U.S. ESCALATES WAR IN YEMEN: U.S. SPECIAL FORCES OFFICIALLY ON THE GROUND IN YEMEN; OBAMA SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER THAT WILL FREEZE YOUR ASSETS IF YOU OPPOSE THE INCOMING YEMEN GOVERNMENT

A group of around 20 U.S. special operations forces are on the ground in Yemen, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Reuters reports that at least one of those troops was shot and seriously wounded on Sunday near the Red Sea city of Hudaida while AFP reports that a Yemeni solider blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in the capital of Sanna, killing 96 and wounding about 300.

Yemeni soldier packing powerful explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in SanaaMonday, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300, a military official and medics said.

The group is operating from a Yemeni base and using technology such as satellite imagery, drone video and eavesdropping systems to pinpoint targets while military actions intensify, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.

The contingent of troops is expected to grow and are working in concert with the campaign of airstrikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Major General Kenneth Tovo, head of U.S. Central Command’s special operations force, told the Yemeni Defense Ministry that “Yemeni armed forces will receive the necessary support that would enable it to destroy al Qaeda,” according to Reuters.

According to the Long War Journal, the U.S. is known to have carried out 21 airstrikes so far in 2012, compared to 37 total since December 2009.

The U.S. has been ramping up pressure in Yemen ever since a mole infiltrated AQAP and developed a improved version of an underwear bomb of the type that failed to explode on a 2009 U.S.-bound flight that he then gave to Saudi, British and U.S. intelligence officials.

U.S. special operations troops were withdrawn from Yemen during the Arab Spring last year as violent protests toppled then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. It has been reported that the U.S. secretly placed troops in both Libya and Syria.

The U.S. has been a strong supporter of Saleh’s vice president, Abed Rabbo Hadi, who took power in February and has been much willing to allow Americans work directly with Yemeni military forces outside of Sanaa, officials told the Los Angeles Times.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Obama said in 2010 that he had “no intention of sending U.S. boots on the ground” to Yemen. But Army Gen. David Petraeus, now head of the CIA, offered to secretly put U.S. special operations troops in the country, leaked State Department cables show. Then-President Saleh rebuffed his proposal, the cables show. 

Last week President Obama signed an executive order that gives the Treasury Department authority to freeze U.S. assets of anyone (including U.S. citizens) who “threaten the peace, security and stability” of Yemen. The same day about 20,000 Yemeni government troops supported by warplanes killed at least 29 alleged al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen.

Last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor that “None of us know where this is going.”

U.S. ESCALATES CLANDESTINE WAR IN YEMEN

The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — In an escalation of America’s clandestine war in Yemen, a small contingent of U.S. troops is providing targeting data for Yemeni airstrikes as government forces battle to dislodge Al Qaeda militants and other insurgents in the country’s restive south, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
Operating from a Yemeni base, at least 20 U.S. special operations troops have used satellite imagery, drone video, eavesdropping systems and other technical means to help pinpoint targets for an offensive that intensified this week, said U.S. and Yemeni officials who asked not to be identified talking about the sensitive operation.

The U.S. forces also advised Yemeni military commanders on where and when to deploy their troops, two senior Obama administration officials said. The U.S. contingent is expected to grow, a senior military official said.

The Obama administration’s direct military role in Yemen is more extensive than previously reported and represents a deepening involvement in the nation’s growing conflict.

The military and CIA are coordinating a separate but related campaign of airstrikes against members of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. intelligence officials say poses the greatest threat to America. The Yemen-based group was implicated this month in a failed effort to put a suicide bomber on a U.S.-bound airliner, the latest of several failed bombing attempts.John Brennan, White House counter-terrorism advisor, flew to Yemen last weekend to meet its new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The administration considers Hadi, who took office in February, an ally and is seeking to support a political transition toward democracy.U.S. officials remain wary of being drawn into Yemen’s factional political struggles, but they expressed confidence in Hadi.

“There are ways of checking their homework,” a senior defense official said of the Yemeni government. “They’ve been trusted partners.”

In a show of support for Hadi’s government, President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze U.S. assets of those who “threaten the peace, security and stability” of Yemen. The order, which does not name any individual, is meant to discourage political meddling by those still loyal to the nation’s former dictator, officials said.

