26 U.S. SENATORS WRITE CLAPPER, DEMAND ANSWERS

Twenty-six U.S. Senators wrote to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on June 27, demanding some answers on NSA secret surveillance of Americans. The letter was organized by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, but the signers included four Republicans: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Dean Heller of Nevada, the London Guardian reported.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Among their questions were:

“* How long has the NSA used Patriot Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?

“* Has the NSA used USA Patriot Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?

“* Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?

“* Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.”

The Senators signing the letter are: Ron Wyden (D-Or), Mark Udall (D-Co), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Mark Kirk (R-Il), Dick Durbin (D-Il), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mt), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R-Nev),Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Al Franken (D-Minn), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chris Coons (D-Del), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

DEVELOPER GUILTY OF ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO REID

By SCOTT SONNER | Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada powerbroker who headed a billion-dollar real estate company and pulled the strings of state politics as a prominent lobbyist for more than a decade was convicted Wednesday of making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Harvey Whittemore, 59, could face up to 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts tied to nearly $150,000 illegally funneled to Reid’s re-election campaign in 2007.

Later in the day, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks declared a mistrial on a count of lying to the FBI after jurors said they were deadlocked on that charge.

Whittemore stood with his arms behind his back and shook his head slightly after the verdicts were read. He was convicted of making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 23.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said prosecutors will review the case before deciding whether to refile the charge of lying to the FBI during a February 2012 interview.

Dominic Gentile, Whittemore’s lead defense counsel, said the convictions will be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. He said a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court touches on similar issues related to the constitutionality of federal limits on campaign contributions.

Among other things, Gentile said the defense will challenge Hicks’ refusal to allow the defense to reference an Alabama case against the Federal Election Commission.

“His conduct was protected by the First Amendment,” Gentile told reporters at a news conference with Whittemore and his wife, Annette, shortly after leaving court.

Whittemore said he would reserve immediate comment on his conviction because of the emotional toll the two-week trial has taken on his family.

“My family and I have been through quite a bit,” he said.

He said he will hold a news conference when all appeals are resolved to give the “complete and true story about who was behind this and how it got started.”

Annette Whittemore said the couple is fortunate to have such a close, “strong-willed” family to support them.

“Harvey said throughout the trial the one thing they can’t take away is our family and friends,” she said.

Prosecutors said Whittemore gave money to family members and employees in 2007 to make contributions he had promised to Reid while concealing himself as the true source to skirt campaign finance laws.

Defense attorneys argued Whittemore broke no laws by giving $5,000 checks as gifts to family members and as gifts or bonuses to 29 employees and their spouses, who then each wrote checks for the maximum allowable $4,600 to the Senate majority leader’s campaign fund, Friends of Harry Reid.

Myrhe said he hopes the verdicts send a strong message that U.S. campaign finance violations are serious offenses that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“These laws exist to protect the election process from undue influence and to provide transparency to the voting public,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said Whittemore used “straw donors” to evade federal contribution limits.

“The cornerstones of our campaign finance laws are contribution limits and transparency, and Mr. Whittemore’s crime was designed to undermine both,” Mythili said in a statement from Washington.

Prosecutors said in closing arguments Tuesday that Whittemore had been the “king of the hill” in Nevada political circles, an insider who had worked his way onto the short list of many U.S. senators and representatives as someone to call when they needed to quickly find donors.

Whittemore once hosted an event for Sen. John Edwards, then a Democratic presidential hopeful, and a fundraiser at Reid’s request for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He also helped arrange a reception attended by President Clinton during an environmental summit at Lake Tahoe.

“When he made these contributions, he was the ultimate insider,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said during his closing argument. “He was making millions of dollars and getting personal thank-you notes from the most prominent politicians in the country.”

Reid had no comment on the verdicts, said Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for the senator.

Reid was not accused of any wrongdoing. He has said he was unaware of any potential problems with the money he received.

“I received $25 million. He raised $150,000,” Reid told the Las Vegas Sun earlier this week. “I had money coming in from other places.”

Myhre told jurors Whittemore was driven solely by greed – “not to get more money but greed in the sense of more power.”

“It’s about trying to be on the short list that senators and congressmen call when they need money,” he said. “That’s why he did it.”

Myhre said after the verdicts that he couldn’t comment on why the prosecution chose not to call Reid as a witness, or whether the case involving Whittemore has been completely closed.

RAND PAUL: SENATE IS ARMING AL-QAEDA AND RUSHING TO WAR IN SYRIA

Rand Paul: Senate Is Arming Al-Qaeda and Rushing to War in Syria

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Written by  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. | The New American

“This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda.”

That was the declaration Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.; pictured) made on May 21 during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Paul’s comments were directed at his colleagues, nearly all of whom voted to send arms to Syrian rebels.

Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill that authorizes “critical support to the Syrian opposition through provision of military assistance, training, and additional humanitarian support.”

The bill sailed through the committee, passing with bipartisan support by a vote of 15-3.

Senator Paul offered two amendments to the bill — officially styled the Syria Transition Support Act — one that would have forbidden the transfer of weapons to the rebel forces fighting to oust the government of current Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, and another that would have prevented the use of U.S. military armed forces in Syria.

Both of Paul’s amendments were rejected by the committee.

Apart from supplying lethal and non-lethal weaponry to Syrian opposition forces, the Menendez-Corker bill contains several other regime-toppling provisions, all of which are boastfully reported by Mendendez on his website. They include:

• “Creation of a $250 million transition fund each year through FY2015 drawn from funds otherwise appropriated for regional transition support”;

• “Sanctions on arms and oil sales to Assad: Targeting any person that the President of the United States determines has knowingly participated in or facilitated a transaction related to the sale or transfer of military equipment, arms, petroleum, or petroleum products to the Assad regime.”; and

• “Amendment to the Syria Accountability Act: To allow for sanctions removal once a transitional government is in place and certain terrorism and WMD criteria have been met.”

Neither Paul’s warnings nor his amendments were enough to counteract the powerful politicians pushing to arm the Syrian rebels. A cadre of lawmakers from seemingly distinct bands of the political spectrum lined up behind the move to add Syria to the list of Middle Eastern countries with U.S.-approved ruling parties. As in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, these dictators-in-waiting will walk a path to power paved with American money and likely covered in the blood of American soldiers.

Rubio, described by many as a Tea Party favorite, chastised Senator Paul, refuting his allegation that a vote for arming the Syrian rebels was tantamount to giving guns to al-Qaeda.

