US Attorney General Eric Holder has claimed he was unaware of the subpoenas for AP’s phone records, but defended them as a necessary measure. Holder recused himself from the case that has been branded as an “unprecedented intrusion” into press freedom.
US lawmakers questioned the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee about the two months of AP phone records obtained by the Justice Department without permission. In a session that saw the attorney on the back foot amid calls for his resign, he maintained his ignorance in the “ongoing matter.”
Flatly denying any prior knowledge to the subpoenas and who had issued them, he stated that he was 99 per cent sure that deputy attorney general James Cole had issued them.
“The matter is being supervised by the deputy attorney general. I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was because I’m simply not a part of the case,” Holder told the committee, adding he was confident that the people who are involved in the investigation adhered to Justice Department regulations.
Investigators wish to discern why it was necessary to gather so much information from AP phone records. The Justice Departments claims that the records were seized as part of an investigation into leaked data on a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot on the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Holder stressed that the leak was very serious and had put the safety of the American people at risk and as such the Justice Department’s action was justified.
Passing the buck
The Justice Department admitted its surveillance of AP’s phone lines in a letter to the organization’s heads last Friday. AP’s Chief Gary Pruitt reacted with ire, condemning the intrusion as a gross violation of press freedom that is inexcusable. AP estimates that over 100 of its journalists were affected by the phone surveillance and has implicated the involvement of the attorney general, alleging that subpoenas require his signature to be carried out.
There was a degree of frustration at Holder’s answers during the hearing due to his inability to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with AP prior to the subpoenas, which is usually standard practice in such situations.
“There doesn’t appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Holder. He suggested that Justice Department office should stop by Harry S Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign, “The buck stops here.”
The White House has also claimed ignorance, stating that it had no knowledge of “any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”
Federal prosecutors secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists in what the news agency described Monday as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The Justice Department notified the AP on Friday that it had subpoenaed the records, which included more than 20 office, cellphone and home phone lines. The lines include the general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.
The records included outgoing call numbers, the AP said, but it is unclear whether prosecutors also obtained incoming call numbers or the duration of calls. The news organization said it had no reason to think that the government listened in to the content of the calls. The government did not reveal why it seized the records, but the AP noted that federal officials have previously said they were investigating who had leaked information to the news service about a foiled terror plot in 2012. An AP story in May 2012 included details about a CIA operation in Yemen targeting al Qaeda operatives.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the action “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”
Republicans were quick to criticize the Department of Justice (DOJ), saying that the invasion of privacy of a news outlet was just the latest example of an administration rife with problems. News of the AP probe broke as the White House is already fending off criticism of its handling of last year’s attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative and Tea Party groups.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the DOJ subpoena “very disturbing” and said he expected to team up with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to probe the issue further.
“If this question went to the Attorney General then he’s responsible and he should be held accountable for what I think is wrong,” Issa said on CNN. “On the other hand, if it didn’t go to him, the question is: when is the Justice Department going to take responsibility for what it does?
“There are serious problems at DOJ, this is just the latest one.”
Department policy requires that the attorney general sign off on all requests for reporter phone records. It is unclear whether Attorney General Eric Holder signed off in this case.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice budget, said the department’s move was reminiscent of the wiretapping authorized by former President Nixon’s administration.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Wolf in an interview with The Hill after news of the story broke. “It kind of reminds you of the mid-70s.”
“It is the arrogance of power and paranoia. I think it’s shocking. It reminds me of the Nixon days. If they can do it to the AP, they can do to any news service in the country.”
Criticism also came from the left.
“The media’s purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Office, said in a statement. “The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again.”
The AP’s Pruitt sent a letter on Monday to Holder protesting the seizure of records, demanding that the government return the call records to the AP and destroy its copies.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said.
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Federal regulations require that subpoenas for a reporter’s phone records be as “narrowly drawn as possible.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions about the probe to the Justice Department.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said it takes its legal obligations and department policies seriously when subpoenaing media phone records.
“Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media,” the office said. “We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.
“Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws,” it said.
The FBI revealed in 2008 that it had subpoenaed the phone records of New York Times and Washington Post reporters in Indonesia as part of a terrorism investigation. The agency apologized for the incident, saying it failed to follow department policies.
Goodlatte said he planned to ask Holder “pointed questions” about the AP records on Wednesday when the attorney general is slated to testify during a general Judiciary oversight hearing.