U.S. special operations troops were withdrawn from Yemen last year amid the violent protests that toppled Hadi’s predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, but Pentagon officials disclosed last week that they had returned. The officials described the deployment as a limited training mission for Yemeni security units fighting Al Qaeda, similar to past efforts.

Once the U.S. forces arrived, however, Hadi was more willing than Saleh to let the Americans work directly with Yemeni military forces outside the capital, Sana, officials said.

The current military offensive coincides with an increase in U.S. military and CIA airstrikes against Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen. They have relied, in part, on intelligence gathered by CIA operatives and contractors in the contested tribal areas, according to a U.S. source with knowledge of the secret operation.

At least 18 U.S. military and drone strikes have been reported against targets inside Yemen since early March, including three in the last week, an upsurge from previous months. U.S. forces have conducted a total of 35 such airstrikes since 2009, according to Long War Journal, a website that tracks the attacks.

Although it has drawn far less attention, the U.S. counter-
terrorism effort in Yemen has become broader than the decade-old pursuit of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The CIA has launched hundreds of deadly drone strikes against militants there, but Pakistan’s government has not permitted the U.S. military to conduct or coordinate operations on its territory.

The White House insisted Wednesday that the U.S. military role in Yemen is limited in scope and will not drag the U.S. into a broader conflict.

“We’re pursuing a focused counter-terrorism campaign in Yemen designed to prevent and deter terrorist plots that directly threaten U.S. interests at home and abroad,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council. “We have not, and will not, get involved in a broader counterinsurgency effort. That would not serve our long-term interests and runs counter to the desires of the Yemeni government and its people.”

About 20,000 Yemeni government troops supported by warplanes continued to attack Al Qaeda positions in southern Yemen on Wednesday, killing at least 29 militants, the Associated Press and other news agencies reported, citing Yemeni military officials.

The AP’s Yemen correspondent first reported Tuesday that U.S. special operations forces were assisting Yemeni military forces, citing Yemeni military officials.

Last month, the White House approved broader targeting guidelines for CIA and military airstrikes in Yemen. U.S. airstrikes may now target militants whose names are not known but who have been deemed a threat to U.S. interests.

Obama said in 2010 that he had “no intention of sending U.S. boots on the ground” to Yemen. But Army Gen. David Petraeus, now head of the CIA, offered to secretly put U.S. special operations troops in the country, leaked State Department cables show. Then-President Saleh rebuffed his proposal, the cables show.

Obama later authorized a small team of special operations trainers to help Yemeni forces take on Al Qaeda. Based mainly in the capital, those trainers were withdrawn last year but apparently began to filter back early this year.

On March 1, Al Qaeda claimed to have assassinated a CIA officer in southern Yemen. The Pentagon disputed that, but it acknowledged that gunmen opened fire on a “U.S. security training team.”

Teams of CIA officers and U.S. contractors have operated in Yemen for some time, hunting Al Qaeda militants and developing intelligence for drone strikes, according to a source with knowledge of the operation. They have recruited tribal militants to provide security, the source said.

U.S. officials declined to comment on that account.

“We do conduct operations with the Yemenis to get after terrorist targets,” Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week. “We’re not going to go into the details of that.”

U.S. SENDS TROOPS TO YEMEN AS AL QAEDA GAINS GROUND

Civil unrest in Yemen has enabled Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which perpetrated the foiled underwear bomb plot, to expand its reach. US troops are arriving to train Yemeni soldiers.

By Anna Mulrine | Christian Science Monitor

The week after revelations by a double agent that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was trying to take down a US airliner with an underwear bomb, the Pentagon announced that it has begun sending US troops into Yemen.

The move is part of a US effort to increase pressure on the terrorist outfit based in Yemen at a time when the Yemeni government is weak and only now beginning to emerge from a period of political turmoil. The troops will help train Yemeni soldiers, and together with a campaign of drone strikes and an increased intelligence presence, the aim is to hold AQAP in check while rebuilding the Yemeni government’s capacity to fight its own battles.

US forces had been on the ground training Yemeni forces last year, but President Obama suspended the mission in the wake of political turmoil in the country. In February, Yemen’s autocratic ruler of 30 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was replaced in a democratic election, making the return of US troops possible.