“I don’t think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda,” said Rubio.

Mendendez piled on, saying, “Al Qaeda, unfortunately, is well-armed. That is the present reality in Syria.”

Senator Corker tried striking a less hostile tone, arguing that arming rebels vetted by Congress — as called for in his bill — would prevent U.S. weaponry from being funneled into more radical segments of the coalition of anti-Assad armed forces.

Seeing through Corker’s false dilemma, Paul responded, saying, “It’s impossible to know who our friends are.” He later said that the vote was nothing more than a “rush to war.”

In an exclusive interview with The New American, Senator Paul pointed out the irony in the fact that the original Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) enacted after September 11, 2001 called for finding and destroying al-Qaeda, while the legislation passed on May 21 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would arm known associates of that very organization.

“These people [Syrian rebels] will say they love America knowing that that’s how to get weapons. They lie to us and then shoot us in the back,” Paul explained.

Another bit of irony apparently lost on 15 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the fact that the United States has walked this road before. In the 1980s, Congress voted to arm militant Islamic forces under the pretext that the enemy of our enemy was our friend. Then, within 20 years, the very beneficiaries of U.S. military largesse in Afghanistan seized control of that country and reportedly sheltered and trained the men who carried out the attacks of September 11.

One wonders how (or if) the Senate fails to appreciate the destruction that will surely come from once again sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind that comes from arming those who would do us harm. Some senators, however, seemed determined to deploy troops in every corner of the planet, regardless of the fact these young men and women could be killed by militants armed with weapons supplied by their very own government.

Never one to miss a chance to take his turn banging on the war drum, Senator John McCain mocked an amendment offered by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would have placed more stringent controls on the type of weapon shipped to Syrian rebels.

“The senator from New Mexico wants to use shotguns against SCUD missiles,” McCain said.

Rand Paul has been banging another drum, however. During the hearings on the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, Paul brought up the possibility that the Obama administration was covering up the existence of a gun running pipeline running throughout the Middle East.

Paul, in fact, tried to get answers to these questions from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Senate’s investigation of the Benghazi raid that left four people dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Addressing Secretary Clinton, Paul asked directly, “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?”

Clinton demurred, claiming that she’d never heard about that allegation.

Undaunted, Paul continued, “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”

Always the savvy politician, Clinton responded, “Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”

“You’re saying you don’t know?” asked Paul.

“I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.”

Americans have a right to know, however, who’s receiving millions in tax dollars taken from them.

A Reuters article from last August, which detailed a secret order signed by President Obama providing support to Syrian rebel forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, noted, “Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.”

Later, The New American covered the same story, writing that “Western governments, brutal Sunni-Arab dictatorships, an assortment of terror groups including al-Qaeda, and other powerful interests have all been backing the uprising since long before violence even broke out last year.”

In a story covering the violence of the Syrian uprising, the BBC added credibility to the accusations:

The al-Qaeda-styled group in Syria is Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham (the Front for the Protection of the Syrian People).

Like other al-Qaeda affiliated groups, al-Nusra’s statements and videos are usually issued by its own media group, al-Manara al-Baida (the White Minaret) in Syria.

Al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for several attacks against the Syrian army, security and shabiha (state-sponsored thugs) since it announced its formation early this year.

Finally, under a headline reading “Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria,” The Guardian (U.K.) reported:

They try to hide their presence. “Some people are worried about carrying the [black] flags,” said Abu Khuder. “They fear America will come and fight us. So we fight in secret. Why give Bashar and the west a pretext?” But their existence is common knowledge in Mohassen. Even passers-by joke with the men about car bombs and IEDs [improvised explosive devices].

According to Abu Khuder, his men are working closely with the military council that commands the Free Syrian Army brigades in the region. “We meet almost every day,” he said. “We have clear instructions from our [al-Qaida] leadership that if the FSA need our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent is in the bombing operations.” Abu Khuder’s men had a lot of experience in bomb-making from Iraq and elsewhere, he added.

Regardless of Rand Paul’s efforts to keep the U.S. from running headlong into an armed conflict in Syria and his accurate depiction of the duplicity of those Syrian opposition forces waiting for the shipment of weapons from the United States, the Senate is speedily moving toward awarding al-Qaeda with crates of technologically advanced U.S. weaponry.

The Menendez-Corker bill will now move to Senate floor for debate by the entire body. A member of the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told The New American that he was unsure when the bill would be put on the calendar.

U.S. SENATE WILL BACK ISRAELI ATTACK ON IRAN

Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate votes in favor of resolution stipulating that US will support Israel in case it was forced to take military action against Iran

By Yitzhak Benhorin | Ynet News

WASHINGTON — Members of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee have adopted “Senate Resolution 65,” according to which the US will support Israel in case it is compelled to take military action and actualize its right to self defense in the face of an Iranian threat.

The resolution stipules that Israel will enjoy Washington’s diplomatic, economic and military aid.

According to the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the US’s policy is to halt Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Senate Resolution 65 has successfully gained the support of 70 of the 100 senators.

In a statement issued by AIPAC it was noted that “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a very clear and enormously important message of solidarity with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat—which endangers American, Israeli, and international security.”

President Barack Obama sent his holiday wishes to Israel on its 65th Independence Day, stating: “On this date 65 years ago, the Jewish people realized their dream of the ages – to be masters of their fate in their own sovereign state.”

“The strong and prosperous Israel we see today proves Herzl’s vision – ‘if you will it, it is no dream,” the US president added.

REP. FRANK WOLF URGES NEW BENGHAZI INVESTIGATION

Published on Apr 10, 2013

Rep. Frank Wolf called a press conference outside the capitol to discuss his sponsorship of H. Res. 36, which would create a special congressional committee to investigate the failures that contributed to the deadly jihadist attack in Benghazi, Libya last year. He was joined by Family Research Council’s Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and former member of Delta Force. Boykin represented Special Operations Speaks, a group of ex-special forces operators who came together to write a letter to Members of Congress, urging them to commit to getting to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, and to end the administration’s cover-up. Finally, the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney spoke about the implications of the attack in Libya on America’s national security and foreign policy in the Middle East/North Africa region.

