NEW YORK – Lawyers for the Barack Obama administration told a federal judge Monday that the U.S. government has authority to kill U.S. citizens whom the executive branch has unilaterally determined pose a threat to national security.
That claim came in federal court in Washington, D.C. in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The two human rights legal advocacy organisations contend that the administration’s so-called “targeted killing authority” violates the constitution and international law.
“The full contours of the government’s position would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” CCR attorney Pardiss Kebriae told IPS.
“As the government would have it, while non-citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay can challenge the deprivation of their liberty by the United States, a U.S. citizen could not challenge an impending deprivation of his life by his own government.”
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the government’s claim to an unchecked system of global detention, and the district court should similarly reject the administration’s claim here to an unchecked system of global targeted killing,” she said.
The ACLU and the CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorise the targeted killing of his son, Anwar Al- Aulaqi. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that, “outside the context of armed conflict, the government can carry out the targeted killing of an American citizen only as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety.”
Anwar Al-Aulaqi was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico and has dual U.S. and Yemeni citizenship. He is a firebrand extremist imam who has been accused by government officials and in the press of using his sermons and the Internet to recruit jihadists. He is thought to be in hiding in Yemen.
The lawsuit also asks the court to “order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” “If the constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, who presented arguments in the case.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, but the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that counterterrorism policies are consistent with the constitution.”
The government filed a brief in the case in September, claiming that the executive’s targeted killing authority is a “political question” that should not be subject to judicial review. The government also asserted the “state secrets” privilege, contending that the case should be dismissed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information.
On Aug, 30, 2010, the CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, challenging their decision to authorise the targeted killing of his son as a violation of the U.S. constitution and international law.
“Targeting individuals for killing who are suspected of crimes but have not been convicted – without oversight, due process or disclosed standards for being placed on the kill list – also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people,” the groups noted.
“Since 9/11, the U.S. government has detained thousands men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable and release them.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on the case, which is one of two related lawsuits brought by the ACLU and the CCR.
The second is against the U.S. Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) challenging the legality and constitutionality of the scheme that requires them to obtain a license in order to file a lawsuit concerning the government’s asserted authority to carry out targeted killings of individuals, including U.S. citizens, far from any battlefield.
On Jul. 16, however, the Secretary of the Treasury labeled Anwar al-Aulaqi a “specially designated global terrorist”, which makes it a crime for lawyers to provide representation for his benefit without first seeking a license from OFAC.
The CCR and the ACLU sought a license, but after the government’s failure to grant one despite the urgency created by an outstanding authorisation for Al-Aulaqi’s death, the two groups brought suit challenging the licensing scheme as applied to the representation they seek to provide.
CCR and the ACLU have not had contact with Anwar Al-Aulaqi.
The OFAC requirements generally make it illegal to provide any service, including legal representation, to or for the benefit of an individual designated as a terrorist. A lawyer who provides legal representation for the benefit of such a person without getting special permission is subject to criminal and civil penalties.
In their lawsuit, CCR and the ACLU charge that OFAC has exceeded its authority by subjecting uncompensated legal services to a licensing requirement, and that OFAC’s regulations violate the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the principle of separation of powers.
The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the regulations and to make clear that lawyers can provide representation for the benefit of designated individuals without first seeking the government’s consent.
The OFAC case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
As Obama Lands in Indonesia
Secret documents have leaked from inside Kopassus, Indonesia’s red berets, which say that Indonesia’s US-backed security forces engage in “murder [and] abduction” and show that Kopassus targets churches in West Papua and defines civilian dissidents as the “enemy.”
The documents include a Kopassus enemies list headed by Papua’s top Baptist minister and describe a covert network of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of Papuan institutions
The disclosure comes as US President Barack Obama is touching down in Indonesia. His administration recently announced the restoration of US aid to Kopassus.
Kopassus is the most notorious unit of Indonesia’s armed forces, TNI, which along with POLRI, the national police, have killed civilians by the hundreds of thousands.
The leaked cache of secret Kopassus documents includes operational, intelligence and field reports as well as personnel records which list the names and details of Kopassus “agents.”
The documents are classified “SECRET” (“RAHASIA”) and include extensive background reports on Kopassus civilian targets – reports that are apparently of uneven accuracy.
The authenticity of the documents has been verified by Kopassus personnel who have seen them and by external evidence regarding the authors and the internal characteristics of the documents.
Some of the Kopassus documents will be released in the days to come, in part via my website.
Those being released with this article concern West Papua, where tens of thousands of civilians have been murdered and where Kopassus is most active. Jakarta has attempted to largely seal off Papua to visits by non-approved outsiders.
When the US restored Kopassus aid last July the rationale was fighting terrorism, but the documents show that Kopassus in fact systematically targets civilians.
A detailed 25-page secret report by a Kopassus task force in Kotaraja, Papua defines Kopassus’ number-one “enemy” as unarmed civilians. It calls them the “separatist political movement” “GSP/P, ” lists what they say are the top 15 leaders and discusses the “enemy order of battle.”
All of those listed are civilians, starting with the head of the Baptist Synod of Papua. The others include evangelical ministers, activists, traditional leaders, legislators, students and intellectuals as well as local establishment figures and the head of the Papua Muslim Youth organization.