“Any abridgement of the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press is very concerning,” said Goodlatte in a statement.
“The House Judiciary Committee will thoroughly investigate this issue and will also ask Attorney General Eric Holder pointed questions about it at Wednesday’s oversight hearing,” he said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also said he would be probing the issue further and looking into whether the government may have overstepped its bounds.
“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information – especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources,” said Leahy in a statement. “I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”
(photo: U.S. Air Force)
Apparently stung by mounting criticism of its remote control assassination program, the Obama administration early this month secretly reneged on an Air Force promise to “provide more detailed information on [drone operations] in Afghanistan” by failing to provide data on drone strikes for February. And in an Orwellian twist, the Air Force removed the previously released data on drone strikes from the reports for October 2012 to January 2013.
According to the data, the Air Force actually relies more heavily on piloted aircraft to conduct airstrikes, with drones responsible for only about one-quarter of missiles fired. The data shows that the Air Force conducted 1,366 drone strikes in Afghanistan between 2009 and January 2013. Although casualty figures were omitted, it is known that the U.S. has killed between 3,049 and 4,376 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia during about 500 “covert” drone strikes, including at least 179 children—the equivalent of 9 Newtown child massacres.
Indeed, parents who have seen their children killed by U.S. bombs don’t care if the person who pushed the button that released the bomb was inside an airplane or in a control room thousands of miles away.
The “sanitized” reports without the drone strike data were created on February 22, just two days after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA Director over Paul’s concerns that the Obama administration believed it had the authority to use drone strikes inside the U.S. Joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Paul filibustered for almost 13 hours, finally getting a denial from Attorney General Eric Holder that this administration believes it has such authority.
Although the Defense Department released a statement claiming the data was removed to make the reports more accurate in light of the unsupported assertion that most drone operations do not include strikes, the Pentagon also took pains to state that it was not involved in the decision to hide the data. That can only mean that the decision came straight from the White House—almost certainly from President Obama himself, who, ironically, promised in 2008 to run the federal government in a more open and transparent manner.
- US Air Force scrubs drone strike data from reports (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The US attorney general has refused to rule out the possibility that drone strikes may be used inside the United States to kill an American citizen.
Eric Holder said a drone strike within the borders of the US and against an American citizen may be carried out in what he called an extraordinary circumstance.
He made the remarks in a statement in a response to an inquiry by Republican Senator Rand Paul, who had questioned the Justice Department on Tuesday if it believed that President Barack Obama had the legal authority to order an assassination drone strike on an American while present on US soil.
Paul said the administration’s “refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening — it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
At least three Americans have been reportedly killed by US drone strikes in Yemen, including Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdul-Rahman and Samir Khan.
Washington uses assassination drones in several countries, claiming that they target “terrorists.” According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.
In September 2012, a report by the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law gave an alarming account of the effect that assassination drone strikes have on ordinary people in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The report noted, “The number of ‘high-level’ targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just two percent.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill want the Obama administration to investigate the deaths of four civilians in Honduras last year during an anti-cocaine raid involving U.S. law enforcement agents. But administration officials have balked at the request.
On May 11, 2012, four villagers in a boat on the River Patuca, two pregnant women, a 21-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy, were killed when local police entered the town of Ahuas in northeastern Honduras to conduct a counternarcotics operation. Another four boat passengers were injured by gunfire. It was later learned that members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) participated in the raid, which raised questions of whether Americans were responsible for the killings.
The Honduran government investigated the incident and concluded the DEA was not at fault for the deaths.
But 58 House Democrats were not satisfied with the probe, which they called “deeply flawed” in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. calling for the U.S. to conduct its own examination.
Government Won’t Probe of DEA Raid in Honduras (by Guy Taylor, Washington Times)
Collateral Damage of a Drug War (Center for Economic and Policy Research) (pdf)
Unlike the bombast that characterized the Bush administration’s assaults on U.S. and international law, the Obama regime tends to dribble out its rationales for gutting the Bill of Rights and every notion of global legality. This president prefers to create a fog – let’s call it the fog of his war against human rights – as he arrogates to himself the power to perpetually imprison or to summarily execute anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world. Obama assures us such authority is constitutionally rooted – it’s in there, believe me, he tells us – but he never produces legal chapter and verse to prove that presidential dictatorship is lawful. Instead, we get dribs and drabs of the administration’s position from lawyers defending Obama’s preventive detention law in the courts, or from informal statements by the attorney general, or even little tidbits gleaned from an Obama conversation with comedian Jon Stewart.