Write a letter to your congressman at http://www.endthecoverup.com

CONGRESS REPEATING THE SECOND BASIC LAW OF STUPIDITY

By Frosty Wooldridge
April 9, 2013
NewsWithViews.com

As you read in the First Basic Law of Stupidity, our U.S. Congress works on yet another mass amnesty for 20 million illegal alien migrants now working and residing in our country in violation of dozens of our laws. Notice that Congress failed to enforce the employment laws from the 1965 Immigration Reform Law as well as the 1986 Amnesty that gave four million Mexicans instant citizenship. All totaled, those two new laws by Congress flooded this country with over 120 million more people since 1965. This next amnesty will flood the country with yet another 100 million immigrants at the bare minimum.

Today, we live in 2013 with a few other interesting facts Congress bestowed on the American people:

Congress placed our country into a $16.5 trillion national debt. It’s wrecking the foundation of our republic and our financial ability to survive.
Congress waged two useless, worthless and meaningless wars for the past 10 years at a cost of $3 trillion. Trillions more when it comes to the emotional, physical and psychological chaos incurred by our military veterans.
Congress outsource, insourced and offshored millions of US jobs so we now suffer 14 million unemployed and 7 million underemployed.
Congress killed so many jobs and job training that 47 million Americans subsist on food stamps in April of 2013.
Congress refuses to enforce internal immigration employment, housing and transport laws—so that we face 20 million illegal aliens scamming American workers out of jobs as well as using $346 billion annually in taxpayer services like education, medical care, anchor babies, incarceration, drug distribution, shop lifting and more.
Congress refuses to aid lawful American citizens with jobs, but it works its magic in allowing over eight million illegal aliens full time work in our country—and much of it off the books and no taxes collected, but we subsidize their children, health care and prison costs.
Congress huddles in Washington, DC to gift another 20 million illegal aliens with instant citizenship and all the cash and welfare benefits that entails. Heritage Foundation estimates $3 to $5 trillion for the cost of this new amnesty paid for by you, the legal American taxpayer.

Which brings us to the “Second Basic Law of Stupidity” by Carlo M. Cipolla, Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley in Whole Earth Review, Spring 1987

Cipolla said in the Second Basic Law of Stupidity, “Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favor an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal that others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature.

“I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence.”

The collective IQ of America declines below three digits. Notice that 7,000 high school kids drop out or flunk out of high school every day in America. Notice those failure rates correspond to the millions of third world immigrants imported into America. Not only does our Congress import illiteracy, it imports poverty and cultures of poverty. One look at Los Angeles today provides ample proof where a teenager cannot read the bus schedule. Unemployment screams off the charts and immigrants ride the welfare gravy train like a new art form.

“Although convinced that fractions of human beings are stupid and that they are so because of genetic traits,” said Cipolla. “I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce surreptitiously class or race discrimination, I firmly believe stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. This fact is scientifically expressed by the Second Basic Law with states that: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.”

Today in America 42 million Americans cannot read, write or perform simple math problems. Another 50 million cannot read past the 4th grade level. It will be interesting when we import the projected 100 million more immigrants from the burgeoning third world by 2050—as to what kind of a completely stupid, dumb, dysfunctional and totally illiterate civilization the majority of our citizens will have become.

The democrats and republicans will probably tell us we need more immigrants to revitalize the nation, freshen it and bring new ideas to solve all our problems.

CONGRESS RETURNS TO TRY TO REACH FINAL DEALS ON MAJOR ISSUES OF IMMIGRATION AND GUN CONTROL

FoxNews.com

Congress returns Monday for a pivotal week in which lawmakers will attempt to reach agreements on proposals for gun-control and immigration-reform — perhaps the two biggest issues in Washington this year.

Though the Senate has been working on both issues only since the new Congress began in January, Washington lawmakers have tried for years to draft comprehensive immigration reform, while the issue of gun-control was thrust upon them after 20 first-graders were killed in a December 2012 mass shooting.

A contentious public debate over the country’s flawed immigration system is expected as a bipartisan group of eight senators finalizes a bill to secure U.S. borders, allow tens of thousands of foreign workers into the country and grant eventual citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living here illegally.

Lawmakers came close to an immigration deal on the Senate floor in 2007, but it collapsed amid interest group bickering and public backlash.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” was already warning about the sharp edges of compromise on Sunday.

“There will be a great deal of unhappiness about this proposal because everybody didn’t get what they wanted,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The group planned to have a final proposal ready in March. However, talks have been slowed in part because of wrangling over the extent to which securing U.S. borders, specifically the one with Mexico, will set the stage for the path to citizenship.

New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told CBS the group hopes to reach a final deal by week’s end. He also said the legislation would be introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee with all 50 senators voting by May.

Immigration reform is a top, second-term priority for President Obama.

On Sunday, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the negotiators’ proposal is “100 percent consistent with what the president is doing so we feel very good about it.”

However, he declined to say on “Fox News Sunday” whether Obama  would sign legislation making a path to citizenship contingent on first securing the border.

Pfeiffer also went on TV on Sunday to garner support for the president’s gun-control proposal.

With proposed bans on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines off the table for now, Obama appears to be focusing his efforts on garnering public support and getting Congress to agree to universal background checks for gun buyers.

Pfeiffer said the president has “marshaled people to his side” and polls show a large majority of the public supports background checks.

“You cannot get 90 percent of the people to agree on the weather,” he told Fox. “The question is whether Congress is going to do the right thing.”

Pfeiffer said the president agrees with the efforts so far of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the other senators, following the mass shootings at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

“This is the best response to Newtown and gun violence in the country,” he said.

The president is going Monday to the University of Hartford, in Connecticut, to talk about gun control.

A White House official told Fox News on Sunday that Obama will speak about “the obligations we have to children lost in Newtown and other victims of gun violence” and the need to act on gun-control proposals.

Senators could start debating Democratic-written gun legislation before week’s end. But leaders also might decide to give negotiators more time to seek a deal on expanding background checks for firearms buyers.

Passing expanded background checks would be viewed as a victory for gun-control advocates, after Democratic leaders made it clear that supporters were nowhere close to getting a majority of votes in favor of re-instituting an assault-weapons ban.

The National Rifle Association opposes the assault-weapons ban and the expanded background checks.

Even with a background check deal, Senate debate on gun legislation may begin at a slow crawl with some conservatives promising delays and forced procedural votes.

