brennan's testimony, she made clear that the civilian government in Islamabad views America's continued deployment of drones as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, as well as strategically counter-productive. Recent polling tends to support Ambassador Rehman's view. An estimated 74% of Pakistanis polled by Pew last year termed the United States an "enemy." Drones are a clear factor.
New York Times, Debating a Court to Vet Drone Strikes, Scott Shane, Feb. 8, 2013. Since 1978, a secret court in Washington has approved national security eavesdropping on American soil — operations that for decades had been conducted based on presidential authority alone. Now, in response to broad dissatisfaction with the hidden bureaucracy directing lethal drone strikes, there is an interest in applying the model of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court — created by Congress so that surveillance had to be justified to a federal judge — to the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, or at least of American suspects. “We’ve gone from people scoffing at this to it becoming a fit subject for polite conversation,” said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas. He said court approval for adding names to a counterterrorism kill list — at least for American citizens abroad — “is no longer beyond the realm of political possibility.” A drone court would face constitutional, political and practical obstacles, and might well prove unworkable, according to several legal scholars and terrorism experts. But with the war in Afghanistan winding down, Al Qaeda fragmenting into hard-to-read offshoots and the 2001 terrorist attacks receding into the past, they said, it is time to consider how to forge a new, trustworthy and transparent system to govern lethal counterterrorism operations.
Guardian, Drone attacks and new NDAA law under fire as critics fear US civil liberties are being undermined, Paul Harris, Feb. 9, 2013. President Barack Obama is facing a liberal backlash over his hardline national security policy, which critics say is more extreme and conservative than that pursued by George W Bush. The outrage comes after a week in which Obama's nominee to be the next head of the CIA, current White House adviser John Brennan, faced a grilling from the Senate intelligence committee over his enthusiastic support of using unmanned drones to strike suspected Islamic militants all over the globe. It also comes after a court hearing in New York in which numerous liberal activists and journalists argued that a new Obama law – the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) – has dealt a serious blow to civil liberties by allowing American citizens to be detained indefinitely without trial.
Washington Post, In heated exchanges at Senate hearing, Brennan defends drone strike policies, Greg Miller, Feb. 6, 2013. CIA director nominee expresses dismay with way administration’s actions have been perceived.A Senate hearing on the nomination of John O. Brennan to serve as CIA director exposed deep skepticism of key aspects of the Obama administration’s approach to fighting terrorism, including its unprecedented reliance on targeted killing and the secrecy it maintains around the exercise of that lethal power. Brennan, who served as the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser for the past four years, was challenged in often blunt terms to explain why under President Obama the number of drone strikes has soared while captures of terrorism suspects have dwindled to single digits. He was prodded to defend the administration’s refusal to provide basic information, including the death toll in drone strikes, and was asked to square his assertion that he opposed the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures with not trying to stop them while he was in the agency’s leadership ranks during the George W. Bush administration.
Washington Post, Panetta: Pentagon backed arming Syrian opposition groups, Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2013. Top Pentagon leaders said for the first time Thursday that the Defense Department backed the idea of providing arms to opposition groups in Syria.Until Thursday, the Pentagon had only said publicly that U.S. policy is to give only humanitarian assistance to rebels battling President Bashar Assad’s regime. Providing arms has been the subject of ongoing internal administration debate. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Barack Obama made the final decision against arming the rebels. “Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president’s decision to make it nonlethal,” Panetta said. “I supported his decision in the end.”
Huffington Post, John Brennan Confirmation Hearing: Obama CIA Director Pick Faces Senate Intelligence Committee, Kimberly Dozier, Feb. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing just hours after lawmakers are expected to receive a classified report providing the rationale for drone strikes targeting Americans working with al-Qaida overseas. John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief and Obama's nominee to run the nation's spy agency, helped manage the drone program. The confirmation hearing Thursday sets the stage for a public airing of some of the most controversial programs in the covert war on al-Qaida, from the deadly drone strikes to the CIA's use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding during President George W. Bush's administration.