The latest hors d’oeuvre to be dished out comes in the form of a leak. I say “dished out” because leaked documents are commonly placed in public view by the administration in power, to test the political waters. This leaked Justice Department “white paper” appears to have been drawn up after the execution-by-drone of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen. It justifies the killing of anyone occupying a position of status in al-Qaida, or with the ever-changing universe of groups said to be “associated” with al-Qaida. The document stretches the definition of “imminent threat” to cover anyone engaged in activities directed against the U.S., whether or not an actual operation is planned or in progress. Most interestingly, the white paper empowers Obama to delegate the kill-at-will authority to “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government.” Which has a certain logic, since dictators certainly have the power to delegate the carrying out of their unjust acts to whomever they choose.
Eleven U.S. senators are asking for further clarification of the administration’s legal position. But that is just more fog, since the Congress overwhelmingly passed Obama’s preventive detention law – twice!! – a law based on the same assumption that due process of law does not apply when the president says it’s wartime. Therefore, the commander-in-chief can lock up any American, without charge or trial, forever, or until he declares peace. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, has made the administration’s position clear enough. Due process, he says, does not necessarily mean access to the judicial process – meaning, a trial. The process is whatever the president or the nearest “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government” says it is. Obama had redefined war, itself. The president told the Congress, after bombing Libya for eight months, that by his definition – which is the only one that counts – no state of war exists unless Americans become casualties, even if the U.S. kills tens of thousands, or millions. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying that the arc of history bends towards justice. In the long term, that may be true. But Martin’s arc is not bending towards justice under this administration. It bends towards fascism, with a Black presidential face.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- White Paper Asserts Obama Administration May Kill Americans Without Due Process (news.firedoglake.com)
TEHRAN – The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman once again dismissed the claims that the Iranian government had been involved in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington in 2011, the Tehran Times reported.
Ramin Mehmanparast made the remarks on Saturday in response to the fact that an Iranian-born Texas man, named Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who had been charged in a plot to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in 2011, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy and other counts in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
According to the New York Times, Arbabsiar, a used-car salesman, had been accused of conspiring to hire assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million to kill the ambassador.
At the time the charges were announced, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the plot had been “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government.”
Mehmanparast dismissed the scenario as “laughable”, noting that the U.S. is using its judicial system as a tool to devise “crude” scenarios against other countries.
- Whatever Happened to that Iranian Bomb Plot Case? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Justice Department’s inspector general found at least seven instances of federal employees engaging in illegal attempts to hire family members at the agency, according to a report issued Thursday.
The report is the third investigation in less than a decade that has found numerous examples of illegal hiring practices, amounting to nepotism, within the DOJ.
The latest series of nepotistic attempts came after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) alerted the IG to complaints he received in 2010 from a former DOJ employee-turned-whistleblower.
Wolf said the report was “alarming” and called on the DOJ employees, whose attempts at hiring relatives are exposed in the IG’s report, to be punished by the department.
“The report issued by the Department of Justice Inspector General today is alarming, especially given that the department has twice been warned about these illegal practices before,” said Wolf, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the DOJ’s budget, in a statement.
“I expect for the employees involved in this nepotism ring to be punished under full extent of the law. I also expect the department to move quickly to enact the necessary reforms to prevent this from happening again.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the DOJ in the wake of the IG’s report, saying that the agency is running “wild.”
At an executive committee meeting on Thursday, Grassley called on Attorney General Eric Holder to take legal action against the employees cited in the report. Grassley has butted heads with Holder for most of the attorney general’s time in office, saying that the DOJ constantly “stonewalls” his requests for information and action.
“This is another example of the Justice Department run wild,” said Grassley. “It is troubling to me how employees within the Department colluded and schemed to hire one another’s relatives in order to avoid rules against nepotism.
“At the very least, the Attorney General needs to hold these employees accountable — with more than just disciplinary action,” he said. “Laws were broken and false statements were made. The Department can’t simply sweep this under the rug. Employees need to be punished.”
The IG’s report found seven examples of employees within the DOJ’s Justice Management Division (JMD) attempting to hire the family members of their fellow employees.