The Senate gun legislation would toughen federal laws against illegal firearms sales, including against straw purchasers, or those who buy firearms for criminals or others barred from owning them. The legislation also would provide $40 million a year, a modest increase from current levels of $30 million, for a federal program that helps schools take safety measures such as reinforcing classroom doors.

Many experts agree that the proposal with the widest potential reach is a broadening of background checks, now required only for transactions by the roughly 55,000 federally licensed firearms dealers. Proponents want to cover private sales, such as those between individuals at gun shows or online.

One major hang-up has been Democrats’ insistence on retaining records of private sales, which they say is the best way to ensure background checks are actually conducted.

The system is aimed at preventing guns from going to criminals, people with severe mental problems, some drug abusers and others.

The NRA and other critics say the checks are ignored by criminals, and they fear that expanding the system could be a prelude to the government maintaining files on gun owners.

However, Senate aides said Sunday that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey are working on a compromise to expanding required federal background checks to gun shows and to online firearms sales.

Manchin is a moderate with an A rating from the NRA, while Toomey has solid conservative credentials. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity.

With immigration reform, a major breakthrough occurred a couple of weeks ago when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached a deal to allow as many as 200,000 low-skilled workers into the country each year to fill jobs in construction, hospitality, nursing homes and other industries in which employers say they have a difficult time hiring Americans.

The eight negotiators also have pledged to move the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee, then to the chamber floor to head off complaints that the legislation is being rammed through.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — a potential 2016 presidential candidate who has been frustrated by efforts since being elected to the Senate in 2010 to pass immigration reform — has emerged as a key figure in negotiations.

On Sunday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called Rubio a “game changer” for their party and assured people Rubio will not walk away from final negotiations.

“He will be there,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He also suggested, ahead of Obama releasing his 2014 budget Wednesday, Congress cannot reach a so-called “grand bargain” until it fixes immigration.

“I think if you do immigration and the grand bargain, this year will dominate the 21st century,” Graham told NBC. “The key to the grand bargain is can we solve immigration.”

Some sticking points remain — including the plan for a program to bring in agriculture workers, who weren’t included in the deal between the chamber and organized labor.

But Republicans are as interested as the president and other Democrats in reaching a comprehensive deal.

Roughly 71 percent of Hispanics voted to reelect Obama, a wakeup call to Republicans that Democrats may continue to hold the White House unless they make a better effort to bring Latino voters into the party.

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PROMISES, PROMISES: OBAMA’S IOU’S START COMING DUE

By CALVIN WOODWARD | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Presidential campaigns are long in the making, quick to be forgotten. But one part of them lives on for years: the victor’s promises.

President Barack Obama paved his path to re-election with fewer promises than in 2008. The ones he did lay down, though, are meaty, legacy-shaping for him and consequential to ordinary lives today and for generations to come, for better or worse.

They also are extraordinarily difficult to achieve in a time of gridlock grief and budgets that are tight when they are not paralyzed.

He’s promised to set a course in law against global warming, stop Iran from gaining the ability to make nuclear weapons, slash America’s use of foreign oil, restrain college costs, take a big bite out of the national debt even while protecting the heart of the big entitlement programs and overhaul immigration law.

He’s promised to make health insurance not only universally accessible, but “affordable,” through a 2010 health care law that is finally entering prime time and will soon be tested.

It’s a sure bet that many who voted Republican want some of Obama’s promises to fail. They didn’t sign up for tax increases on the wealthy or a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

But as closely divided as the country is, most Americans support Obama’s ends, if not the means. Who doesn’t want a lighter national debt or better health care for less?

In that sense, everyone’s got a stake in seeing him make good on his broad-brush promises.

Whatever a candidate’s promises, legacies are made by how a president manages matters of war and peace, economic growth and weakness, social change and traditional values, and whatever crises come out of the blue.

If this decade somehow becomes the Roaring Teens, history may not care much about a big broken promise or two. If jobs are demolished, that’s what will be remembered, not that 9 out of 10 promises might have been kept.

But Obama made a pact with voters, not historians, and he’s got IOUs outstanding.

Republican lawmakers do, too.

They don’t inherit the promises of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and did not campaign with one voice. But they presented themselves unmistakably as the party of smaller government, low taxes, a strong military capability and fiscal restraint. They have to answer to voters in 2014 for what they deliver and fail to do.

So must Democrats.

Voters can’t throw Obama out of office if he botches his job this term. But the president still has skin in the game.

With a chunk of the Senate and all of the House up for grabs in 2014, Obama would have an easier time making good on his promises if Democrats were able to hang on to the Senate, win back control of the House or both. That’s a tall order, given that the party holding the White House historically has lost seats in the sixth year of a presidency.

In this series, Associated Press writers who cover subjects key to Obama’s agenda and that of the GOP examine his main campaign promises, their chances of being kept and their likely impact on people.

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OBAMA MUST WALK FINE LINE AS CONGRESS TAKES UP AGENDA

By: Jackie Calmes | The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The days ahead could be decisive ones for the main pieces of President Obama’s second-term agenda: long-range deficit reduction, gun safety and changes to immigration law.

With Congress back this week from a recess, bipartisan groups of senators who have been negotiating about immigration and gun violence are due to unveil their agreements, though prospects for a gun deal are in question as the emotional impact of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., has faded and the National Rifle Association has marshaled opposition. And on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will send his annual budget to Capitol Hill intended as a compromise offer, though early signs suggest that Republican leaders have little interest in reviving talks. (Read More: Obama Budget to Cut Spending, Call for Higher Taxes)

Members of both parties say Mr. Obama faces a conundrum with his legislative approach to a deeply polarized Congress. In the past, when he has stayed aloof from legislative action, Republicans and others have accused him of a lack of leadership; when he has gotten involved, they have complained that they could not support any bill so closely identified with Mr. Obama without risking the contempt of conservative voters.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, called this predicament Mr. Obama’s ”Catch-22.” And Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said he had often seen it at work since 2010 while negotiating with Republican lawmakers to reach a long-term budget agreement.

At times, Mr. Warner said, Republicans would urge him to get Mr. Obama more involved, saying, ”Gosh, Warner, we’ve got to have the president.” Other times, he said, the same lawmakers would plead otherwise, saying, ”If the president comes out for this, you know it is going to kill us in the House.”

”Everybody wants him involved to the right degree at the right moment,” Mr. Warner said, ”but not anytime before or after.”

