Archive for the ‘9/11’ Category

Manhunt: The Rehabilitation of the CIA and Guess What? Torture Works!

Monday, January 28th, 2013

As if ZDT (Zero Dark Thirty) was not enough. Wait until you all see Manhunt which I just did at Sundance. Its, a CIA propaganda film justifying torture, targeted killings etc. The agents who were in the film attended the screenings: Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Marty Martin. Martin was in charge of the OBL investigation. All obviously had CIA clearance to talk etc. Martin justifies the “torture techniques.” Martin, of course, ought to be investigated for violating the torture law and jailed if found guilty, along with the next guy below:

Jose Rodriguez, former head of the Counter Terrorism Center, is a primary talking head justifying water boarding with only a passing statement or two by Ali Soufan, former FBI agent, disagreeing. Of course, there was no mention of the destruction by Rodriguez of the tapes of the water boardings that he oversaw.It was extremely upsetting to sit and watch Rodriguez on the screen as an oracle and Martin treated as a hero by the audience.

While part of film is the story of the female analysts who worked away on the case, and the killing of CIA agents at Khost, the film goes a long way toward justifying torture—in fact, all the way. One irony of the killings at Khost is that the Jordanian doctor who blew himself up to do it was angered by the Iraq war. That war was begun in part on false “evidence” obtained by the US torturing al-Libi who provided the claimed links between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Among the films many failures and omissions  is its editing away of the reasons al Qaeda says it attacked the United States. At least twice  Osama  is shown giving an interview in which he expresses his anger at the United States–each time he is cut off before giving the reasons for that anger. The film ends with General McChrystal speaking pablum on the way to ultimately stop terrorism: understand Muslin and Arab culture. Should not the audience have been given the opportunity of hearing why al Qaeda says it attacked the United States: presence of the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq and support for Israel. While nothing justifies the intentional killing of thousands of civilians, perhaps addressing some of the underlying causes might lessen the impetus to commit such acts.  Nor does the film address the dangers of blow back. While it opens with the efforts of Osama and others to rid Afghanistan of the Soviets it fails to point out the US aid to those efforts including the arming of Jihadists that ultimately blew back against the U.S.

Shockingly, this travesty of illegality was paid for by HBO and got a coveted spot at Sundance of which of which they are a sponsor.

Putting this film together with ZDT, the Green Zone, Argo etc we seem to have a real rehabilitation of the CIA’s image. That Rodriguez could act as Oracle and Martin as hero shows the high costs of Obama’s failure to prosecute. Anecdotally at least most of that liberal Sundance audience accepted what was done and applauded it. I am afraid this debate in the context of protecting the “homeland” has been lost for now.

The great counter to this experience was seeing Rick Rowley and Jeremy Scahill take on JSOC, targeted killings and drones in Dirty Wars. I thought it was the best documentary at Sundance. It received standing ovations and gave me some hope. Perhaps it was a different audience. People were most upset at the killings of Americans without due process and also at the point Dirty Wars proved again and again: there are reasons America is hated; drones and “targeted” killings that destroy communities are high on that list.