Huffington Post, John Brennan And Warrantless Wiretapping, Matt Sledge, Feb. 7, 2013. It's been all drones and all John Brennan all the time this week: ever since Michael Isikoff dropped his bombshell about an administration white paper justifying targeted killing on Monday, everyone's been talking about flying death robots. Last night the White House announced that it would allow Congress access to the Office of Legal Counsel memos that lay out why it thinks it can kill American citizens. Today John Brennan gets grilled by the Senate Intelligence Committee. In all this talk about targeted killing (and remember, it's not just drones), it's easy to forget that John Brennan has also been at the heart of two other high-profile national security controversies. One was the CIA's torture program, which Brennan was aware of but did not object to during the Bush administration. The other is warrantless wiretapping. During the Bush administration, said journalist James Bamford, author of several books on the National Security Agency, it is likely that Brennan would have known about the secretive program that allowed spy agencies to listen in on Americans' phone calls without a warrant.
Huffington Post, Drones Memo Not Shared With Senate Staffers: Dianne Feinstein, Ryan J. Reilly, Feb. 7, 2013. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) revealed Thursday that the government refused to allow staffers with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to view the memo that lays out the legal rationale for the government’s targeted killing program. “Our staff were banned from seeing it this morning,” Feinstein told John Brennan at a hearing on his confirmation as CIA director. “We have lawyers and very good staff. This is upsetting to a number of members. We depend on our staff because you can't take material home. You can't take notes with you, so the staff becomes very important.”
Washington Post, Obama will let lawmakers, see targeted-killings memo, Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, Feb. 6, 2013. Dispute over justification to kill American terrorism suspects overseas threatened to derail hearing for CIA pick John Brennan. President Obama yielded Wednesday to congressional demands that he provide access to a secret legal memo on the targeted killing of American terrorism suspects overseas, avoiding a confrontation that threatened the confirmation of John O. Brennan, left, as his new CIA director. Obama directed the Justice Department to hand over the document to the two intelligence committees “as part of the president’s ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters,” an administration official said.
NBC News, Exclusive: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans, Michael Isikoff, Feb. 4, 2013. A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S. The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes. The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”
New York Times, With Brennan Pick, a Light on Drone Strikes’ Hazards, Robert F. Worth, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, Feb.5, 2013. The chief architect of a clandestine campaign of targeted killings, John O. Brennan, will face a Senate hearing Thursday as President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director. Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen. As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby. The killing of Mr. Jaber, just the kind of leader most crucial to American efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, was a reminder of the inherent hazards of the quasi-secret campaign of targeted killings that the United States is waging against suspected militants not just in Yemen but also in Pakistan and Somalia. Individual strikes by the Predator and Reaper drones are almost never discussed publicly by Obama administration officials. But the clandestine war will receive a rare moment of public scrutiny on Thursday, when its chief architect, John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, faces a Senate confirmation hearing as President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director.
Washington Post, U.S. has secret drone base in Saudi Arabia, Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Feb. 5, 2013. John Brennan’s CIA nomination opens Obama to scrutiny over targeted-killing policies that the administration has fought to keep hidden, including the establishment of the facility two years ago in the kingdom.
Huffington Post, White House Reporters Pepper Jay Carney With Questions About Drone Memo, Jack Mirkinson, Feb. 5, 2013. White House reporters tried in vain to get information from press secretary Jay Carney, left. about a newly released paper that deals with the Obama administration's killing of American citizens. The paper, which was obtained by NBC News, lays out some of the government's justification for the assassination of Americans with drone strikes. The memo says that the US can order the killing of Americans if they are believed to be senior Al Qaeda members, even if they are not actively plotting attacks. Carney was asked about the paper at the very beginning of Tuesday's briefing. He called the strikes "legal, ethical and wise," and said that they were constitutionally sound. “The president takes his responsibilities very seriously,” Carney said. “And first and foremost that’s his responsibility to protect the United States." He added that the strikes were conducted “in a way that is fully consistent with the Constitution and all the applicable laws." And that, essentially, is all he would say, despite a torrent of questions about the paper.
War is a Crime, The Good Intentions That Pave the Road to War, Diana Johnstone, Feb. 5, 2013. Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States.Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities. The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell.” Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide.” It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor. Why has the U.S. Government so eagerly endorsed the crusade against “genocide”? The reason is clear. The obsession with “genocide” reverses the final judgment of the Nuremberg Trials...War is transformed into a chivalrous action to rescue whole populations from “genocide.” At the same time, national sovereignty, erected as the barrier to prevent strong nations from invading weaker ones, that is, to prevent aggression and “the scourge of war”, is derided as nothing but a protection for evil rulers (“dictators”) whose only ambition is to “massacre their own people.”