The challenge for Mr. Obama became evident as soon as he took office, when Republicans almost unanimously opposed his economic stimulus package even as the recession was erasing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. The author Robert Draper opened his recent book about the House, ”Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” with an account from Republican leaders who dined together on the night of Mr. Obama’s 2009 inauguration and agreed that the way to regain power was to oppose whatever he proposed.

Though Mr. Obama was able to prevail over Republican opposition in his first two years as president because Democrats had majorities in the House and the Senate, that changed when Republicans won control of the House in 2010, giving them a brake to apply to the president’s agenda.

Other than the stimulus experience in early 2009, the moment that most captured that polarization for the White House occurred a year later. In early 2010 Republican senators, including the minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, demanded that Mr. Obama endorse bipartisan legislation to create a deficit-reduction commission. But when he finally did so, they voted against the bill, killing it.

Now the president’s three pending priorities are shaping up as test cases for how he and Republicans will work together—or not—in his second term.

Each measure—on the budget, guns and immigration—in its own way illustrates the fine line that Mr. Obama must walk to succeed even with national opinion on his side. Privately, the White House is optimistic only about the prospects for an immigration bill, which would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million people in the country illegally.

That is because an immigration compromise is the only one that Republicans see as being in their own interests, given their party’s unpopularity with the fast-growing Latino electorate. In contrast, most Republicans see little advantage in backing gun legislation, given hostility toward it in their states or in districts throughout the South and the West and in rural areas. A budget compromise would require agreeing to higher taxes, which are anathema to conservative voters, in exchange for Mr. Obama’s support for the reductions in Medicare and Social Security that they want.

Yet even on immigration, many Republicans are weighing their party’s long-term interests in supporting a compromise against their own short-term arguments for opposing one: antipathy remains deep in conservative districts to any proposal that would grant citizenship. That calculation also holds for Republicans planning to seek the 2016 presidential nomination.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Obama early on outlined elements that he wanted in the immigration and gun measures. Then he purposely left the drafting to Congress. Senior aides, mainly the chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, and the deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, check in daily with senators. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stays in touch with his former Senate colleagues about the gun bill talks.

On immigration, Mr. Obama had wanted to propose his own measure because he had promised Latino groups he would do so. But Senate Democrats advised against it, fearing an ”Obama bill” would scare off Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has presidential ambitions. Indeed, Mr. Rubio’s office once issued a statement to deny that he was discussing immigration policy ”with anyone in the White House,” even as it criticized the president for not consulting Republicans.

”I think he’s handled it just perfectly,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader who is part of the bipartisan negotiations on both issues, said of Mr. Obama. ”He’s mobilizing public opinion. He’s staying on top of the issues and being helpful. But at the same time he’s given us—in the House and Senate—space to craft a bipartisan agreement.”

While Mr. Obama is said to be actively involved in the immigration talks behind the scenes because of that bill’s better odds, on gun measures like tighter background checks of firearms purchasers he is waging his fight mostly in public settings far from Washington. On Monday he will travel to Connecticut to meet again with the families of those killed in the school shooting in Newtown last year. At the University of Hartford, he will give another speech calling for passage of gun legislation.

Even Democrats say these speeches are having no effect on Republican lawmakers. Mr. Schumer and Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, spoke again over the weekend but have been unable to reach a deal, raising interest in a fallback proposal that two other senators—Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia—are working on.

Yet White House aides predict that if the gun issue dies, Mr. Obama will at least get credit for trying and Republicans will be blamed by the majority of Americans who favor tighter controls.

On Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, intensified the White House‘s efforts to shame Republicans who are threatening to filibuster a Senate vote on gun measures.

”Now that the cameras are off and they are not forced to look the Newtown families in the face, now they want to make it harder and filibuster it,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on the ABC News program ”This Week.”

On the budget, Mr. Obama has tried both strategies—negotiating personally with Speaker John A. Boehner on a ”grand bargain” for taxes and entitlement-program reductions, and when that failed, letting Congress try, which also failed. Now, with the bipartisan effort moribund, the president has decided he has no option but to publicly take the lead to revive negotiations with hopes of drawing some Republican support.

So the budget he is sending to Congress will embody his last compromise offer to Mr. Boehner in December. For the first time, Mr. Obama is formally proposing to reduce future Social Security benefits, if Republicans will agree to higher taxes on the wealthy and some corporations.

Republican leaders already have rejected the overture, based on early reports about it. But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on NBC’s ”Meet the Press” on Sunday that Mr. Obama is ”showing some signs of leadership that’s been lacking. I’m encouraged.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama is to dine with a dozen rank-and-file Republican senators, hoping they might deal with him on the budget, as well as on immigration and gun measures.

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POLL: OBAMA UNDERWATER ON GUNS, IMMIGRATION, DEFICIT

By DONOVAN SLACK | POLTICO

A new CNN/ORC International poll found President Obama’s overall approval rating has ticked up to 51 percent but ratings have fallen on his handling of the key issues on his agenda: immigration, guns, and the deficit.

On immigration, 44 percent approve of the way he is handling the issue, down from 51 percent in January. At the same time, disapproval has jumped to 50 percent, up from 43 percent in January.

On guns, 45 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, the poll found. In January, 46 percent approved and 49 percent dispproved.

And on the deficit, 38 percent approve of his handling of the issue, down from 41 percent in January, while disapproval ticked up slightly to 58 percent from 57 percent.

Overall, his approval rating inched up 4 points and his disapproval rating fell 3 points since last month to 47 percent, the poll found.

ORC International surveyed 1,012 adults across the country from April 5-7, CNN reported. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

U.S. SENATE APPROVES JOHN BRENNAN AS CIA DIRECTOR

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.

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BRENNAN TAKES OATH ON DRAFT CONSTITUTION – WITHOUT BILL OF RIGHTS

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

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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?

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NO BILL OF RIGHTS FOR CIA DIRECTOR?

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.

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EX-FBI AGENT CLAIMS OBAMA’S CIA NOMINEE JOHN BRENNAN IS REALLY A SECRET MUSLIM RECRUITED BY SAUDIS

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:

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

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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:

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“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.”

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SENATOR RAND PAUL: MY FILIBUSTER WAS JUST THE BEGINNING

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.

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RON PAUL’S TEXAS STRAIGHT TALK: ON RAND’S FILIBUSTER AND THE GROWTH OF EXECUTIVE POWER

Published on Mar 10, 2013

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CONGRESS, DRONES, AND THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY

Ron Paul
Infowars.com
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.

