By David Walsh

8 March 2013

John Brennan, the mastermind of the Obama administration’s drone assassination program, was confirmed by the US Senate as CIA director on Thursday by a vote of 63 to 34. The confirmation, which comes as no surprise, is another step in the direction of extra-constitutional, dictatorial rule in the United States.

Four years ago, Brennan was considered by Barack Obama for the CIA position, but his association with torture under George W. Bush made his nomination “politically difficult,” as the New York Times euphemistically puts it. The Obama administration today, along with the US Congress, has no such qualms.

The vast majority of Democrats in the Senate voted for Brennan’s nomination, along with a handful of Republicans. Obama immediately praised the vote, saying, “The Senate has recognized in John the qualities I value so much.”

The vote followed a quarrel within the political establishment over the claim by the Obama administration that it has the authority to assassinate American citizens on US soil without trial or charges being laid. The tremors the debate set off are indicative of the depth of the political crisis in the US and the great concern of the ruling elite to conceal its preparations for police-state dictatorship from the American population.

In a March 4 letter to Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, US Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the Obama administration considered itself empowered “to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States” against American citizens.

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Holder agreed with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, that the American government had been given Congressional authorization to launch military attacks against opponents in “the homeland.”

On Wednesday Paul carried out a 13-hour filibuster, which blocked Brennan’s confirmation vote, insisting on a response from the attorney general as to whether government officials believed they had had the right to kill American citizens without due process.

During his filibuster, Paul raised the explosive issue of whether the Obama administration considered it had the authority to launch drone strikes on political opponents, pointing to the anti-Vietnam War protest movement as an example. The Kentucky Republican asked at one point, “Is objection to the policy of your government sympathizing with the enemy? … Are you just going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?”, referring to the actress who opposed American imperialist intervention in Southeast Asia during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Rand is a right-wing figure, associated with “libertarian” elements, and a dedicated enemy of the working class and social progress. However, he was asking questions that provoked consternation within the Obama administration and Congress, because they got too close to the heart of the matter for comfort: that Holder’s March 4 letter was a green light, for example, under conditions of widespread social turmoil, for the president to suppress political opposition through murder.

At a Thursday press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney revealed that Attorney General Holder had written a second, three-sentence letter to Paul. This is the entire text:

“Dear Senator Paul: It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Carney told the media, “The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil.”

Holder’s dismissive and arrogant letter should be treated with the skepticism and contempt it deserves.

First of all, his new message contradicts the March 4 letter, responding to a question specifically about drone strikes, in which Holder wrote that it was indeed possible “to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force [i.e., drones] within the territory of the United States.”

Second, the March 7 letter takes for granted that the US president has the right to order the assassination of just about anyone, anywhere, except for American citizens on US soil not engaged in combat. This is already a radically authoritarian and reactionary claim, only made by imperial rulers, who determine by a hand signal who lives and who dies.

Is there any reason to have the slightest confidence in Holder’s supposed change of heart? The denial comes from an administration carrying out illegal and murderous daily drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere, which have already killed US citizens, on the basis of infamous “kill lists.” The Obama government, moreover, has maintained the institutionalized torture in Guantanamo Bay and relentlessly attempted to destroy Bradley Manning. No one should doubt its willingness and capacity to launch attacks, pre-emptive or otherwise, on political opposition within the United States.

In any event, the phrase “engaged in combat” is elastic enough, from the point of view of the American establishment, to include mass protest, political strikes and efforts to create new, more democratic organs of political power. Moreover, the US military regularly categorizes as “combatants” anyone it kills, deliberately or accidentally, in air or drone strikes. Will the Pentagon stop telling lies at the borders of the United States?

Holder’s second letter reflects nervousness about popular opposition to the government’s claims of dictatorial power, but should do nothing to assuage it. There were other efforts on Thursday to close down and cool off the debate.

Paul’s reference to the possible murder of Jane Fonda elicited angry and anxious comments from Graham and Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, both of whom have close associations with the military and intelligence apparatus.

McCain attacked Rand Paul for his “rant,” adding: “I don’t think what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people.” According to the Associated Press, McCain “derided that notion of an attack against the actress [Fonda] and argued that Paul was unnecessarily making Americans fear that their government poses a danger.”

The Arizona senator continued, “To somehow allege or infer that the president of the United States is going to kill somebody like Jane Fonda or somebody who disagrees with the policies is a stretch of imagination which is, frankly, ridiculous.” In fact, Holder’s letter and the ensuing discussions make crystal clear that such things are already being discussed by the White House, military and CIA.

Graham criticized Republicans who took the opportunity to grandstand at Obama’s expense by supporting Rand’s filibuster. The South Carolina Senator said that Obama had the “good judgment to understand we’re at war. To my party: I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war.” He also said on the Senate floor, “To my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone.”

Graham was effusive in his praise for the Obama administration during Wednesday’s hearings involving Holder. On Thursday, he called the vote for Brennan a “referendum on the drone program.”

Paul, for his part, once he received the terse reply from the attorney general and after the scolding from McCain and Graham, packed up his tent and described himself as satisfied and “victorious.” Ridiculously, he told the media, “I’m quite happy with the answer [i.e., Holder’s letter] …Through the advise and consent process, I’ve got an important answer.”

That US senators are openly discussing the assassination of left-wing political opponents is absolutely extraordinary. This, along with the bipartisan support for Obama, the drone program and Brennan’s nomination, are a further dire warning about the state of political affairs in the US, increasingly a democracy in name only.



Vice President Joe Biden swears in CIA Director John Brennan at the White House, March 8, 2013. (David Lienemann)


By White House Correspondent

Oh, dear. This is probably not the symbolism the White House wanted.

Hours after CIA Director John Brennan took the oath of office—behind closed doors, far away from the press, perhaps befitting his status as America’s top spy—the White House took pains to emphasize the symbolism of the ceremony.

“There’s one piece of this that I wanted to note for you,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at their daily briefing. “Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

Earnest said Brennan had asked for a document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.

“Director Brennan told the president that he made the request to the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA,” Earnest said.

The Constitution itself went into effect in 1789. But troublemaking blogger Marcy Wheeler points out that what was missing from the Constitution in 1787 is also quite symbolic: The Bill of Rights, which did not officially go into effect until December 1791 after ratification by states. (Caution: Marcy’s post has some strong language.)

That means: No freedom of speech and of the press, no right to bear arms, no Fourth Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and no right to a jury trial.

How … symbolic?



Published on Mar 11, 2013

On Friday morning, John Brennan was sworn in as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The private ceremony shut out the media and only a few pictures were released by the White House. But Brennan chose to swear in not on a Bible, but an original copy of the Constitution that omits the Bill of Rights. RT’s Meghan Lopez tells us more on why the new director of the CIA made this choice.



By Mytheos Holt | TheBlaze.com

Did President Obama nominate an Islamic convert with a decades old connection to the most anti-American variant of that religion to a post no less potent than the director of the CIA?

That is the hot charge against John Brennan that gained rapid viral traction over the weekend because of comments made by an ex-FBI agent known for his efforts to expose radical Islamists.

John Guandolo first made the accusation during a recent radio interview.  Today he repeated the charge during an interview with TheBlaze in which we pressed him to provide details that might substantiate his case.

There is a lot to sort through here, and as is often the case when viral charges start to spread, readers would be wise to keep an eye out for as many hard facts as possible.

Let’s start with the radio interview that triggered the current viral wave.  Guandolo made a third party accusation during a Friday interview with the famously anti-Muslim talk show host Tom Trento.  The entire interview can be viewed below:



The most relevant 10 minutes of the interview can be viewed here:



John Guandolo, the accuser, has an interesting background beyond simply his past an FBI agent. His website describes him thusly:

In 1996, Mr. Guandolo resigned his commission in the Marine Corps and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), serving at the Washington Field Office.  From 1996-2000, he primarily conducted narcotics investigations domestically and overseas.  In 2001, he served for one year as the FBI Liaison to the U.S. Capitol Police investigating threats on the President, Vice-President, Members of Congress and other high-level government officials.  Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Guandolo began an assignment to the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI’s Washington Field Office developing an expertise in the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Doctrine, the global Islamic Movement, and a myriad of terrorist organizations to include Hamas, Al Qaeda, and others.  In 2006, Mr. Guandolo created and implemented the FBI’s first Counterterrorism Training/Education Program focusing on the Muslim Brotherhood and their subversive movement in the United States, Islamic Doctrine, and the global Islamic Movement.  He was designated a “Subject Matter Expert” by FBI Headquarters.  This course was hailed as “groundbreaking” by the FBI’s Executive Assistant Director in a brief to the Vice President’s National Security Staff.

As to why he left the FBI, a 2009 profile from Talking Points Memo lays out the answer:

An FBI agent who worked on the corruption case of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson resigned after superiors found a list he wrote of his sexual conquests with agents and a confidential source, according to court documents.

The same agent, John Guandolo, who is married and who unsuccessfully solicited a $75,000 donation for an anti-terrorism group from a wealthy witness in the Jefferson case with whom he was having an affair, resigned from the FBI and appears to have landed on his feet on the speaking circuit playing up the threat of Islamic terrorism.

And now here Guandolo is talking up a seemingly very imminent threat. In the Trento interview, Guandolo lays out a three part accusation against Brennan himself (emphasis added):

My contention is he [Brennan] is wholly unfit for government service in any national security capacity. And that would specifically make him unfit to be the Director of Central Intelligence for the United States. And really, I would break it down into three areas that make him unfit for duty.

The first is that he has interwoven his life professionally and personally with individuals that we know are terrorists, and he has given them access to not only senior leaders inside the government, but has given them access to the National Security Council, the national security staff. He has brought known Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood operatives into those positions of government. He has overseen and approved and encouraged others to bring known leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood into the government in positions to advise the US Government on counterterrorism strategy as well as the overall quote unquote War on Terror. That’s just the first part.

The second part I would say is he has proven through his own comments publicly that he is clueless and grossly ignorant of Al Qaeda’s strategy. Now, Mr. Brennan himself says that Al Qaeda is the enemy, which those folks who have read or are aware of my work…know that that’s not the total threat. But the first thing is, Mr. Brennan believes the threat is just Al Qaeda, which is problematic, and number two, even when he discusses Al Qaeda, he does not know what he’s talking about. So he’s ignorant of that enemy, their strategy, and how they operate.

And then third and finally, which some would say is most disturbing, is [that] Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served in an official capacity on behalf of the United States in Saudi Arabia, and that fact alone is not what is most disturbing ,and what makes him unfit for duty. What makes him unfit for duty is his conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counter-intelligence operation against him to recruit him. And the fact that foreign intelligence service operatives recruited Mr. Brennan when he was in a very sensitive and senior US Government position in a foreign country means that he is either a traitor, which I’m not saying, but that’s one of the options, and he did this all unwillingly and unknowingly ,or he did this unwittingly, which means that he is naive and does not have the ability to discern, to understand how to walk in those environments, which makes him completely unfit to be the Director of Central Intelligence.

These accusations are very serious, and such accusations demand serious consideration of all factors involved. They also demand an understanding of the context of the accusations, and a consideration of the identity of the man making them. Guandolo and Trento are long-time crusaders against what they see as malicious Islamic influence in government, or as Salon put it, they both “have a long and colorful history of anti-Islam activism.”

However, outside the confines of their activism, questions do remain: Did Brennan convert to Islam? If he did, would it matter? Why? Should this become a part of his confirmation hearings?  To aid in answering these questions, TheBlaze spoke to Guandolo himself, as well as sources with knowledge of his argument, and to Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, an expert on Islam. Calls to the CIA for comment went unanswered.

Guandolo’s first accusation – that Brennan has brought known terrorist operatives into the United States government purposefully – is both deeply serious and somewhat difficult to verify. Throughout the radio interview, Guandolo flings this accusation about, but never once names a single name. Guandolo’s own writings give us some idea of who he might mean. For one representative sample, one can look to an entry about Imam Mohammed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), being invited to speak to a CIA training session about his organization’s successful cooperation with Dallas-area police on matters of law enforcement. ISNA, which is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial that exposed one of the largest Islamic charities in the United States for money laundering and financial support for terror, arguably has a troubling level of friendliness with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, unindicted co-conspirators are a tricky category, seeing as they can be anyone from people/organizations who cut deals with prosecutors to individuals/organizations who prosecutors lack the evidence to convict. Moreover, as Guandolo himself acknowledges (with some frustration), Magid is also a frequent guest of the White House and has even even been honored by the FBI.

Guandolo and his associates argue that these latter facts are evidence of political correctness gone wild at best, and intentional malice at worst, as Guandolo himself does when he describes how Muslim Brotherhood operatives “censor” counterterrorism training. Worse, Guandolo believes that the CIA and FBI are intentionally ignoring evidence of Muslim Brotherhood sympathies out of concern with protecting their agents’ personal religious freedom.

“No one in the Government is willing to make the case that it’s an intelligence operation,” Guandolo told TheBlaze. When asked if he could directly prove that this intelligence operation is taking place, Guandolo admitted that he could not, though he did cite information from unnamed agents claiming that CIA Station Chiefs are routinely approached as religious converts by members of the Saudi government and Saudi intelligence agencies. When pressed, he admitted that this evidence might not be conclusive, but said he would like the question asked anyway.

“From a security standpoint, there are a lot of questions that should be asked of those people that are not,” Guandolo said.

This brings us to Guandolo’s second accusation against Brennan – that he has proven with his own words that he is ignorant of Al Qaeda’s strategy and also considers Al Qaeda the sole enemy in the War on Terror. The second piece of this accusation is more an academic or ideological disagreement than one that can be disproven by facts, so it behooves us to instead focus on the first part about Brennan’s own words. A video cited in the interview with Trento is especially instructive here, as it shows Brennan making statements that might justifiably worry those who view Islamic civilization as inimical to the United States:



“For more than three decades, I have also had the tremendous fortune to travel the world, and as part of that experience, to learn about the goodness and beauty of Islam,” Brennan says. “In Saudi Arabia, I saw how our Saudi partners fulfilled their duties as custodians of the two holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina. I marveled at the majesty of the Hajj, and the devotion of those who fulfill their duty as Muslims by making that pilgrimage. And in all my travels, the city I have come to love most is Al Quds — Jerusalem — where three great faiths come together.”

Is this a problematic quote? Possibly, if you view Islam itself as an enemy of the United States, or worry about the positive references to Saudi Arabia (whose royal family subscribes to a particularly hard line brand of Islamism), but it is not an admission of treason. It also loses some power when matched against Brennan’s actual record, which does not read like the record of a poorly concealed closet Islamist.

Why? Because when Brennan first came up as a nominee for CIA Director, back in 2008, his main critics came from the Left. In fact, so pervasive was the left-wing criticism of Brennan that President Obama was forced to withdraw his name from consideration. Again, why? Because Brennan had supported the “enhanced interrogation techniques” pioneered by President George W. Bush and was seen as unacceptably hawkish on civil liberties. He even served under President Bush as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Finally, his nomination is even now being attacked by the ACLU over his support for fierce interrogations and the Obama administration’s drone strike program. After his confirmation hearings, even the Weekly Standard expressed grudging admiration for Brennan’s knowledge of the issues. News sources that lend a sympathetic ear to Islamism, on the other hand, such as Al Jazeera, have criticized and lambasted Brennan.

Which brings us, finally, to the accusation that Brennan is a Muslim. This one is impossible to prove or disprove, except to take Guandolo’s word on it, since his sources are anonymous. Equally impossible to prove or disprove is the allegation that Brennan’s conversion was the product of foreign counterintelligence, without speaking to Guandolo’s sources. Given that those sources will not talk to anyone else, Guandolo’s position is fairly precarious.

Guandolo himself is completely unfazed by the tenuousness of the accusation, and told TheBlaze, “For me, there’s a sense of duty here.”

However, Guandolo’s concern for duty may have cost him friends at a time when he will almost certainly need them. Blaze sources familiar with Guandolo and his supporters indicate that even some who might privately agree with his assertions are not comfortable with how he’s handled this. They also worry that Guandolo’s argument – that Brennan is politically of a piece with ideological Islamists – will be straw manned as an attack on Muslims generally.