But the security situation in Yemen has worsened in recent months, with AQAP taking advantage of the civil unrest that grew as Mr. Saleh’s grasp on power loosened. “It’s clear that there are more [AQAP] volunteers, there are more sanctuaries” in Yemen, saysAnthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

It is also clear that these AQAP forces have been able to take arms and equipment that were either abandoned or lost by Yemeni forces and use them to wage attacks on the government and expand their base of operations, Dr. Cordesman adds.

But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta denied that this could portend a greater presence for US ground forces. “Yeah, there’s no consideration of that,” Secretary Panetta responded when asked in a Pentagon briefing Thursday whether he would rule out using ground forces in Yemen “at some point.”

Added Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the point is “trying to build their capacity, not use our own.”

This will likely include expanded US intelligence assets on the ground. “Some of these you use to cooperate very closely with the Yemenis, and some you use to figure out who’s on first,” Cordesman says.

In this effort to understand relationships between AQAP and other terrorist groups, the US government will also expand intelligence operations with the Saudis, with whom there is now a “sharply improved level of cooperation,” he adds.

AQAP threatens Saudi Arabia as well as Oman, which borders Yemen. The British government has long had links in Oman, which are also proving helpful to US forces, Cordesman notes.

For now, though, drone attacks like the one that killed Fahd Mohammed al-Quso, a top AQAP operative, over the weekend will be the US government’s “only way of directly attacking AQAP as it builds up” its base of operations, he says.

If the Yemeni government begins to achieve more stability, then it can dispatch its own forces to take on AQAP operatives and the US can suspend its drone campaign. There remain plenty of uncertainties, however. “None of us know where this is going,” he says.

In the meantime, it is clear that AQAP is “a threat,” Panetta emphasized. “No one in any way underestimates the fact that all of them represent a concern for the United States in terms of our national security.”

OBAMA SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER THAT GIVES HIM THE POWER TO FREEZE YOUR ASSETS IF YOU OPPOSE THE NEW GOVERNMENT IN YEMEN

By Alex Biles | Business Insider
Over at SalonGlenn Greenwald has a story on a controversial executive order that has civil libertarians fuming.

According to The Washington Post, Obama has just issued an executive order claiming the power to freeze any assets you own, if you “directly or indirectly” obstruct the new government of Yemen.

There are hardly any criteria for judging just how broadly this order can be interpreted.

Here’s the background:

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the new Yemeni president, and the former Vice President of long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi was recently installed after an “election” where he ran unopposed, prompting celebrations about a new blooming democracy in the Middle East. Subsequently, the U.S. has sent millions in aid and military assistance to the Hadi government, despite its unpopularity among observers in the West and most importantly, the Yemeni people.

Do you oppose this? Better not say or do anything to protest it, or your bank account is getting frozen. The Washington Post sums it up:

President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.

Unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, the new order does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, one official said, it is designed as a “deterrent” to “make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition” to think again. . . .

The order provides criteria to take action against people who the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, determines have “engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the Nov. 23, 2011, agreement between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power . . . or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.”

The trouble, as Greenwald puts it, is who is challenging this? Who’s raising questions? Who even realizes that the Obama Administration is currently bombing innocent Yemeni civilians, or the fact that American troops are currently on the ground according to an AP report yesterday?

Greenwald makes the case that the Obama Administration is devoting efforts to imposing a dictatorial regime in Yemen. There is something seriously wrong with American policy in Yemen. Greenwald points out that, “Obama has played a direct personal role in the ongoing imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who committed the crime of documenting the large number of civilian deaths from a U.S. cluster bomb attack on his country…”

And now, the President is taking on new powers over Americans to protect the incoming Yemen government.