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WHITE HOUSE ADMITS IT CAN’T KILL AMERICANS WITH DRONES IN THE UNITED STATES

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.

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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.

Sincerely,

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.

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RAND PAUL HEARS OF HOLDER’S LETTER DURING AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGYN KELLY

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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.

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RELATED POST: EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA SIGNS NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT 2013 INTO LAW ON JANUARY 2, 2013

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DID THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SAY THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT ASSASSINATE AMERICANS?

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.

Sincerely,

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.”

Moreover:

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.”

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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?

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THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DID NOT DISCLAIM MURDER OF AMERICANS BY DRONE

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.

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THE TRUE MEANING BEHIND HOLDER’S RESPONSE TO RAND PAUL

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

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
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.

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WHAT ERIC HOLDER REALLY SAID

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.

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OBAMA MUST REVEAL LEGAL MEMOS ON HIS ADMINISTRATION’S DRONE KILLING PROGRAM

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

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

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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.

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SENATORS OF BOTH PARTIES WILL KEEP PRESSING OBAMA ON CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS AND DRONE KILLINGS

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.”

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TIMELINE OF U.S. POLICY CONCERNING COVERT OPERATIONS INVOLVING ASSASSINATION

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.
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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). 
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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.”
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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.
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HOW A U.S. CITIZEN CAME TO BE IN AMERICA’S CROSS HAIRS

By MARK MAZZETTI, CHARLIE SAVAGE and SCOTT SHANE | The New York Times

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.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES DEFENDS DRONE MURDER

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.

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OBAMA ADMINISTRATION POSTHUMOUSLY TRIES AWLAKI IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

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.

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WALL STREET JOURNAL ATTACKS RAND PAUL FILIBUSTER

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.

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GRAHAM, MCCAIN BLAST RON PAUL FILIBUSTER

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.”

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JOHN MCCAIN AND LINDSEY GRAHAM DECLARE WAR ON RAND PAUL

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.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM SLAMS RAND PAUL FOR FILIBUSTERING OBAMA’S DOMESTIC DRONE POLICY

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.”

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SENATORS GRAHAM, MCCAIN GO AFTER BRENNAN CIA NOMINATION

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.

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OBAMA PAYS DINNER TAB FOR A DOZEN REPUBLICANS

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.

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LAROUCHE: THERE CAN BE NO CONCESSIONS TO THE PRESIDENT’S DEFIANCE OF LAW

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.

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SENATOR RAND PAUL INTERVIEW WITH RUSH LIMBAUGH

March 07, 2013

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

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.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

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.

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RON WYDEN SAYS CIA CONFIRMATION BATTLE WAS ABOUT MORE THAN DRONES

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.”

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WALTER JONES DEMANDS END TO UNCONSTITUTIONAL DRONE USE

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.”

HILLARY CLINTON TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATE ON BENGHAZI, LIBYA ATTACK

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By Anne Gearan | The Washington Post

In what probably was her final major public appearance as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Wednesday delivering a forceful defense of the Obama administration’s response to the killings of four Americans in Libya last year and praising the commitment of the United States’ diplomats.

Clinton, who returned to work this month after suffering a concussion and blood clot in early December, spent six hours testifying and answering questions. She started at 9 a.m. before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and ended after 5 p.m. with the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Her long-awaited testimony provided little in the way of new information about the attack in Benghazi. But confronting her critics and delivering a spirited defense of the administration’s response was essential to the effort to put the tragedy behind her as she leaves a job for which she has received wide praise and contemplates a possible presidential run in 2016.

At times, the usually composed Clinton was emotional, choking up as she described meeting the caskets of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the three other Americans who were killed in the assault on a diplomatic outpost on Sept. 11. Occasionally her patience wore thin. After one Republican pressed her on the administration’s shifting explanations for the attack — which it initially described as the result of a protest — she pounded the table.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton demanded. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

She reiterated that she takes responsibility for what an independent investigation called security lapses and systemic failures within the State Department. But she rejected all suggestions by Republicans that there had been a cover-up in the aftermath of the assault on the temporary post and a nearby annex used by the CIA. She also said she never saw requests by Stevens and others for more security.

Controversy over the Benghazi attack has dogged the administration for months. Republicans’ accusations that U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice gave a misleading description of the events leading up to the assault resulted in her withdrawing from consideration to replace Clinton, opening the door for the nomination of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

An investigation by an Accountability Review Board appointed by the State Department faulted the department for security shortcomings and not heeding warnings about the dangers in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya. The board recommended broad changes in security and a review of the way the department spends money and Congress provides it.

Clinton pledged to adopt all 29 recommendations from the review board, saying that many already are being implemented. But she insisted that diplomats must be able to travel and work in dangerous places to do their jobs.

The promises did not satisfy her toughest critics. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) called it “outrageous” that the secretary was not interviewed by the investigators who conducted the independent review.

“I was not asked to speak,” Clinton said, adding that she would have done so if the investigators had thought it important.

For the most part, questions from Democrats were prefaced with praise for Clinton’s tenure as secretary and focused on ways to improve diplomatic security. Republicans were harsher. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) accused Clinton of “national security malpractice” for not better protecting the post where Stevens was killed. “You let the consulate become a death trap,” he said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) greeted Clinton politely, but switched his tone quickly, telling her, “Your answers are not satisfactory to me.” He said that “numerous warnings” about militant activity in Libya were not addressed and that the State Department’s desire for a “soft footprint” in the country “was to some degree responsible for what took place.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would have fired Clinton if he had been president, eliciting a gasp from a Clinton aide. And Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) trying to pin Clinton down later in the day, observed, “Everybody has their own CYA to do here.”

On a lighter note, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) drew chuckles when he wished Clinton “the best in your future endeavors — mostly.”

The sessions took place the day before Kerry’s Senate hearing to replace Clinton as secretary. Clinton, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, had always said she would serve only one term in his Cabinet. Kerry, though still chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chose not to participate in the hearing to avoid the appearance of a conflict, aides said.

Clinton praised diplomats who are working in peril and on a shoestring, asking Congress to free up existing funding and provide more money for security at high-risk embassies and other diplomatic posts worldwide.

As ambassador to Libya, Stevens had sent repeated cables to Washington seeking better security, a point several Republicans raised during the two sessions. In the morning hearing before the Senate, Clinton said that she never saw the requests. “They did not come to me,” she said. “I did not approve them. I did not deny them.”