Guandolo is aware of this latter vulnerability and wants to avoid it. “The focus of [the argument] is the fact that John Brennan is unfit for duty, not that he’s a Muslim,” Guandolo told TheBlaze. “The reason that his conversion is relevant is because he was the station chief for the CIA in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at the time that it happened, and that it was the culmination of his being clearly manipulated by employees of the Saudi Government, and in our world that’s an intelligence recruitment. So it’s not just that the ‘Hey, John Brennan converted’…John Brennan is not the only Station Chief for the CIA who served in Saudi Arabia who converted to Islam. That is not just a personal position when it happens that way.”

Yet despite Guandolo’s assurances that Brennan’s alleged Muslim faith is not the issue, his arguments suggest that he views the act of converting to Islam while acting as a CIA station chief as itself an act worthy of condemnation, because it compromises one’s ability to act as a representative of the United States.

“Converting to Islam is a very significant lifestyle change,” Guandolo told TheBlaze, likening the act to joining the Communist Party after serving at a US Embassy in Moscow. “The biggest problem is he was utilized by the Saudis and recruited and softened, and the conversion to Islam is the outcome of that.”

However, there is a problem with this. Brennan was quite arguably already sympathetic to Middle Eastern culture before he ever entered Saudi Arabia, as his past studies at the American University in Cairo demonstrates. Converting to Islam might have been the next logical step from his own independent study, rather than a conversion what was foisted on him by dubious people. In any case, it is difficult to imagine the Bush White House giving him a high-ranking position in the CIA at the height of the War on Terror without some sort of information as to his loyalty, especially if his conversion is the open secret that Guandolo and others claim it is.

And loyalty is still a live question, because unlike in the case of Communism, a conversion to Islam does not necessarily presage political loyalty to a foreign regime. Rather, the idea that a Muslim is necessarily loyal to hostile foreign entities is demonstrably false, and there has already been at least one counterexample covered by the press. A story in the Washington Post from last year highlighted an anonymous CIA operative (not Brennan, as his title doesn’t match up) serving as the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who has been one of the most committed and effective opponents of Islamic terror (he led the hunt for Osama bin Laden and seems to make an appearance in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty”), despite being a converted Muslim himself:

Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington — the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.

Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam.

His defenders don’t even try to make him sound likable. Instead, they emphasize his operational talents, encyclopedic understanding of the enemy and tireless work ethic.[...]

Roger’s longevity is all the more remarkable, current and former CIA officials said, because the CTC job is one of the agency’s most stressful and grueling. It involves managing thousands of employees, monitoring dozens of operations abroad and making decisions on who the agency should target in lethal strikes — all while knowing that the CTC director will be among the first to face blame if there is another attack on U.S. soil.

Most of Roger’s predecessors, including Cofer Black and Robert Grenier, lasted less than three years. There have been rumors in recent weeks that Roger will soon depart as well, perhaps to retire, although similar speculation has surfaced nearly every year since he took the job.[...]

He also married a Muslim woman he met abroad, prompting his conversion to Islam. Colleagues said he doesn’t shy away from mentioning his religion but is not demonstrably observant. There is no prayer rug in his office, officials said, although he is known to clutch a strand of prayer beads.

Granted, “Roger” may not have converted under the same circumstances as Brennan, if indeed Brennan did convert, but in the absence of more information both about him and Brennan, there is no way to know that outside of raising questions or getting sources who know the truth of Brennan’s conversion to come forward. Neither of these things is necessarily encouraged by Guandolo’s accusation, especially given that Guandolo’s background has already been dragged into any dispute over these accusations by political opponents in order to discredit him. Anyone who might have verified his claims (if they are verifiable) may be hesitant to risk being treated the same way.

Ultimately, however, Guandolo would settle for questions being raised about Brennan’s background, if nothing else. “I realize this is Washington and we’re very polite and can’t talk about criminal investigations,” Guandolo said wryly, “but questions would be nice.”



By Rand Paul, Washington Post

March 8, 2013

If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.

I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.

My official starting time was 11:47 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

I had a large binder of materials to help me get through my points, but although I sometimes read an op-ed or prepared remarks in between my thoughts, most of my filibuster was off the top of my head and straight from my heart. From 1 to 2 p.m., I barely looked at my notes. I wanted to make sure that I touched every point and fully explained why I was demanding more information from the White House.

Just before 3 p.m., Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) came to the Senate floor to help out. Under Senate rules, I could not yield the floor or my filibuster would end, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could have shut me down. The only way for me to continue and allow Sens. Lee and Cruz to speak was to yield the floor for questions.

Their presence gave me strength and inspiration. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also arrived to help. Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the only Democrat who came to my defense, explained how we have worked together to demand more information from the White House about the rules for drone strikes. At about 4:30 p.m., Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined. I was flagging for a while, but these senators kept me going.

Sen. Reid came to the Senate floor to ask me when I would be done so he could schedule a vote. But I wasn’t ready to yield. I felt I had a lot more explaining to do.

At about 6:30 p.m., something extraordinary happened. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who has been recovering from a stroke, came to the floor to give me something. I was not allowed to drink anything but water or eat anything but the candy left in our Senate desks. But he brought me an apple and a thermos full of tea — the same sustenance Jimmy Stewart brought to the Senate floor in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” That was a moment I will never forget.

Sen. Cruz came to the floor again just before 7:30 p.m. and said, “Given that the Senate rules do not allow for the use of cellular phones on the floor of the Senate, I feel quite confident that the senator from Kentucky is not aware of the Twitter-verse that has been exploding.”

I had little idea of what was going on. I was allowed only to talk and listen to questions. As I started to walk around the Senate chamber to loosen up my legs, I was energized by the responses on Twitter. Sen. Cruz really lifted my spirits when he read the tweets.

Then something unexpected happened. House conservatives started appearing in the back of the chamber to show their support. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who stayed for five hours, offered me his boots when I complained that I had not worn my most comfortable shoes. My good friend Rep. Thomas Massie from Kentucky came over. And then came the conservative cavalry of Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Garland “Andy” Barr (Ky.), Trey Radel (Fla.), Michael Burgess (Tex.), Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Raul R. Labrador (Idaho), Keith Rothfus (Pa.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Bill Huizenga (Mich.), Richard Hudson (N.C.) and David Schweikert (Ariz.).

Over the evening I had the support of Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), John Cornyn (Tex.), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.). And Sens. Cruz, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) used the opportunity to make their first speaking appearances on the Senate floor. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) came at the end to speak, but after midnight, I had said enough.

By the end of the night, I was tired and my voice was cracking. I ended by saying, “The cause here is one that I think is important enough to have gone through this procedure.” I talked about the idea of compromise, but said that “you don’t get half of the Fifth Amendment.” I argued that we need more extended debates. And finally, at 12:40 a.m., I yielded the floor.

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed John Brennanas director of the CIA. But this debate isn’t over.

The Senate has the power to restrain the executive branch — and my filibuster was the beginning of the fight to restore a healthy balance of powers. The president still needs to definitively say that the United States will not kill American noncombatants. The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment applies to all Americans; there are no exceptions.

The outpouring of support for my filibuster has been overwhelming and heartening. My office has fielded thousands of calls. Millions have followed this debate on TV, Twitter and Facebook. On Thursday, the White House produced another letter explaining its position on drone strikes. But the administration took too long, and parsed too many words and phrases, to instill confidence in its willingness or ability to protect our liberty.

I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free. “Due process” is not just a phrase that can be ignored at the whim of the president; it is a right that belongs to every citizen in this great nation.

I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.



Published on Mar 10, 2013



Ron Paul
March 11, 2013

Last week the US Senate took a break from debating the phony cuts known as “sequestration,” for Senator Rand Paul to hold a 13-hour filibuster to force the Obama administration to state whether it believes the President has the right to kill American citizens with drones on US soil. I find it tragic that there has to be a discussion on an issue that should be so self-evident.

However, feeling the pressure, the administration finally said “no,” but in language so twisted that no one should feel in the slightest bit reassured. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the president does not believe he has the right to use the military to kill an American who is “not engaged in combat on American soil.” Left undefined is how the administration defines “combat.” As constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley wrote last week, “one can easily foresee this or a future president insisting that an alleged terrorism conspiracy is a form of ‘combat’.”

The administration’s outrageous response to the most serious Constitutional question of all — when a government can kill its own citizens — is clear evidence of an executive branch out of control.

Many of the drafters of the Constitution envisioned the presidency as an office with very limited powers, but even the most dedicated proponents of a strong presidency at the time would be shocked to see the concentration of power in the modern presidency.

Today the presidency is viewed as the center of the federal government, with each successive administration expanding the power of the executive at the expense of Congress and the people.

Ironically, some of the worst offenders are those who campaigned promising to reverse the power grabs of their predecessors. For example, candidate George W. Bush campaigned on a “humble foreign policy,” but as president he attacked Iraq based on his own administration’s lies and claimed the right to indefinitely detain anyone he deemed an “enemy combatant.”

Candidate Barack Obama promised he would reverse his predecessor’s constitutional abuses. Yet not only has President Obama not closed Guantanamo Bay, he reportedly holds weekly meetings in the oval office to draw up “kills lists,” uses drones against American citizens, and routinely sends the US military into combat abroad without even consulting Congress!

The modern use of “executive orders” also usurps the lawmaking function of Congress. The most notable recent example was President Obama’s January series of executive orders on gun control, but unfortunately there are countless other examples over the last several administrations.

Ultimately, the fault for the expansion of presidential power lies with Congress. Too many members of Congress are all too eager to avoid responsibility for controversial actions, preferring to “pass the buck” to the president. For example, Congress no longer declares war, but instead passes an “authorization of force” telling the president he can go to war when or if he wants!

On domestic policy, Congress passes large, vaguely-worded pieces of legislation and leaves it to the president and the bureaucrats to fill in the details. Many members of Congress score points with their constituents railing against “the faceless D.C. bureaucrats” while never mentioning that they voted for the law that gave the bureaucrats their power!

Last week, a group of “fiscally conservative” senators even tried to give President Obama more authority over spending as a part of sequester replacement that would have “required” Obama to decide where to reduce spending and where to increase it. They want to restrain the president by giving him more authority?

Growth of executive power is a threat to liberty. Fortunately, Congress can restrain the executive simply by exercising its constitutional powers. The American people must demand that Congress stop passing the buck on its foreign and domestic policy responsibilities. If the people care about liberty, they will demand their representative stand up to the imperial president. Let us hope last week’s filibuster will give Congress the backbone it needs to do its job.



Published on Mar 7, 2013

On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, was confirmed as the head of the CIA. US Senators casted

their ballots the day after Senator Rand Paul filibustered his nomination. Attorney General Eric Holder had to send the senator a letter, affirming that US president won’t use drones to kill Americans on US soil. RT’s Margaret Howell has more from Capitol Hill.


Eric Holder responded to Rand Paul’s filibuster with this letter:

Dear Senator Paul:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.


Eric Holder

Here’s an image of that letter:

However, the White House and Justice Department failed to send the letter to the person who asked the question–Rand Paul.




Paul claimed a victory with this “answer”; however it is glossed over in the mainstream media that the response from Holder did not clarify who is a combatant.

Based on the National Defense Authorization Act, anyone can be suspected of being a combatant by having alleged ties to a terrorist group.

Just recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have said that constitutionalists and anti-government groups are extremists and liken to being terrorist organizations.





Washington’s Blog
March 10, 2013

After a 13-hour filibuster by Senator Paul asking for a yes-or-no answer, on the question of whether the government could kill Americans on U.S. soil with drones, the Attorney General responded:

Dear Senator Paul:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.


Eric Holder

But – as anyone who has worked in the legal or legislative field knows – statements which do not pin down all possibilities create loopholes large enough to drive trucks through.

Remember, Holder’s letter to Paul can’t be taken in a vacuum. The government has said for many months that it has the power to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil.

William Grigg notes:

This brief message from Holder … should be read in terms of the supposed authority claimed thereby. This means removing useless qualifiers in the interest of clarity.

What Holder is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is engaged in “combat,” whether here or abroad. “Combat” can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdel. Under the rules of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, any “military-age” male found within a targeted “kill zone” is likewise designated a “combatant,” albeit usually after the fact [update: children too]. This is a murderous application of the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy,” and it will be used when — not if — Obama or a successor starts conducting domestic drone-killing operations.

Holder selected a carefully qualified question in order to justify a narrowly tailored answer that reserves an expansive claim of executive power to authorize summary executions by the president.

Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants.

But the determination of who is a “combatant” is made in secret and without judicial review. For example, AP notes:

Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

Secretive, unaccountable agencies are making life and death decisions which effect our most basic rights. They provide “secret evidence” to courts which cannot be checked … and often withhold any such “evidence” even from the judges. For example:

“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,” the judge wrote. “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 reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

The government uses “secret evidence” to spy on Americans, prosecute leaking or terrorism charges (even against U.S. soldiers) and even assassinate people.

Secretive, unaccountable agencies are making life and death decisions which effect our most basic rights. They provide “secret evidence” to courts which cannot be checked … and often withhold any such “evidence” even from the judges. For example:

“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,” the judge wrote. “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 [i.e. assassinations] that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”


The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain youindefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

The government also wants to expand its assassination program to cover “associates of associates” of Al Qaeda.

And – given that political dissent is now considered terrorism, and protesters considered low-level terrorists – does that mean that dissent or protest makes one a “combatant”?.

Karl Denninger also points out that Holder didn’t say anything about other types of assassination:

Still can’t be bothered to make a clear statement can you?

Did the Department of Justice Say that the Government Would Not Assassinate Americans?

So in your opinion, Mr. Holder, it’s perfectly ok if the President uses an M-16, a 9mm, a bomb constructed out of C-4 or burns the building you’re in to the ground?

Therefore, Holder’s letter raises more questions than it answers.

Update: One of the nation’s top constitutional and military law experts – Professor Jonathan Turley – just weighed in on this issue:

We previously discussed how Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter confirming that the President would have authority to kill citizens on U.S. soil without a charge or conviction. His answer triggered a principled filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul and another embarrassment to Democratic Senators who, again, chose personality over principle in staying silent. Now, Holder has issued a new statement. No, President Obama still claims the right to kill U.S. citizens on his sole authority. However, Holder now says that, if the citizen is “not engaged in combat on American soil,” the President cannot vaporize him.The answer leaves the constitutional claim of Obama even more confused and conflicted. Does this mean we have a third category now under the policy: citizen, citizen terrorist, and citizen non-combatant terrorist?

In his prior letter, Holder answered a question about whether the President was claiming the right to kill citizens on U.S. soil. This follows the release of a memo showing that Holder’s description of the policy at Northwestern University Law School was narrower than the actual policy described within the Administration. A memo leaked to the press shows that the Administration has adopted a virtual limitless definition of imminence: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Last week, Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”


It is not clear what Holder means by “engaged in combat” since the Administration memo shows that the Administration is using an absurdly broad definition of “imminent” threat under the kill list policy. Since the Administration has continued to assert that terrorists are engaged in a war against the U.S., the terse reply of Holder seems designed to preserve later flexibility.

Moreover, there is nothing in the constitutional claim of the Administration that reflects such a limitation. Deciding on where to kill a citizen would be an discretionary policy under the sweeping presidential authority described by the Administration. As noted in earlier columns (here and here and here), it is astonishing how citizens, including so many liberals and civil libertarians, Obama is saying that his appointment of a non-binding committee satisfied due process and relieves any need for judicial review. Moreover, if the President has the inherent authority to kill a citizen in Canada, it is not clear why such inherent authority would not exist a few hundred yards away in Detroit. The Administration has said that it can use the unilateral power when it considers a capture to pose undue risk to its personnel.

What is particularly striking is that we have a president who is asserting the right to kill any citizen but the Administration has classified memos on that authority and the Attorney General will only give a Senator a terse two line conclusory statement on scope. The Administration appears to believe that there is little need to explain the details on killing citizens, such as how it defines “combat.” Obviously, if there is a war occurring in the United States, a president has the right to put down insurrection or attacks on the federal government. These strikes concern targeting terrorists. One can easily foresee this or a future president insisting that an alleged terrorism conspiracy is a form of combat.