According to the IG’s report, in two separate instances a pair of employees, who worked in different sections of the DOJ, engaged in schemes to hire the other’s child. In another example, a DOJ employee tried to secure employment for his cousin and nephew.
The IG released two prior reports on nepotistic hiring practices in 2004 and again in 2008, in which they found that employees manipulated the DOJ’s hiring process to favor certain candidates.
In 2008, the IG recommended that the department conduct ethics training and establish a “zero-tolerance” policy for future attempts at illegal hiring.
In a memorandum issued earlier this week, Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus wrote the IG to say that he would strengthen and clarify training for employees, with particular attention on the agency’s nepotism rules.
Lofthus also said that by Friday his office would be implementing a three-prong set of disclosure forms that would require DOJ employees to disclose any family member who they are aware of applying for a job within the agency. It would also require any DOJ applicant to reveal a family member who works for the department.
Lofthus said, according to the IG report, the actions of illegal hiring were a result of intentionally “bad behavior” and not ignorance of the rules or a lack of training on the DOJ’s part.
“The OIG report concludes by saying most of the misconduct identified in the report did not stem from ignorance of the rules, but rather was the result of bad behavior by individuals insufficiently impressed with the principles of fair and open competition.”
The Obama Justice Department is in theater mode, again, pretending to threaten the bankster class with criminal penalties – prison time! – for their manipulation of the global economy’s benchmark interest rates. The Justice Department claims to be building criminal and civil cases in the LIBOR scandal, which in sheer scope is the biggest fraud by international capital in history. But that’s all a front, a farce. Barack Obama has spent his entire presidency protecting Wall Street, starting with his rescue of George Bush’s bank bailout bill after it’s initial defeat in Congress, in the last days of Obama’s candidacy. He packed his administration with banksters, passed his own bailout and, in collaboration with the Federal Reserve, channeled at least $16 trillion dollars into the accounts of U.S. and even European banks – by far the greatest transfer of capital in the history of the world. Obama has reminded the banksters that it was he who saved them from the “pitchforks” of an outraged public. He pushed through Congress so-called financial reform legislation that left derivatives – the deadly instruments of mass financial destruction that were at the heart of the meltdown – untouched.
Wall Street may or may not remain loyal to Obama, but Obama has been loyal to Wall Street, the guys who gave him the campaign cash to become a viable candidate. His Attorney General, Eric Holder, a corporate lawyer to the core, is busily staging a pre-emptive LIBOR prosecution of bankers in order to shield them from legal action by a host of other government agencies and, ultimately, from the global universe of parties that have been harmed by the bankster’s schemes– a list that stretches to infinity. Holder’s job is to monopolize the LIBOR case, to the extent legally and humanly possible, grabbing jurisdiction and consolidating the cases against the banks with the aim of reaching a settlement that does not further destabilize the financial system.
Holder and his boss already pulled that trick earlier this year with settlement of the bank “robo-signing” scandal – a scheme that would have ranked as the “crime of the century” until LIBOR came along. A small group of state attorney generals were holding up an administration-brokered settlement that effectively gave the banksters immunity from prosecution, in return for a measly $25 billion payout. Obama used every power of his office to pressure the state law officers into line. The last one capitulated with a promise from Obama that a “special unit of prosecutors” would expand the investigation into abusive mortgages practices. You haven’t heard a peep about it, since.
Now Obama and Holder are playing the same diversionary game, making tough noises about criminal investigations of the LIBOR conspirators. But the Justice Department has already given immunity to Barclay’s Bank, of Britain, and to the Swiss banking giant UBS. More immunities will follow. The reason Eric Holder is staging criminal investigations is because that’s the only way he can protect the bankers, through immunities and by gradually narrowing the scope of the case. In the end, there will be settlements all around, and the banksters will move on to even more fantastic heights of criminality – thanks to the loyal, protective hands of President Obama.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Richard (RJ) Eskow: Crooked Bankers Are Corrupting Government: The Real LIBOR Story (huffingtonpost.com)
Due process and judicial process are not one and the same. The Founders weren’t picky. Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock-paper-scissors – who cares?
— Stephen Colbert, March 6, 2012
The policies around the assassination program of the United States are surreal.