Washington Post, The Justice Department’s chilling ‘targeted killings’ memo, James Downie, Feb. 5, 2013. On Monday night, NBC News’s Michael Isikoff published a Justice Department memo justifying the “targeted killings” — without due process — of U.S. citizens who are leaders in al-Qaeda or “associated forces” but are “outside the area of hostile activities,” such as Afghanistan. The document is based on a still-classified memo on targeted killings of U.S. citizens prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The summary memo is a chilling document, full of twisted definitions, gaping loopholes and hints that the White House still isn’t sharing its full justification for killing citizens without due process. Given the extraordinary power the executive branch is claiming, legislators in both parties must ask tough questions of Obama and his national security team, including threatening to hold up key appointments, if necessary.
Washington Post, U.S. needs a rulebook for secret warfare, Jack Goldsmith, Feb. 5, 2013. Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, is a professor at Harvard Law School and a member of the Hoover Institution task force on national security and law. “A decade of war is now ending,” President Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural address. But war is not ending, it is changing — and has been for years. Obama has cut back on heavy-footprint, conventional-force war in two countries. At the same time, he has presided over the rise of a secret, nimbler war defined by covert action, Special Forces, drone surveillance and targeting, cyberattacks and other stealthy means deployed in many countries. This new form of warfare needs a firmer political and legal foundation. The legal foundation rests mostly on laws designed for another task that government lawyers have interpreted, without public scrutiny, to meet new challenges. Outside the surveillance context, Congress as a body has not debated or approved the means or ends of secret warfare (except, perhaps, through appropriations). Because secret surveillance and targeted strikes, rather than U.S. military detention, are central to the new warfare, there are no viable plaintiffs to test the government’s authorities in court. In short, executive-branch decisions since 2001 have led the nation to a new type of war against new enemies on a new battlefield without focused national debate, deliberate congressional approval or real judicial review.
FireDogLake, Legal Review of Presidential Power to Engage in Preemptive Cyber Strikes to Remain Secret, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 4, 2013. A recently published story from the New York Times reports a “secret legal review” has been conducted on the use of cyber warfare by the United States. It concluded President Barack Obama has “the broad power to order a preemptive strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad.” Unnamed officials involved in the review inform that the administration is moving in the coming weeks to “approve the nation’s first rules for how the military can defend, or retaliate, against a major cyber attack.” These rules, according to David Sanger and Thom Shanker, will “govern how the intelligence agencies can carry out searches of faraway computer networks for signs of potential attacks on the U nited States.” If the president approves a strike, the government will be able to “attack adversaries by injecting them with destructive code — even if there is no declared war.”It further adds, “The Pentagon would not be involved in defending against ordinary cyberattacks on American companies or individuals, even though it has the largest array of cybertools. Domestically, that responsibility falls to the Department of Homeland Security, and investigations of cyberattacks or theft are carried out by the FBI.”
Guardian / OpEd News, JSoc: Obama's Secret Assassins, Naomi Wolf, Feb. 3, 2013.The president has a clandestine network targeting a 'kill list' justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad? The film Dirty Wars, which premiered at Sundance, can be viewed, as Amy Goodman sees it, as an important narrative of excesses in the global "war on terror." It is also a record of something scary for those of us at home -- and uncovers the biggest story, I would say, in our nation's contemporary history.
Due Process and Civil Rights
Institute for Political Economy, It Has Happened Here, Paul Craig Roberts, left, Feb. 7, 2013. The Bush regime’s response to 9/11 and the Obama regime’s validation of this response have destroyed accountable democratic government in the United States. So much unaccountable power has been concentrated in the executive branch that the US Constitution is no longer an operable document....Just consider the wrongful conviction of Alabama’s Democratic governor, Don Siegelman by what apparently was a Karl Rove plot to rid the South of Democratic governors. The “Democratic” Obama regime has not investigated this false prosecution or given clemency to its innocent own. Remember how quickly Bush removed the prison sentence of Cheney’s operative who revealed the name of a CIA undercover agent? The Democrats are a cowed and cowardly political party, fearful of justice, and as much a part of the corrupt police state as the Republicans. Today the purpose of a prosecution is to serve the prosecutor’s career and that of the party that appoints him or her. A prosecutor’s career is served by high conviction rates, which require plea bargains in which the evidence against a defendant is never tested in court or before a jury, and by high profile cases, which can launch a prosecutor into a political career, as Rudy Giuliana achieved with his frame-up of Michael Milken. The US actually has more of its citizens in prison than “authoritarian” China which has a population four times larger than the US.