Even under sometimes tough questioning, Clinton visibly lost her temper only during the exchange with Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (R-Wis.) when he accused Rice of “purposely misleading the American public” about events leading up to the Benghazi attack. Five days after the assault, Rice said in television interviews that it grew out a spontaneous protest, not a planned terrorist operation. The administration later reversed that view.

Slamming the table and staring at Johnson, Clinton said: “Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.”

Clinton cast the attack that killed Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty as part of a larger rise of militancy across a vast swath of northern Africa and the Middle East. Linking the attacks loosely to the instability now on display in Mali and Algeria, Clinton said understanding and confronting that challenge transcends politics.

“We are in a new reality. We are trying to make sense of changes that nobody had predicted but which we’re going to have to live with,” she said. “Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s avoid turning everything into a political football.”

Clinton’s voice broke as she described receiving the caskets of the Americans at Joint Base Andrews a few days after the attack.

“For me, this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal,” she said, choking up. “I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.”

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RAND PAUL TO HILLARY CLINTON: ‘IF I WERE PRESIDENT, ‘I WOULD HAVE RELIEVED YOU OF YOUR POST’

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By Alexis Levinson | The Daily Caller

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. said Secretary of State had been negligent in conducting her job, and said that if he were president, he would have relieved her of her post.

Paul said that the fact that she was not aware of the requests of more security for the U.S. Embassy in Libya constituted “a failure of leadership” and said it was “inexcusable.”

“I think ultimately…you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11,” Paul said.

“Had I been president at the time and I had found that you had not read the cables from Benghazi, you had not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens,” he went on, “I would have relieved you of your post.”

Paul accused Clinton of being directly responsible for the loss of lives in the September 11, 2012 attacks.

“Not to know of the requests for security really, I think, cost these people their lives,” he said.

“I don’t suspect you of bad motives,” he said, but added that “it’s a failure of leadership not to be involved. It’s a failure of leadership not to know these things.”

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DICK MORRIS: QUESTIONS FOR HILLARY CLINTON ON BENGHAZI

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BENGHAZI HEARING WAS JUST POLITICAL THEATRE

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ALEX JONES ON THE BENGHAZIGATE COVER-UP

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JUDGE NAPOLITANO ON THE BENGHAZI HEARINGS: ‘DOES MRS. CLINTON THINK WE WOULD BELIEVE THAT!’

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HILLARY CLINTON’S EXIT INTERVIEW ON BENGHAZI

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FORMER SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER: WAS U.S. RUNNING GUNS TO SYRIAN REBELS VIA BENGHAZI? CIA: NO

By Terence P. Jeffrey | CNS News

(CNSNews.com) – Retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin—who is the former commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command, the former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and who, in the 1990s, worked with the CIA—told CNSNews.com in a video interview last week that he believes it is a reasonable supposition that the U.S. was supporting or planning to support the Syrian rebels via Benghazi, Libya.

The CIA, however, says Boykin’s supposition is erroneous and that the U.S. was not conducting or planning covert action to support Syrian rebels through Benghazi.

“These assertions are both baseless and flat wrong,” a CIA spokesperson told CNSNews.com on Tuesday.

Boykin, who retired from the Army in 2007, believes that such an action, or planned action, would help explain why Amb. Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, visiting that city for the first time since he had departed from it in November 2011 after having served there as a special envoy to the Libyan rebels who overthrew the Qaddafi regime.

“Then what was Stevens doing there on September 11 of 2012?” Boykin said in an interview with CNSNews.com. “More supposition was that he was now funneling guns to the rebel forces in Syria, using essentially the Turks to facilitate that. Was that occurring, (a), and if so, was it a legal covert action?”

Before terrorists attacked the State Department’s Special Mission Compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, Amb. Stevens had met there with a Turkish diplomat.

About two hours after Amb. Stevens escorted the diplomat out of the main gate of the compound, dozens of terrorists swarmed through the same gate, beginning the series of attacks that would result in the deaths of Amb. Stevens, State Department Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who were working for the CIA.

According to the State Department Accountability Review Board report, a Greek cargo ship first delivered then-Special Envoy Chris Stevens to Benghazi on April 5, 2011. Benghazi was then the center of the Libyan rebellion, and Stevens was accompanied at that time by ten State Department Diplomatic Security agents.

Stevens stayed initially in Benghazi at the Tibesti Hotel. But because of security concerns, he moved into the CIA Annex in Benghazi on June 1, 2011.

“Benghazi, however, was still very much a conflict zone,” said the ARB report. “On June 1, 2011, a car bomb exploded outside the Tibesti Hotel, and shortly thereafter a credible threat against the Special Envoy mission prompted Stevens to move to the Annex.”

Three weeks after that, Stevens moved into the State Department’s own facility in Benghazi. “On June 21, 2011, he and his security contingent moved to what would become the Special Mission Benghazi compound (SMC),” said the ARB report.

On Oct. 20, 2011, Libyan rebels killed Qaddafi and the rebellion was over.

“Stevens continued as Special Envoy to the TNC in Benghazi until he departed Libya on November 17, 2011, after which the Special Envoy position was not filled,” says the ARB report.

After Stevens’ departure from Benghazi, the CIA Annex and the State Department Special Mission Compound remained open. However, the State Department mission had a very small and rotating temporary staff.

“Stevens was replaced by an experienced Civil Service employee who served for 73 days in what came to be called the ‘principal officer’ position in Benghazi,” said the ARB report. “After November 2011, the principal officer slot became a TDY (temporary duty) assignment for officers with varying levels of experience who served in Benghazi anywhere from 10 days to over two months, usually without transiting Tripoli. In December 2011, the Under Secretary for Management approved a one-year continuation of the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, which was never a consulate and never formally notified to the Libyan government.”

The U.S. sent Stevens back to Libya as the U.S. ambassador in late May 2012. But, as ambassador, Stevens resided in Tripoli, site of the U.S. embassy, and did not return to Benghazi until Sept. 10, 2012, the day before the terrorist attacks.

Before Stevens arrived in Benghazi on Sept. 10, there were only five Americans at the State Department mission there. One was the temporary duty principal officer, who was in the 12th day of his 13-day temporary assignment to the mission. Another was Information Management Officer Smith, who had arrived the previous week for his own temporary duty assignment. The other three were State Department security officers temporarily assigned to the mission.