Guantanamo: Broken Promises,Broken Lives. (Law & Disorder Radio)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Michael Ratner: January 11th, here we are. We’ve completed ten years after 9-11, going into the eleventh year. The tenth anniversary of Guantanamo opening. On the actual annivesary, January 11th, I will be in London commemorating the opening of Guantanamo with other lawyers but particularly with men who have been freed from Guantanamo, a group called Caged Prisoners.Commemorating the 11th year of the practices that underlie imprisonment at Guantanamo: the capture of detainees anywhere in the world or their kidnapping; their imprisonment indefinitely or forever under a preventive detention scheme; and their trials, if at all, by rump trials or military commissions. Here we are, the Guantanamo Syndrome — that series of illnesses, sickness and outrage that represent both Republican and Democratic administrations are still with us.I’m commemorating it with a group set up after Guantanamo, set up by some of the very people who were formerly impisoned in Guantanamo, a group called Caged Prisoners. And I’m in London going through three days of commemoration of not just those who remain in Guantanamo, but of those who remain in secret prisons all over the world, particularly Bagram.I’m with a number of the people who have been freed — freed from Guantanamo,  for example, Moazzam Begg.   I’m with him today in London  and his story actually tells us a lot about what happened at Guantanamo. I met Moazzam Begg in in the United Kingdom. He’d been freed because of the huge amount of efforts by the British citizens — led by the Redgraves [the late Corin Redgrave and his sister Vanessa Redgrave of the British acting family dynasty] in particular and other efforts  to get the British citizens out of there.I met a group of detainees known as the Tipton 3 in 2004. When  I walked into the room, I remember it like it was yesterday, here were these young men — I mean they were young like my own children in a way — and the idea that these three men were ever kept in Guantanamo as the ‘worst of the worst’ or ‘terrorists’ just struck me as completely impossible. They could joke with me, they could tell the stories of what happened, they could talk about Guantanamo, they could talk about their own lives and, of course, they were kept in Guantanamo after being picked up in Pakistan and forced to give ‘confessions’ when they were at Guantanamo.They figured when they were at Guantanamo that after they were being tortured in various ways that they were better off just saying, ‘Yeah, we knew Osama bin Laden, etc.’ And they thought it would go better for them but of course it went worse. And even though they had alibis of where they were at the time and why they were in Afghanistan — and good ones, correct ones — the government forced these ‘confessions’ out of them under torture and kept them there year after year. When I met them, they talked about the torture.And when I talk to you, our listeners, about it, you have to understand that when I met them, no one knew publicly what was going on in Guantanamo, there’d been no access to Guantanamo. But there was the testimony of the Tipton Three. And everybody said, ‘Oh, they’re lying, they’re not telling the truth.In the room with me that day, they went over what’s called a “Rumsfeld Technique.” Those are what we now know are everything from hooding, stripping, dogs, sexual assault — all these kind of terrible things that Rumsfeld Techniques did to people at Guantanamo as a means of coercing what turned out to be false confessions out of people. And I sat there and I believed them. But I had trouble believing it because, of course, I’d always looked at Guantanamo as a horrible place because it was incommunicado detention — we couldn’t get them into court to test their detentions, we couldn’t get them lawyers, we couldn’t visit — and I looked at that as the worst aspect. And while I suspected that there might be interrogation issues, I didn’t realize that there would be abuse amounting or equivalent to torture.Was I naive in that respect? Possibly so. But of course within a couple of months after my interview with the Guantanamo Three or the Tipton Three, the Abu Ghraib photos came out on April 24th of 2004 and then, of course, it was public for everybody. The Rumfseld Techniques came out and then the Tipton Three’s testimony — that people had said, ‘Oh, we don’t believe it’ — was proven to be utterly, utterly accurate to the actual use of the Rumsfeld Techniques, the dozen techniques.And so then Guantanamo became synonymous not just with incommunicado detention but with torture as well.Today, of course, Guantanamo is still there. And as we talk about Guantanamo, I want to give people the numbers. Guantanamo is still there. 171 men remain in Guantanamo. 46 have been approved — whatever that means — for indefinite detention and will be there forever as far as I know. 36 men have been referred for prosecution.(4 of those have been convicted)  What kind of prosecution? Most likely military commissions which are just rump courts which are just rump trials for nothing.The remainder? Not clear. But most of the remainder have been approved for release.So that means the remainder shouldn’t be there at all. People like the Uighurs from western China who were picked up wrongly — admittedly wrongly — and have now been there for ten years and will be going on I don’t know how many years. So that total is about 89 people, most of whom have been approved for transfer. So of those 89  none of them should be there. So there’s our numbers again. 46 indefinitely detained forever, 36 supposedly subject to prosecution and 89 who shouldn’t be there at all — or most of whom should not be there at all, some of whom they may not have decided yet. That’s Guantanamo today.Michael RatnerCenter for Constitutional RightsSent from my iPad

