A federal judge issued a 75-page ruling on Wednesday that declares that the US Justice Department does not have a legal obligation to explain the rationale behind killing Americans with targeted drone strikes.
United States District Court Judge Colleen McMahon wrote in her finding this week that the Obama administration was largely in the right by rejecting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times for materials pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to execute three US citizens abroad in late 2011 [pdf].
Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US nationals with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, were killed on September 30th of that year using drone aircraft; days later, al-Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was executed in the same manner. Although the Obama administration has remained largely quiet about the killings in the year since, a handful of statements made from senior White House officials, including President Barack Obama himself, have provided some but little insight into the Executive Branch’s insistence that the killings were all justified and constitutionally-sound. Attempts from the ACLU and the Times via FOIA requests to find out more have been unfruitful, though, which spawned a federal lawsuit that has only now been decided in court.
Siding with the defendants in what can easily be considered as cloaked in skepticism, Judge McMahon writes that the Obama White House has been correct in refusing the FOIA requests filed by the plaintiffs.
“There are indeed legitimate reasons, historical and legal, to question the legality of killings unilaterally authorized by the Executive that take place otherwise than on a ‘hot’ field of battle,” McMahon writes in her ruling. Because her decision must only weigh whether or not the Obama administration has been right in rejecting the FOIA requests, though, her ruling cannot take into consideration what sort of questions — be it historical, legal, ethical or moral — are raised by the ongoing practice of using remote-controlled drones to kill insurgents and, in these instances, US citizens.
“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” she writes. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reason for their conclusion a secret.”
Throughout her ruling, Judge McMahon cites speeches from both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in which the al-Awlaki killings are vaguely discussed, but appear to do little more than excuse the administration’s behavior with their own secretive explanations.
“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential — but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a US citizen,” McMahon quotes Mr. Holder as saying during a March 2012 address at Chicago’s Northwestern University. “Holder did not identify which recent court decisions so held,” the judge replies, “Nor did he explain exactly what process was given to the victims of targeted killings at locations far from ‘hot’ battlefields… ”
And while both Mr. Holder and President Obama have discussed the killings in public, including one appearance by the president on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Justice Department insists that going further by releasing any legal evidence that supports the executions would be detrimental to national security.
While Judge McMahon ends up agreeing with the White House, she does so by making known her own weariness over how the Obama administration has forced the court to rely on their own insistence that information about the attacks simply cannot be discussed.
“As they gathered to draft a Constitution for their newly liberated country, the Founders — fresh from a war of independence from the rule of a King they styled a tyrant — were fearful of concentrating power in the hands of any single person or institution, and most particular in the executive,” McMahon writes.
Responding to the decision on Wednesday, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer issued a statement condemning the White House’s just-won ability to relieve itself from any fair and honest explanation as to the justification of Americans.
“This ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government’s extrajudicial killing of US citizens and also effectively green-lights its practice of making selective and self-serving disclosures,” Jameel writes. “As the judge acknowledges, the targeted killing program raises profound questions about the appropriate limits on government power in our constitutional democracy. The public has a right to know more about the circumstances in which the government believes it can lawfully kill people, including US citizens, who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime.”
The ACLU says they plan to appeal Judge McMahon’s decision and are currently awaiting news regarding a separate lawsuit filed alongside the Center for Constitutional Rights that directly challenges the constitutionality of the targeted kills.
“The government has argued that case should also be dismissed,” the ACLU notes.
In a Wednesday afternoon statement from the Times, assistant general counsel David McCraw says the paper will appeal the ruling as well.
“We began this litigation because we believed our readers deserved to know more about the US government’s legal position on the use of targeted killings against persons having ties to terrorism, including US citizens,” McCraw says.
Although she ruled against the plaintiffs, Judge McMahon, says McCraw, explained “eloquently … why in a democracy the government should be addressing those questions openly and fully.”
- VIDEO: On CNN, Nasser Al-Awlaki Demands “Accountability” for U.S. Drone Strike That Killed His Grandson (alethonews.wordpress.com)
US President Barack Obama’s administration is continuing rendition, the practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation without due process.
George Bush administration’s practice of rendition is continuing under the Obama administration despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
According to the US daily, it is unknown how many renditions have taken place during Obama’s first term due to the secrecy involved but his administration has not disavowed the practice.
In the latest example of Obama administration’s use of the tactic, a number of American interrogates visited three European men with Somali origins in a jail in the small African country of Djibouti. The detainees had been arrested on a vague pretext in August as they were passing through the African country.
US agents accused the three men of supporting Somalia’s al-Shabab group. The prisoners were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York two months after their arrest. They were then clandestinely taken into custody by the FBI and flown to the United States to face trial.