Huffington Post, The Rule of Law or the Rule of Men? Ralph Nader, right, Feb. 5, 2013. Last week, the State Department reassigned the official responsible for the "diplomatic issues" pertaining to the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison. This was a telling sign that the Obama administration is abandoning its long-held but little-fought-for promise of closing that notorious facility where a majority of prisoners proved to be innocent, often victims of bounty hunters in Afghanistan during 2001 and 2002. With this new development, infinite detention has become ingrained in the woodwork of the government. The Obama administration has failed to present a viable path forward in ending this cruel and inhumane practice. As such, the military will continue to "detain" prisoners that it classifies as terrorists or supporters of terrorists without charges, without trial, and without any oversight. Furthermore, the language used to describe this detention authorization is so broad that many argue that even American citizens are now susceptible to indefinite imprisonment. So much for habeas corpus!
Huffington Post, Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme, Joshua Hersh, Feb. 4, 2013. More than 50 nations played a role in the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects in the years after 9/11, a new report has found. The program, started under President George W. Bush, involved shipping suspects off to foreign prisons and CIA "black sites," where they often faced torture. The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations. The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition. The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA's detention and interrogation efforts as "terrible mistakes."
Institute for Political Economy, The Institutionalization of Tyranny, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 18, 2013. Republicans and conservative Americans are still fighting Big Government in its welfare state form. Apparently, they have never heard of the militarized police state form of Big Government, or, if they have, they are comfortable with it and have no objection. Republicans, including those in the House and Senate, are content for big government to initiate wars without a declaration of war or even Congress’ assent, and to murder with drones citizens of countries with which Washington is not at war. Republicans do not mind that federal “security” agencies spy on American citizens without warrants and record every email, Internet site visited, Facebook posting, cell phone call, and credit card purchase. Republicans in Congress even voted to fund the massive structure in Utah in which this information is stored. But heaven forbid that big government should do anything for a poor person. Republicans have been fighting Social Security ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law in the 1930s, and they have been fighting Medicare ever since President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1965 as part of the Great Society initiatives.
OpEdNews, Selective Tyranny: Why "Terrorized" Gun-Owners Applaud Obama's Worst Constitutional Abuses, Gustav Wynn, Feb. 3, 2013. When a gun rights advocate brings up the Second Amendment, I ask them why they wouldn't defend the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment from either Bush or Obama. If they are willing to fight for the Bill of Rights, why do gun-lovers not just allow but fight for stripping our right to a jury trial, to privacy or protest? Worse yet, if firearms are the answers to stopping government tyranny, why are gun owners first to grant this government the authority to unilaterally label US citizens as terrorists and wipe them off the map? Codified by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the 2011 NDAA makes firearm ownership yet another "red flag" for the government as they locate, track, eavesdrop and ultimately, assassinate citizens solely on their say-so, without oversight or transparency. Isn't this exactly the opposite intent of the Second Amendment?
Editor's Note: This column is by my friend, Jeanne Bishop.who lost her beloved sister and brother-in-law to a senseless murder two decades ago, and who then left a prestigious Chicago law firm to become a public defnder in the time since then.
Huffington Post, A Dead Child and Childish Things, Jeanne Bishop, Feb. 1, 2013. We are in the midst of an important discussion now, about how to prevent the senseless slaughter that has claimed the lives of innocent first-graders and their teachers in Newtown, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl in Tucson, moviegoers in Colorado, college students at Virginia Tech, my own sister and brother-in-law in their home in Winnetka, Illinois, and now, this latest victim: a vibrant, promising high schooler with a lifetime of possibility before her.