Happy New Year:Obama’s Gift & Suriname Flora Fauna

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Although I am sitting here in Suriname on this New Year’s day, it’s hard not to think of Obama’s gift to us for the New Year: the signing of the NDAA and it’s nasty confirmation of detention and kangaroo trials that Bush and now Obama have been employing for 10 years.  He signed on a no press day, just like Bush used to do; and just like Bush issued a meaningless and unconstitutional signing statement.   On January 11 we enter the 11th year of Gitmo–just another broken promise for Obama, but a Hell Hole for prisoners there and around the world.Last night Paramaibo had the most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen.  Over 75 sites shot rockets in the air for two hours–we were entirely surrounded by a gorgeous intense display that went on way past midnight.   For now here is a list of many of the animals seen in the rainforest:Jaguar fresh paw printToucansBlue Morpho butterfliesMacawsGreat blue heronsBush Police birdBoa consrtictorWhiptail snakeHowler monkeyCormorantPacaCaiman alligatorToadsIridescent lizardsIguanaHawksTermitesAnd more

NDAA:Why Ok to indefinitely detain non-citizens, but not citizens?

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

1.By claiming roughly similar detention and trial by commission powers as Bush employed-powers which I find illegal and immoral– Obama, as a Democrat,  has made them part of  of the fabric of our laws. No longer are they the aberration of a right wing Republican in a time to “terror emergency.”   And now having legislation confirm those powers makes matters worse.

2. That confirmation as some on the list serve said, makes detention of US citizens easier.

3. But I  am also concerned by the focus on US citizens.  Why is it ok to do do non-citizens what we say should not be done to US citizens? Sure, the constitution. But as a matter of human rights  should not all of us have similar fundamental rights regarding detention and trial.  Is not all the debate about US citizens a form of exceptionalism  that reinforces some of the worst aspects of what we are doing to others? By focussing on US ctizens we allow people in the US to forgot about human beings jailed at gitmo, bagram etc.

Blame Obama First–Then Congress for Not Ending Guantanamo and Its Underlying Practices

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

From my daughter: I’ve been reading about the new bill that was passed by the senate, what does it mean exactly? How is it different than what we have now? What does it mean for Guantanamo, Anything? My Answer:

1. Both Bush and Obama have claimed the right to kill and capture alleged terrorists anywhere in the world or hold them in military detention indefinitely—ie Guantanamo.
In their view the world is a battlefield—not just Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their claim is that alleged terrorists –at least those related to al Qaeda, Taliban and associated forces (whatever that means) are at war with the United States and that the US can make war on them which includes capturing them and holding them forever without trial—no matter where they are: Yemen, Somalia, United Kingdom, South America or anywhere.
The determination of whom to capture and/or kill is made by the President without any court.
Bush and Obama have always claimed that US citizens can be so treated as well—so that is why under Obama we saw the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen—al-alwaki.
Both Presidents have also acted as if they can kill and capture alleged terrorists that have no relationship to 9/11—the new law confirms this practice.

2. CCR and I have always asserted that the attack on the World Trade Center was a criminal act and that the people allegedly involved in that act or other similar acts against the US at other places in the world should be treated as alleged criminals, arrested, and tried in regular courts. And we think we are right on the law—especially international law.

Unfortunately, CCR’s position is not the position of Obama or the courts in the US—and we have mostly lost on this issue—that is one reason Guantanamo and the polices that underlie it are still there and will be for a long time.

3. What the legislation does is make what have been the practices of Bush and Obama into law—prior to this legislation, it was more or less what the presidents did—but without congress passing a law.
So in that sense the legislation does not make worse many of the bad practices of Bush and Obama—but it does make it harder to change back because now congress is behind it. Of course it’s bad for that reason but the real blame here is on Bush and Obama.

4. Many of those writing about the legislation are upset that it may require the President to put US citizens captured in the US into military custody—the legislation does not do that—but it does not prohibit the president from doing so. In fact Bush did that in a case called Padilla. —he is an American citizen who got off a plane in Chicago and was allegedly going to commit an act of terrorism. He was put into military custody and only given a trial to avoid a Supreme Court ruling on whether holding him in military custody without trial was constitutional.