The secret arrests and detentions became known on December 21, when the suspects appeared briefly in a Brooklyn courtroom.
The US government has revealed little about the circumstances of the arrests. The FBI and federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York have also not said where and why the defendants were detained.
Human rights advocates have condemned the Obama administration’s decision to continue rendition.
Obama, in his first presidential candidacy, had strongly suggested he might end the practice but the tactic is still continuing under his administration.
Coming into 2012, the Internet community was looking down the barrel of very dangerous legislation that would have created legal structures to silence legitimate speech in the name of curbing online “piracy.” A House bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), had been debated, amended, and looked to be on the fast track for legislative approval.
That all changed on January 18. An historic “Blackout Day” protest, loosely coordinated by a coalition of public interest groups, startups, tech companies, and thousands of different websites, resulted in millions of emails and tens of thousands of calls to legislators. As sites across the web turned out their virtual lights at once, an important but otherwise arcane copyright bill became front-page news—and impossible for the content lobby and their favorite legislators to sneak past the public.
There were plenty of reasons to be concerned. After all, Congress has passed 15 laws aimed at stopping “piracy” over the last 30 years—an impressive record given the general absence of actual facts about the problem or the effectiveness of the proposed solutions. And even after an earlier protest, held in November 2011, resulted in nearly 90,000 calls to Congress in one day, SOPA’s author (and Judiciary Committee chair) Lamar Smith seemed intent on pushing the bill through, dismissing the complaints as not being “legitimate.”
But support for the bills began to crumble when met with the magnitude of the blackout protests. Over the course of January 18, people sent nearly a million emails to their legislators through the EFF’s action center alone, and many million more through other sites. Some of the most popular sites on the Internet, like Google, Reddit, and Wikipedia, were among over 100,000 pages dark in protest.
It worked. Angry supporters of the bill may have derided the grassroots action—MPAA chief Chris Dodd called it “dangerous” and a “gimmick,” while RIAA CEO Cary Sherman said it was based on “misinformation” and, strangely, a “misuse of power”—but legislators got the message, and began jumping ship from SOPA and PIPA almost immediately. Within a month, the bills were effectively dead.
The defeat of SOPA and PIPA marked an important victory in an ongoing struggle for copyright policy that’s based on actual facts and real evidence. The January 18 protests, too, served as a template for a new era of online activism. In 2012, we’ve already seen similar battles play out all over the world; in 2013, we’re sure to see even more.
- U.S. Congress may not have stomach for another SOPA/PIPA fight (pcworld.com)
- Looking forward: The fight for Internet freedom (rappler.com)
Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.
Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
It is as comical as it is untrue. But “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act”, which as of December 28th is an official US law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.
Yes, Iran’s influence in Latin America is on the rise. However, by US standards, the expanding diplomatic ties, extending trade routes and such are considered a threat to be ‘countered’ or per Forbes magazine’s endless wisdom, ‘confronted.’
Language in politics can be very dangerous as it can misconstrue reality, turning fictitious scenarios into ‘facts’. Despite its faltering economy, the US continues to experience a sharp growth in its think tank industry – men and women whose sole purpose are to invent and push political agendas, which oftentimes belong to some foreign entity; in this case it is Israel. Ian Barman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council reflected that sentiment exactly in a recent article in Forbes.
Only in the past year, “policymakers in Washington have woken up to a new (Iranian) threat to U.S. security”, he wrote, citing an alleged Iranian assassination plot in Washington. According to Barman, that was the wake-up call leading to a “deeply worrisome” reality. In a moment of supposed level-headedness, he writes: “exactly how significant this threat is represents the subject of a new study released in late November by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. That report, entitled ‘A Line In The Sand’, documents the sinister synergies that have been created in recent years between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical regional regimes and actors-from Venezuela to Mexican drug cartels-on the other.”
But according to Agence France Press, reporting on the new law on December 29th, “Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran.”