It would seem an obvious thing to explain how they define combat and whether an alleged terrorist would fall into it. Does this mean that there will be a category of non-combatant terrorists for domestic strikes? How is that defined? It seems like a hole big enough to fly a drone through.Since police can already use lethal force to stop an attack in progress, the answer leaves more questions than it answers in my view. For a citizen it would mean that he or she can be killed abroad on the basis of the Administration’s wildly broad definition of “imminent” but domestically would fall under a different “combat” definition. Where is the line between an “imminent” threat and “combat” drawn? Does Holder mean there is a different meaning to imminence when someone steps over the border? We already have the definition of “imminent” and the Administration’s new definition of “imminent.” Is this yet a third option?



Washington’s Blog
March 11, 2013

As we noted Friday, Attorney General Holder’s statement that the president will not assassinate non-combatant Americans on U.S. soil with a drone left a huge loophole, and raised more questions than it answered.

Later that day, top constitutional and military law expert Jonathan Turley agreed:

We previously discussed how Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter confirming that the President would have authority to kill citizens on U.S. soil without a charge or conviction. His answer triggered a principled filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul and another embarrassment to Democratic Senators who, again, chose personality over principle in staying silent. Now, Holder has issued a new statement. No, President Obama still claims the right to kill U.S. citizens on his sole authority. However, Holder now says that, if the citizen is “not engaged in combat on American soil,” the President cannot vaporize him.The answer leaves the constitutional claim of Obama even more confused and conflicted. Does this mean we have a third category now under the policy: citizen, citizen terrorist, and citizen non-combatant terrorist?

In his prior letter, Holder answered a question about whether the President was claiming the right to kill citizens on U.S. soil. This follows the release of a memo showing that Holder’s description of the policy at Northwestern University Law School was narrower than the actual policy described within the Administration. A memo leaked to the press shows that the Administration has adopted a virtual limitless definition of imminence: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Last week, Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”


It is not clear what Holder means by “engaged in combat” since the Administration memo shows that the Administration is using an absurdly broad definition of “imminent” threat under the kill list policy. Since the Administration has continued to assert that terrorists are engaged in a war against the U.S., the terse reply of Holder seems designed to preserve later flexibility.

Moreover, there is nothing in the constitutional claim of the Administration that reflects such a limitation. Deciding on where to kill a citizen would be an discretionary policy under the sweeping presidential authority described by the Administration. As noted in earlier columns (here and here and here), it is astonishing how citizens, including so many liberals and civil libertarians, Obama is saying that his appointment of a non-binding committee satisfied due process and relieves any need for judicial review. Moreover, if the President has the inherent authority to kill a citizen in Canada, it is not clear why such inherent authority would not exist a few hundred yards away in Detroit. The Administration has said that it can use the unilateral power when it considers a capture to pose undue risk to its personnel.

What is particularly striking is that we have a president who is asserting the right to kill any citizen but the Administration has classified memos on that authority and the Attorney General will only give a Senator a terse two line conclusory statement on scopeThe Administration appears to believe that there is little need to explain the details on killing citizens, such as how it defines “combat.” Obviously, if there is a war occurring in the United States, a president has the right to put down insurrection or attacks on the federal government. These strikes concern targeting terrorists. One can easily foresee this or a future president insisting that an alleged terrorism conspiracy is a form of combat.

It would seem an obvious thing to explain how they define combat and whether an alleged terrorist would fall into it. Does this mean that there will be a category of non-combatant terrorists for domestic strikes? How is that defined? It seems like a hole big enough to fly a drone through.Since police can already use lethal force to stop an attack in progress, the answer leaves more questions than it answers in my view. For a citizen it would mean that he or she can be killed abroad on the basis of the Administration’s wildly broad definition of “imminent” but domestically would fall under a different “combat” definition. Where is the line between an “imminent” threat and “combat” drawn? Does Holder mean there is a different meaning to imminence when someone steps over the border? We already have the definition of “imminent” and the Administration’s new definition of “imminent.” Is this yet a third option?

Today, former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald weighs in:

As Law Professor Ryan Goodman wrote yesterday in the New York Times, “the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has acted with an overly broad definition of what it means to be engaged in combat.” That phrase – “engaged in combat” – does not only include people who are engaged in violence at the time you detain or kill them. It includes a huge array of people who we would not normally think of, using common language, as being “engaged in combat”.

Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a “combatant”, that he was “engaged in combat”, even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was “engaged in combat” at the time he was killed – and it clearly does – then Holder’s letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.

The phrase “engaged in combat” has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of “enemy combatant” have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture. As Professor Goodman wrote:

“By declining to specify what it means to be ‘engaged in combat’ the letter does not foreclose the possible scenario – however hypothetical – of a military drone strike, against a United States citizen, on American soil. It also raises anew questions about the standards the administration has used in deciding to use drone strikes to kill Americans suspected of terrorist involvement overseas . . .

“The Obama administration’s continued refusal to do so should alarm any American concerned about the constitutional right of our citizens – no matter what evil they may or may not be engaged in – to due process under the law. For those Americans, Mr. Holder’s seemingly simple but maddeningly vague letter offers no reassurance.”

Indeed, as both Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller and Marcy Wheeler noted, Holder, by deleting the word “actively” from Paul’s question (can you kill someone not “actively engaged in combat”?), raised more questions than he answered. As Professor Heller wrote:

“‘Engaged in combat’ seems like a much broader standard than ‘senior operational leader’. which the recently disclosed White Paper described as a necessary condition of killing an American citizen overseas. Does that mean the President can kill an American citizen inside the US who is a lower-ranking member of al-Qaeda or an associated force? . . . .

“What does ‘engaged in combat’ mean? That is a particularly important question, given that Holder did not restrict killing an American inside the US to senior operational leaders and deleted ‘actively’ from Paul’s question. Does ‘engaging’ require participation in planning or executing a terrorist attack? Does any kind of direct participation in hostilities qualify? Do acts short of direct participation in hostilities – such as financing terrorism or propagandizing – qualify? Is mere membership, however loosely defined by the US, enough?”

Particularly since the Obama administration continues to conceal the legal memos defining its claimed powers – memos we would need to read to understand what it means by “engaged in combat” – the Holder letter should exacerbate concerns, not resolve them. As Digby, comparing Bush and Obama legal language on these issues,wrote yesterday about Holder’s letter: “It’s fair to say that these odd phrasings and very particular choices of words are not an accident and anyone with common sense can tell instantly that by being so precise, they are hiding something.”

At best, Holder’s letter begs the question: what do you mean when you accuse someone of being “engaged in combat”? And what are the exact limits of your power to target US citizens for execution without due process? That these questions even need to be asked underscores how urgently needed Paul’s filibuster was, and how much more serious pushback is still merited. But the primary obstacle to this effort has been, and remains, that the Democrats who spent all that time parading around as champions of these political values are now at the head of the line leading the war against them.



“Engaged in combat” could mean being an associate of an associate of a terrorist

Paul Joseph Watson
March 8, 2013

Although it was heralded as a clear signal that the Obama administration has been forced to acknowledge that it cannot drone strike Americans on U.S. soil, Eric Holder’s response to Rand Paul only serves to re-affirm the government’s existing position.

Eric Holder. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Responding to the Kentucky Senator’s near 13 hour filibuster, Attorney General Holder sent a letter to Paul’s office which stated, “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: `Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

The key to this is the phrase “engaged in combat.” What does the administration consider to represent an act of “combat.”

In the case of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a targeted drone strike in 2011, being “engaged in combat” amounted to little more than creating propaganda videos in support of terrorists. Awlaki never committed an act of violent terrorism, he was merely accused of communicating with terrorists and giving lectures in support of Al-Qaeda. Awlaki’s guilt was never proven in court because he was never afforded a trial.

Given that the Department of Defense now considers the act of protest to be a form of “low-level terrorism,” how far removed is criticizing U.S. foreign policy and hegemonic domination from the views which Awlaki was summarily executed for advocating?

The federal government has defined a laundry list of banal behaviors and political activities as potential terrorism, from paying for a cup of coffee with cash to buying storable food in bulk. The definition of a potential terrorist – and remember the government only has to accuse someone of being a terrorist as a pre-cursor to killing them with a drone strike – has been watered down to such an extent that the Department of Homeland Security now considers Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” and “reverent of individual liberty” as potential terrorists.

Awlaki’s son, 16-year-old Abdel al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was killed by a drone strike a few weeks after his father’s death as he traveled to a family barbeque in Yemen. Abdel’s act of “combat” against the United States amounted to little more than sharing the surname of his father. The U.S. government later erroneously claimed that Abdel’ was a “military-age male” in his 20′s in an attempt to justify his execution.

“What Holder is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is engaged in “combat,” whether here or abroad,” writes William Grigg.

“Combat” can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdel. Under the rules of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, any “military-age” male found within a targeted “kill zone” is likewise designated a “combatant,” albeit usually after the fact. This is a murderous application of the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy,” and it will be used when — not if — Obama or a successor starts conducting domestic drone-killing operations.”

Furthermore, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, the Obama administration is now preparing to extend the legal basis for its drone strikes to target people who have no direct connection to actual terrorists.

“Officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are now weighing whether the law can be stretched to cover what one former official called “associates of associates,” reports the Post.

This could mean that Americans who unknowingly communicate with somebody who communicates with somebody else the government accuses of being a terrorist could become a target for a drone strike.

The report quotes a “person who participated in the administration’s deliberations on the issue,” who warns that expanding the definition would be “a major interpretive leap” that could eliminate the need for a link between the targeted organization and core al-Qaeda.”

“You can’t end the war if you keep adding people to the enemy who are not actually part of the original enemy,” the individual added.

This again underscores how the term “engaged in combat,” used by Holder in his response to Rand Paul, has been broadened to such a degree that it could feasibly apply to huge numbers of Americans who have absolutely no connection to terrorism whatsoever.



Lew Rockwell Blog
March 8, 2013

It took a 13-hour filibuster from Senator Rand Paul to wring this terse statement from Attorney General Eric Holder:

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: `Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Like all statements from people who presume to rule others, this brief message from Holder – – who is Nickolai Krylenko to Obama’s Josef Stalin – should be read in terms of the supposed authority claimed thereby. This means removing useless qualifiers in the interest of clarity.

What Holder is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is engaged in “combat,” whether here or abroad. “Combat” can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdel. Under the rules of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, any “military-age” male found within a targeted “kill zone” is likewise designated a “combatant,” albeit usually after the fact. This is a murderous application of the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy,” and it will be used when — not if — Obama or a successor starts conducting domestic drone-killing operations.

Holder selected a carefully qualified question in order to justify a narrowly tailored answer that reserves an expansive claim of executive power to authorize summary executions by the president. That’s how totalitarians operate.



Brennan’s confirmation hearing as CIA director was a crucial test of the Senate’s exercise of oversight. It failed; now it’s up to us


By Kade Crockford, guestblogging for Glenn Greenwald |guardian.co.uk


The American public still does not know how the Obama administration legally justifies its vast killing program. But thanks to years of quietly accumulating political pressure, mounting criticism from important US allies, and a very public airing of widely-held concerns last night, that may soon change.

Europe raises the red flag on the so-called targeted killing program

The United States has reportedly killed 4,700 people in “war on terror” operations outside of declared war zones. On Wednesday, the European Parliament heard a special briefing on the US kill programs from the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi and the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson. Following the briefing, the parliamentarians issued a statement calling into question the legality (and morality) of US strikes. The United States cannot hide its legal justification for these operations from the world any longer, they wrote:

“We are deeply concerned about the legal basis, as well as the moral, ethical and human rights implications of the United States’ targeted killing programme that authorises the CIA and the military to hunt and kill individuals who have suspected links to terrorism anywhere in the world.

“Despite having abandoned the ‘war on terror’ rhetoric, the US sticks to the notion that it is in the realm of a war, and not organised criminality, when fighting terrorism. It has a destabilising effect on the international legal framework …

“There are a growing number of reports demonstrating that hundreds of civilians are being killed in the framework of the targeted killing program. This is being done without any transparency in justification of a ‘wartime’ policy. We urge our American allies to address the pressing questions over the legal criteria at the basis of a policy that, in targeting so-called militants, destroys both innocent human beings and our common legal heritage.” [My emphasis]

The members announced that the European Parliament will hold hearings next month to look further into the US program. Amid such fierce criticisms from key US allies, one has to wonder what the Obama administration is hiding in the legal memos justifying its killing operations. If everything the US is doing is truly above board and complies with international and domestic law, why don’t officials release the memos?

What does the president have to hide?

Senator Paul forces the transparency question

While our European allies call for greater transparency and a realignment of the United States’ foreign operations to conform with international legal standards, one specific question relating to the killer-drone program appears to have struck a chord with the American public: can the president of the United States authorize the use of lethal force on US soil?

Republican senator for Kentucky, Rand Paul, wants a straightforward answer to this simple question. The Obama administration will not provide one. In a letter dated 20 February 2013 (pdf), the third of its kind, Paul asked soon-to-be CIA Director John Brennan:

“Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial?”

The senator declared, “I believe the only acceptable answer to this is no,” before stressing that if he did not receive a substantive reply, he would “use every procedural option at my disposal to delay your confirmation and bring added scrutiny to this issue and the administration’s policies on the use of force”. The administration once again ducked the question.

In response to Senator Paul (pdf), Attorney General Eric Holder repeated a line we have heard from John Brennan, as well as from the president himself: the administration has not targeted and does not have plans to target people for death on US soil. Slapping some confusion on top of this evasion, Holder proceeded to sketch out scenarios during which he said he could conceive of the president directing the military to use lethal force domestically.

But the examples he gave – Pearl Harbor and 9/11 – have nothing to do with the simple question Paul asked. The letter is both evasive and dismissive.

Finally, Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Holder sent Senator Paul a 43-word letter:

Holder's letter to Rand Paul

Of course, we won’t know what “engaged in combat” means to the Department of Justice unless it releases the legal memos outlining its justification for the use of lethal force.

The Obama administration may be tired of dealing with these oversight questions and questioners, but those Americans who are paying attention are hardly bored by the underlying constitutional concerns. That was made abundantly clear last night when Senator Paul followed through on his promise to “delay” Brennan’s confirmation vote by holding forth for nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor. His filibuster has lit a match to a controversy that has been brewing across the political spectrum for at least the past four years.

Paul’s concerns appear to be driven by fears that President Obama (or a future administration) would deploy lethal force in non-emergency situations in the United States. But Paul also hammered the administration on another part of the “targeted” killing debate: the controversial killings that the executive branch refuses to legally or morally justify before the public, among them the strike against a US teenager, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Of his death, Paul said:

“There was a man named al-Awlaki. He was a bad guy, by all evidence available to the public that I’ve read, he was treasonous. I have no sympathy for his death. I still would have tried him in a federal court for treason and I think you could have [had him] executed. But his son was 16 years old, had missed his dad, gone for two years. His son sneaks out of the house and goes to Yemen. His son is then killed by a drone strike. They won’t tell us if he was targeted. Suspect, since there were other people in the group, about 20 people killed, that they were targeting someone else. I don’t know that. I don’t have inside information on that. But I suspect that.

“But here’s the real problem: when [Robert Gibbs] was asked about al-Awlaki’s son, you know what his response was? This I find particularly callous and particularly troubling. The president’s [aide's] response to the killing of al-Awlaki’s son, he said he should have chosen a more responsible father.

“You know, it’s kind of hard to choose who your parents are. That’s sort of like saying to someone whose father is a thief or a murderer or a rapist, which is obviously a bad thing, but does that mean it’s OK to kill their children? Think of the standard we would have if our standard for killing people overseas is, you should have chosen a more responsible parent.” [My emphasis]

Paul also railed against the Obama administration’s use of so-called “signature strikes”:

“We don’t have to know what your name is, who you are, who you’re with. If you’re in a line of traffic and we think you’re going from talking to bad people to talking to other bad people, we’ll kill you …

“The Wall Street Journal says the bulk of the attacks in Pakistan have been signature attacks, meaning: nobody named and nobody specifically identified, and that civilians aren’t really counted because anybody, any male between the age of 16 and 50, is a combatant unless otherwise proven.

