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Old 02-04-2013, 09:36 PM  
BigRedChief BigRedChief is offline
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Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans

This is now public info as of tonight.

http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news...americans?lite

By Michael Isikoff
National Investigative Correspondent, NBC News


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"

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about a newly obtained, confidential Department of Justice white paper that hints at the details of a secret White House memo that explains the legal justifications for targeted drone strikes that kill Americans without trial in the name of national security.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Read the entire 'white paper' on drone strikes on Americans

Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:53 PM   #121
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
FWIW, this issue isn't a very good example of excessive partisan bullshit though. This issue, maybe more than any other, has people from both parties on the President's side and people from both parties in the opposition.
Sen. Graham was talking about in your face nominations, picking fights with Obama over everything.

on this one issue..........

Sen. Graham says the senate should immediately provide cover for the President as he goes after terrorists.

When I heard that I was really floored.
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:54 PM   #122
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Originally Posted by BigRedChief View Post
Sen. Graham was talking about in your face nominations, picking fights with Obama over everything.

on this one issue..........

Sen. Graham says the senate should immediately provide cover for the President as he goes after terrorists.

When I heard that I was really floored.
Great post cosmo~
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Old 02-09-2013, 04:27 PM
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Old 02-10-2013, 12:37 PM   #123
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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/wo....html?hp&_r=1&

Obama’s Turn in Bush’s Bind
By PETER BAKER
Published: February 9, 2013

WASHINGTON — If President Obama tuned in to the past week’s bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country’s core values in the name of security.

The debate is not an exact parallel to those of the Bush era, and Mr. Obama can point to ways he has tried to exorcise what he sees as the excesses of the last administration. But in broad terms, the conversation generated by the confirmation hearing of John O. Brennan, his nominee for C.I.A. director, underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush’s approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces.

At the same time, a separate hearing in Congress revealed how far Mr. Obama has gone to avoid what he sees as Mr. Bush’s central mistake. Testimony indicated that the president had overruled his secretaries of state and defense and his military commanders when they advised arming rebels in Syria

With troops only recently home from Iraq, Mr. Obama made clear that he was so intent on staying out of another war against a Middle East tyrant that he did not want to be involved even by proxy, especially if the proxies might be questionable.

Critics on the left saw abuse of power, and critics on the right saw passivity.

The confluence of these debates suggests the ways Mr. Obama is willing to emulate Mr. Bush and the ways he is not. In effect, Mr. Obama relies on his predecessor’s aggressive approach in one area to avoid Mr. Bush’s even more aggressive approach in others. By emphasizing drone strikes, Mr. Obama need not bother with the tricky issues of detention and interrogation because terrorists tracked down on his watch are generally incinerated from the sky, not captured and questioned. By dispensing with concerns about due process, he avoids a more traditional war that he fears could lead to American boots on the ground.

“I’d argue the shift to more targeted action against A. Q. has been a hallmark of Obama’s approach against terrorism, whereas Iraq was Bush’s signature decision in his global war on terror,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, using the initials for Al Qaeda.

The Brennan hearing highlighted the convoluted politics of terrorism. Conservatives complained that if Mr. Bush had done what Mr. Obama has done, he would have been eviscerated by liberals and the news media. But perhaps more than ever before in Mr. Obama’s tenure, liberals voiced sustained grievance over the president’s choices.

“That memo coming out, I think, was a wake-up call,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. “These last few days, it was like being back in the Bush days.”

“It’s causing a lot of cognitive dissonance for a lot of people,” he added. “It’s not the President Obama they thought they knew.”

The dissonance is due in part to the fact that Mr. Obama ran in 2008 against Mr. Bush’s first-term policies but, after winning, inherited Mr. Bush’s second-term policies.

By the time Mr. Bush left office, he had shaved off some of the more controversial edges of his counterterrorism program, both because of pressure from Congress and the courts and because he wanted to leave behind policies that would endure. He had closed the secret C.I.A. prisons, obtained Congressional approval for warrantless surveillance and military commissions, and worked to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

So while Mr. Obama banned harsh interrogation techniques, he preserved much of what he inherited, with some additional safeguards; expanded Mr. Bush’s drone campaign; and kept on veterans of the antiterrorism wars like Mr. Brennan. Some efforts at change were thwarted, like his vow to close the Guantánamo prison and to try Sept. 11 plotters in civilian court.