Indeed, on the issue of Iran’s influence in Latin America there are two contradicting narratives. One that merely acknowledges Iranians growing diplomatic outreach in Latin America since 2005 and another that speaks of massive conspiracies involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, drug cartels, and yes, even underground music piracy groups. The alleged conspiracy is not only far-fetched, it is purposely fabricated to further punish Iran, on behalf of Israel, for its nuclear energy program. The panic over Iran’s ‘infiltration’ of the US ‘neighborhood’ in Latin America, didn’t start a year ago (as alleged by Barman) but rather coincided with old Israeli-Western propaganda which pained Iran as a country ruled by religious fiends whose main hobby is to assemble bombs and threaten western civilization. When pro-Israeli think tank ‘experts’ began floating a scenario of ‘what if Iran and Hezbollah join forces with Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel’ a few years ago, the idea seemed too absurd to compel a rational response. Now it is actually written into the new bill turned law as if a matter of fact. (Sec. 2, Findings 12)
The bill doesn’t only lack reason, proper references and is dotted with a strange amalgam of politically-inspired accusations, it also relies on wholesale allegations of little, if any plausible foundation whatsoever: “Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.” (Sec 2, Findings 8)
Of course, since the whole exercise is fueled by Israeli anxiety, Hamas also had to somehow be pulled in, if not indicted through the same inexplicable reasoning: “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.” (Sec. 2, Findings 10)
US author and journalist, Belen Fernandez has been looking into this matter for years. In all of her writings on the topic she seemed to trace the very thread that unites the invented upheaval over Iran’s supposed takeover of the ‘Western Hemisphere.’ In an article entitled: “Distorting Iranian-Latin American Relations”, nearly two years ago, she wrote: “Iranian ‘penetration’ in Latin America has in recent years become a pet issue of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and American neoconservative pundits, many of whom take offense at the perceived failure of the U.S. government to adequately appreciate the security threat posed by, for example, the inauguration of a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran with a stop in Damascus.”
The issue for Israel and its US conduits is entirely political. Iran is indeed expanding its political and diplomatic outreach, but entirely through legal and official means, something that the US has failed to do since The Monroe Doctrine gave the US exclusive hegemony over Latin America starting in December 1823. But much has changed since then, especially in the last two decades when the US swung towards disastrous Middle East foreign policies, much to the pleasure of Israel. The suffering endured by Arabs and Muslims was the needed break for some Latin American countries to challenge US policies in their respective countries. This period was the era in which powerhouses like Brazil rose and popular governments took the helm. US policies in Latin America are not failing because of Iranians ‘sinister’ plans, but because of something entirely different.
Demeaning Latin America as a hapless region waiting for US saviors and pinning US political stocks on Iran might serve immediate Israeli purposes, but it will certainly contribute to the growing political delusion that permeates Washington. Alas, there are little indications that Washington politicians are anywhere near waking up from Israel’s overbearing spell. Just examine the author of the anti-Iran bill: Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina’s 3rd District. He is a ‘freshman’, but has massive ambitions. He joined the Congress in 2011 and quickly learned the ropes. He knows that in order to succeed on Capitol Hill, one must win favor with the pro-Israeli lobby. He sponsored the bill on January 3, just a few days before the Iranian President went on a major diplomatic tour in Latin America to expand his country’s international relations. That alone was unacceptable, for Latin America has long been designated as the US ‘backyard’, per the belittling perception of US mainstream media. The trip ignited the ire of Israel, which both media and officials considered a travesty at a time that Tel Aviv was tirelessly working to isolate Iran. The bill was clearly a coordinated move, as its language indicates textbook Israeli hasbara.
Duncan might have been a novice, but he is quickly catching up. On May 20th, he proudly posted a statement on his House of Representative page that sharply censures his own president’s remarks on Israel, while fully supporting the political stances of the leader of another country, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He decried Obama’s siding with the “Hamas-led government”, thus “undermined(ing) Israel’s position in the negotiation process.”
“President Obama’s statement that Israel should retreat to its impossible to defend 1967 borders breaks a promise to one of our strongest allies, threatens Israel’s security, and jeopardizes the future of democracy in the region,” he wrote. Of course, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. “(The Israeli) Prime Minister understands the hard reality of Israel’s precarious security situation and daily threats of terrorism. I agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that President Obama’s position is simply unrealistic.” He concluded with a very telling statement: “As a Christian, I ask Americans to continue lifting up the people of Israel with prayers for safety and the hope for a lasting peace.”
This strange attitude towards politics and American national security is the real threat, not Iranian embassies and water purification projects in some Latin American countries. But considering the rising religious zealotry, shrewd Israeli lobby and the numerous think tanks of catered wisdom, there is little space for pragmatic politics or sensible approach to anything that concerns Israel. Thus, Obama enacted the bill into law and funds have been secured to evaluate Iran’s growing ‘threats’ in ‘America’s backyard’ so that proper measures are taken to counter the frightening possibilities.
What Duncan doesn’t know however, is that Latin America is no longer hostage, neither to the whims of Washington, nor to his South Carolina’s 3rd District. And that the ‘Western Hemisphere’ is no longer defined by the confines of US foreign policies, which seem to be narrowing each year to meet Israeli expectations and not those of America.
Moshe Feiglin, who earlier on Tuesday was detained by Israeli police after trying to pray at the so-called Temple Mount, proposed paying Palestinians to leave West Bank.