“But if those are the standards, I think we need to be alarmed.”

Senator Paul stressed that his concerns were not partisan in nature. The administration wants us to “just trust them”, Paul said, but “it’s not really about them … It is about the law.”

Getting closer to the truth

But now, it is the morning after, and the need to hear the truth is ever more pressing: we still don’t have answers to the most basic questions about the lethal powers the Obama administration has claimed. These evasions notwithstanding, Senator Paul hasn’t been the only person in Congress to flex some oversight muscle. Some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director until they were given access to the top-secret Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel memos that contain the administration’s legal justification for its kill programs.

As a result, they were granted the opportunity to look at (but not touch!) two more of those 11 memos. (They had briefly been permitted to see two others at the time of Brennan’s confirmation hearing last month, but could not share them with their staffs.) And then, they stood down: on 5 March, Brennan’s nomination was reported out of their chamber by a 12-3 vote.

The dozen intelligence committee members voted to support the nomination despite the fact that, as Scott Shane reports in the New York Times:

“[T]he administration withheld the opinions governing strikes targeting non-Americans that the committee has also sought, arguing that they are confidential legal advice to the president. As a result, the detailed legal rules for a vast majority of drone strikes, including so-called signature strikes aimed at suspected militants whose names are unknown to the people targeting them, remain secret even from the Congressional intelligence committees.” [My emphasis]

Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon), who was among the senators demanding to see the memos, told Shane:

“I think this debate is just beginning. The nature of warfare has changed so dramatically. The rules with respect to targeted killing, I think, do need to be made public.”

On Wednesday, Attorney General Holder told the Senate judiciary committee that we would “hear from the president in a relatively short period of time” about how the government’s kill programs are done “reluctantly”, and “in conformity with international law, with domestic law, and with our values as of the American people”. But in order to truly understand the president’s reasoning, we need to see the memos.

The Senate faced a key test Thursday on whether it would exercise its constitutional role as a check on the power of the presidency. It failed that test by voting to confirm Brennan’s nomination by a vote of 63-34. Afterwards, Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont), who ultimately opposed confirming Brennan, explained his vote:

“I have worked with John Brennan, and I respect his record, his experience, and his dedication to public service. But the administration has stonewalled me and the judiciary committee for too long on a reasonable request to review the legal justification for the use of drones in the targeted killing of American citizens. The administration made the relevant OLC memorandum available to the Senate select committee on intelligence in order to advance this nomination. I expect the judiciary committee, which has oversight of the Office of Legal Counsel, to be afforded the same access. For that reason, I reluctantly opposed Mr Brennan’s nomination.”

In truth, no senator should have been willing to support the Brennan nomination until all of the kill program legal opinions were disclosed to Congress and made public. But there is still hope.

The chairs of both the House and Senate judiciary committees have said they may subpoena the Department of Justice to get them. Wednesday, Senator Leahy told Holder:

“I realize the decision is not entirely in your hands, but [the issue] may be brought to a head with a subpoena from this office, from this committee.”

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia), chair of the House judiciary committee, has said there is “bipartisan interest” in subpoenaing the executive branch to force it to divulge not only the “targeted” killing memos, but also those that describe the broader powers to kill in “signature strikes”. In a letter to the president (pdf) dated 8 February 2013, he and five colleagues wrote:

“We are disappointed that three prior requests to review these memoranda by members of the committee have gone unanswered. We hope that you will affirm your commitment to transparency and openness by accommodating our request to review these documents. We respectfully request that you direct the Justice Department to provide the requested documents to the committee by close of business on Tuesday, 12 February 2013.”

The administration did not respond.

The last couple of weeks have been a wake-up call for the United States, and the whole world, on the breathtakingly broad lethal authorities that the Obama administration appears to claim. At the same time, the incredible efforts required to get the Obama administration to disclose, even just to Congress, any of its legal claims should make clear that getting the president to come clean on his legal justifications will require even greater energy and tenacity. Everyone, from senators in Congress to members of the European Parliament, to we ordinary people, will have to be committed to it for the long haul.

We must not let state secrecy obscure critical matters of life and death. The stakes are far too high.



March 14th, 2013

In a February 12th hearing with representatives of the U.S. intelligence community, including newly-confirmed CIA Director John Brennan, various Senators made it clear that they are not through demanding that the Obama Administration disclose information on targeted killings and surveillance of Americans, and that they are insisting that the Administration cooperate with the Senate in making classified information available to oversight committees.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the Republican co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, started out by saying that “today’s hearing follows a lively discussion over the past month about the potential for the domestic use of drones.” Chambliss went on: “While the Administration has put many fears to rest over the last few days, this debate brought new attention to the difficulty Congress often faces, in getting information from the executive branch.”

“The intelligence community is obligated under the National Security Act to keep the Congressional Intelligence Committees fully and currently informed of its intelligence activities, including covert action,” Chambliss continued. “We cannot do the oversight the American people expect of us if every request for information becomes a protracted battle…. this simply has to stop.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said that he had to bring up the same subject that Chambliss did, and he told Brennan that “what basically happened was that we were given certain things which we requested, primarily because you, sir, were up for confirmation.” If we had not been given those things, the confirmation would not have gone through, Rockefeller pointed out. But, Rockefeller went on to say, that when he finally was able to see the requested documents, there was a “minder” who was sent in to watch him. “That was an insult to me, and I kicked the person out.” He described how it is intolerable to have these conditions put on the examination of documents which are in the Intelligence Committee’s purview.

Sen. Ron Wyden promised that “I’m going to be asking additional questions about drones and targeted killings in the days ahead,” and he pointed out to Clapper that he had asked him a year ago about NSA surveillance and tracking movements of Americans inside the U.S., but he never got answers. Wyden concluded by telling Clapper: “I will be asking this question of you, just like we did with respect to the legal documents for targeted killings, which we finally got after seven requests over a two-year period, until we get an answer.”



by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen | Global Research News

This Timeline Reviews Changes in U.S. Policy on the Issue of Assassination

1949-1954: As part of U.S. anti-communist policies in Guatemala, lists of human targets for political assassination were prepared as early as 1949.  Offers of assistance and preparations for actual assassinations in Guatemala, 1952-54, involved agents of several foreign governments (i.e., Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua), Guatemalan anti-communists inside and outside Guatemala, and U.S. intelligence personnel.  The potential killing of elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman repeatedly was discussed, and in one 1953 meeting the CIA suggested that it be done in a manner so that it could be “laid to the commies.”

Under two covert operations, PBFORTUNE under Pres. Truman and PBSUCCESS under Pres. Eisenhower, according to a CIA document declassified in 1997: “CIA officers responsible for planning and implementing covert action against the Arbenz Government engaged in extensive discussions over a two and a half year period about the possibility of assassinating government officials…

Proposals for assassination pervaded both PBFORTUNE and PBSUCCESS, rather than being confined to an early stage of these programs.  Even before the official approval of PBFORTUNE, CIA officers compiled elimination lists and discussed the concept of assassination with Guatemalan opposition leaders.  Until the day Arbenz resigned in June 1954 the option of assassination was still being considered… Beyond planning, some actual preparations were made.  Some assassins were selected, training began, and tentative “hit lists” were drawn up…. Cold War realities and perceptions conditioned American attitudes toward what political weapons were legitimate to use in the struggle against communism.”  See: Gerald K. Haines, “CIA and Guatemala Assassination Proposals, 1952-1954,” (Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency CIA History Staff Analysis, June 1995): 8-9; SECRET, declassified 1997.

Nov. 20, 1975: Senate Select Committee to study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Agencies (Church Committee) reported numerous CIA assassination attempts: Fidel Castro (Cuba) , Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic), and 2 others occurred during the  Presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon.  Combined with Chilean revelations involving deaths of political and military leaders there (i.e., President Salvador Allende; Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rene Schneider) consensus in Congress to bar future such actions emerged. A significant parallel now appears to have existed between the planned attempt to transfer blame for assassination onto U.S. adversaries in some plots contemplated against Arbenz in the 1950s and the intended political impact of the actual plot in Chile against Gen. Schneider in 1970, though CIA sources insist the actual killing of Gen. Schneider was carried out not by the group with whom CIA was working toward this end, but by another group with similar intentions.

February 18, 1976: Pres. Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905, a secret finding barring U.S. personnel from assassination plots.  It stated:  “5(g) Prohibition on Assassination. No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”

January 26, 1978, Pres. Jimmy Carter renewed the ban with an executive order of his own 12306, which located its ban on assassination at sections 2-305 (barring direct participation) and 2-309 (barring indirect participation).  It read: “2-305. Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination. . . . 2-307. Restrictions on Indirect Participation in Prohibited Activities. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall request or otherwise encourage, directly or indirectly, any person, organization, or government agency to undertake activities forbidden by this order or by applicable law.”  (For full context, go here, then to page 2 of the document).

A “Special Activities” branch in CIA, however, continued to exist throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

December 4, 1981: Executive Order 12333, signed by Pres. Ronald Reagan continued the ban.  At section 2.11 it stated: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

January 23, 1995: Pres. Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12947 that approved creation of list of specific terrorists.

1998: Clinton accepted legal advice that Article 2, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution always had permitted lethal violence against individuals when done in the self-defense of the nation. A series of secret Memorandum of Notification invoking this principle were issued providing for the use of lethal force toward Osama bin Laden and several others in his organization.  Yet, in all actual missions authorized in this regard, the capture of bin Laden, not his killing, also was required to remain a central element.  Thus, CIA officials have stated (Coll 2004: 17): “the objective was to render this guy to law enforcement,” and not to kill him.  Nonetheless, as National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stated in a 2002 Congressional hearing (Coll), in the November 1998 Tomahawk missiles attack on a bin Laden camp in Afghanistan “the cruise missiles were not trying to capture him.  They were not law enforcement techniques.”

September 14, 2001: By enacting Senate Joint Resolution 23, Congress granted President George W. Bush the power to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against “persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

Fall 2001: Washington Post reported, and the New York Times reported confirmation from the White House, that Pres. Bush signed a classified Presidential finding permitting planned targeting of Osama Bin Laden, and others.  The precise date of the signing of the Finding has been reported as Oct. 20, Oct. 28, and Sept. 17.  If such a Finding was separately authorized, it would be consistent with policies defined contemporaneously.  The 9/11 Commission (477), reported that on Oct. 25, 2001, National Security Presidential Directive No. 9 was signed by President Bush.  Its title was “Defeating the Terrorist Threat to the United States.”  It broadened the war beyond Al Qaeda and the states that had harbored or assisted its planning and preparations for the 9.11.01 attack.  This Presidential document also remains classified.  But a summary of its content is online at the Federation of American Scientists‘ website.  This summary and other news accounts clearly infer that U.S. personnel henceforth were authorized in the use of deadly force against leadership targets.  Thus, it is a fair conclusion that in the Fall of 2001, the U.S. set aside limitations on assassination and authorized operations that could reasonably be expected to lead to the killing of bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.

War on Terrorism.  Such targeted operations have been undertaken on numerous occasions, some quite visible, others less so.  One in plain view was on January 13, 2006, when a U.S. air raid on Bajur, Pakistan, targeted Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second in command.  Zawahiri himself apparently was not present when the village was attacked, but according to Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf (Washington Post 2006): “Five foreigners were killed in the U.S. attack in Bajur. One of them was a close relative of Ayman Zawahiri and the other man was wanted by the U.S. and had a $5 million reward on his head.”

Other matters beyond targeting leaders (or assassination) also have been reported to have been addressed in the 2001 Presidential Directive and related Findings.  Dana Priest, writing in the Washington Post in 2005, was insistent that “lethal measures against terrorists” were among the things authorized in the classified Finding issued on Sept. 17, 2001.

  • The finding was reported by Priest to have cited the Hughes-Ryan amendment of 1974 and the Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980.
  • The 1991 Intelligence Oversight Act required the signing of a written Presidential authorization (called a “finding”) before use of any funds budgeted to the CIA in covert operations.
  • According to Priest, among the other things authorized in the Fall 2001 Presidential Finding included:
  • The establishment in foreign countries of Counterterrorist Intelligence Centers, or CTICs under the supervision of the Counterterrorist Center at CIA Headquarters.  CTICs coordinate activities of U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.
  • The approval of expenditure of funds to persuade foreign intelligence agencies to cooperate in a new way with the CIA and other U.S. agencies.
  • The redeployment of U.S. intelligence personnel formerly assigned to counter-narcotics work, to counter-proliferation, and to regional divisions in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to the various new tasks required in the Global War on Terrorism.Under this authority, numerous operations were conducted during the Bush Administration, operations that in large part remain classified.  One that soon became public, a November 3, 2002 attack in Yemen that targeted Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior Al Qaeda official there, also killed a U.S. citizen from Lackawanna, New York, Kamal Derwish (aka Ahmed Hijazi), who was traveling with al-Harithi at the time his vehicle came under attack.  Sources in the Obama Administration’s Justice Department later clarified that Derwish had not been the target of that attack, but died nonetheless as a collatoral victim of it (Finn).  Al-Harithi had been targeted as a result of investigations into the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden (Yemen) harbor, an al Qaeda attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors on the USS Cole.  This attack was confirmed by an interview with (then) U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge that was broadcast as part of the PBS documentary Chasing the Sleeper Cell, an October 3, 2003, broadcast concerning the Lackawanna Six.  Ridge’s interview is linked here, though the particular individuals’ names were redacted.In 2009-2010, the Obama Administration embraced the use of drone air strikes against terrorists, especially in Pakistan.  (These attacks are regularly tallied by the Long War Journal).  Obama’s reliance on drones led to some criticisms of the wide scope of the targeting for killing.  Administration legal sources defended the tactics on the basis of the inherent right to self defense which the U.S. has as a result of the 9/11 attacks.  (For a thorough discussion of the Administration’s policies, and its critics’ views, see Adam Entous’ May 2010 story for Reuters, “How the White House learned to Love the Drone.”)
  • Bin Laden case: Obama did not rely solely on drones.  On May 1-2, 2011, U.S. special operations forces’ SEAL Team 6 entered Pakistan using stealth helicopters and, at Abbotabad, Pakistan, entered his residence and killed Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda, in an acknowledged political assassination authorized by Pres. Barack Obama.  This action was consistent with (Bush era) National Security Presidential Directive No. 9, and other legal authority arising from Congressional action (i.e., Senate Joint Resolution 23, an act of Congress). It also was authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1368 (Sept. 12, 2001) through its link to the U.N. Charter (Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations) and to customary international law.  Nonetheless, U.S. relations with Pakistan were sharply strained by this attack, about which the Pakistan Government and security bureaucracies were kept uninformed before and during the raid.
  • Al Awlaqi case:  In November 2010, A.C.L.U. lawyers representing the father of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi sued the U.S. Government in U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., arguing that Judge John D. Bates issue an injunction barring the government from carrying out orders to “capture or kill” al-Awlaqi as part of the war on terrorism.  A.C.L.U. attorney Jameel Jaffer argued in court that “if the 4th and 5th Amendments mean anything at all, it is that there are limits on the government’s use of lethal force against one of its own citizens, and that courts have to play a role in determining those limits.” Al-Awlaqi was then believed to be in Yemen, and in July 2010, was formally designated as a global terrorist for his operational role in the Christmas Day airliner bombing attempt over Detroit.  An organizer of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Awlaqi claimed responsibility for a series of cargo bombs placed on international airliners during November 2010, and on November 8, 2010 posted a video on jihadist websites telling Muslims they were free to kill American “devils” at will and without further religious blessing, or fatwa. Government attorneys argued that this question is inherently political in nature, and thus is not a proper matter for courts to decide (Hsu: A5).   The court declined to rule on the matter, citing the procedural ground that al-Awlaqi’s father did not have standing to file the suit.On Sept. 30, 2011, a CIA drone aircraft operating over Yemen fired two missiles that killed several members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including their chief ideologist Anwar al-Awlaqi, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico.  This was the first time U.S. operations in the conflict that began on Sept. 11, 2001 had openly targeted a U.S. citizen and killed him.  Samir Khan, another American citizen, also died; while he was editor of AQAP’s internet magazine Inspire and a member of Al Qaeda, his death was collatoral; he himself was not targeted, but died nonetheless.  Al-Awlaqi had been targeted after calling for Muslims to kill any American they could in a Fall 2010 internet broadcast.  Department of Justice officials and “senior lawyers across the Administration” had met and formalized in writing the legal authority for the President to approve the operation.
  • Legal standards in use for targeting Americans, and non-Al Qaeda groups:  In an apparent defense of the killing of al-Awlaki, on February 22, 2012, Jeh Johnson, General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense, in a speech to Yale Law School, stated that “Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives.”  In this speech, Johnson also outlined the operative legal basis used by the Obama Administration for targeting non-Al Qaeda groups for lethal force.  He stated that the U.S. Government applies a two part test: is the group “associated” with Al Qaeda, and has the group specifically started fighting the U.S. and its allies. “Thus, an ‘associated force’ is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the Al Qaeda ideology,” he said. “More is required before we draw the legal conclusion that the group fits within the statutory authorization for the use of military force passed by the Congress in 2001.”  These positions received further iteration in a March 5, 2012 speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the Northwestern University Law School.  There Holder spoke expansively of Presidential authority to “protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack” separate from authority granted by Congress (i.e., in Sept. 2001).  Carefully emphasizing that “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan,” Holder emphasized that “several” attacks directed at the United States in recent years have been organized in states other than Afghanistan.   Holder stated that not only are U.S. counter-attacks lawful, they often are mis-labelled: “Some have called such operations ‘assassinations.’   They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced.   Assassinations are unlawful killings.   Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes” (see Holder 2012).In late May 2012, the New York Times presented an extensive background investigation into the authorization process involved in such targeted killings.
It placed President Obama himself at the center of decision making about specific operations of this kind, including the selection of the specific individuals to be targeted, and the monitoring of the success of these operations was said to be closely followed by the President, so closely that former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair described Obama’s attention to it in the following way: “it reminded me of body counts in Vietnam [war].”Early in January 2013, Colleen McMahon, a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan (New York city) ruled on an ACLU suit challenging the government’s secrecy about the specific legal reasoning used to justify this program (WP 2013a). 
She turned back the attempt to use the Freedom of Information Act to compel the government to reveal its specific arguments about the legal authority it claims, authority that permits actions resulting in the killing of U.S. citizens as in the Al-Aulaqi case. She wrote: “this Court is constrained by law,” and the government “cannot be compelled . . . to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the constitution and laws of the United States.”
Later in January 2013, in an editorial in the New York Times, Vicki Divoll, former legal counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, critiqued this decision and the intransigent position of secrecy the Obama Administration had taken on this matter. She argued that Americans have an important interest in understanding the limits, if any, to presidential powers (in this instance, the power to authorize the killing of an American citizen), and that it is the responsibility of the U.S. Senate to insure that the reasoning behind the position of the Obama Administration enjoys broad support from our elected officials, not just the president and his appointees.