The secret Kopassus study says that in their 400,000 – person area of operations the civilians they target as being political are “much more dangerous than” any armed opposition since the armed groups “hardly do anything” but the civilians — with popular support — have “reached the outside world” with their “obsession” with “merdeka” (independence/ freedom) and persist in “propagating the issue of severe human rights violations in Papua,” ie. “murders and abductions that are done by the security forces.”
Given that the Kopassus report states as settled fact that security forces do “murder, abduction,” those who they define as being the enemy can be presumed to be in some danger.
In its discussion of “State of the enemy” Kopassus identifies the enemy with two kinds of actions: “the holding of press conferences” where they “always criticize the government and the work being done by the security forces” and the holding of private meetings where they engage in the same kind of prohibited speech.
The Kopassus “enemies” list — the “leaders” of the “separatist political movement” includes fifteen civic leaders. In the order listed by Kopassus they are:
– Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman, chair of the Papua Baptist Synod
– Markus Haluk head of the Association of Indonesian Middle Mountains Students (AMPTI) and an outspoken critic of the security forces and the US mining giant Freeport McMoRan;
– Buchtar Tabuni, an activist who, after appearing on the Kopassus list, was sentenced to three years prison for speech and for waving Papuan flags and was beaten bloody by three soldiers, a guard, and a policeman because he had a cell phone;
– Aloysius Renwarin, a lawyer who heads a local human rights foundation;
– Dr. Willy Mandowen, Mediator of PDP, the Papua Presidium Council, a broad group including local business people, former politcal prisoners, women’s and youth organizations, and Papuan traditional leaders. His most prominent predecessor, Theys Eluay, had his throat slit by Kopassus in 2001;
– Yance Kayame, a committee chair in the Papuan provincial legislature;
– Lodewyk Betawi;
– Drs. Don Agustinus Lamaech Flassy of the Papua Presidium Council staff
– Drs. Agustinus Alue Alua, head of the MRP, the Papuan People’s Council, which formally represents Papuan traditional leaders and was convened and recognized by the Jakarta government;
– Thaha Al Hamid, Secretary General of the Papua Presidium Council;
– Sayid Fadal Al Hamid, head of the Papua Muslim Youth;
– Drs. Frans Kapisa, head of Papua National Student Solidarity;
– Leonard Jery Imbiri, public secretary of DAP, the Papuan Customary Council, which organizes an annual plenary of indigenous groups, has staged Papua’s largest peaceful demonstrations, and has seen its offices targeted for clandestine arson attacks;
– Reverend Dr. Beny Giay, minister of the Protestant evangelical KINGMI Tent of scripture church of Papua;
– Selfius Bobby, student at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology.
Reached for comment, Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman of the Baptist Synod laughed when told he headed the Kopassus list. He said that churches were targeted by TNI/ Kopassus because “We can’t condone torture, kidnapping or killing.” He said that he has received anonymous death threats “all the time, everywhere,” but that as a church leader he must endure it . He said the real problem was for Papua’s poor who “live daily in pressure and fear.”
Markus Haluk said that he is constantly followed on foot and by motorcycle, has been the subject of apparent attempts to kill him, and receives so many sms text death threats that he has difficulty keeping current with the death-threat archive he tries to maintain for historical and safety purposes.
One threat, written months after his name appeared as a target in the Kopassus documents, promised to decapitate him and bury his head 200 meters deep, while another imagined his head as a succulent fruit to be devoured and swallowed by security forces.
But as a famous figure in Papua, Haluk enjoys, he thinks, a certain kind of protection since when security forces have actually arrested him it has at times touched off street uprisings.
Village Papuans, he said, enjoy no such advantage. For them, being targeted by Kopassus “can get you killed. If there’s a report against you, you can die.”
Contacted in prison, Buctar Tabuni, the number three enemy on the Kopassus list, told of getting a death threat with a rat cadaver, described living with round-the-clock surveillance, and said the threats to him repeatedly stated that “you will be killed unless you stop your human rights activities.”
Three days ago, writing from his prison cell, Buctar Tabuni called on President Obama to cut off aid to TNI and back a democratic vote on Papuan independence. He told me that Indonesia follows the US lead and that the US was complicit since, as he wrote Obama, US-trained “troops in cities and villages all over West Papua treat the people like terrorists that must be exterminated.”
Anti-terrorism was indeed Obama’s main argument for restoring US aid to Kopassus, but the documents make clear that Kopassus mainly targets unarmed civilians, not killers.
In fact, the main unit that wrote the secret documents, SATGAS BAN – 5 KOPASSUS, is ostensibly doing anti-terrorism, with the Kopassus Unit 81, Gultor.
Obama justified the Kopassus aid restoration to Congress by saying that the initial US training would be given not to Kopassus as a whole but only to its anti-terror forces. The White House and Pentagon suggested that these forces were less criminal than the rest of Kopassus and of TNI/POLRI, but the documents establish that they, like the rest, go after civilians like the Papuan reverends and activists.