“The State of Israel is paying 10% of its GNP every year for the two-state solution and the Oslo Accords. It’s paying for separation fences, Iron Domes and a guard at every café. Soon we’ll have to place Iron Domes in every school in Tel Aviv.
“With this budget we can give every Arab family in Judea and Samaria $500,000 to encourage it to immigrate to a place with a better future.
“You may say, ‘But no one will have them.’ That’s not true because the Western nations are shrinking due to low birth rates. The question is whether the world will have Sudanese migrants who can’t build or migrants from Judea and Samaria who do know how to build.”
- Israel forces Jordan Valley Palestinians from homes ahead of war drill (alethonews.wordpress.com)
West Bank – Israeli soldiers in Hebron tied up and blindfolded a Palestinian activist this afternoon because he walked on the ‘Jewish side’ of the road.
Issa Amro, coordinator for Youth Against Settlements, was detained on Shuhada Street, sections of which are segregated with the majority reserved for the illegal Israeli settlers and Israeli military, leaving only a tiny portion open for Palestinian use.
Issa claimed he wasn’t walking in the Israeli only section of the road and that the soldier became infuriated when he told him to check the rules with a commanding officer. The soldier then told Issa he would be detained for 2 hours, however, he was released after 20 minutes. Issa believes that one of the illegal settlers had instructed the soldier to harass him.
Locals, members of the press and international activists turned up and the soldiers refused to answer questions about why he was being detained, or let anyone bring him water. One soldier then forced the crowd to stay 25 metres away.
Palestinians, Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers are always in close proximity in Shuhada Street and as a result it is an extremely volatile area of the city. On Sunday, Israeli soldiers extended a section of the apartheid road near the Ibrahimi Mosque. The newly constructed barrier runs past a Palestinian home due to be rebuilt meaning that when it is finished, Palestinians will have only half a metre to walk on.
Local activist Issa Amro detained in Shuhada Street in Hebron
- Israeli forces kill teenager on his 17th birthday in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army Kidnaps Four Palestinians In Hebron (imemc.org)
- Israeli military conducts illegal operations in Tel Rumeida, Hebron (palsolidarity.org)
- Second group of journalists beaten in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers raid Nablus village homes and a tractor. Uproot 190 olive trees and burn Hebron car (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
ae911truth · December 15, 2012
The showcase was pre-recorded for this third of three APCA conferences attended by AE911Truth because Gage was invited to testify concurrently at a pre-hearing for an international crimes tribunal in Malaysia featuring 9/11 truth leaders from around the world.
- Censorship: Facebook deletes pages of 9/11 activists (weeklyintercept.blogspot.com)
- 9/11 Free Fall – Richard Gage AIA (10/25/12) (occupytvstations.com)
Tammun, Occupied Palestine – From 9am to 6pm Israeli special forces, regular army and border police attacked the village of Tammun, south of Jenin. They used helicopters, many soldiers firing live rounds of ammunition, tear gas and plastic coated steel bullets. 35 people were injured, including 4 with live bullets. 2 children sustained serious head injuries from tear gas canisters.
The raid began with at least 15 plain clothed special forces driving into the village in Palestinian plated vehicles to arrest a man. They forced the family out of their home, took one Palestinian brother, Murad, tied him, blindfolded him, pushed him against the wall and took him back into the house. They made the family stand outside as human shields against any resistance to the incursion and, in doing so, committed a war crime. His brother, Mohammed, was forced to assume a stress position for two hours. When he told the soldiers that had a health problem with his chest, they replied that if he said that again they would beat him to death.
The forces interrogated and beat Murad while blindfolded. These special forces, called Duvdevan, are known for targeted assassinations. Murad was told to climb over a wall, but fearing that this could be an excuse to kill him, he refused. The soldiers severely beat him for this.
The soldiers vandalised the house, breaking furniture and shooting walls, wardrobes, beds, mirrors and a fridge.
Last year the same family was raided by these forces. The two brothers were stripped naked and tied to an olive tree in their front garden.
Today, soldiers entered another home. They searched it, broke furniture and shot around the house as well. They threatened the mother that if her husband doesn’t hand himself in, in 24 hours, they will kill him. Another 20 homes were searched in the village.
After the plain clothes special forces entered the village around 20 jeeps of regular army followed. They went into houses and took positions on rooftops.
Resistance by the population to this erupted on news of the incursion and people were attacked. Paramedics reported 35 injuries, two serious head wounds from tear gas canisters that are often used as baton rounds. The two head injuries were inflicted on children. Four of the injuries were from live rounds.
The attack continued until after dark with the army using parachute flares to illuminate the village.
The army eventually left the village at 6pm with Murad. The other Palestinian wanted by the Israeli occupation force has until tomorrow morning to hand himself in or he will be assassinated.