It is time for the adult participants in that discussion to grow up, to listen politely and speak respectfully, to seek consensus rather than conflict, to work together to forge a solution. We owe it to the children who have died, to all children. We owe it to Hadiya Pendleton, a child who helped celebrate the inauguration of a president, who deserved that chance the president spoke of, the chance all children deserve: to pursue their full measure of happiness.The Guardian (United Kingdom), Naomi Wolf, left, Dec. 29, 2012. New documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Washington Post, Menendez tried to help donor in billing dispute, Carol D. Leonnig and Jerry Markon, Feb. 6, 2013. Democratic N.J. senator raised concerns with federal health-care officials about their finding that a Florida doctor’s clinic had overbilled the government by $8.9M. Sen. Robert Menendez, left, raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday. Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said. Last year, in a meeting with the acting administrator of the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, Menendez again questioned whether federal auditors had been fair in their assessment of Melgen’s billing for eye injections to treat macular degeneration, the senator’s aides said.
Legal Schnauzer, Obama Department Of Justice Finally Takes A Stand, By Cracking Down on Traffic-Ticket Fraud In Philly, Roger Shuler, February 5, 2013. Why did the Obama Justice Department spend three years investigating traffic tickets in Philadelphia while it has ignored far more serious wrongdoing around the country? Let's consider just a few of the stories we've reported here at Legal Schnauzer.
RT, Abby Martin Interviews Rachel Corrie’s Parents as the 10th Anniversary of Rachel’s Death Approaches, Edward Teller, January 20, 2013. March 16th, less than two months away, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Evergreen College senior, Rachel Corrie, in Rafah, near the Egyptian border of the Gaza Strip, as she sought to and succeeded in keeping an Israeli military armored Caterpiller bulldozer from destroying the house of a large Palestinian family. Her action cost her her life. But her legacy lives on through the work of her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, and through the inspiration she has provided to hundreds of thousands of young people, worldwide. Their daughter, Rachel, is shown at right.
Telegraph (London), Rachel Corrie death: Israel rejects all blame, Adrian Blomfield, Aug. 28, 2012. The US activist Rachel Corrie, whose death beneath an Israeli military bulldozer made her an international symbol of Palestinian resistance, bore sole responsibility for the incident that killed her, a court in Israel ruled. The parents of Corrie fought back tears as a judge fully absolved the Israeli army for the death of their daughter as she tried to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian house in Gaza in 2003. Rejecting the Corrie family’s civil suit against the state, Oded Gershon accepted the army’s argument that the driver of the bulldozer had not seen the 23-year-old activist. The death of Corrie badly damaged Israel’s international reputation and strained relations with the US, its superpower patron. Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, told the Corrie family last week that Washington remained dissatisfied with the way Israel had handled the incident. Fellow activists from International Solidarity Movement, the group for which Corrie campaigned, have long rejected the official Israeli explanation. Tom Dale, a British former activist who was just 30 feet away when Corrie was crushed, said that it was impossible for the driver of the bulldozer not to have seen her, pointing out that she wore a fluorescent vest and was standing on raised ground.
Institute for Political Economy, Obamacare: A Deception, Paul Craig Roberts, February 3, 2013. The article below is the most comprehensive analysis available of “Obamacare” – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The author, a knowledgeable person who wishes to remain anonymous, explains how Obamacare works for the insurance companies but not for you. Obamacare was formulated on the concept of health care as a commercial commodity and was cloaked in ideological slogans such as “shared responsibility,” “no free riders” and “ownership society.” These slogans dress the insurance industry’s raid on public resources in the cloak of a “free market” health care system. What this means is that those Americans with the least or no disposable income are faced in effect with a substantial pay cut. Obamacare not only rations health care by what a person or family can afford, but also has implications for Medicare patients. Hundreds of billions of dollars are siphoned from Medicare to help pay the cost of Obamacare. The health care provided to Medicare patients will decline with the reduced payments to care providers. Health care seems destined to be rationed according to the age and illnesses of Medicare patients. Those judged too old and too ill could be denied expensive treatments or procedures that would prolong their lives.
FireDogLake, Obama Says Medicare and Social Security Cuts Still on the Table, Jon Walker, February 5, 2013. No bad idea supported by President Obama is ever permanently defeated, it is at best simply stopped temporarily. In a statement today about the sequestration cuts Obama wanted to make it clear that the proposed entitlements cuts that he has previously backed are still on the table. In fact Obama made sure to repeat this point. From the transcript: "The proposals that I’ve put forward during the fiscal cliff negotiations, in discussions with Speaker Boehner and others, are still very much on the table." While Obama did not specifically mention any entitlement cuts in this statement, it is being widely reported what cuts Obama has back in previous possible deals. The biggest were raising the Medicare retirement age from 65 to 67 and switching to the chained-CPI for Social Security. The switch to chained-CPI would effectivey be a yearly cut on every senior with the sizes of the cut growing as a senior ages. Raising the Medicare retirement age would be an uniquely terrible policy. That would increase health care cost for seniors, businesses, states, and individuals while saving the federal government relatively little money. Obama really wants to cut Social Security and he wants to make sure everyone knows it.