EXECUTIVE ORDER – BLOCKING PROPERTY OF PERSONS THREATINING THE PEACE, SECURITY, OR STABILITY OF YEMEN

EXECUTIVE ORDER

- – – – – – -

BLOCKING PROPERTY OF PERSONS THREATENING THE PEACE, SECURITY, OR STABILITY OF YEMEN

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others threaten Yemen’s peace, security, and stability, including by obstructing the implementation of the agreement of November 23, 2011, between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change, and by obstructing the political process in Yemen. I further find that these actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

Section 1. All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person, including any foreign branch, of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to:

(a) have engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the agreement of November 23, 2011, between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen, or that obstruct the political process in Yemen;

(b) be a political or military leader of an entity that has engaged in the acts described in subsection (a) of this section;

(c) have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the acts described in subsection (a) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(d) be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

Sec. 2. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 3. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

Sec. 5. Nothing in section 1 of this order shall prohibit transactions for the conduct of the official business of the United States Government by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof.

Sec. 6. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 7. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Sec. 8. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that

because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

Sec. 9. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

Sec. 10. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit the recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).

Sec. 11. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA

OBAMA WARNS AGAINST POLITICAL DISRUPTION IN YEMEN

By JULIE PACE | Find Law
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama served notice Wednesday to those seeking to disrupt Yemen’s political transition that he would sanction individuals and entities who undermine stability in the strategically important Middle Eastern nation.

Obama signed an executive order allowing the Treasury Department to freeze U.S.-based assets of those who the White House says “threaten the peace, security and stability” of Yemen.

The order gives Yemen’s new president, Abed Rabbo Hadi, another tool to sweep out relatives and cronies of authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who are refusing to relinquish the political or military posts the former strongman doled out during his rule.

Hadi issued a decree last month ordering the holdovers to leave, and the U.S. presidential order could essentially target the assets of anyone who fails to comply, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the policy.

Yemen is a key counterterrorism partner for the U.S. and officials fear that political instability there will provide an opening for al-Qaida affiliated terror groups to expand their influence. The White House says Obama took the step because he believes the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people cannot be addressed if political progress there stalls.

Yemen has been a launching pad for attacks against the U.S. by the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Last week, The Associated Press disclosed that the CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design.

The Pentagon also announced last week that it was sending military trainers back to Yemen for “routine” counterterrorism cooperation with Yemeni security forces amid an intensified battle against terrorists. The training program in Yemen was suspended last year after then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was badly injured in a militant attack.

Under a U.S.-backed transition plan, Saleh stepped down earlier this year after more than 30 years in power, clearing the way for his vice president Hadi, to assume control of the government. U.S. officials allowed Saleh to come to the U.S. for medical treatment during the transition to help ensure it went off smoothly.

With Saleh back in Yemen, some U.S. officials have expressed concerns that he could try to wield power from the sidelines through his network of relatives and allies.

OBAMA’S NEW FREE SPEECH THREAT

An Executive order seeks to punish U.S. citizens even for “indirectly” obstructing dictatorial rule in Yemen

BY GLENN GREENWALD | Salon

There is substantial opposition in both Yemen and the West to the new U.S.-backed Yemeni President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi was the long-time Vice President of the Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and after Saleh finally stepped down last year, Hadi became President as part of an “election” in which he was the only candidate (that little fact did not prevent Hillary Clinton from congratulating Yemen “on today’s successful presidential election” (successful because the U.S. liked the undemocratic outcome)). As it does with most U.S.-compliant dictators in the region, the Obama administration has since been propping up Hadi with large amounts of money and military assistance, but it is now taking a much more extreme step to ensure he remains entrenched in power — a step that threatens not only basic liberties in Yemen but in the U.S. as well:

President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.

Unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, the new order does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, one official said, it is designed as a “deterrent” to “make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition” to think again. . . .

The order provides criteria to take action against people who the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, determines have “engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the Nov. 23, 2011, agreement between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power . . . or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.”

In other words, the U.S. Government will now punish anyone who is determined — in the sole discretion of the U.S. Government — even to “indirectly” obstruct the full transition of power to President Hadi. But what if someone — a Yemeni or an American — opposes Hadi’s rule and wants to agitate for a real election in which more than one candidate runs? Is that pure political advocacy, as it appears, now prohibited by the U.S. Government, punishable by serious sanctions, on the ground that it “obstructs” the transition of power to Hadi? Can journalists who report on corruption or violence by the Hadi regime and who write Op-Eds demanding a new election be accused, as it seems, of “threatening Yemen’s political stability”?