Stevens brought two additional State Department security officers with him on Sept. 10, but the temporary duty principal officer left Benghazi on the morning of Sept. 11, leaving Information Management Officer Smith, Amb. Stevens himself and the five State Department security officers as the only Americans manning the facility.

A half mile away as the crow flies, there were at least six CIA security personnel at the Annex—who, on the night of Sept. 11, would rush to the State Department compound in an attempt to rescue the Americans there.

CNSNews.com asked Gen. Boykin: “What possibly was the State Department doing in Benghazi at that point with that sort of skeletal group?”

“Well, I think that they were anticipating that they would eventually be given a directive to support the Syrian rebels and that that would be the hub of that activity,” said Boykin.

“So, I think they kept the facilities open, they kept them functioning, they had somebody there that had to be there because of the communications equipment, because of the potentially classified material that was still there,” said Boykin. “And I think that they stayed there in anticipation of supporting the Syrian rebels. They’d probably been given a heads up on that.”

Boykin stressed that he could not prove that the U.S. was conducting or planning a covert action to support the Syrian rebels that would involve the facilities in Benghazi, only that he had information supporting this supposition.

“Now, with regards to supporting the rebels in Syria, I can’t prove that there was a covert action program,” said Boykin. “I’ve got a lot of information that says there was. But if there was and it was done legally, I have no issue with it. But if it was done without the proper process being followed, including the Congress being notified–and generally when the Congress is notified they appropriate money for it–I’ve got a big issue with it because we don’t operate that way. That’s outside of the way America should be functioning.”

In June 2011, when the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence considered the nomination of General David Petraeus to be director of the CIA, Petraeus submitted a written outline of the legal process for initiating a covert action. Key elements include that the action must be formally approved by the president and that key leaders in Congress must be notified.

“The CIA carries out covert action on behalf of the president,” Petraeus told the committee. “It is the president, his national security staff, or other members of the executive branch that propose ideas for covert action programs that will support the national security objectives of the U.S. CIA then develops a plan for carrying out the program, including the preparation of a draft Presidential Finding or Memorandum of Notification (MON) and supporting paperwork.

“The CIA then submits that plan to the National Security Staff, after coordination with the ODNI and the Intelligence Community, as appropriate,” Petraeus said. “The proposed Finding or MON is reviewed by the National Security Staff and then sent to the president for approval. Once approved, and after required notification to the two intelligence committees, the president typically will direct the CIA to implement the program. Once implemented, the Agency itself, as well as the NSC and the intelligence committees of Congress, review the conduct of the program on an ongoing basis.”

Petraeus told the committee he would refuse an order to conduct an illegal covert action.

“If confirmed as Director of the CIA, I would refuse to carry out any activity that I believed to be illegal,” he said. “As outlined above, the CIA has an active role in the development of any covert action program, and I intend to be a strong voice for the CIA in that process. If I assessed that a covert action proposal would be ineffective or otherwise unsuited to the Agency’s capabilities, I would recommend against such a program, and, if necessary, raise my concerns directly with the president.”

Gen. Boykin said that if there was a legal U.S. covert action in Libya to help arm the Syrian rebels, or a plan for such an action, Congress should inform the American people about it.

“In the context of why Ambassador Stephens was there that day, I think that the American public needs an explanation,” said Boykin. “And if that explanation is that he was there to meet with the Turkish General Counsel who was helping to facilitate the flow of arms, then I think that needs to come out.

“I do not think that the details of the covert action need to be explained to the American public,” said Boykin. “Otherwise, why would you have a covert action program? No, I for one don’t think we should be supporting the rebels in Syria. There’s no good outcome in Syria but I won’t get off on that tangent. I don’t think that they necessarily have to explain to us exactly the mechanism or the mechanics of a covert action program.”

Boykin said he did not believe it would harm U.S. interest for Congress to simply reveal the fact of such a covert action without going into the details.

“Absolutely, they could tell us,” said Boykin. “First of all if it was legal, the Congress has been briefed so the Congress could tell you tomorrow whether there was an operation to supply arms and material to the rebels in Syria. If it was legal.”

When told that the CIA, in responding to his interview with CNSNews.com, said that the supposition that the U.S. was conducting or planning a covert action to support the Syrian rebels through Benghazi was “both baseless and flat wrong,” Gen Boykin said: “I am totally supportive of covert action and believe it is an important method for advancing U.S. policy. I believe there must be an explanation for why the ambassador was there on 9/11. I believe there has been significant information that has come out recently calling into question whether the ambassador was either involved in or making preparations for supplying material to the Syrian resistance forces.”

During his 36-year career in the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Boykin served as an original member of Delta Force, as the commander of Delta Force, as the commander of U.S. Special Forces Command, as the commander of the U.S. Army Special Forces Center and as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. In 1994-1995, he did a tour with the CIA. He is currently executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

Here is the video of retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin talking to CNSNews.com about his supposition that the U.S. was conducting, or planning, a covert action to support the Syrian rebels through Benghazi, Libya:

REPORT: GOP SENATORS WON’T CONFIRM KERRY FOR SECRETARY OF STATE UNTIL CLINTON TESTIFIES ON BENGHANZI

Republican senators will refuse to confirm Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as Secretary of State until the nation’s current top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, testifies about her handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.

“The Senate is expected to take up Kerry’s nomination in early January, but multiple Republican senators have already said they won’t agree to a vote on Kerry’s nomination until Clinton testifies about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi,” The Cable’s Josh Rogin notes.

Clinton backed out of testifying at a congressional hearing last week after fainting and suffering a concussion. She was the first cabinet-level official to acknowledge that terrorists played a role in the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

“For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries,” Clinton said during a United Nations meeting in New York on September 26. “Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi,” (emphasis added).

A week earlier, though, Clinton was content to have people such as the father of Tyrone Woods — the former Navy Seal killed during the attack on Benghazi — believe that an anti-Islam Youtube video was the occasion for the assault, which took place on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“Well, this is what Hillary did,” Mr. Woods said of his meeting with Clinton immediately following the assault. “She came over and, you know, she did the same thing, separately came over and talked with me.  I gave her a hug, shook her hand, and she did not appear to be one bit sincere at all.  She mentioned that thing about, ‘We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.’ That was the first time I had even heard about anything like that.”

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