Trafficking in murder while espousing noble things is a habit regimes fall into, though the more sinister ones tend to use weasel words to conceal that fact. The Obama administration, having long abandoned its role as the knight in shining armour, is now rusting away with the effects of realpolitik.
The ACLU has been trying through Freedom of Information channels to force a disclosure of the guidelines the administration uses in targeting foreign nationals or American citizens through the infamous drone program that has become de rigueur in military circles. The CIA has insisted that it cannot confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of those records that cover the targeting of individuals, or whether it is even employing such vehicles in the first place. They are “intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended”. In such circles, the response is termed the Glomar response, after the CIA’s refusal in 1976 to confirm or deny its relationship with Glomar Explorer, a drill ship created at the direction of Howard Hughes for the agency to recover the sunken Soviet submarine, the K-129.
In the words of Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, as reported by Salon (March 26). “At this point, the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it.” With the courts left out in the cold, the administration can run riot. This, of course, is its self-appointed prerogative.
The Obama administration is engaging in a lexical game of murder, a game that has certainly silenced many of those who would have expressed outrage at the assortment of abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration. Tinker with the words, and the result is considered perfectly justifiable in the name of a higher state interest. This is Cheney with the gloss, Rumsfeld with the polish. Adjust the terms of reference, and assassination is an entirely rum thing.
Obama’s front man in this entire business, in true tasteless fashion, is Eric Holder. Instead of defending the law as is the incumbent duty of any Attorney General, he has a nasty tendency to get sick on it. He brings in his broom to clean up, and in its place he leaves the slime of gibberish. At Northwestern University Law School, he clearly repudiated the position he had taken regarding the Bush administration, whose policies in the ‘war on terror’ had occasioned ‘needlessly abusive and unlawful practices’. That, however, was in 2008. The new Holder was a different beast, more prone to splitting hairs. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’, we are made to realise, ‘are not one and the same’. The President, according to Holder, is not required to seek permission from any court before targeting American citizens abroad (Washington Times, March 12).
Supposedly, the targeting of such individuals is constrained by guidelines. The problem with such dangerous talk is that guidelines are merely points on paper, the scrawl of the moment. They have a tendency of disappearing as quickly as they appear. These guidelines tend to revolve around the nature of the target (an operative of a terrorist group seeking to actively kill American citizens, for one; that the target poses an imminent threat to the US; that the capture of the target is impractical; and that the target is to be eliminated on the basis of ‘relevant law of war principles’ (Washington Times, March 12). Such determinations do not lie in the legal domain. They are rather matters of political expediency.
An administration up to its eyeballs with legal rhetoric is bound to eventually be told it has no clothes, that its efforts are simply acts of distortion. The time it seems, courtesy of the ACLU’s efforts, is now.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He can be reached at email@example.com
It is ironic but perhaps sadly appropriate that Attorney General Eric Holder would choose a law school, Northwestern University, to deliver a speech earlier this month in which he demolished what was left of the rule of law in America.
In what history likely will record as a turning point, Attorney General Holder bluntly explained that this administration believes it has the authority to use lethal force against Americans if the President determines them to be a threat to the nation. He tells us that this is not a violation of the due process requirements of our Constitution because the President himself embodies “due process” as he unilaterally determines who is to be targeted. As Holder said, “a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.’” That means that the administration believes it is the President himself who is to be the judge, jury, and executioner.
As George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote of the Holder speech:
“All the Administration has said is that they closely and faithfully follow their own guidelines — even if their decisions are not subject to judicial review. The fact that they say those guidelines are based on notions of due process is meaningless. They are not a constitutional process of review.”
It is particularly bizarre to hear the logic of the administration claiming the right to target its citizens according to some secret selection process, when we justified our attacks against Iraq and Libya because their leaders supposedly were targeting their own citizens! We also now plan a covert war against Syria for the same reason.