“These are the same issues we’ve been grappling with for years that are uncomfortable given our legal structures and the nature of the threat, but the Obama team is addressing these issues the same way we did,” said Juan Carlos Zarate, who was Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University professor and former Bush national security aide, said Mr. Obama “believed the cartoon version of the Bush critique so that Bush wasn’t just trying to make tough calls how to protect America in conditions of uncertainty, Bush actually was trying to grab power for nefarious purposes.”

“So even though what I, Obama, am doing resembles what Bush did, I’m doing it for other purposes,” Mr. Feaver added.

Others said that oversimplified the situation and ignored modifications that Mr. Obama had enacted. “It is a vast overstatement to suggest that President Obama is channeling President Bush,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who hired a young Mr. Obama to lecture there. “On almost every measure, Obama has been more careful, more restrained and more respectful of individual liberties than President Bush was.”

“On the other hand,” Mr. Stone added, “at least in his use of drones, President Obama has legitimately opened himself up to criticism for striking the wrong balance” between civil liberties and national security.

Particularly stark has been the secret memo authorizing the targeted killing of American citizens deemed terrorists under certain circumstances without judicial review, a memo that brought back memories of those in which John Yoo, a Justice Department official under Mr. Bush, declared harsh interrogation legal.

That broad assertion of power, even with limits described by administration officials, combined with the initial White House refusal to release even a sanitized summary of the memo touched off protests from left and right. Some called Mr. Obama a hypocrite. But Mr. Yoo himself saw it differently, arguing in The Wall Street Journal that the memo, whatever the surface similarities to his own, betrayed a flawed vision because it presented the issue in law enforcement terms rather than as an exercise of war powers.

Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director under Mr. Bush, said that if Mr. Obama learned one thing from experience it should be that controversial programs require public support to be sustained. “Err on the side of being open, at least with Congress,” he said. “Otherwise you’re going to find yourself in a politically vulnerable position.”

For four years, Mr. Obama has benefited at least in part from the reluctance of Mr. Bush’s most virulent critics to criticize a Democratic president. Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama’s hands, not Mr. Bush’s.

“We trust the president,” former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said on Current TV. “And if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms because we wouldn’t trust that he would strike in a very targeted way and try to minimize damage rather than contain collateral damage.”

But some national security specialists said questions about the limits of executive power to conduct war should not depend on the person in the Oval Office.

“That’s not how we make policy,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former national security aide under Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama and now a fellow at the New America Foundation. “We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish.”
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Old 02-10-2013, 12:57 PM   #124
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http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill...drone-strikes-

Sens. Feinstein, Leahy push for court oversight of armed drone strikes
By Carlo Muñoz
02/10/13 06:00 AM ET

The top Democrats on the Senate intelligence and judiciary panels are planning hearings to consider establishing new authorities for federal courts to oversee the use of armed drone strikes against suspected terror targets worldwide.

That authority would likely be patterned after the intelligence oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, told reporters.

FISA established a special federal court to approve surveillance on suspected foreign spies working inside the United States.

Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have also indicated "their concern and interest" in introducing some sort of FISA-like legal check on the administration's authority to execute armed drone strikes, the California Democrat said.

Feinstein noted that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chair's the Judiciary committee's subpanel on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights subpanel is already planning to hold hearings on the issue.

Her comments came after Thursday's confirmation hearing for White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan to become the new head of Central Intelligence Agency.

"I know the [Senate] Judiciary committee is interested" in developing some kind of legal framework to govern the use of armed drones in counterterrorism operations, she said.

"This is now out in the public arena, and now it has to be addressed," Feinstein said.

The effort to open the armed drone program to a FISA-like court came after the unexpected release of a previously confidential Department of Justice white paper justifying U.S. drone operations — even if those strikes target American citizens.