Reverend Giay said, when reached for comment that TNI, Kopassus and POLRI were making the case that “it’s OK to kill pastors and burn churches since the churches are separatist.”
Among Giay’s collection of anonymous sms death threats was a political missive demanding that “the reverend stop using the platform of the church to spread the ideology of free Papua.”
Giay said that “they need ideological and moral support from the Indonesian majority and the media” so they use Kopassus and others to attack the churches as constituting security threats.
He compared TNI/Kopassus actions in Papua now to those earlier in East Timor and the Malukus where “they created this conflict between Muslims and Christians” to expand their presence and get more money and power.
Reverend Giay said that “local pastors have been targeted. They kill them off and report them as separatists.”
The Kopassus documents boast that “in carrying out the operational mission of intelligence in the kotaraja area, we apportion work in order to cover all places and avenues of kotaraja society.”
The files show that Kopassus indeed penetrates most every part of
popular life. In addition to plainclothes Kopassus officers who go undercover in multiple roles, Kopassus fields a small army of non-TNI “agents” — real people with real lives and identities, who are bought, coerced or recruited into working covertly.
Kopassus Kotaraja area agents discussed in the secret personnel files include reporters for a local newspaper and for a national TV news channel, students, hotel staff, a court employee, a senior civil servant who works on art and culture, a 14 year old child, a broke, “emotional, drunken” farmer who needs money and “believes” that Kopassus will “take care of his safety,” a “hardworking” “emotionally stable” farmer who also is a need of funds, a worker who “likes to drink hard liquor,” is poor and “likes to believe things,” a motorcycle taxi driver, a cellphone kiosk clerk who watches people who buy SIM card numbers, and a driver for a car rental company who “frequently informs on whether there are elements from the Separatist Political Movement who hire rental cars and speak regarding independence/freedom (merdeka).”
In the file, though, the word “merdeka” is not spelled out. In accord with Kopassus practice, only an initial is written, in quotation marks: “‘M’”, the unwritable, unspeakable M-word.
The documents support the longtime word on the street: you rarely know who is Kopassus. So best watch what you say if you care for safety, especially if what you say is “freedom.”
Allan Nairn is a journalist living in Indonesia.
argonium79 | November 10, 2010
Text with links:
While Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) may have claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot, it’s worth considering how this latest Yemen-linked terror scare has been a gift to their avowed enemies.
A mere two weeks before the discovery of mail bombs addressed to “two places of Jewish worship in Chicago,” Rupert Murdoch sounded prescient as he received an award from the Anti-Defamation League for his support of Israel. “The terrorists continue to target Jews across the world,” declared the media mogul in his acceptance speech. “But they have not succeeded in bringing down the Israeli government – and they have not weakened Israeli resolve.” Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, the Fox News owner smeared the growing worldwide condemnation of Israel’s rogue behaviour as an “ongoing war against the Jews.” … continue
Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail
AL-KHALIL — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) broke into the house of MP Samira Al-Halaika and took away her eldest son Anas in a pre dawn raid on Wednesday, the MP said in a press release.
She said that an IOF unit in four military vehicles and a white civilian car stormed the Qafan Khamis suburb east of Al-Shuyukh town in Al-Khalil district at 0300 am Wednesday and kidnapped her son Anas, 24.
She said that the soldiers locked up all her family members in one room and summoned her along with her husband and told them that they will take away their son Anas.
The lawmaker noted that her son was supposed to meet an Israeli intelligence official on Wednesday in Eztion on Wednesday morning.
Halaika held the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) fully responsible for any repercussions that might befall her son, who was released from the jails of security militias loyal to de facto Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on 5/9/2010 after 45 days in solitary confinement, which had a very bad physiological impact on him due to the continued isolation and cruel treatment.
She appealed to all human rights groups to intervene and demand an end to the suffering of her family due to the practices of the IOA and Abbas’s militias.
The IOF had previously detained Anas in October 2005 and released him in November 2006 before Abbas’s militias repeatedly summoned him before holding him in custody on 16/9/2009 for one month and apprehended him again on 21/7/2010 before his release on 5/9/2010.
Anas is studying journalism in Al-Khalil University.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Israeli police detained three Palestinian guards of the Aqsa Mosque after they prevented a group of settlers from making what they called repairs in the Islamic Khatuniya School at the Aqsa Mosque.
The police also summoned for interrogation engineers of the Palestinian ministry of religious affairs who are members of the Mosque’s renovation committee.
The settlers resumed their work after Israeli policemen escorted them back to the School. The police deliberately intervene in renovation works at the Aqsa Mosque and still prevent the Palestinian ministry of religious affairs and its entitled Islamic institutions from carrying out repairs at the Aqsa Mosque’s premises including this School.
Al-Khatuniya School is located behind Al-Aqsa Mosque’s mihrab and there are a door and stairs leading to it behind this mihrab. It is part and extension of the old Aqsa Mosque and includes other sections and an Islamic library.
Sheikh Abdelazim Salhab, the head of the Islamic endowment council, condemned this Israeli act as an attack on the Aqsa Mosque and a violation of the jurisdiction of the ministry of religious affairs and its institutions, the only parties authorized to restore the Islamic holy sites in the occupied Palestinian territories.