WASHINGTON — One morning in late September 2011, a group of American drones took off from an airstrip the C.I.A. had built in the remote southern expanse of Saudi Arabia. The drones crossed the border into Yemen, and were soon hovering over a group of trucks clustered in a desert patch of Jawf Province, a region of the impoverished country once renowned for breeding Arabian horses.

A group of men who had just finished breakfast scrambled to get to their trucks. One was Anwar al-Awlaki, the firebrand preacher, born in New Mexico, who had evolved from a peddler of Internet hatred to a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Another was Samir Khan, another American citizen who had moved to Yemen from North Carolina and was the creative force behind Inspire, the militant group’s English-language Internet magazine.

Two of the Predator drones pointed lasers on the trucks to pinpoint the targets, while the larger Reapers took aim. The Reaper pilots, operating their planes from thousands of miles away, readied for the missile shots, and fired.

It was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, intense deliberation by lawyers working for President Obama and turf fights between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., whose parallel drone wars converged on the killing grounds of Yemen. For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial.

Eighteen months later, despite the Obama administration’s effort to keep it cloaked in secrecy, the decision to hunt and kill Mr. Awlaki has become the subject of new public scrutiny and debate, touched off by the nomination of John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, to be head of the C.I.A.

The leak last month of an unclassified Justice Department “white paper” summarizing the administration’s abstract legal arguments — prepared months after the Awlaki and Khan killings amid an internal debate over how much to disclose — has ignited demands for even greater transparency, culminating last week in a 13-hour Senate filibuster that temporarily delayed Mr. Brennan’s confirmation. Some wondered aloud: If the president can order the assassination of Americans overseas, based on secret intelligence, what are the limits to his power?

This account of what led to the Awlaki strike, based on interviews with three dozen current and former legal and counterterrorism officials and outside experts, fills in new details of the legal, intelligence and military challenges faced by the Obama administration in what proved to be a landmark episode in American history and law. It highlights the perils of a war conducted behind a classified veil, relying on missile strikes rarely acknowledged by the American government and complex legal justifications drafted for only a small group of officials to read.

The missile strike on Sept. 30, 2011, that killed Mr. Awlaki — a terrorist leader whose death lawyers in the Obama administration believed to be justifiable — also killed Mr. Khan, though officials had judged he was not a significant enough threat to warrant being specifically targeted. The next month, another drone strike mistakenly killed Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who had set off into the Yemeni desert in search of his father. Within just two weeks, the American government had killed three of its own citizens in Yemen. Only one had been killed on purpose.

An Evolving Threat

By the time the missile found him, Mr. Awlaki, 40, had been under the scrutiny of American officials for more than a decade. He first came under F.B.I. investigation in 1999 because of associations with militants and was questioned after the 2001 terrorist attacks about his contacts with three of the hijackers at his mosques in San Diego and Virginia. But at other times, presenting himself as a moderate bridge-builder, he gave interviews to the national news media, preached at the Capitol in Washington and attended a breakfast with Pentagon officials.

In 2002, after leaving the United States for good, he endorsed the notion that the land of his birth was at war with Islam. In London, and then in Yemen, where he was imprisoned for 18 months with American encouragement, Mr. Awlaki inched steadily closer to a full embrace of terrorist violence. His eloquent, English-language exhortations to jihad turned up repeatedly on the computers of young plotters of violence arrested in Britain, Canada and the United States.

By 2008, said Philip Mudd, then a top F.B.I. counterterrorism official, Mr. Awlaki “was cropping up as a radicalizer — not in just a few investigations, but in what seemed to be every investigation.”

In November 2009, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was charged with opening fire at Fort Hood in Texas and killing 13 people, Mr. Awlaki finally found the global fame he had long appeared to court. Investigators quickly discovered that the major had exchanged e-mails with Mr. Awlaki, though the cleric’s replies had been cautious and noncommittal. But four days after the shootings, the cleric removed any doubt about where he stood.

“Nidal Hassan is a hero,” he wrote on his widely read blog. “He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.”

As chilling as the message was, it was still speech protected by the First Amendment. American intelligence agencies intensified their focus on Mr. Awlaki, intercepting communications that showed the cleric’s growing clout in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

On Dec. 24, 2009, in the second American strike in Yemen in eight days, missiles hit a meeting of leaders of the affiliate group. News accounts said one target was Mr. Awlaki, who was falsely reported to have been killed.

In fact, other top officials of the group were the strike’s specific targets, and Mr. Awlaki’s death would have been collateral damage — legally defensible as a death incidental to the military aim. As dangerous as Mr. Awlaki seemed, he was proved to be only an inciter; counterterrorism analysts did not yet have incontrovertible evidence that he was, in their language, “operational.”

That would soon change. The next day, a 23-year-old Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried and failed to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit. The would-be underwear bomber told F.B.I. agents that after he went to Yemen and tracked down Mr. Awlaki, his online hero, the cleric had discussed “martyrdom and jihad” with him, approved him for a suicide mission, helped him prepare a martyrdom video and directed him to detonate his bomb over United States territory, according to court documents.

In his initial 50-minute interrogation on Dec. 25, 2009, before he stopped speaking for a month, Mr. Abdulmutallab said he had been sent by a terrorist named Abu Tarek, although intelligence agencies quickly found indications that Mr. Awlaki was probably involved. When Mr. Abdulmutallab resumed cooperating with interrogators in late January, an official said, he admitted that “Abu Tarek” was Mr. Awlaki. With the Nigerian’s statements, American officials had witness confirmation that Mr. Awlaki was clearly a direct plotter, no longer just a dangerous propagandist.

“He had been on the radar all along, but it was Abdulmutallab’s testimony that really sealed it in my mind that this guy was dangerous and that we needed to go after him,” said Dennis C. Blair, then director of national intelligence.

A Legal Quandary

David Barron and Martin Lederman had a problem. As lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, it had fallen to them to declare whether deliberately killing Mr. Awlaki, despite his citizenship, would be lawful, assuming it was not feasible to capture him. The question raised a complex tangle of potential obstacles under both international and domestic law, and Mr. Awlaki might be located at any moment.

According to officials familiar with the deliberations, the lawyers threw themselves into the project and swiftly completed a short memorandum. It preliminarily concluded, based on the evidence available at the time, that Mr. Awlaki was a lawful target because he was participating in the war with Al Qaeda and also because he was a specific threat to the country. The overlapping reasoning justified a strike either by the Pentagon, which generally operated within the Congressional authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda, or by the C.I.A., a civilian agency which generally operated within a “national self-defense” framework deriving from a president’s security powers.

They also analyzed other bodies of law to see whether they would render a strike impermissible, concluding that they did not. For example, the Yemeni government had granted permission for airstrikes on its soil as long as the United States did not acknowledge its role, so such strikes would not violate Yemeni sovereignty.

And while the Constitution generally requires judicial process before the government may kill an American, the Supreme Court has held that in some contexts — like when the police, in order to protect innocent bystanders, ram a car to stop a high-speed chase — no prior permission from a judge is necessary; the lawyers concluded that the wartime threat posed by Mr. Awlaki qualified as such a context, and so his constitutional rights did not bar the government from killing him without a trial.

But as months passed, Mr. Barron and Mr. Lederman grew uneasy. They told colleagues there were issues they had not adequately addressed, particularly after reading a legal blog that focused on a statute that bars Americans from killing other Americans overseas. In light of the gravity of the question and with more time, they began drafting a second, more comprehensive memo, expanding and refining their legal analysis and, in an unusual step, researching and citing dense thickets of intelligence reports supporting the premise that Mr. Awlaki was plotting attacks.

Their labors played out against the backdrop of how some of their predecessors under President George W. Bush had become defined by their once-secret memos asserting a nearly unlimited view of executive authority, like that a president’s wartime powers allowed him to defy Congressional statutes limiting torture and surveillance.

Indeed, Mr. Barron and Mr. Lederman had produced a definitive denunciation of such reasoning, co-writing a book-length, two-part Harvard Law Review essay in 2008 concluding that the Bush team’s theory of presidential powers that could not be checked by Congress was “an even more radical attempt to remake the constitutional law of war powers than is often recognized.” Then a senator, Mr. Obama had called the Bush theory that a president could bypass a statute requiring warrants for surveillance “illegal and unconstitutional.”

Now, Mr. Barron and Mr. Lederman were being asked whether President Obama’s counterterrorism team could take its own extraordinary step, notwithstanding potential obstacles like the overseas-murder statute. Enacted as part of a 1994 crime bill, it makes no exception on its face for national security threats. By contrast, the main statute banning murder in ordinary, domestic contexts is far more nuanced and covers only “unlawful” killings.

As they researched the rarely invoked overseas-murder statute, Mr. Barron and Mr. Lederman discovered a 1997 district court decision involving a woman who was charged with killing her child in Japan. A judge ruled that the terse overseas-killing law must be interpreted as incorporating the exceptions of its domestic-murder counterpart, writing, “Congress did not intend to criminalize justifiable or excusable killings.”

And by arguing that it is not unlawful “murder” when the government kills an enemy leader in war or national self-defense, Mr. Barron and Mr. Lederman concluded that the foreign-killing statute would not impede a strike. They had not resorted to the Bush-style theories they had once denounced of sweeping presidential war powers to disregard Congressionally imposed limitations.

Due to return to academia in the fall of 2010, the two lawyers finished their second Awlaki memorandum, whose reasoning was widely approved by other administration lawyers, that summer. It had ballooned to about 63 pages but remained narrowly tailored to Mr. Awlaki’s circumstances, blessing lethal force against him without addressing whether it would also be permissible to kill citizens, like low-ranking members of Al Qaeda, in other situations.

Nearly three years later, a version of the legal analysis portions would become public in the “white paper,” which stripped out all references to Mr. Awlaki while retaining echoes, like its discussion of a generic “senior operational leader.” Divorced from its original context and misunderstood as a general statement about the scope and limits of the government’s authority to kill citizens, the free-floating reasoning would lead to widespread confusion.

Heightening Intelligence

Now the lawyers had twice signed off on killing Mr. Awlaki if he could not be captured — but the government still had no idea where in Yemen he was hiding. During the first half of 2010 the C.I.A. was just ramping up intelligence gathering in the country, and Saudi spies had yet to penetrate militant networks in Yemen deeply enough to learn the whereabouts of leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Awlaki appears to have hidden most of the time in Shabwa Province, several hours’ drive southeast of the capital, turf for Al Qaeda and also the traditional territory of his family’s powerful tribe, the Awaliq. Yemen’s cagey longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, negotiated with tribal leaders, who offered to hold Mr. Awlaki under house arrest, according to a Yemeni official. The talks were inconclusive.

And there were other problems. A disastrous American missile strike in May 2010 accidentally killed a deputy provincial governor in Yemen and infuriated President Saleh, effectively suspending the clandestine war. It would be months before the Pentagon’s next strike in Yemen.

In August 2010, Mr. Awlaki’s father, with help from civil liberties groups, filed a lawsuit in Washington challenging the government plan to kill his son, which had been reported in the news media. In court filings, the administration marshaled its public claims against Mr. Awlaki and said he could always surrender.

But it also declared that courts should play no role in overseeing the executive branch’s wartime targeting decisions, argued that Mr. Awlaki’s father had no legal standing to bring the case, and invoked the state secrets privilege. In December 2010, a judge dismissed the suit.

Back in Yemen, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon used the pause in the air campaign to develop more sources inside the country. The National Security Agency stepped up monitoring of cellphones in Yemen and penetrated computer networks to intercept electronic messages. Aware that Mr. Obama, shaken by the underwear bombing attempt, was closely following the hunt, agencies competed to get new scraps about Mr. Awlaki into the president’s daily intelligence briefing, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst said.

And, very quietly, the C.I.A. began to build its own drone base in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials had given the C.I.A. permission to build the base on the condition that the kingdom’s role was masked. And the base took care of a separate problem: the government of Djibouti, where the military was basing its drone operations in the region, put tight restrictions on any lethal operations carried out from its soil. The Saudi government made no similar demands.

Meanwhile, attacks linked in various ways to Mr. Awlaki continued to mount, including the attempted car bombing of Times Square in May 2010 by Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen who had reached out to the preacher on the Internet, and the attempted bombing by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula of cargo planes bound for the United States that October.

In late 2010 or early 2011, Yemeni security troops surrounded a village in Shabwa Province where Mr. Awlaki was reported to be hiding, said Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton scholar and author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.” But a house-to-house search did not find him.

At the White House, frustration was mounting.

The Hunt Narrows

Even as the hunt went on, Yemen’s strongman began to lose his grip on power as his country was caught up in the revolts sweeping the Arab world in early 2011.

That June, a barrage of rockets struck the room of the presidential palace where Mr. Saleh was hiding, severely injuring him and effectively ending his rule.

The weakening of Mr. Saleh gave the Americans more latitude for the Awlaki manhunt. By then, American and Saudi spies had turned a number of militants into sources, helping to guide American strikes.

In its most exotic effort to track the cleric, the C.I.A. worked with Danish intelligence to use Morten Storm, a Danish convert who had befriended Mr. Awlaki, to put a tracking device on the suitcase of a woman who had agreed to become the cleric’s third wife. The plan failed when Mr. Awlaki’s wary associates discarded the suitcase. But Mr. Storm also told the authorities that he communicated with Mr. Awlaki via a courier; it is not clear whether that courier eventually helped lead the C.I.A. to Mr. Awlaki’s location.