If approved, the FISA-like authority for drone operations would allow lawmakers to directly address some of the perceived problems with the program, without dealing with the issues of classification surrounding the program.

"Right now it is very hard [to oversee] because it is regarded as a covert activity, so when you see something that is wrong and you ask to be able to address it, you are told no," due the program being steeped in secrecy.

"We know it exists and I think this [program] has gone as far as it can go, as a covert activity, and I think we really need to address it," Feinstein said.

That said, Feinstein made clear the system of analysis and verification in place at CIA and the White House to determine who ends up on the so called CIA "kill list" for a drone strike is "a solid process."

Officials from the Senate intelligence committee also have sent a team of observers to CIA headquarters in Langley, VA "on a regular basis" to review the intelligence analysis that goes into the process, according to Feinstein.

"The intelligence that is used [in the drone program] is very careful and very good," she said.

But within that process, there is an "absence of knowing who is responsible for [those] decisions" inside the White House and intelligence community, she added.

A FISA-like court process could go a long way to clearing up that ambiguity that exists within the administration's system of checks and balances in the drone strike program.

"I think we need to look at this whole process and try to find a way to make it transparent and verifiable," she said.

Senate intelligence panel member Ron Wyden (D-Org.) raised the issue of transparency on Thursday, pressing Brennan on whether CIA would publicly accept responsibility for mistakenly labeling an individual as a terror suspect and taking them out via armed drones.

Surprisingly, Brennan told Wyden and the Senate panel that under his leadership, CIA would be willing to publicly admit when an individual is mistakenly targeted and taken out by U.S. drones.

"As far as I am concerned ... the U.S. should [publicly] acknowledge it," he told the Senate panel.

Public admission of a mistaken drone strike, or the strike itself, would represent a break from the classified status of the entire U.S. armed drone strike program.

Last week, Feinstein, Leahy, Grassley and Durbin joined other House and Senate members in pressing the White House to release the classified DOJ legal memos on armed drone operations that formed the basis for the leaked white paper.

President Obama approved the release of the classified DOJ documents to Feinstein's committee last Wednesday, in anticipation of Brennan's confirmation hearing.

However, Grassley and his counterparts on the House Judiciary Committee demanded the White House release the documents to their panels as well.

"This committee has jurisdiction over the Constitution, and as a result, we should have access to these [DOJ] memos as well," the Iowa Republican told reporters last Tuesday, a day after NBC News reported the details of the white paper.

The drone strikes have played a key role in the Obama administration's increasingly aggressive counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda. U.S. national security officials claim the strikes have decimated the terror group's top leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

But top civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, claim the counterterrorism tactic denies suspects — particularly U.S. citizens — their rights to due process in favor of national security objectives.
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Old 02-10-2013, 12:59 PM   #125
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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-0...e-process.html

Obama’s Drone Attack on Your Due Process
By Noah Feldman
Feb 8, 2013 11:49 AM CT

The biggest problem with the recently disclosed Obama administration white paper defending the drone killing of radical clerk Anwar al-Awlaki isn’t its secrecy or its creative redefinition of the words “imminent threat.” It is the revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process.

Fortunately, as seen during John Brennan’s confirmation hearing for Central Intelligence Agency director, Congress is starting to notice.

Due process is the oldest and most essential component of the rule of law. It goes back to the Magna Carta, when the barons insisted that King John agree not to kill anyone or take property without following legal procedures.

What they meant -- and what has been considered the essence of due process since -- is that the accused must be notified of the charges against him and have the opportunity to have his case heard by an impartial decision maker. If you get due process, you can’t complain about the punishment that follows. If you don’t get that opportunity, you’ve been the victim of arbitrary power.

Are U.S. enemies entitled to due process? Well, no -- not if they are arrayed against the country on the battlefield. In war, you don’t try the enemy. You kill him, preferably before he kills you. And if some of the Japanese troops at Guadalcanal had held U.S. citizenship, it wouldn’t have suddenly given them due process rights. If Awlaki was an enemy fighting on the battlefield, he wouldn’t have deserved due process while the fight was on. Off it, he should legally be like any other U.S. citizen, innocent until proven guilty.