I should make it perfectly clear that I believe any individual who is engaging in violence against this country or its citizens should be brought to justice. But as Attorney General Holder himself points out in the same speech, our civilian courts have a very good track record of trying and convicting individuals involved with terrorism against the United States. Our civilian court system, with the guarantee of real due process, judicial review, and a fair trial, is our strength, not a weakness. It is not an impediment to be sidestepped in the push for convictions or assassinations, but rather a process that guarantees that fundamental right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
I am encouraged, however that there appears to be the beginning of a backlash against the administration’s authoritarian claims. Just recently I did an interview with conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham who expressed grave concern over using these sorts of tactics against Americans using the supposed war on terror as justification. Sadly, many conservative leaders were silent when Republican President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for this administration’s lawlessness with the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention without trial, and other violations. Similarly, as Professor Turley points out, “Democrats previously demanded the ‘torture memos’ of the Bush administration that revealed poor legal analysis by Judge Jay Bybee and Professor John Yoo to justify torture. Now, however, Democrats are largely silent in the face of a president claiming the right to unilaterally kill citizens.” The misuse of and disregard for our Constitution for partisan political gain is likely one reason the American public holds Congress in such low esteem. Now the stakes are much higher. Congress and the people should finally wake up!
- Attorney General Eric Holder: Wrong on the Law, the Politics, and on the Wrong Side of History (alethonews.wordpress.com)
During a speech at Northwestern University’s Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder explained that the American government can kill American citizens abroad under the following conditions:
”First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”
There’s one small problem with Holder’s analysis. It’s called the Constitution. Holder is wrong on the law, wrong on the politics, and on the wrong side of history.
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution says in part, “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Holder went on to explain that when it comes to national security ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same. First, this distinction is not made in the Constitution and second, the Constitution guarantees “due process of law” not just due process.
Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Edition defines “due process of law” as “Law in its regular course of administration through courts of justice.” It also states, “… no person shall be deprived of life… unless matter involved first shall have been adjudicated against him upon trial… ” For Holder to state due process of law does not involve judicial process conflicts directly with established law. As a graduate of Columbia Law School he knows better. Even a first year law student would be banished to the law library if they made such a ridiculous argument.
Even more basic than the 14th Amendment argument is the Article 1, Section 9 argument. It states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. No Bill of Attainder… shall be passed.” A Bill of Attainder is a government declaration that a person is guilty of a crime that carries the death penalty without the benefit of a trial. What else is a government determination to kill an American citizen without any judicial proceedings other than a Bill of Attainder?
As the Obama administration spokesperson for the Justice Department, Holder is wrong on the politics. Senator and candidate Obama characterized the national security policies of the Bush administration as “draconian,” “ineffective” and “counter to the values of the United States.” Candidate Obama railed against his predecessor’s counterterrorism techniques such as domestic warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding, military tribunals, and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. Making these assertions, Holder sounds a lot like former Bush administration counsel John Yoo, the author of the opinion justifying torture. Candidate Obama promised the American people “change we can believe in.” The more these policies change, the more they look like the Bush administration, and the more they appear to have been politically motivated.
During his speech at Northwestern Holder said, “… the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.” The problem with this rationale is that America is not at war so what war principles is he referring to? The Constitution divides war powers between the Congress and the President. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states, “The Congress shall have Power: To declare War… ” If Holder was referring to The “War on Terror” that is just a marketing scheme devised by the Bush administration to convince Americans that the powers of the Executive Branch post 9-11 needed to be expanded. Congress has authorized military action but has not formally declared war.
Holder’s comments are even more disturbing when considered in the context of President Obama signing the 2012 Defense Authorization Act (DAA). Section 1021 of the Act allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens and/or anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. As stated above, Article 1, Section 9 states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” By signing the 2012 DAA President Obama reaffirmed Bush’s suspension of habeas corpus instead of overturning it. So now, not only can American citizens be indefinitely detained, they can also be assassinated by their own government at the will and whim of their President.
The framers of the Constitution endorsed these protections to insure that a president could not act like a monarch or dictator and unilaterally violate a citizens civil rights and liberties. In the 1960’s FBI Director Hoover spied upon and disrupted the efforts of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement by creating the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO. Hoover’s misguided fears, personal bigotry, and sense that members of the movement were “enemy combatants” engaged in “belligerent acts” against the United States resulted in the harassment and false imprisonment of conscience citizens, and many believe the assassinations of Dr. King, Malcolm X, and others fighting for equality in America. Holder is on the wrong side of history.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “those who will sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” If a US President can order the assassination of an American citizen without judicial approval he has become no better than the dictators that we have invested invaluable time, blood, and treasure to overthrow. With these pronouncements we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with WilmerLeon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to Dr-Leons-Prescription@facebook.com, http://www.wilmerleon.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or http://www.twitter.com/drwleon
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- Eric Holder Tortures the Constitution (alethonews.wordpress.com)