Huffington Post, Gulf War Syndrome, Other Illnesses Among Veterans May Be Due To Toxic Environments, Lynne Peeples, Feb. 7, 2013. In 1991, as part of Operation Desert Storm, former U.S. Ar injuries inflicted by bullets or shrapnel.
"It's just been one thing after another," said the veteran, who now resides in Miami and whose ailments run the gamut from lung disease and sleep apnea to, most recently, terminal breast cancer. "At one point," she said, "I was on over 50 pills." Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tim Wymore, who was deployed to Iraq in 2004, suffers from an array of health problems that mirror Lovett's. "Everyone has the same things," said Wymore, who has inexplicably shed 40 pounds in the last few months. "It's just weird."
Roll Call, Goodlatte at Nexus of Obama Agenda, Jonathan Strong, Feb. 3, 2013. As the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte plans a slow approach to considering changes in immigration law. Virginia Republican Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte is important, but don’t expect him to tell you that. He’s the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and huge segments of President Barack Obama’s agenda must go through his committee. That includes bills on the topics of gun control and immigration, both of which are enjoying political momentum that would have been shocking only months ago, when Goodlatte was gearing up to take his new post. Meanwhile, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has vowed to return the House to regular order, elevating the importance of committee chairmen. But most would be forgiven for not knowing anything about Goodlatte. His reaction to this newfound importance has been to retreat, almost turtle-like, into a shell and away from the spotlight.
Bloomberg, Murdoch-Coveting Papers Must Wait as Rift Stalls Media Rules, Todd Shields and Edmund Lee, Feb. 5, 2013. A move to make it easier for companies to own U.S. daily newspapers and nearby broadcast stations has stalled amid partisan tension that could prevent deals between companies such as Tribune Co. and News Corp. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, hasn’t won approval of his proposal to ease a ban on cross-media ownership almost three months after asking fellow commissioners to vote for it. The FCC proposal’s fate may determine whether News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has a chance to buy Tribune Co. newspapers in U.S. markets where his company owns Fox television stations. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy Dec. 31 with a plan to focus on its broadcast properties, and Murdoch plans to take a close look at the newspapers if they become available, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking. “They’d be changing rules for Rupert Murdoch to potentially make a run at the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times,” Craig Aaron, president of the Florence, Massachusetts-based policy group Free Press, said in an interview. The cross-ownership changes proposed by Genachowski are similar to those passed by the agency on a Republican-led vote in 2007 and struck down by an appeals court in 2011. Like the earlier effort, Genachowski’s would allow newspaper-broadcast common ownership in the 20 largest U.S. media markets so long as a television station isn’t among the top four in audience size, as measured by Nielsen Holdings NV.
Salon, Karl Rove's War On the Tea Party, Jillian Rayfield,Feb. 3, 2013. Karl Rove is backing a new effort to stop the Tea Party in its tracks. The Tea Party is, predictably, not pleased. The New York Times reported over the weekend that Rove's super PAC American Crossroads is backing a new group, the Conservative Victory Project, which will enlist big-money GOP donors to fight back against Tea Party groups that are looking to oust Republican establishment candidates in the 2014 primaries. The idea is to prevent any more Todd Akins or Richard Mourdocks from making it through to the national stage. "There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected," said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the "super PAC" creating the new project. "We don't view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win." The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-vs.-Republican warfare that has consumed the party's primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.