Other sources of information were also emerging, and one led to a new debate. In April 2011, the United States captured Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali man who worked closely with the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. He was held aboard a naval vessel for more than two months and spoke freely to interrogators, including about his encounters with the former North Carolina man now editing the group’s magazine, Samir Khan.

While the United States had long tracked Mr. Khan, the new details from the Warsame interrogation raised the question of whether another American citizen should be considered for targeting. There was still scant evidence tying Mr. Khan to any specific plot, so the administration left him off the list. But events would not turn out so neatly.

In May 2011, days after the American commando raid in Pakistan that killed Bin Laden, the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, the hub for classified Army and Navy commando units, had its best chance to kill Mr. Awlaki as he moved around Shabwa Province. Drones and Marine Harrier jets fired at his truck, but he managed to escape and took refuge in a cave. According to Mr. Johnsen, the Princeton expert, Mr. Awlaki told friends that the episode “increased my certainty that no human being will die until they complete their livelihood and appointed time.”

Finally, by late September 2011, the C.I.A. base in Saudi Arabia was ready. Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, Mr. Brennan, directed that lead responsibility for the Awlaki hunt would be shifted to the agency. David H. Petraeus, who had taken over as C.I.A. director on Sept. 6, ordered several drones to be relocated from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. By mid-September, the Americans were closing in — with updates from a C.I.A. source inside Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, officials say. That was when a very different search for Mr. Awlaki began.

As Mr. Awlaki had become one of the world’s most hunted terrorists, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman had lived the life of a normal adolescent. He liked sports and music and kept his Facebook page regularly updated. But now he sneaked out of the family home in Sana, Yemen’s capital, leaving an apologetic note for his mother saying that he had gone to find his father.

But by the time the teenager headed to Shabwa, his father had left for Jawf Province, hundreds of miles away. Accompanied by Mr. Khan, the elder Awlaki moved about the rugged territory, wary of staying anywhere for long.

What he did not know was that the C.I.A.’s source was reporting the movements. On the morning of Sept. 30, guided by the tipster, the fleet of drones arrived above Jawf. Missiles destroyed the convoy.

The same day, at a military ceremony at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., Mr. Obama took note of the victory for the immense American counterterrorism effort — but in oddly indirect language. Mr. Awlaki, he said, “was killed” in Yemen, and “this success is a tribute to our intelligence community and to the efforts of Yemen and its security forces who have worked closely with the United States.”

Mr. Obama had immediately declassified the Bin Laden raid. But this time he signaled that the operation in Yemen, though already reported around the globe, would remain officially unacknowledged. Members of Congress would speak only cautiously about it, and counterterrorism officials could discuss only privately what the whole world knew.

Administration officials who had labored for months to evaluate the killing of Mr. Awlaki took stock. Mr. Khan, whom they had specifically decided not to add to the kill list, was dead, too. While the lawyers believed that his killing was legally defensible as collateral damage, the death cast a cloud over all those months of seemingly cautious efforts to analyze who should go on the list and who should not.

Then, on Oct. 14, a missile apparently intended for an Egyptian Qaeda operative, Ibrahim al-Banna, hit a modest outdoor eating place in Shabwa. The intelligence was bad: Mr. Banna was not there, and among about a dozen men killed was the young Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who had no connection to terrorism and would never have been deliberately targeted.

It was a tragic error and, for the Obama administration, a public relations disaster, further muddying the moral clarity of the previous strike on his father and fueling skepticism about American assertions of drones’ surgical precision. The damage was only compounded when anonymous officials at first gave the younger Mr. Awlaki’s age as 21, prompting his grieving family to make public his birth certificate.

He had been born in Denver, said the certificate from the Colorado health department. In the United States, at the time his government’s missile killed him, the teenager would have just reached driving age.



Patrick Martin
11 March 2013

The New York Times published a front-page article in its Sunday edition, “How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America’s Cross Hairs,” giving an extensive account of the Obama administration’s decision to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen.

Whatever its intentions, the article exposes both the criminality of the operation and the contempt with which the liberal establishment—including the Times —views fundamental democratic rights.

The Times describes the “legal, intelligence and military challenges” and the “complex tangle of potential obstacles” faced by the Obama administration as it sought to kill al-Awlaki. In fact, what emerges is a picture of a process whereby top administration officials selected al-Awlaki for assassination, likely because he was a US citizen—establishing a precedent for the most far-reaching abrogation of the US Constitution. Legal justifications were concocted and tailored to this decision.

In its 4,000-word account, the Times does not provide a shred of evidence to justify the killing. Mainly it gives a description of various statements by the Islamic preacher. The newspaper cites one FBI official who said that by 2008, al-Awlaki “was cropping up as a radicalizer,” in other words, someone who communicates radical ideas to others—an extremely broad category, but one that evidently singled him out for assassination.

Al-Awlaki commented favorably on Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009. However, as the Times article notes in a disappointed tone, “As chilling as the message was, it was still speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Al-Awlaki was finally placed on the Obama “kill list” after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. The story of the failed bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, is a strange one. Despite being on watch lists, Abdulmutallab was able to board a plane with a one-way ticket purchased with cash. After he was arrested in December, he apparently spent a month without speaking, before allegedly stating that he had been sent by al-Awlaki.

The Times quotes Dennis C. Blair, then-director of national intelligence: “It was Abdulmutallab’s testimony that really sealed it in my mind that this guy was dangerous and that we needed to go after him.”

Actually, there was no “testimony.” Abdulmutallab’s court appearances have been brief, and he has not taken the stand. Nothing he has told federal officials has been made public, and we have only the say-so of Blair that he identified al-Awlaki. But Blair so informed Obama, Obama gave the order to kill, and the CIA carried it out.

Much of the Times’ article is based on an account of legal memoranda drawn up by Obama administration officials, in particular David Barron and Martin Lederman. The pair was tasked with deciding “whether deliberately killing Mr. Awlaki, despite his citizenship, would be lawful…” In fact, their task was to develop the legal arguments for a decision that had been made—much as lawyers in the Bush administration concocted pseudo-legal justifications for torture.

Here the Times article descends into Orwellian language. In one passage, it states that the Constitution “ generally requires judicial process before the government may kill an American.” In fact, American citizens’ constitutional rights are inalienable rights, not optional extras which the US government should “generally” respect, but that it can violate whenever it feels the need to do so.

The very fact that the Times adopts such a position reflects the fact that broad sections of the American ruling class would not object to extra-constitutional, police-state rule—the preparations for which are well advanced.

In an indication of the unprincipled fashion in which legal questions were approached, the Times notes that Barron and Lederman drafted one memo, but they later decided, after reading a “legal blog,” that it had to be amended to refer to a 1997 law that bars Americans from killing Americans overseas. New arguments were therefore fashioned to do an end run around this law and justify the murder of al-Awlaki.

The article concludes by noting that the same missile strike killed another US citizen, Samir Khan, who was travelling with al-Awlaki. Two weeks later, another drone missile incinerated 12 people in another part of Yemen, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, along with a dozen others. “It was a tragic error,” the Times concludes, “and, for the Obama administration, a public relations disaster, further muddying the moral clarity of the previous strike on his father…”

The “moral clarity” of murder—this is language that would not be out of place in a newspaper of record in any fascist or military dictatorship. Indeed, there is a distinct resemblance between the arguments made by the Bush and Obama administrations, and those peddled by the apologists for Latin American military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s.

This article comes as the legal structure of police-state rule in the United States emerges fully into public view. Last week, the Obama administration, in the form of a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, for the first time explicitly argued that it has the right to assassinate US citizens within the United States under “extraordinary circumstances.” The US Senate then approved the nomination of John Brennan, the mastermind of the administration’s drone assassination program, to head the CIA.

The way in which the media and political establishment have greeted these developments—including in particular the “left” defenders of Obama—are a grave warning to the working class. First under Bush and then under Obama, the ruling elite has utilized the attacks of September 11 to justify torture, assassination, kidnapping, indefinite detention without trial, state spying on every person and every form of communication, state censorship.

As the battlefield expands, so will the number and character of the targets. The more the crisis of American and world capitalism intensifies, and the more widespread the popular opposition to the ruling elite’s program of austerity and war, the more the US ruling elite will direct the methods it is developing against all social and political opposition.



Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
New American
March 12, 2013

Rome. January 897. Pope Stephen VII commands that the corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, be dug up and hauled into a papal court to stand trial. Pope Stephen has deacons adorn the disinterred body in papal robes, prop it up on a throne, and appoints one of the deacons to act as the voice of the inanimate accused.

Formosus was charged with having violated canon law, of having lied to the pope about his role in a Bulgarian uprising, and of having acted as a priest after having agreed to live forever as a layman.

At the trial (known to history as the Cadaver Synod), the corpse of Formosus was found guilty. Upon declaration of the finding, Pope Stephen commanded the deacons to strip the corpse of its papal vestments, sever three fingers of the right hand that Formosus had used in performing consecrations, and posthumously voided all the acts and rulings of Formosus.

Later, after having been buried in a public grave reserved for non-citizens, and as an act of ultimate humiliation, the body was ordered exhumed, laden with weights and cast in the Tiber River.

On Sunday, the Obama administration symbolically dug up the body of Anwar al-Awalaki and tried him for his crimes. Not in front of a court of law, but in the court of public opinion with the New York Times serving as the official court recorder.

In the article published Sunday, Mark Mazzetti, Charlie Savage, and Scott Shane begin by describing the assassination of Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen.

The trio label Awlaki as a “firebrand preacher, born in New Mexico, who had evolved from a peddler of Internet hatred to a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.” As in the case of Pope Formosus, Awlaki is unable to answer charges that he played such a role in the terrorist organization because he is dead. Undaunted by this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, President Obama in the role of Pope Stephen continues to lay out the evidence of the corpse’s guilt.

Defending the attack as the just result of “years of painstaking intelligence work, [and] intense deliberation by lawyers working forPresident Obama,” the authors recount that Predator drones targeted Awlaki and Samir Khan (another American living in Yemen suspected of fomenting terror against the United States), and a pilot “thousands of miles away” fired missiles from a Reaper drone, killing Awlaki and Khan.

Now that the duo is dead and have no chance of answering the charges made against them by the Obama administration, the 21st-century version of the Cadaver Synod begins, with Mazzetti, Savage, and Shane playing their part in the charade, reading back to “the court” the record of the sins of the accused Americans.

The paper’s version of the events leading up to the Obama administration’s assassination of Awlaki and Khan are not the sort of pantomime, pro forma defense by deacons, as was witnessed at the Cadaver Synod, rather it is merely a cleverly compiled and repackaged, reworded recitation of the myriad justifications already provided by the president and his surrogates.

For example, the Times article mentions the Justice Department “white paper.” This document, they insist, summarized the “abstract legal arguments” finally settled on by the White House. The problem with this bit of testimony, however, is that the Justice Department’s reasoning is just more of the same old, same old when it comes to defending the president death-by-drone program.

Without citing names of the participants in any of these confabs or the positions they took, the “white paper” throws up another shield of anonymity that has become the gambit of choice for a president determined to assume unto himself all power over life and death. Then, when facing charges of being an imperial president or of being a despot, the president orders his legal lictors to toss out this melange of lawyerly feints.

The message is clear: “Let them eat white paper!”

If that doesn’t satisfy the masses, there’s plenty of newsprint to serve as a second course.

Given, as Glenn Greenwald points out in the Guardian, the “unprecedented fervor and frenzy” with which President Obama has persecuted whistleblowers who have dared pull the classified curtain off the questionable acts of his administration, it is telling that there is no such gnashing of teeth when the paper of record publishes a lengthy article citing several anonymous “current counterterrorism officials.” It is likely that as Greenwald suggests, such punishment is “reserved for those who embarrass rather than glorify the president.”

The monarchical mien of this president is astounding. He refuses to submit his reams of legal justifications to any court of law, rather he orders the military to carry out his fatal decree then orders others in his service to talk to the New York Times. The president’s preference for posthumous media explanations over constitutionally required indictments is an effrontery to this Republic and the rule of law upon which it was once founded.

It is no hypothetical court to which this president has refused to accede. In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a lawsuit on behalf of Al-Awlaki’s father, “challenging the government’s asserted authority to carry out ‘targeted killings’ of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone.” The case was dismissed in federal district court in December 2011 after the Obama administration successfully argued that any disclosure would violate the “state secret” privilege.

Following the publication of Sunday’s article, the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following response:

In anonymous assertions to The New York Times, current and former Obama administration officials seek to justify the killings of three U.S. citizens even as the administration fights hard to prevent any transparency or accountability for those killings in court. This is the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government’s killing program, including its use against citizens.

Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution’s due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Aulaqi posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court.

But President Obama is above the law. He flouts the Bill of Rights and its protection of the most basic requirement that certain processes — due processes — are met before a person is deprived of life, liberty, or property.

Rather than submitting his suspicions to the “ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” President Obama has assumed autocratic power over the determination of guilt and innocence, declaring “off with his head” of anyone whose name is added to the kill list.

The “trial” is over and the corpse of Anwar al-Awlaki has been found guilty. The justifications will continue to multiply, amounting to nothing less than the severing of long-dead fingers. Unlike in the case of Pope Formosus, however, the 21st-century high priest of unconstitutional killing will not tie stones to the body of the accused and drown him in the Tiber, but will wrap the remains in newsprint and drown him in ink.



Thomas R. Eddlem
New American
March 11, 2013

The Rand Paul filibuster against drone strikes in the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director brought plaudits from across the political spectrum, but also harsh (and inaccurate) criticism from the Wall Street Journal and other neoconservative pundits.

“He’s apparently serious, though his argument isn’t,” a house Wall Street Journal editorial concluded of Ron Paul’s demands. At the core of the Journal’s complaint against Senator Paul’s opposition to handing the president the power to assassinate American citizens in the United States was the Journal’s belief that the president can kill Americans — inside or outside the borders of the United States — without due process. Moreover, we have the administration’s word that this awesome power would only be wielded against “enemy combatants.”

The White House appeared to approve of strikes against American citizens, with White House Press Spokesman Jay Carneytelling the press on February 5, “We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.”

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a clarified statement last week saying they wouldn’t kill a U.S. citizen unless he were designated an “enemy combatant” — by the administration!

Three U.S. citizens were killed in two separate drone strikes, including 16-year-old Abdulraman al-Awlaki (born in Colorado). His father, New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, had been targeted and killed in a separate 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen, along with U.S.-born Samir Khan.

“Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn’t explain the law very well,” the Wall Street Journal opined after Rand Paul’s filibuster, since the White House claimed it would never target Americans in the United States unless they were actively engaged in terrorism. The president, the Journal counters, can order the assassination of U.S. citizens without trial whenever he deems it necessary: “Mr. Holder is right that the U.S. could have targeted (say) U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki had he continued to live in Virginia. The U.S. killed him in Yemen before he could kill more Americans. But under the law Awlaki was no different than the Nazis who came ashore on Long Island in World War II, were captured and executed.”

There’s a lot to dissemble in the Wall Street Journal’s statement, not the least of which being that the Nazis who came ashore to engage in terrorism at the onset of American involvement in World War Two were not summarily executed on the president’s orders. It is true that President Roosevelt convened an ad hoc (and unconstitutional) military tribunal to try them after they were captured, but if Awlaki was truly “no different than the Nazis who came ashore on Long Island in World War II,” then he’d have received at least a military tribunal before being executed.

At the heart of the issue is the right of the president to be able to designate “enemy combatants” in the absence of a congressional declaration of war or authorization of force. Many Americans are unaware that the U.S. Constitution delegates war powers to Congress, not the president. Senator Paul stressed in his filibuster speech that the congressional authorization of force in the wake of the September 11 attacks was to go after those responsible for the attacks:

We abdicate our responsibility by not really writing legislation. We write shells of legislation that are imprecise and don’t retain the power, and because of that, the executive branch and the bureaucracy, which is essentially the same thing, do whatever they want. This happened also with the use of authorization of force in Afghanistan. This happened over 10 years ago now, 12 years ago. I thought we were going to war against the people who attacked us, and I’m all for that. I would have voted for the war. I would have preferred it to have been a declaration of war.