Conclusion: Obama already broke his promise on closing Guantanamo; he has gone along with most of the Bush policies regarding Guantanamo and the “war on terror:” indefinite detention, military trials etc. This law gives a congressional imprimatur to what he has been doing—and requires him to jump through some more hoops to get people out of Guantanamo. However Obama had already made it almost impossible to close Guantanamo and impossible to end the practices which underlie it—as he supports those policies: this law makes it a bit harder.

Afghanistan Is This Really a ‘Just War’? (Nation 10 years ago) Zinn Weiss and Ratner respond to Falk

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Boston Richard Falk (a friend whom I admire and respect for his long advocacy of peace and justice) has said this is “the first truly just war since World War II.” I have puzzled over this. How can a war be “truly just” that involves the daily killing of civilians; that is terrorizing the people of Afghanistan, causing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes to escape the bombs; that has little chance of finding those who planned the September 11 attacks (and even if found, no chance that this would stop terrorism); and that can only multiply the ranks of people who are angry at this country, from whose ranks terrorists are born? The stories of the effects of our bombing are beginning to come through, in bits and pieces: the wounded children arriving across the border, one barely two months old, swathed in bloody bandages; the Red Cross warehouses bombed, the use of deadly cluster bombs, a small mountain village bombed and entire families wiped out. That is only a few weeks into the bombing, The “war against terrorism” has become a war against innocent men, women and children, who are in no way responsible for the terrorist attack on New York. I believe the supporters of the war have confused a just cause with a just war. A cause may be just–like ending terrorism. But it does not follow that going to war on behalf of that cause, with the inevitable mayhem that follows, is just. Falk talks of “limited military action.” But the momentum of war rides roughshod over limits. Atrocities are explained by the deceptive language of “accident,” “military targets,” “collateral damage.” Killing innocent people in war is not an “accident.” It is an inevitability. The moral equation in Afghanistan is clear. Civilian casualties are certain. The outcome is uncertain. Use the money allotted our huge military machine to combat starvation and disease around the world. One-third of our military budget would provide water and sanitation facilities for the billion people worldwide who have none. Let us be a more modest nation. The modest nations of the world don’t face the threat of terrorism. Let us pull back from being a military superpower and become a humanitarian superpower. We, and everyone else, will then be more secure.HOWARD ZINN

New York City Here is bad news indeed: Our friend Richard Falk, speaker of truth to power, guru to activists, antiestablishmentarian par excellence, has cloned himself. We now have the old Falk, on October 8 calling for “A Just Response” in his prophetic voice and on October 29 the new Falk “Defining a Just War” in tones of neorealism. Those who took to heart the old Falk’s admonition that this is “above all, a war without military solutions” are now chastised by the new Falk for being “irrelevant to meeting the central challenge of restoring some sense of security among our citizenry.” The old Falk told us that “reliance on the rule of law,” possibly through a due process trial under UN authority, “would be a major step in seeking to make the struggle against terrorism enjoy the genuine support of the entire organized international community.” The new Falk says this is pie in the sky, since the United States would never agree to such a trial, which in any case would only offer Osama bin Laden an opportunity to have himself declared a bona fide legal martyr. The old Falk declares “the only way to win this ‘war’ (if war it is)…is with a credible commitment to the global promotion of social justice.” Correction from the new Falk: “Global suffering and injustice…cannot be addressed so long as this movement of global terrorism is at large.” True enough, both the old and the new Falk call for limited ends and means. But, given the precedents of US behavior in Central America, Serbia and Iraq, how realistic is that demand? We are bombing a country in which there was nothing left to bomb to begin with. In dealing with this greatest of contemporary crimes against humanity, a judicious use of force cannot be ruled out altogether. But perhaps the real realist is Donald Rumsfeld, who warns that bin Laden may never be found and that the Taliban are not about to roll over and play dead. We can all hope that this prediction will turn out to be wrong. In the meantime what is needed is better security, better intelligence, better communication and that commitment to global justice, both criminal and social. Easier said than done, but absolutely necessary. Will the old Falk please stand up? We need you, Richard! PETER WEISS
Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