Jeremy Scahill, who has reported extensively from Yemen over the last year, reacted to the news of this Executive Order this morning by writing: ”This Executive Order appears to be an attack on Americans’ 1st Amendment Rights and Yemenis’ rights to self-determination“; he added: ”apparently the 1st Amendment had an exception about Yemen in it that I missed.” He then asked a series of questions, including: “What if a Yemeni citizen doesn’t believe in a one candidate ‘election’ and is fighting to change their government? US sanctions?” and ”How would Obama define an American citizen as ‘indirectly’ threatening the stability of Yemen’s government?” and “what if an American citizen doesn’t support Yemen’s government and agitates for its downfall? Sanctions from US Treasury? Wow.” Marcy Wheeler has some typically astute points to make about this as well.

The Post article notes that, as unusual as this Executive Order is, Obama issued a similar one for Somalia in 2009, and it has one other precedent: “In 2006, President George W. Bush issued a similar order regarding Ivory Coast in West Africa.” Newspapers should just create a template that says that for every article: this radical and controversial power that Obama has just seized for himself has its genesis in the executive power and war theories of Bush/Cheney. Except for the power to secretly target U.S. citizens for due-process-free assassination-by-CIA and the manic war on whistleblowers — those are Obama originals — that’s a reliable claim to make, which is the point.

When I first began writing about Bush’s War on Terror abuses, I would sometimes be asked whether America still protects certain liberties more than most other countries, and my answer would always be the same: First Amendment rights in the U.S. of free speech and a free press are still more robust than most other countries in the world. It was one realm which the Bush War on Terror had by and large — not entirely, but by and large — left alone. That is just no longer true. Under Obama, we have seen a series of aggressive erosions of even this right in the name of Terrorism.

The Obama DOJ persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law to adopt an extraordinarily broad interpretation of “material support” statutes, such that, as Georgetown Law Professor David Cole put it, the Court “–for the first time in its history—[held] that speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activity can be subject to criminal penalty, even where the speakers’ intent is to discourage resort to violence.” We now routinely see from the Obama DOJ Terror prosecution of Muslim Americans grounded in the expression of their pure political views. Long before any alleged evidence emerged that U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki had any involvement in any Al Qaeda plots, the Obama administration placed him on a “hit list” because of its fear of the efficacy of his anti-American sermons. American Muslims are routinely targeted by sophisticated FBI entrapment campaigns if their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy (constant bombing of Muslim countries) is sufficiently strident.

There seems to be little question that the Obama administration is devoted to imposing dictatorial order on Yemen through the use of force and liberty abridgment. As Scahill previously reported, Obama has played a direct personal role in the ongoing imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who committed the crime of documenting the large number of civilian deaths from a U.S. cluster bomb attack on his country as well as exposing the joint lies of the Yemeni and U.S. Government. The latest U.S. drone strike in Yemen yesterday, even according to Yemeni officials, killed more civilians than alleged “militants.”  The bombing campaign in Yemen now increasingly resembles the one conducted in Pakistan, though Yemen saw more drone strikes this month than any previous month in Pakistan. AP reported yesterday that there are now U.S. troops on the ground aiding Yemeni soldiers in their fights against alleged AQAP members.

What’s most amazing about all of this is how covert it is. What percentage of Americans even know that the Obama administration is continuously bombing and killing civilians in Yemen, or that American soldiers are now on the ground there in an advisory capacity? How many network news shows air any questions about any of this, and how many MSNBC shows (other than this one) have ever stopped talking long enough about all the supreme GOP Evil to even mention to their progressive audience that any of this is happening or aired questions and challenges about it? I’d be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of Yemen mentions — almost all — entail little more than grave warnings about the scary threats emanating from there against the U.S., combined with gleeful celebrations of all the glorious Terrorist Kills our strong, resolute, brave Commander-in-Chief has commanded. In the meantime, not only endless militarism and war march on unabated, but so, too, does the erosion of core liberties which it entails.