Huffington Post, Inauguration Shouldn't be a Coronation, Joe Lauria, Jan. 21, 2012. Americans fought an eight-year war of liberation against not only the most powerful monarchy on earth in 1775 but against monarchy itself. Yet once the dust settled and it was time to write a Constitution compromises left America a legacy of monarchy now gone from most of Europe. Among the kingly powers still residing in the American presidency are the pardon, the veto and the title Commander-in-Chief. Add to that list the Inaugural celebration we are about to witness in Washington, DC. mong the kingly powers still residing in the American presidency are the pardon, the veto and the title Commander-in-Chief. Add to that list the Inaugural celebration we are about to witness in Washington, DC. None of this has any place in a democracy. Unlike in Europe, whose time for Empire has come and gone, the United States combines the practical power of head of government with the symbolic power of head of state. It is a frightening combination. But that is the point: to instill fear. It is part of how rulers rule, how leaders manage populations. A mere mortal, albeit one with mortal power over other people's lives, is transformed through ritual and ceremony into a super-human figure who is not to be messed with. As the chief executive he holds in his hands the state's monopoly on violence -- both domestic and foreign. That fear of potential violence buffers an American president from criticism. It takes courage for someone -- a cabinet official, a journalist or an ordinary citizen -- to stand up to a president while he's in power. Only now we are hearing from a judge who says Bush was a torturer.
Washington Post, TSA to pull revealing scanners from airports, Ashley Halsey III, Jan. 18, 2013. The Transportation Security Administration will remove 174 full-body scanners from airport security checkpoints, ending a $40 million contract for the machines, which caused a uproar because they revealed spectral naked forms of passengers. TSA Administrator John S. Pistole issued the order this week after concluding that new software that made the machines less intrusive could not be developed by a June 1 deadline mandated by Congress.
The Hill, Karl Rove: The biggest loser, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator, Tea Party Patriots, Feb. 7, 2013.While Barack Obama is busy shredding the Constitution, Washington, D.C. insider Karl Rove is busy trying to destroy what is left of the Republican Party by launching a multi-million dollar Super PAC to usurp representative democracy, disenfranchise American voters, and concentrate even more power in Washington DC. Rove and the professional “consultant class” think that only Washington D.C. insiders like them – not the American people – should get to decide who runs for public office. That’s why he is launching the “Conservative Victory Project” – a Super PAC whose mandate is to wrestle local decision-making power away from the American people, so that only Washington DC insiders can hand-pick our candidates – against our will – again. What happened the last time Washington D.C. insiders hand-picked our candidate? We got Mitt Romney; a man who struggled day after day to articulate a conservative position on the economy, which the consultant class told us was the area of his expertise. The result of their “brilliant” campaign: four more years of Barack Obama. That’s what happens when the consultant class decides what’s best for American citizens. They listen to focus groups instead of our founding fathers. They value polling over principle. And they choose mushy establishment candidates over strong, principled conservatives. Their results speak for themselves. Barack Obama is still president. Harry Reid is still Senate majority leader. And Speaker John Boehner is still caving in to his Democratic opponents almost every chance he gets. It is laughable that Rove is calling his new “command and control” group the “Conservative Victory Project.” First: it is not a “Conservative” project. It is a project designed to shut out real conservatives, and to protect establishment Republican candidates who are hand-picked by a small cabal of Washington DC know-it-alls – over the objections of the American people.
OpEdNews, Roger Shuler Muses on Justice Department's Odd Priorities, Joan Brunwasser, Feb. 10, 2013. How is this for irony? The Democratic Party, since passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, has consistently stuck its neck out to stand up for justice issues. In the process, it has paid a huge electoral price, just as Lyndon Johnson predicted. But now we have our first black president turning his back on the very justice issues that have given his party its moral authority.
WLOX, Former Jailer Ryan Teel Sentenced To Life In Prison. After a three hour sentencing hearing in federal court, Judge Louis Guirola sentenced former Harrison County jailer Ryan Teel to a term of life in prison for the beating death of inmate Jesse Lee Williams, Jr. in February 2006. Teel was convicted of civil rights violations and using excessive force against Williams. He was found guilty after a week-long trial in August. The actual sentence was two life terms on the first two counts and 20 years in prison on count three. "We took a long process to go through, but at the end of the day we have two life sentences and the 240 months for the cover up. And so I think this was a worthwhile process to go through," Special Federal Prosecutor Cono Caranna said. The public now has access to the videotaped beating of a Harrison County jail inmate whose death 18 months ago spawned a federal investigation. The beating is here after being uploaded in 2007 to YouTube by a local newspaper. Warning: This is a extended, violent beating by multiple jail guards of a handcuffed prisoner ending with his death.