Alexander Hamilton — who is hardly a critic of executive power — argued in The Federalist, No. 69, that the president’s “commander-in-chief” power under Article II of the U.S. Constitution would simply make him the top general, not the “decider,” as Presidents Bush and Obama have asserted. In Hamilton’s words, the president’s power “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies — all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.” Congress also has the additional powers — not the president — “To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water” and:

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

Each of these enumerated powers in the U.S. Constitution clearly indicates that Congress, not the president, is charged with keeping the nation safe and make the decisions to engage in violence. Even Alexander Hamilton — that great exponent of executive power — agreed with this, writing in 1794 that “war is a question, under our constitution, not of Executive, but of Legislative cognizance. It belongs to Congress to say—whether the Nation shall of choice dismiss the olive branch and unfurl the banners of War.”

Of course, even if the original Constitution had authorized the president (or Congress, for that matter) to target and kill an American citizen without trial — which it didn’t — the Fifth Amendment would have changed this forever. The Fifth Amendment stipulates that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It also requires that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

And it’s far from clear that the elder Awlaki was an imminent threat to Americans. The only information the Obama administration released publicly was that Awlaki had used his YouTube account to encourage attacks on Americans. While the administration did leak some more allegations to the New York Times for March 10 alleging Awlaki gave material advice to terrorist plotters, it’s unclear Awlaki was an imminent threat.

Ft. Hood mass shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, according to the New York Times, had been in contact with al-Awlaki, though not in an operational manner. “Investigators quickly discovered that the major had exchanged e-mails with Mr. Awlaki,” the Timesreported March 10, “though the cleric’s replies had been cautious and noncommittal.” Dennis C. Blair, then director of national intelligence, told the Times that they decided to kill Awlaki after finding he had given advice to unsuccessful underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab. “He had been on the radar all along, but it was Abdulmutallab’s testimony that really sealed it in my mind that this guy was dangerous and that we needed to go after him.” None of this information is publicly available, or verifiable in the same way a trial makes evidence public. It’s unclear that CIA analysts didn’t win out with recommendations to “push the ‘easy button’”and send a drone instead of a strike team to try to capture, as the CIA case officer did in the bin Ladin case.



By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times

Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster didn’t thrill all of his colleagues.

Almost exactly 24 hours after Mr. Paul began his information-seeking filibuster against John O. Brennan, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham took to the Senate floor to denounce his demands and say he was doing a “disservice” to the debate on drones.

Mr. McCain quoted from a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The country needs more senators who care about liberty, but if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms. He needs to know what he’s talking about.”

The senator went on to say that he didn’t “think that what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people.”

And where Democrats praised Mr. Paul for using Senate rules properly to launch a filibuster, Mr. McCain said it was an abuse of rules that could hurt the GOP in the long run.”What we saw yesterday is going to give ammunition to those who say the rules of the Senate are being abused,” the Arizona Republican said.

Mr. Paul said he was filibustering to get the administration to affirm it won’t kill non-combatant Americans in the U.S. — and his effort was joined by more than a dozen other senators who said they, too, supported his effort to get answers.

Mr. Graham said asking whether the president has the power to kill Americans here at home is a ludicrous question.

“I do not believe that question deserves an answer,” Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain led a Republican delegation that held a private dinner with President Obama on Wednesday, as Mr. Paul was holding the floor with help from other GOP colleagues.

Mr. McCain even joked about Mr. Graham’s “behavior” at the dinner.

“He was on his best manners and everyone was impressed,” Mr. McCain said.

Speaking to reporters after he came off the floor Wednesday, Mr. Graham said he defends Mr. Paul’s right to ask questions and seek answers, but said the filibuster has actually pushed him to now support Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Graham said he had been inclined to oppose the nomination because he’d found Brennan to be qualified for the job but also “arrogant, kind of a bit shifty.” He said he wasn’t going to filibuster him but would have voted against him on final passage, but now he’ll vote for him.

“I am going to vote for Brennan now because it’s become a referendum on the drone program,” he said.

Mr. Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is up for re-election next year and could face a primary challenge in the deeply conservative state, also fired back against anyone who would question his decision to meet with Mr. Obama.

“If I can’t go have dinner with the president of the United States to talk about the problems that face our nation, I shouldn’t be running,” Mr. Graham said. “If you want to elect me and for me to promise you I’ll never talk to any Democrats or to the president about solving our problems, you’re voting for the wrong guy.”



Brian Doherty | reason.com

Mar. 7, 2013

The anti-Rand Pauls, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took to the Senate floor this morning to defend killing American citizens at presidential discretion. Graham is doing so live on C-SPAN2 right now, saying that everything you do is a danger to America no matter who or where you are, as long as the U.S. government has decided you have “joined al-Queda,” whatever the hell that means.

Earlier John McCain said, as Business Insider reported:

“Calm down, Senator,” McCain said, in an admonition to Paul. “The U.S. government cannot randomly target U.S. citizens.”

McCain argued that Paul’s warning that the Obama could target would U.S. citizens in “cafes” on American soil, and his related “Jane Fonda” analogy, bring the debate into the “realm of the ridiculous.”

“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids,” he said. “I don’t think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people.”

The Republican Party is at war, folks, and let’s hope Rand Paul and his troops win.



Lindsey Graham slammed Rand Paul last night for holding a filibuster against Barack Obama’s domestic drone policy.

Lindsey made the remarks after dinner with Barack Obama.

“This idea that we’re going to use a drone to attack a citizen in a cafe in America is ridiculous.”



March 4th, 2013

“I’m not going to vote for [John] Brennan [as new CIA director] until the CIA [tells] who… did change the talking points, lets us know who did it and why, and we have a picture of what happened in real time in Benghazi” on Sept. 11, 2012, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told CBS “Face the Nation’s” host Bob Schieffer. Graham appeared jointly with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on that show March 3.

Brennan’s confirmation vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which already has been rescheduled twice, now does not have a firm date, but there is no forecast of whether he will be confirmed, nor even whether the vote will be held, although the press keeps trotting out this or that Senator to babble, “there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Graham once again exposed the Obama-supplied story that then U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, parroted on five different talk shows following the Sept. 11 attack, saying, “Her story has completely collapsed under scrutiny.” He then said, “Here’s what I want. I want the FBI interviews of the survivors two days after the attack. They were turned over to the Intelligence Committee, and everything was blacked out. They’re now taking another chance of providing the FBI interviews, so you can actually read what they say.” He also said he wanted the e-mails around who changed Rice’s talking points, and to know who the Sept. 11 survivors are.

McCain said, “I’ve had questions, written questions for Mr. Brennan, and for nearly three weeks now, we’ve not received a single answer. I think that we deserve at least an answer to those questions, and I have some questions about torture,” which as an interrogation technique McCain highly disapproves.

There are also still the outstanding questions of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the use and the legality of drones for assassination, which “drone man” Brennan directs in conjunction with the killer-in-chief, Obama.



by Keith Koffler on March 7, 2013, 8:30 am

Hoping to begin rebuilding bridges frayed by years of neglect and abuse, President Obama last night bought dinner for a dozen Republican Senators as the two sides broke bread to try to begin reaching an accommodation on the budget and other issues.

Senators are not used to skimping on meals, and the dinner must have set the president – who paid out of his own pocket – back a pretty penny. Or more like some Susan Anthony dollars.

An earlier attempt at peace, this one involving only apples.

An earlier attempt at peace, this one involving only apples.

The outing at Washington’s posh Jefferson Hotel could easily have cost a grand or two, especially if it was held at the Jefferson’s exquisite Plume restaurant, which has a prix fixe menu costing $85, before you start including booze, which senators like to include.

Lawmakers emerged from the powwow describing it as a positive meeting and a friendly gathering that focused on the possibility of eventually reaching a deal on the budget and deficit reduction. But the meeting does not appear to have been any kind of a negotiating session – rather more of a way to build trust and relationships that have been absent for much of Obama’s term.

The meeting is part of Obama’s sudden new outreach to Republicans. He invited the senators to the dinner, and he has also asked House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to have lunch with him at the White House today. The committee’s ranking member, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, will also join them.

Emerging from the gathering, Sen. John McCain of Arizona gave reporters the thumbs up, as did Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who was close to Obama when the two served together in the Senate. No word on whether they were referencing the food or the meeting.

I’m assuming the latter.

Also dining Wednesday evening, according to the White House, were Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, and Dan Coats of Indiana.



March 6th, 2013

On Wednesday evening, Senator Rand Paul led a nearly thirteen-hour filibuster in the U.S. Senate against an immediate vote to confirm John Brennan as Director of the CIA as urged by Harry Reid. Rand Paul was joined by, among others, Senator Lee of Utah, Senator Cruz of Texas, Senator Moran of Kansas, Senator Rubio of Florida, Senator Wyden of Oregon, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, Senator Cornyn of Texas, Senator Barrasso of Wyoming, and even Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, who unequivocally voiced his support for Rand Paul’s filibuster, stating, “I think it’s entirely appropriate that the senator from Kentucky engage in an extended debate with the support of his colleagues.”

The Senators all addressed the fundamental Constitutional question of whether the President of the United States can authorize the targeted killing of an American citizen in the United States. Earlier in the day Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled on this question in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Lyndon LaRouche stressed that the President and his place holder are in defiance of law, and there can be no concessions made to them. Those who cringe and give in to Obama will themselves be persona non grata among their colleagues who still believe in the law and the Constitution.

During the filibuster it was disclosed that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz plan to introduce legislation to prohibit the targeted killing of American citizens. During the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the day, Holder said in answer to a question from Senator Grassley, that he would not support such legislation because he claims that it would limit the President’s power under Article 2 of the Constitution.

When pressed as to whether he thought the President could order the killing of an American citizen not engaged in an attack in the U.S., Holder would only say that it was “not appropriate.” It took four questions from Senator Cruz to get Holder to say that you can translate ‘not appropriate’ to ‘no’. But he never said that he thought it was unconstitutional.

At 4:45 p.m. Harry Reid tried to cut off the discussion. Rand Paul said that he would be glad to end the discussion, but only after getting a written statement from the President of the United States or the Attorney General on his behalf that the President does not have the authority to kill a non-combatant in America.

Harry Reid then said the session was over, and Senators should come back on Thursday. However, the Senators ignored him and continued the filibuster.

Now the issue is squarely addressed to the President: Does he believe he has the power to kill Americans who are non-combatants? Rand Paul added later: Are there going to be terrorist Tuesdays for Americans? Senator Saxby Chamblis commented that this is not a “rocket-science question.” Senator Wyden said that both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee are concerned about this issue. He said that more needs to be done, and cited Senators Rockefeller, Udall and Heinrich as among those who share this concern.

A number of the Senators explicitly raised the Federal Appeals Court decision of January 25, 2013 [1], that the President had acted unconstitutionally in making recess appointments when the Congress was not in recess. At the time of this decision, Lyndon LaRouche stressed in an international webcast [2] that this institutional rebuke of Obama’s violations of the constitution was of crucial historic importance, and that the actions of the judicial branch would create the context for patriots in the legislative branch to take a stand against the criminality of Obama. We now see members of the Senate taking that stand, and the developments of today represent a dramatic and significant escalation in the ongoing fight to defend the United States Constitution and our republic’s fundamental system of law.



March 07, 2013


RUSH: We welcome to the program this afternoon Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. Senator, you got some sleep last night, I trust?PAUL: Well, I did, but, you know, I was thinking of you when I was in the middle of this 13-hours. I got about five hours into it and I was like, “Well, Rush does four hours of this every day. Certainly I can do four more hours.”RUSH: (chuckling) That’s awfully nice of you to say, but I doubt that I was in your thoughts last night, although I appreciate the comment. When did you decide, Senator, that you wanted to make this a filibuster? Did it just happen spontaneously or did you have a plan for it?PAUL: We’ve been talking for a week about how important the issue is, that it’s a constitutional issue and has more to do with the Constitution than it does to do with individuals. But we didn’t decide on doing it, really, ’til I walked in that morning. I was walking into the Capitol and unfortunately didn’t have very good shoes on for it, either. My shoes were hurting me the whole time.But we walked in, and you have to look for an opportunity when the floor is open. The Democrats control the floor, and most of the time they tie it up where you’re not allowed to filibuster. And the floor became open, and it was either today or Wednesday or Thursday, and we decided the opportunity was there, and we went for it. But we had prepared for it in the sense that I’d been going over articles about drones in the discussion for a couple weeks.RUSH: Well, the American people recently, modern era, hear about a “filibuster,” and to them it just means everything’s on hold ’til somebody comes up with 60 votes. You actually had… People were marveling last night. We actually had a speaking or a talking filibuster. You had some help from people on your side and even had some Democrats join you. I’ll tell you what, you probably know this, but the people of this country — and I think it’s a majority of people, Senator — are very frustrated at how we’re being governed by a minority. We’re the majority of thinking in this country, people that heard you filibustering on the topic you were filibustering on last night.The idea of a smaller government — and government’s simply out of control, too big, too much in debt — that is a majority viewpoint. But nobody in the Republican Party has dared take this president on. You did last night, and you’re alive today to talk about it, and nobody’s calling you names. You are, in certain ways, a hero to a lot of people today, and I hope this kind of thing continues. I hope the reaction you’ve gotten… I know you’re getting some criticism, I’ll ask about a minute, but to me this was a seminal event last night that could change the direction that we are all heading, particularly in terms of educating and informing the American people about what actually is happening in their country.PAUL: Well, you know, we ask a pretty important question, and that’s whether you get to pick and choose which parts of the Bill of Rights apply to American citizens. And, you know, the Fifth Amendment says you get a right to a trial, you get a right to due process. And we don’t think the president or any politician, Republican or Democrat, should get to choose when the Fifth Amendment applies. We also just weren’t satisfied with him when he said, “Well, I intend to not do this. I don’t intend to kill Americans.”The problem is, it’s sort of like indefinite detention. We can now detain American citizens without trial, and he says, “Well, I don’t intend to.” Well, his oath of office says, “I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” It doesn’t say, “I intend to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” So we want stronger language. We want him to admit it. We’re still talking to the White House today, and we’re not gonna let the nomination go forward in any expeditious fashion unless he will answer the question directly.RUSH: Well, that’s a good point. Your filibuster ostensibly was to protest the nomination of John Brennan as the CIA director, but it’s taken on a much larger universe of ideas now. It’s become bigger than just the Brennan nomination. Now, I imagine a lot of people who came to this whole debate late, who hear that the subject being discussed is whether or not the president will promise not to kill American people sitting in a cafe who are not engaging in any provocative behavior, are saying, “Come on! There’s no president that would ever do that. What are we talking about here?” So why are you concerned? Do you actually need this in writing from the president to be assured that this is something he wouldn’t do?PAUL: Well, here’s the question. It seems so absurd and so bizarre, and it should be a really easy question to answer. But the reason we asked the question is, we currently do drone strikes overseas, and I’m all for ‘em when people are shooting at American soldiers, I think they’re a great tool. I think it’s a great weapon we should use to defend American soldiers and American lives. But we are also killing a lot of people who aren’t actively involved. Now, they may be bad people. They may have been involved yesterday or going to be tomorrow.

But we kill them at home, asleep, in restaurants, cafes, et cetera. Now, that standard may be okay overseas. I think it’s debatable, but at home that standard’s not good enough. So if you’re in a cafe and you’ve been e-mailing your cousin who lives in the Middle East, and people here in a conference room say, “Well, you’re an enemy combatant,” well, I think you can be accused then of being associated with a terrorist if that person in the Mideast is a terrorist, but you need to be arrested and you need to have a chance to defend yourself.

If you have a grenade launcher, though, you don’t get due process.

So if you’re attacking America, inside or out, American or otherwise, you don’t get a lawyer or due process if you’re setting up a bomb. But you do, if you’re in a cafe eating with somebody or sending an e-mail to someone, it needs to be clear that if you’re a noncombatant — if you’re not engaged in combat — that you get your day in court. The problem is the president came forward with this document that he leaked, this drone document, and he said in it that an imminent threat doesn’t have to be an immediate threat, and then there are these pictures of people being killed around the world who are not engaged in combat, and I just don’t think that standard can be used here at home.