New York City; Pittsburgh Richard Falk’s endorsement of a limited war is fraught with immeasurable harm. Thousands of refugees are fleeing daily; the United Nations is predicting the death of 100,000 children; and hate for Americans is pouring into the streets of Pakistan, Indonesia and other Muslim countries. We are creating the terrorists that will visit terror upon our children. Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, may be destabilized. Innocents have been killed, and we may face a fractionalized and warfaring post-Taliban Afghanistan. There was another way. Treat the attacks on September 11 as a crime against humanity (mass or systematic killing of civilians), establish a UN tribunal, extradite or, if that fails, capture the suspects with a UN force and try them. The US experience with Libya demonstrates both the perils of a military response and the possibilities for international justice. US officials believed that the 1986 bombing of Libya led to the downing of Pan Am 103 and that more bombing would lead to a spiraling cycle of violence. The United States turned to the UN, which applied international pressure; eventually the Libyans extradited the suspects for trial. The objections Falk makes to such a tribunal revolve primarily around his belief that Washington would not accept such a court, in part because the court might not be authorized to give the death penalty. But since when should respected international legal experts like Falk, who generally favor peaceful resolutions of conflicts, shy away from arguing what is right simply because they believe the United States will not listen? Falk says that it is “unreasonable to expect the US government to rely on the UN to fulfill its defensive needs.” But Falk did not think that it was unreasonable for the Kuwaitis to rely on the UN to counteract Iraqi aggression in 1990. Is Falk bowing to US exceptionalism–the UN is good for everybody else, but not for the only superpower? It is remarkable that Falk, while recognizing that the global role of the United States has given rise to widespread resentment that fuels the terrorist impulse, claims that this role “cannot be addressed so long as this movement of global terrorism is at large.” But it is now that we must examine this resentment: our tilt in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the use of the Persian Gulf as a US base and support for corrupt, authoritarian regimes. We must do so not to “give in to terrorists” but to promote a more just and peaceful world and to enhance our long-term security. To do so only when the global terrorist movement is no longer “at large” insures that such an examination will never occur. Developing a proper response to terrorism is incredibly difficult, and no short-term solution seems particularly attractive. Only by taking the road toward creating a more equal, democratic and just world can we create conditions of security from terrorism for our children. Bombing Afghanistan–whatever the justness of the cause–seems the wrong way to start down that path.MICHAEL RATNER, JULES LOBEL
Center for Constitutional Rights