Generous Idea

Yet, despite claiming that the Awlaki killing was justified because he was an operational leader of al-Qaeda, and thus in some sense an enemy on the battlefield, the white paper still assumes that due process applies to U.S. citizens abroad who adhere to the enemy. On the surface, this sounds plausible and even generous: Why not consider the possibility that a U.S. citizen abroad has some rights against being killed out of the blue?

In fact, though, applying due process analysis to Awlaki produces a legal disaster. The problem is, once you consider due process, you have to give it some meaning -- and the meaning you choose will cast a long shadow over what the term means everywhere else.

The white paper uses two Supreme Court cases to assess what process is due to an American about to be killed by a drone. The first, Mathews v. Eldridge, is a 1976 case in which the court held that the elaborate administrative processes necessary after a person lost his Social Security disability benefits were constitutionally acceptable even though there was no evidentiary hearing before the benefits were terminated. In that case, the court said that the process due could be determined by balancing the individual’s interest against the government’s.

The other case was 2004’s Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, where the court held that a detained enemy combatant -- in custody, not on the battlefield -- must receive “notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decision- maker.”

Astonishingly, the white paper follows its summary of these decisions with the bald assertion that a citizen outside U.S. territory can be killed if a high-level official determines that he poses an imminent threat, it would be unfeasible to capture him and the laws of war would otherwise permit the killing.

Never Explained

The non sequitur is breathtaking. Awlaki wouldn’t receive notice, the opportunity to be heard or a hearing before a decision maker. In other words, he would receive none of the components of traditional due process -- not even one. How the absence of due process could be magically transformed into its satisfaction is never stated or explained. All we get is the assertion that a target’s interest in life must be “balanced against” the government’s interest in protecting other Americans. On this theory, no due process would be due to those accused of murder, because their lives would have to be balanced against the government’s interest in protecting their potential victims.

The cases cited by the white paper provide no precedent for the idea that due process could be satisfied by some secret, internal process within the executive branch -- not that any such process is even mentioned. The reason they don’t is obvious: There is no such precedent. Never, to my knowledge, in the history of due process jurisprudence, has a court said that a neutral decision maker wasn’t necessary. And as Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote in language cited in the Mathews case, “the essence of due process is the requirement that a person in jeopardy of serious loss [be given] notice of the case against him and opportunity to meet it.”

Although the white paper doesn’t say so, Awlaki even tried to get a hearing before he was killed. His father asked a federal court to find that he wasn’t a terrorist. But the court never heard his claim, because the Obama administration persuaded it not to consider the case.

When Paul Clement, solicitor general under George W. Bush, told the Supreme Court in the Hamdi oral argument that Hamdi had been given the opportunity to be heard during his interrogation, a notable gasp went through the courtroom. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor later singled out this outrageous claim for special criticism in her concurrence in that case.

The Obama administration’s apparent belief that due process can be satisfied in secret internal inside the executive branch is arguably a greater departure from precedent. It is a travesty of the very notion of due process. And to borrow a phrase from Justice Robert Jackson, it will now lie about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any administration that needs it.

The white paper should have said that due process doesn’t apply on the battlefield. By instead making due process into a rubber stamp, the administration is ignoring precedent and subverting the idea of the rule of law. When is some law worse than none? When that law is so watered down that it loses the meaning it has had for 800 years.
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Old 02-10-2013, 05:34 PM   #126
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Diddy View Post
Why is it that the same people who denounce killing a terrorist abroad are the same people clutching to their guns for fear of terrorists coming to their homes?
I'm not. THat ****er (Anwar Al awlaki) can burn in hell, and if that is the worst anyone can come up with in terms of drone use being bad, then LOL.

People like Anwar Awlaki want to join a foreign army (with whom we are at war, declared by congress)? They want to recruit soldiers to do war on and off our soil against civilian and military target? Then they think they can hide with their passport out and wave it like a 'time out flag'

**** Awlaki, he can suck demon dick for the next eternity, in hell.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:04 PM   #127
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http://www.juancole.com/2013/02/prec...-dietrich.html

Bad Precedent: Obama’s Drone Doctrine is Nixon’s Cambodia Doctrine
Christopher R. W. Dietrich
Posted on 02/11/2013

The cynical manipulation of legal and historical precedent regarding unmanned targeted killings vehicles damages the credibility of the Obama administration. The recently-leaked argument by the Justice Department is as weak and counterproductive in the light of contemporary international history as it is in terms of constitutional law.

Commentators have admirably analyzed the flouting of the U.S. Constitution. The Obama administration vindicates the potential liquidation of American citizens through a spuriously broad redefinition of “imminent threat,” even when the U.S. government does not have clear evidence that a specific attack will take place. The administration holds that the use of deadly force is “reasonable” even in the case of relative ignorance. This “trust us” argument moves against a core constitutional right of citizens to neutral judicial review. Yet the Justice Department rationalizes quashing speech and assassinating citizens without sound evidence of an imminent threat.

The rationale of the Justice Department paper is just as specious in the light of recent history. At its most disturbing moment, the Justice Department invokes the legal reasoning of the Nixon administration for the extension of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. In 1969 and 1970, Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, approved secret bombing missions and then outright invasion. A legal adviser rationalized that decision in a February 1970 report. “If a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent…the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state,” he wrote. The Obama administration takes this bad argument and makes worse. Because “transnational non-state organizations” are so diffuse, and “terrorist organizations may move their base of operations,” the United States is justified in eliminating threats with the consent of a host nation. If the U.S. government determines that the host nation is “unable or unwilling to suppress the threat,” both the Obama and the Nixon administrations reserved the right to act unilaterally.

Even if Wikileaks cables seem to prove that the governments of Pakistan and Yemen have approved American drone attacks at different moments, the Cambodia analogy should be met with flat rejection and ultimately treated with derision. The invasion of Cambodia did little to ensure the security of American citizens, as Morton Halperin noted when he resigned in protest. Public protests exploded across the United States, including at Kent State University, when Nixon admitted to the bombings in May 1970. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 on the notion that the President should consult with officials that do not owe their jobs to him before escalating or extending war.

The international response to overweening American power in history also moves in the opposite direction of the Obama argument. Another sort of Cambodia analogy is more apt. The consequences of that abuse extended beyond the geographical boundaries of former French Indochina into the international community. The Red Cross and the United Nations noted the negative effect of the bombing of civilian populations in Southeast Asia itself in 1969 and 1970. In an era of decolonization, many UN delegates had recently been colonial subjects themselves. A number of them compared the cross-border escalation of the war to the human rights abuses of Southern African and Portuguese imperial forces that had pursued national liberation fighters into Zambia or Tanzania.

The bombing of Cambodia, along with the revelations of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, helped create a climate of doubt about the balance between means and ends in American foreign policy. Through Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee, Congress began to investigate the FBI and the CIA in 1974 and 1975. After exposing just the details that led to the conclusion that the CIA was “a rogue elephant rampaging out of control”—emphasizing plans in the early 1960s to “neutralize” Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Abdul Kassem of Iraq, and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic—the committee turned to the international impression such activities left. Targeted killings, even on a far slighter level than the thousands of drone strikes since 2008, produced a backlash that threatened Americans’ safety.

Recent studies of drone violence support the appraisal of international history. The joint report by the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic and the New York University Global Justice Clinic, “Living Under Drones,” confirms the Cambodia effect. After nine months of interviews, the authors concluded that “the dominant narrative” that drones are a surgically precise tool that makes the United States safer is utterly false. Missiles kill innocent civilians on a regular basis. Extensive evidence also pinpoints an injurious effect of the drone policy itself: increased anti-American sentiment.