RUSH: Senator Cruz yesterday, in hearings at his committee with the attorney general, eventually pried from the attorney general that such behavior as you just described by the government would indeed be unconstitutional. It took him a while.

PAUL: (chuckling)

RUSH: It was like pulling teeth without Novocain but he finally got that done. Now, that was earlier in the day. Why wasn’t that enough for you to end your filibuster?

PAUL: Well, we got that news a couple hours into it. I talked to Senator Cruz. But it’s hard to have conversations ’cause I had to keep talking the whole time. But we did get a transcript of it and we read through it, and I described it later on in a debate as a “withering cross-examination by Senator Cruz.” That’s basically what it was. He did not want to answer the question, and I think it was under duress and the word “constitutional” never occurs in any of his answers. So all we want is a short paragraph.

I think they’re coming towards us. We want them to answer something that every American believes: That you cannot target an American, on American soil, and kill them without first charging, arresting, or convicting them in a court of law. I think every American believes that, left and right. But some who are so fearful say, “Oh, America’s the battlefield and this is law of war over here.” But “law of war” means you don’t get due process, and I’m not against that. In the middle of a war when you’re shooting at someone, you don’t get a lawyer. You don’t get due process.

But in America, eating at a restaurant, you get arrested and you get due process.

RUSH: Well, I –

PAUL: And that is a really important distinction, and we need to have that debate because there are some up here arguing — in fact, the Wall Street Journal today argues — that if you’re declared an enemy combatant, you can be killed. The problem is, who gets to decide when you’re an enemy combatant and when you’re not?

RUSH: The president does. He’s got the kill list.

PAUL: That’s a real problem for me.

RUSH: He’s bragging about it, Senator. He’s bragging. They’re trying to build up his tough, pro-military credentials by saying, “He’s got the kill list. He picks the names.”

PAUL: Well, the Bureau of Justice has come forward with some criterion for people you need to report on if you know these people. These are people with missing fingers, stains on their clothes, people who like to pay in cash, people who have weatherized ammunition, and more than seven days of food. These are people who are potential terrorists. And if that’s the list, I know a lot of people on that list. I’m a little concerned that they ought to get a trial before they get a drone strike ordered.

RUSH: I’m on that list!

PAUL: (laughing)

RUSH: I am! You raise an interesting point. It’s 2013. There are a lot of people today who can’t believe — literally can’t believe — that the highest law enforcement officials in the country will not, with ease, assure the American people that they will not be randomly targeted by a drone while they’re minding their own business and not threatening anybody. This doesn’t even seem, to most people, to be something that should take five seconds to answer.

PAUL: And the real debate is bigger than President Obama or any president. It’s bigger than Republican or Democrat. It’s about what Madison said in the Federalist Papers. He said basically that you can’t… You know, if you had a government of angels, we wouldn’t have to worry about having rules. But we don’t always have a government of angels, and that’s why we have the rule of law to prevent the time when a democracy can make a mistake and elect a bad person, an evil person to office. So this is not always about the here and now. It’s about protecting people in the future from bad government.

RUSH:  Exactly.  By the way, a point of clarification.  When I said I was on the list, I meant I fit the criteria.  I don’t think I’m on anybody’s list.

PAUL:  Yeah, I’ve seen the list, but I don’t want to announce in front of you whether you’re on the list or not.

RUSH:  (laughing) Okay, well, I fit the criteria.  Now, let’s get to the critics.  Senator McCain, who went out to dinner last night with President Obama, along with Senator Graham, said that what you’re doing is a waste of time, and you’re actually maybe doing something harmful.  You are somehow conveying to the American people that the rules of the Senate are being abused.  What in the world could he possibly be talking about, and what is your reaction to his criticism?

PAUL:  You know, I think we’ve struck a nerve, and there is a little bit of a difference within the Republican caucus and a growing sort of division on some of these issues.  Their side believes that the battlefield is everywhere.  And this is what John Brennan believes here.  He says there’s no geographic limitation to the battlefield.  And that means that if the battlefield is America also, then the people, you know, like Senator McCain and Graham, they believe that the laws of war apply.  The problem is that the laws of war don’t involve due process.  And I understand when you’re in war, you don’t get due process.  So in the battlefield you don’t ask your opponent, you know, for Miranda rights, you don’t present them with warrants.  You shoot your opponent.

RUSH:  Yet.

PAUL:  That’s a different sphere than America.  That’s why the military operates overseas and the police operate here.  We have different sets of rules.  I don’t want to believe that we’re gonna have to live in America as a battlefield because I know these young men and women.  When they go over they’re fighting for the Bill of Rights, they tell me so and I believe so, and I know that’s why we’ve sent them.  They’re fighting for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, but if we give up and say, oh, we’re gonna have the law of war, the law of war doesn’t include the Bill of Rights.

RUSH:  Senator Graham said that your filibuster has convinced him to vote to confirm Brennan.

PAUL:  Hmm.  Well, he misses the point.  This has never been about Brennan.  This is about the president and whether or not he will respond to the request I’ve made.  And the request is very simple:  Can you kill Americans not engaged in combat in America with a drone strike.  And I think the answer’s gotta be an unequivocal “no.”  Brennan may win over my objections but I’m gonna ask this question of the president. I’m gonna keep asking ’til we get an answer.  We’ve asked them this morning. We’ve talked with the White House this morning. Other Republicans are calling the White House, so I’m having assistance with other members of my caucus who want the answer, too.  I think we will get an answer.

RUSH:  Let me give you a real world example.  We have, and it’s been criticized by some, we have killed an American with a drone strike, an admitted, acknowledged terrorist.  His name was Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.  Now, let’s play hypothetical, Senator. Let’s put him in an American cafe, but everything else about him we know. We know he’s a terrorist. We know he’s acknowledged it. We know that he was involved in the USS Cole, whatever terrorist activity.  Let’s put him in Chicago and he’s at an outdoor cafe in the summer waiting to go to a Cubs game.  Is the administration asking for the right to drone him, to kill him with a drone on American soil if he’s in that circumstance?

PAUL:  You know, Senator Cruz addressed this last night, is that if he’s in America and he doesn’t have a weapon or grenade launcher on his shoulder, obviously we’d arrest him.  Senator Chambliss also made the point that that’s how we’ll get information, is by arresting people.  And, if they don’t have a weapon, why in the world would we want to kill ‘em first?  We’d get no information.  Some of that argument’s been made overseas, but particularly in this country when you’re unarmed and the police can arrest you, why would we not arrest you?  So even when someone’s clearly guilty, if we can arrest ‘em, it’s preferable for intelligence reasons.  If they’ve got a grenade launcher on their shoulder, any kind of lethal force can be used against them.  If they’re flying planes into our buildings, F-16s, bombs, rockets, any way we can stop people from attacking us, we use.

RUSH:  Right.  But al-Awlaki was not doing any of that when we killed him in Yemen.

PAUL:  Yeah, there’s a debate overseas how you ought to do it as well because is there a difference for American citizens than foreigners?  My argument — not everybody agrees on this.  We’re all agreed, I think, or many of us on American citizens on American soil.  Overseas, my preference with al-Awlaki would be to have a fairly expeditious trial for treason. Not one with multiple appeals. One at the highest court level and then I would do the drone strike after convicting him of treason.  There aren’t very many of these people, so this isn’t something we’re gonna go through every week.

The problem is, and this is where I really find the president’s men reprehensible, is that when Awlaki’s son is killed in a separate strike later, two weeks, we think it’s a signature strike. They won’t tell us all these things, but a signature strike is where you just knock out a caravan. You don’t know who all’s in it. You just think they’re bad people coming from a place where bad people are gathered.  And when he was killed there, the president’s man responded, and they said do you feel bad about killing the 16-year-old, are you gonna say was he a target or was he an accident, he said, “Well, he should have chosen a more responsible father.”  And so my question yesterday was, is that the standard we’re gonna take in America?  If you’re related to bad people are you allowed to be killed with a drone strike?  You know, so the standards overseas, there is maybe some question about those standards, but for goodness’ sakes, we can’t have a standard in America that if you’re related to someone who’s committed evil or someone who is bad, that you are now eligible for a drone strike.

RUSH:  Senator, I have to take a quick break.  Do you have just two more minutes when we get back?

PAUL:  Yes.

RUSH:  Okay, great.  Senator Rand Paul is with us discussing his filibuster last night, the reasons for it.

We’ll be back just a second.


RUSH:  We’re back.  We have Kentucky Senator Rand Paul fresh off his… how long did your filibuster go last night?  Excess of 12 hours?

PAUL:  I think it was close to 13, but just shy of 13 hours.  I think it may have been the second longest one since Strom Thurmond in 1957.

RUSH:  Were you thinking of trying to beat that record and the call of nature just overwhelmed?

PAUL:  Well, his was 24 hours, so we were only halfway there, and the other thing is, is, he was using some means of beating the rules on biological functions.  He had some secret devices he was using.

RUSH:  I see.

PAUL:  And I’ve been there and inserted those, and I decided I didn’t want one of those.

RUSH:  (laughing)  Okay.  Now, one more reaction to criticism you’re getting is that what you’re really doing, you have a larger mission here that is hidden, and that is similar to your father. You simply don’t like drones, period. You don’t like them being used, the War on Terror, particularly against Islamists, and that that’s what you’re really aiming for here by calling attention to their use domestically.  What do you say to people that say that?

PAUL:  Well, I would say that’s not accurate.  You know, I don’t object to the technology.  And, in fact, I’ve been supportive of the drone strikes, particularly in aiding our soldiers in battle.  I’m not necessarily against targeted strikes overseas.  I think we have to look at the rules.  But at home, I’m absolutely opposed to targeted strikes on Americans.  So I think there’s some debatable things overseas.  In the military action, I’m absolutely in favor of them.  I think drones in America, if you have hostage situations or bombs, you know, we use robots to disable bombs, there’s all kinds of reasons for the technology to be used.  In America, though, I am worried about them doing surveillance without warrants, flying over my farm, watching where I hunt, things like that. Looking at my farmland with the EPA, there’s all kinds of potential abuses, but it’s not the technology.  It really gets back to the Bill of Rights.  If you obey the Bill of Rights, I don’t have any problem with drones.

RUSH:  Senator, I appreciate your time.  And I know you’re being hotly pursued today by a lot of people that want to talk to you.  I just want to say that I don’t know if you’ve had time to get a lot of feedback or if you’re aware of it, but you’ve turned a lot of people last night, including people predisposed to oppose Republicans.  You hit a nerve with a lot of people last night.  And you did demonstrate that this administration can be criticized.  You can take this administration on and you can get public support for doing so.  I hope that others learn from your example and pick up on it going forward.

PAUL:  Thanks, Rush.  Thanks for having me on.

RUSH:  Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and his explanation why he was doing the filibuster last night.



By Charles Pope, The Oregonian | Oregon Live
on March 07, 2013

WASHINGTON – John Brennan won confirmation Thursday to be the new director for the Central Intelligence Agency.

The 63-34 vote came after a bruising process that triggered a host of questions about the use of drones against U.S. citizens, interrogation techniques and the reach of electronic surveillance.

Now it raises another question: Did Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden win, too?

Wyden believes he did, noting his threat to delay Brennan’s confirmation forced the White House to release documents that shed light on the legal basis for using drones to target and kill U.S. citizens overseas who are suspected of terrorism.

He also has a larger point: The information is needed, Wyden says, for Congress to perform its Constitutional oversight duty, even if it means butting heads with a President from your own party.

“Our unique form of government is based on a system of checks and balances that will be here long after the current president and individual senators are gone,” Wyden said from the Senate floor Wednesday. “Those checks and balances depend on robust congressional oversight.”

The Oregon senator isn’t stopping now.

In an interview Wednesday he said he will ask for “more drone declassification” soon.

Whether he will continue to win is an open question. The administration relented this time only because it was desperate for Brennan’s official move into an important national security position.

Without that leverage, said one analyst with vast experience in national security and intelligence, the White House is not likely to provide the information that Congress wants. In essence, it will do what previous White Houses have done – mostly ignore Congress, giving ground in small bits and very grudgingly.

“Congress fought tooth-and-nail and ultimately received a degree of access,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy Program for the Federation of American Scientists. “The precedent is, in the future they will have to fight tooth and nail.”

Which is another way of saying that there really is no precedent; these battles have been waged for generations. Congress tried, and largely failed, to force the Bush Administration to provide information about warrantless searches. Decades before that, in 1975, the 11-member Church Committee was formed to probe allegations that the CIA was investigating U.S. citizens and destabilizing foreign governments.

The committee “ran into immediate resistance from the Ford administration, concerned about exposing American intelligence operations and suspicious of Church’s budding presidential ambitions,” according to the Senate Historian’s Office.

The resistance dulled the committee’s work, the record says, but it “demonstrated the need for perpetual surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted in the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”

Wyden, a senior member of that committee, believes the dynamic has changed. Public pressure is focused like never before, he says. And in February, President Barack Obama called him and pledged to release documents – under tight conditions – to members of the committee that Church’s work created.

Wyden said his ability to review the drone documents ultimately allowed him to vote for Brennan.

Wyden needed a clear explanation of the legal basis for the drone program, he said, because “every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

After the lengthy stall, Brennan’s nomination stalled again on the Senate floor.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky launched a rare “talking filibuster” Wednesday that drew praise and participation from Wyden and other senators. Later, it also drew derision from some senators who said his suggestion that the government might send drones after Americans on American soil was unjustified fear mongering.

Wyden insists the issue is much larger than drones.

Using drones to target and kill terrorists, he said from the floor on Wednesday, “can be a legitimate wartime tactic.”

But, he continued, “The executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny. That’s not how American democracy works.”

Uncertainty remained until moments before the vote. That’s when Attorney General Eric Holder sent a one-paragraph letter to Paul:

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” Holder wrote Paul. “The answer to that question is no.”

That cleared the way for the vote.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who did not have access to the intelligence documents, was one of only two Democrats to vote against Brennan. The other was Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Merkley raised questions about what he said were dangerous violations of civil liberties, including the use of wiretaps without warrants.

“I am also deeply concerned about the implications of the administration’s policy on drone strikes,” Merkley said in a statement. “And I am troubled that so much of the legal justification for these policies remains secret, preventing Congress, let alone the American people, from weighing the trade-offs.”

Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, also criticized the White House’s refusal to provide information.

Wyden says he takes the President at his word but promises to test the agreement soon. The documents provided so far – after months of pushing – offer important new information, but not enough, he said in an interview.

“I’ve been reading these documents on a number of occasions, and the more you read them, the more questions you have.”

Those questions may be difficult to answer.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Intelligence Committee, offered a guarded response about whether the Brennan confirmation would make it easier for her committee to pry information from the White House.

“There is increasing transparency; I think it’s a step forward,” she said in an interview. “We’ll see. But I’m hopeful.”



March 7th, 2013

The uprising against President Obama’s assertion of his right to order the killing of Americans on American soil, without trial, is not limited to leading members of the U.S. Senate. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on Wednesday demanded that President Obama reverse his administration’s wildly unconstitutional assertion that it has the right to use government drones to assassinate U.S. citizens.

In a letter to President Obama released today, Rep. Jones referenced press reports “that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s unmanned Predator B drone fleet has been custom designed to identify civilians carrying guns and track cell phone signals. This comes on the heels of the news that your Justice Department has issued legal memos concluding that U.S. government drones may use lethal force against American citizens,” Jones wrote, adding: “In fact, your Attorney General Eric Holder recently confirmed that he believes the U.S. government has the authority to use drones to assassinate American citizens on U.S. soil.

“These revelations are outrageous and a blatant violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens. I am particularly concerned that these policies violate the Constitution’s 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th Amendments. No administration should be able to decide which constitutional protections will be afforded to the American people, and which will not,” Jones warned.

“The Constitution is not an optional document. You and I have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. These policies are a clear violation of that oath.

“Mr. President, I strongly urge you to immediately overrule your cabinet secretaries and make it clear to the American people that the federal government will not use drones to violate the people’s constitutional rights.”

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