FALK REPLIESPrinceton, N.J. With each passing day, my assessment shifts to reach the conclusion that the United States is waging an unjust war in Afghanistan, and it is doing so in a manner that is likely to have severe blowback consequences. I was misled by the language of George W. Bush, Colin Powell and others, which seemed at the time to exhibit an understanding that this was a drastically different kind of war that required a core reliance on nonmilitary approaches. I accepted the claim that it was necessary to make some selective use of force so as to displace the Taliban and to disable to the extent possible the Al Qaeda network. I also proceeded from the premise that the threat posed was of an unprecedented magnitude, both because it successfully used weapons of mass destruction against US civilian society in a gruesome manner that revealed its pervasive vulnerability, and because there was every likelihood of efforts to repeat the attack in even more devastating forms in the future. Particularly in response to Howard Zinn, with whom I cannot imagine ever disagreeing on any core issue, my initial reference to the Afghanistan war as a just war was a technical matter. It qualified as a just war because the scope of the military response seemed initially to be proportional to the gravity of the attack and the continuing threat of further attacks, but as with World War II, the prospect of significant civilian casualties is consistent with such a conclusion, and an inevitable effect of any recourse to war, however justified the cause. War, even as a necessary instrument to restore security, is inherently cruel in its effects on innocent civilians, creating an urgent moral imperative that we work for nonviolent forms of global governance and conflict resolution. Tragically, we are not there yet and must adopt the least bad available alternative, which I had hoped (falsely, it turns out) would be a limited war with primary reliance on nonmilitary solutions. And, of course, I am ready to join Zinn and others in seeking to make our country “a humanitarian superpower,” but in the meantime nothing is possible until the Al Qaeda sword dangling above our collective existence is removed. To clarify, the September 11 attack was a criminal, warlike assault on this country that engaged the right of self-defense under international law and morality. How to exercise this right under such unprecedented circumstances, in which the main adversary is a nonstate actor, challenged the imagination to combine effectiveness with legitimacy. I can now say, as some of my critics perceived from the outset, that our government seems incapable of learning from its past moral and political disasters, especially the excessive reliance on bombing to achieve political goals. Any satisfactory US recourse to war had to make every reasonable effort to minimize civilian casualties. The use of cluster bombs, the reliance on B-52 carpet-bombing, the failure to adapt tactics in light of targeting errors, combine to produce disastrous results from a moral, legal and political perspective. The political impact of relying on indiscriminate and cruel high-tech military tactics while shielding one’s own forces from serious risk of casualty confirms the worst images of the US role in the world, especially in the Islamic portions of the Third World. The predictable result is to inflame anti-Americanism around the world and to sow seeds of doubt and despair among our like-minded European allies. But having acknowledged this much does not imply an acceptance of several lines of criticism. I can assure Peter Weiss that my values and worldview did not shift in a matter of a couple of weeks but that the nature of the challenge required a response that had some reasonable prospect of being effective. We must start with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be, although we should act to make our hopes and dreams come true. The nonstate, multistate locus of this terrorist adversary does not fit the existing structures of law and authority. In dealing with warlike attacks on major countries, the UN is not entrusted with either the capabilities or the mandate to fashion a response. International society is still based on a self-help system as far as major states are concerned, a fact acknowledged by the veto power given to the permanent members of the Security Council. Where should we go from here? I agree very much with Mansour Farhang that the removal of the Taliban is an independently beneficial goal, especially for the Afghan people, and should have been stressed by the US government. Ample justification for “humanitarian intervention” exists, but its humanitarian character is lost if the means relied upon abandon the constraints of law and morality and do not exhibit a credible commitment to the protection of the Afghan people. Such a commitment requires interveners to take casualty risks to the extent needed to avoid killing large numbers of civilians and damaging their social infrastructure. If the tactics contradict the mission, as now seems the case in Afghanistan, the case for humanitarian intervention is undermined. Is it “ludicrous,” as Robert Merrill suggests, to label the September 11 attacks as “apocalyptic terrorism”? I think not. Some have tried other labels to express their distinctiveness: Michael Ignatieff has referred to “nihilistic terrorism” and others to “megaterrorism.” I think “apocalyptic” captures best the horizons of destructive violence and purifying religious salvation that animate Osama bin Laden and his followers. The point is to find language that distinguishes these attacks from prior instances of terrorism associated with ongoing conflicts over national self-determination. I have read the utterances of bin Laden, and they express an unmistakable genocidal intention, backed up by fanatical views and practices. The presence of US forces near Islam’s holiest sites may have pushed bin Laden over the edge, but the whole tenor of Al Qaeda, its attitude toward the totality of “Crusaders,” “Jews” and “Americans,” and its training programs and tactics suggests a commitment to intercivilizational warfare. To understand such operations as preparing the ground for negotiations I find implausible. Besides, it is not a breach of any fundamental code for a government, as in Saudi Arabia, to seek a foreign military presence to safeguard its security. We may not like the regime in Riyadh, but it is playing by the international rules of the game of world politics. We find ourselves trapped between a severe continuing threat to our security and a government that is acting in such a way as to aggravate that threat. At the same time, it is not obvious what can and should be done. It is clear that the roots of terrorism are intermingled with unjust policies, and that these should be abandoned as early as possible for both pragmatic and intrinsic reasons. Pushing for a viable Palestinian state is now finally surfacing on the Western agenda in an explicit manner. Recognizing the need to address poverty, oppression and corruption in the Islamic world is clearly essential if the underlying needs of human security are to be satisfied. Even more ambitious, it should be part of the progressive discourse to propose the sort of UN–and accompanying arrangements like independent peacekeeping and enforcement capabilities, an international criminal court and police force–that is needed to overcome the deficiencies of a self-help system of world order that treats war as the ultimate arbiter. To reach these results, however, will require that the militarist political culture here at home be challenged and transformed. These undertakings are urgent, but they cannot be undertaken successfully in the midst of the atmosphere of fear and foreboding that currently grips the vast majority of Americans, a mood accentuated by the anthrax ordeal. Finally, the disorienting character of September 11 underscores the relevance of discussion and debate. The Nation has been an admirable forum for the expression of diverse views, and I hope that this role will be maintained. I would also hope that all of us who take part exhibit the realization that we would benefit from listening to those with whom we disagree, and that no one has any plausible basis for certitude or condescension.RICHARD FALK