Drone violence is not only immoral, it is counterproductive. The harmful impact of drones extends beyond the death and psychological trauma of people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Stepping up the use of unmanned killing machines is not beneficent for the image of America abroad. The moral justification for drone attacks—that they make the United States a safer place—is even less certain than the legal one. Such a wrongheaded notion moves against national security, not for it.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:14 PM   #128
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
http://www.juancole.com/2013/02/prec...-dietrich.html

Bad Precedent: Obama’s Drone Doctrine is Nixon’s Cambodia Doctrine
Christopher R. W. Dietrich
Posted on 02/11/2013

The cynical manipulation of legal and historical precedent regarding unmanned targeted killings vehicles damages the credibility of the Obama administration. The recently-leaked argument by the Justice Department is as weak and counterproductive in the light of contemporary international history as it is in terms of constitutional law.

Commentators have admirably analyzed the flouting of the U.S. Constitution. The Obama administration vindicates the potential liquidation of American citizens through a spuriously broad redefinition of “imminent threat,” even when the U.S. government does not have clear evidence that a specific attack will take place. The administration holds that the use of deadly force is “reasonable” even in the case of relative ignorance. This “trust us” argument moves against a core constitutional right of citizens to neutral judicial review. Yet the Justice Department rationalizes quashing speech and assassinating citizens without sound evidence of an imminent threat.

The rationale of the Justice Department paper is just as specious in the light of recent history. At its most disturbing moment, the Justice Department invokes the legal reasoning of the Nixon administration for the extension of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. In 1969 and 1970, Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, approved secret bombing missions and then outright invasion. A legal adviser rationalized that decision in a February 1970 report. “If a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent…the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state,” he wrote. The Obama administration takes this bad argument and makes worse. Because “transnational non-state organizations” are so diffuse, and “terrorist organizations may move their base of operations,” the United States is justified in eliminating threats with the consent of a host nation. If the U.S. government determines that the host nation is “unable or unwilling to suppress the threat,” both the Obama and the Nixon administrations reserved the right to act unilaterally.

Even if Wikileaks cables seem to prove that the governments of Pakistan and Yemen have approved American drone attacks at different moments, the Cambodia analogy should be met with flat rejection and ultimately treated with derision. The invasion of Cambodia did little to ensure the security of American citizens, as Morton Halperin noted when he resigned in protest. Public protests exploded across the United States, including at Kent State University, when Nixon admitted to the bombings in May 1970. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 on the notion that the President should consult with officials that do not owe their jobs to him before escalating or extending war.

The international response to overweening American power in history also moves in the opposite direction of the Obama argument. Another sort of Cambodia analogy is more apt. The consequences of that abuse extended beyond the geographical boundaries of former French Indochina into the international community. The Red Cross and the United Nations noted the negative effect of the bombing of civilian populations in Southeast Asia itself in 1969 and 1970. In an era of decolonization, many UN delegates had recently been colonial subjects themselves. A number of them compared the cross-border escalation of the war to the human rights abuses of Southern African and Portuguese imperial forces that had pursued national liberation fighters into Zambia or Tanzania.

The bombing of Cambodia, along with the revelations of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, helped create a climate of doubt about the balance between means and ends in American foreign policy. Through Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee, Congress began to investigate the FBI and the CIA in 1974 and 1975. After exposing just the details that led to the conclusion that the CIA was “a rogue elephant rampaging out of control”—emphasizing plans in the early 1960s to “neutralize” Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Abdul Kassem of Iraq, and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic—the committee turned to the international impression such activities left. Targeted killings, even on a far slighter level than the thousands of drone strikes since 2008, produced a backlash that threatened Americans’ safety.

Recent studies of drone violence support the appraisal of international history. The joint report by the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic and the New York University Global Justice Clinic, “Living Under Drones,” confirms the Cambodia effect. After nine months of interviews, the authors concluded that “the dominant narrative” that drones are a surgically precise tool that makes the United States safer is utterly false. Missiles kill innocent civilians on a regular basis. Extensive evidence also pinpoints an injurious effect of the drone policy itself: increased anti-American sentiment.

Drone violence is not only immoral, it is counterproductive. The harmful impact of drones extends beyond the death and psychological trauma of people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Stepping up the use of unmanned killing machines is not beneficent for the image of America abroad. The moral justification for drone attacks—that they make the United States a safer place—is even less certain than the legal one. Such a wrongheaded notion moves against national security, not for it.
So his actions show he admires Nixon on more than one issue~
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