* * * * *

Speaking of ongoing erosions of core liberties: a bipartisan group of House members is attempting to enact a law specifying that the indefinite detention powers vested in the President by last December’s passage of the NDAA does not apply to those arrested on U.S. soil; in other words, they are trying to ban military detention on American soil without charges. Even though President Obama, after he signed the bill into law, said he does not intend to use these powers for that purpose, the sponsors of this bill are concerned that — because the law does vest this power — Obama could change his mind at any time or a subsequent President could use those powers. Unfortunately, they arebeing opposed by key Democratic Senators such as Carl Levin in close cooperation with standard neocon members of Congress. As one tweeter wrote to me yesterday about this: “The fact that government has to be told NOT to do that is insane.” Indeed, and it’s easy to forget how frequently true that is. But the War on Terror has so normalized even the most warped powers — warrantless eavesdropping, torture, indefinite detention, renditions, due-process-free-assassinations, Executive Orders like the one today — that it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is the only real reaction that should be needed.

UPDATE: Those wishing to defend actions such as the issuance of this Executive Order typically argue that although it has the potential to sweep up legitimate and innocent political activity, the U.S. Government intends to use it only to constrain the Bad People: those who seek to use violence or other illegitimate means to achieve their end. Click here for a very partial history of that assurance and then decide if you feel comfortable trusting it.

UPDATE IIThe Executive Order has now been issued and, as Marcy Wheeler notes, it is extremely similar to what the Post article described (which makes sense given that the Post article was based on the statements of anonymous officials authorized to speak about it). The EO blocks the assets of “any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to have engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen.” One difference between this EO and the prior one issued for Somalia is that this one exempts U.S. government agencies, which means, as Wheeler puts it, that “while Obama doesn’t want you, or Ali Abdullah Saleh’s leave-behinds, or the AP to destabilize Yemen, he reserves the right for US government employees, grantees, or contractors to do so. Which presumably means, as happened in Afghanistan, we are and plan to continue paying some of the people who are in violation of this EO.” It is, then, in so many respects, a perfect expression of American justice when it comes to the War on Terror.

PRESIDENT OBAMA EXECUTIVE ORDER GIVES TREASURY AUTHORITY TO FREEZE YEMENI ASSETS IN U.S.

By Karen DeYoung | The Washington Post

President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.

Unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, the new order does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, one official said, it is designed as a “deterrent” to “make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition” to think again.

The official was authorized to discuss the new order on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. involvement in Yemen has increased rapidly in recent years with the rise of the al-Qaeda affiliate there. U.S. airstrikes, including with drone missiles, have increased sharply this year against alleged al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants who have expanded their control of territory in the southern part of the country.

With new revelations about the intent and ability of AQAP to strike U.S. territory — including a second attempt, disrupted this month, to down a U.S.-bound airliner with a sophisticated “underwear bomb” — the administration is seeking to ensure that political turmoil in Yemen does not undermine its counterterrorism goals and smooth cooperation with the government.

U.S. training and other military assistance to Yemen, which totaled $176 million in 2010, dropped to $30 million last year after then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh authorized armed action against anti-government political demonstrators. He later agreed to resign but then reneged.

The aid resumed after Saleh stepped down in February, after 33 years in power, and his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, took over the presidency and began to implement a political transition to a democratically elected government.

The administration budget request for this fiscal year totals $79 million in civilian economic assistance and $70 million for the Yemeni military. Humanitarian aid, which was never suspended, has reached $73 million this fiscal year.

Despite Saleh’s departure, however, a number of his relatives and supporters in positions of military and political power delayed relinquishing their offices until a Hadi-issued decree last month. Obama’s new executive order, which threatens any assets they or anyone associated with them may have in this country, is designed to ensure that they remain sidelined.

“Hadi showed considerable backbone, and we believe he’s up to the task of implementing the transition agreement signed in November,” the administration official said. The agreement includes “a lot of ambitious benchmarks the government has committed to meet.”

While “the transition has been proceeding more or less on track,” the official said, the executive order is “just one more way of us trying to ensure that trend continues.”

The order provides criteria to take action against people who the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, determines have “engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the Nov. 23, 2011, agreement between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power . . . or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.”

It covers those who “have materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material or technological support” for the acts described or any person whose property has already been blocked, as well as those who have acted on behalf of such people.

Obama administration officials compared the order to one the president issued in 2009 against anyone threatening the agreement that installed a transitional government in Somalia.

In 2006, President George W. Bush issued a similar order regarding Ivory Coast in West Africa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers

%d bloggers like this: