Heidi Boghosian attends last week’s oral arguments for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case
Can the Obama administration or any future administration use lethal force against U.S. citizens who the executive office unilaterally determines as a threat to the nation? Not yet, but in recent government arguments, in the Anwar Al-Aulaqi case, the executive branch would have unreviewable authority to carry out targeted killings of Americans deemed to be enemies of the state. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 30, and the government filed its reply brief on September 25.
The ACLU and CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, whom the CIA and Defense Department have targeted for death.
- This will be our first chance to defend our motion for a preliminary injunction and respond to the government’s arguments. The sum and substance of the government’s arguments is that there should be no rule for the court at all in the question we presented. Whether the government has authority to execute one of its citizens without any kind of due process.
- There should be absolutely no judicial review at all. They have not got into the merits of why they believe they should have this authority. They assert the US is involved in a global war against Al-Qaeda, by virtue of the war the US has the ability to target any suspect of Al-Qaeda.
- Outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, the question of whether armed conflict exists, is a factual objective question. It’s not a matter of which the president declares and that the level of hostilities and the organization of groups in Yemen are just not such that they to the level of war.
- Anwar Al-Alwaqi is not Al-Qaeda, he is associated with Al-Qaeda.
- The US is not only claiming broad authority geographically but global authority in terms of any and all groups they deem somehow linked to Al-Qaeda.
- They’re claiming AUMF but they’re also claiming a very vague principle of self defense which is tricky. They are claiming self defense under article 51 of the UN charter.
- They’re going around criminal law and claiming un-reviewable authority to carry out global assassination. This is an escalation of what we saw under the Bush Administration with global detention authority, this is global killing authority.
- The authority could reach any citizen they deem a threat to national security. It could reach someone in the United States, the full contours of the government’s arguments would be that the decision to kill is for the executive to determine and that should be an un-reviewable decision.
- The mechanized disconnected nature of the killing is alarming, both by an accountability point of view and a moral point of view.
- The drone project is operated by the CIA and by a covert unit in the Department of Defense called the Joint Special Operations Command.
- Documenting them is incredibly hard, but yet you have the expansion of the war and killings, in this shadow war way. You have this parallel secret war being conducted by the CIA and JSOC largely through the use of unmanned drones. What we have here is the pre-determination of the ability to kill.
- There’s been a steady increase of rhetoric about Yemen and an escalation in the language of war.
Guest – Pardiss Kebriaei joined the Center Constitutional Rights in July 2007. Since then, her work has focused on representing men detained at Guantánamo Bay in their habeas corpus challenges, before international human rights tribunals, in diplomatic advocacy with foreign governments to secure resettlement for men who cannot return home, and in post-release reintegration efforts. Her clients have included men from Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and Afghanistan. Her work includes seeking accountability for torture and arbitrary detention at Guantánamo.
Justice On Trial: Documentary on Mumia Abu-Jamal
We’re pleased to have with us today Kouross Esmaeli, the director of the new documentary Justice On Trial. The film focuses on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the most scrutinized and contested legal cases in American history. Justice on Trial examines the facts of the case, the judicial bias, racial discrimination in jury selection, prosecutorial misconduct and tampering with evidence to obtain a conviction. The injustices and problems in Mumia’s case, as many listeners know, are common within the criminal justice system in the United States.
- I tried to get an interview with the wife of the police officer who was killed on the night of December 9, 1981.
- I thought it was important to show what drives that side. I came to realize that Tigre Hill was making a film about Mumia, titled Barrel of A Gun that was propaganda for the other side.
- We had to make sure that film doesn’t become the voice of the nation.
- Film includes photos 12 minutes after shooting occurred
- The photos were discovered by an activist and scholar in Germany. He found them online. Michael met the photographer in the US, and realized there were 22 photographs from that night.
- They were offered to the prosecution, they refused.
- What the photographs show is incredible, they show a roving police hat.
- Officer Faulkner’s hat is placed in different spots on the crime scene.
- They show police handling the gun that was supposedly used in this crime. Handling it without gloves.
- There’s this push to kill Mumia and silence him physically. I’m interested to know what drives these people.
Guest – Kouross Esmaeli, independent filmmaker and journalist
In 1965, Walter and Miriam Schneir published Invitation to an Inquest. It was among the first critical accounts of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. They were executed in 1953 for passing atom bomb secrets to Soviet Russia. In that book the Schneirs presented exhaustive evidence that key witnesses in the trial had changed their story after prompting from prosecutors. Their conclusion was that the Rosenbergs were innocent. Now after 30 years, Walter Schneir returned to the case with new evidence. Schneir had found that Julius Rosenberg was marginally involved in the atom bomb spy ring and Ethel wasn’t involved at all. However they both lied about not knowing about espionage because of their earlier activities in World War II. All of this unravels in Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case.
- The case began in 1950, 60 years ago. American cities were vulnerable to nuclear attacks. In that climate the Rosenbergs were arrested. The legal charge was conspiracy to commit espionage. During the trial, they were charged with stealing the secrets of the atomic bomb.
- The principle witnesses were Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, David Greenglass and his wife Ruth.
- David was in the Army and serendipitously was sent to Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was being constructed.
- Julius was a spy during the wartime years. Ethel did nothing, she was not a spy.
- In a report by the Atomic Energy Commission, Greenglass was ranked as the least effective atomic spies back then. There was a lot of effort on the part of the Department of Justice to convict these people.
- This case is relevant today in a larger framework.
- We can see that the Rosenberg case is like the Dreyfus case or the Sacco and Vanzetti case.
- It’s essential that leftists of each generation should keep that history alive.
- Now it’s Islamic fundamentalism. That’s not to say there was no danger.
- You see the government use the courts to advance policies.
- On a personal level, Walter and I learned from the Freedom of Information documents we recieved, on the basis of the Meeropol suit, that while we were researching Invitation to an Inquest, the FBI had been tracking our activities.
- We were just two writers who were trying to research a book. They were tapping our phones, and finally they placed us as well as thousands of others on an index of people who would be detained in the event of a national emergency.
- After the book was published, an FBI memo directed that the book should be smothered and forced out of the public eye.
Guest – Miriam Schneir, editor of Feminism in Our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present and Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. In addition to Invitation to an Inquest, she is the co-author of “Remember the Ladies”: Women in America, 1750–1815.
Walter Schneir is a freelance writer on law, politics, and science. He is the co-author, with his wife Miriam Schneir, of Invitation to an Inquest, long considered the definitive book on the Rosenberg case. He is also the editor of Telling It Like It Was: The Chicago Riots, an early account of the 1968 Democratic Convention. He died in April 2009 soon after completing this work.