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Anwar al-Awlaki’s extrajudicial murder

Friday, September 30th, 2011, Friday 30 September


The law on the use of lethal force by executive order is specific. This assassination broke it – that creates a terrifying precedent.

Is this the world we want? Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike.

This was the very result we at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU feared when we brought a case in US federal court on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, hoping to prevent this targeted killing. We lost the case on procedural grounds, but the judge considered the implications of the practice as raising “serious questions”, asking:

“Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organisation?”

Yes, Anwar al-Awlaki was a radical Muslim cleric. Yes, his language and speeches were incendiary. He may even have engaged in plots against the United States – but we do not know that because he was never indicted for a crime.

This profile should not have made him a target for a killing without due process and without any effort to capture, arrest and try him. The US government knew his location for purposes of a drone strike, so why was no effort made to arrest him in Yemen, a country that apparently was allied in the US efforts to track him down?

There are – or were – laws about the circumstances in which deadly force can be used, including against those who are bent on causing harm to the United States. Outside of a war zone, as Awlaki was, lethal force can only be employed in the narrowest and most extraordinary circumstances: when there is a concrete, specific and imminent threat of an attack; and even then, deadly force must be a last resort.

The claim, after the fact, by President Obama that Awlaki “operationally directed efforts” to attack the United States was never presented to a court before he was placed on the “kill” list and is untested. Even if President Obama’s claim has some validity, unless Awlaki’s alleged terrorists actions were imminent and unless deadly force employed as a last resort, this killing constitutes murder.

We know the government makes mistakes, lots of them, in giving people a “terrorist” label. Hundreds of men were wrongfully detained at Guantánamo. Should this same government, or any government, be allowed to order people’s killing without due process?

The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us. There appears to be no limit to the president’s power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it’s in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States.

The loss of liberty in the wake of 9/11 will remain the legacy we have left our children’

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

In america ten years since 11 September 2001, fundamental protections embedded in the American and international legal landscape over centuries have faced systematic evisceration, each encroachment justified by an endless war on terrorism.

The moment the Bush administration chose to label the attacks acts of war, rather than the heinous crimes they were, a careful groundwork was laid to allow for a future of cherrypicking which laws of war would apply and which would be ignored. As a result, thousands have been kidnapped: whisked away to detention facilities, from Guantánamo to medieval prisons like those at Bagram and Abu Ghraib, and to secret sites employing unspeakable acts of torture.

Detainees were held incommunicado, a fancy word for “disappeared”: never informed of the charges against them. The few who were charged face trials before kangaroo courts called military commissions where newly-minted rules assure conviction; the majority, however, will remain prisoners of this so-called war indefinitely.

Habeas corpus, the legal means to test one’s imprisonment in court, was abolished by President Bush and Congress. Though restored through legal challenge in the US supreme court, the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the courts, continue to undermine that victory – best evidenced by Obama’s retracted promise to close Guantánamo within a year of his inauguration.

Today, Obama has adopted almost all of the draconian Bush practices, save for permitting the worst forms of torture like waterboarding. But hooding, sleep deprivation and isolation are still permitted. The president has also ruled out any semblance of accountability for Bush administration officials responsible for waterboarding, practically ensuring its recurrence.

The United States is a changed country. Most don’t seem to care. Until they do, the loss of liberty in the wake of 9/11 will remain the legacy we have left our children. None of us are safer. All of us are less free.