Justice Dept. document justifies killing Americans overseas if they pose ‘imminent threat’

John O. BrennanUnited States can lawfully kill U.S. citizen overseas if it determines the target is “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda or associated group and poses an imminent threat to the United States, according to a Justice Department document published late Monday by NBC News. The document defines “imminent threat” expansively, saying it does not have to be based on intelligence about specific attack since such actions are being “continually” planned by al-Qaeda. “In this context,” it says, “imminence must incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity” as well as possible collateral damage to civilians. It says that such determinations can be made by an “informed, high-level official of U.S. government”. NBC said document was provided by Obama administration last summer to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees as a summary of a classified memo on targeted killings of U.S. citizens prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The memo was written months prior to a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim cleric accused of helping al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate plan attacks against the United States. Three other Americans, including Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, have also been killed in U.S. strikes in Yemen. The Obama administration, in decisions upheld in federal court rulings, has repeatedly denied demands by lawmakers, civil rights groups and media to release memo and other information on targeted killings, even to acknowledge their existence. Senators are expected to closely question John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, on the drone strikes, the memo and the Awlaki killing during Brennan’s confirmation hearing Thursday on his nomination to become Obama’s new CIA director. Justice officials could not be reached for comment on the document, which NBC posted on its Web site. 16-page document is titled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaeda or An Associated Force”. In announcing Awlaki’s death, Obama described him as leader of “external affairs” of Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. American Civil Liberties Union on Monday night called the document a “profoundly disturbing” summary of “a stunning overreach of executive authority, the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement before or after the fact.” ACLU sought the original Justice Department memo as part of a case dismissed last month by a federal judge in NYC. Last Friday, ACLU filed a notice of appeal in that case. “Needless to say, the white paper is not a substitute for the legal memo. But it’s a pretty remarkable document,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said. (source: Karen DeYoung – The Washington Post – 05/02/2013)


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33 Responses to Justice Dept. document justifies killing Americans overseas if they pose ‘imminent threat’

  1. It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances,” said Hina Shamsi of the ACLU, in response to Monday’s leaked 16-page Justice Department “White Paper” on the legal basis for a lethal operation against a U.S. citizen al Qaeda leader. It is Shamsi’s job to declare on a regular basis that the executive branch is acting unlawfully and that our constitutional system is under threat. But her predictable reaction to the White Paper, and the White Paper itself, reveal some of the misunderstandings and pathologies that still plague the conduct of the global “war on terror,” now in its twelfth year. There is little of substance that is new in the White Paper. Thanks in part to lawsuits and publicity campaigns brought by the ACLU, and to disclosures and leaks sparked part by these actions, we have learned a lot in recent years about the Obama administration’s targeted killing program, including its legal basis. Many elements of the administration’s legal thinking on targeted killing, including of American citizens, have been laid out as well in a series of remarkable speeches by senior administration officials. Much is being made of the White Paper’s expansive conception of the “imminent threat,” which doesn’t require as a predicate for targeted killing evidence of a specific attack in the immediate future. Shamsi’s ACLU colleague, Jameel Jaffer, says the White Paper “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.” Perhaps. But this is not news.

    In an address at Harvard in 2011, the President’s counterterrorism czar, John Brennan, argued that “a more flexible understanding of ‘imminence’ may be appropriate when dealing with terrorist groups,” and maintained that “the traditional conception of what constitutes an ‘imminent’ attack should be broadened in light of the modern-day capabilities, techniques, and technological innovations of terrorist organizations.”

    Nor is the White Paper a repudiation of democratic principles or our constitutional checks and balances. Shamsi complains that the President claims an authority to kill American citizens “without legal involvement.” What she fails to mention is that the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the administration concerning the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula who was an operational leader who planned attacks on the United States from Yemen, including the failed 2009 “underwear bomber” attack. The court dismissed the case based in part on “the impropriety of judicial review.” The court added that the Constitution places “responsibility for the military decisions at issue in this case ‘in the hands of those who are best positioned and most politically accountable for making them”—Congress and the president. Judicial review before killing an American citizen might sound like a good idea in the abstract. But at present there is simply no constitutional or statutory mechanism for judicial review that the President could have deployed before killing al-Awlaki. Congress might be able to create a system of secret judicial review in this context, though it has shown little interest in doing so and its authority to do so is far from clear. In the meantime, the President faced a threat and had the responsibility to act. Our constitutional democracy does not require the President to remain passive in the face of threats such as al-Awlaki. To the contrary, he has a duty to meet this threat, regardless of the citizenship of its author.

    Consistent with the legal judgment of two presidential administrations and based on principles articulated by federal courts reviewing detentions in Guantanamo, al- Awlaki also falls within the September 2001 congressional authorization of presidential force against al Qaeda (…..)


  2. In the fall of 2006, my infantry platoon gathered in a dusty patrol base in Baghdad to watch our own being killed in fuzzy, pixilated video clips. An insurgent sniper named Juba was terrorizing Baghdad with precise and methodical shots at allied troops, and it was all captured on film. A soldier in a turret falls in a puff of smoke. Another soldier standing along a road is shot in the head. “Don’t let this be you,” our platoon sergeant said, and we headed out for another patrol. No one knew if Juba was real or a myth. He was a European mercenary or a Syrian jihadist, depending on whom you asked. For American troops, Juba was a terror, but for the insurgents, he must have been a comforting legend. Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was killed Saturday along with another man at a gun range in Texas, was our Juba. Mr. Kyle, 38, wasn’t just a legend. He was The Legend, with four tours in Iraq, two Purple Hearts and a hand in every major battle during the conflict. Mr. Kyle earned the title of America’s deadliest sniper, something not lost on the Iraqi insurgency. They put a bounty on his head and called him Al Shaitan Ramadi: the Devil of Ramadi. Mr. Kyle’s book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” was published last year. Snipers have enjoyed a disproportionate amount of influence on the battlefield since colonial sharpshooters began targeting British officers in the Revolutionary War — an act regarded as ungentlemanly at the time. They have bogged down invading forces and shredded morale into ribbons. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland during the Winter War of 1939-40, the Finnish sniper Simo Hayha took on entire units by himself, racking up more than 500 confirmed kills in less than 100 days. The Soviets called him White Death. It seems that only snipers and generals earn nicknames and respect from their enemies. A vital job of Mr. Kyle’s was to provide overwatch for American soldiers and Marines as they maneuvered during patrols and raids — an angel of sorts for coalition troops. Mr. Kyle took that idea to form Fitco Cares Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Kyle often took veterans struggling with PTSD to gun ranges for a therapy of sorts, and in a tragic twist, the former Marine accused of killing Mr. Kyle was a veteran who may have been struggling with the disorder (…..)


  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: According to the text “Mr. Kyle’s grim talent of killing the enemy was not a source of guilt for him. What did seem to bother him were the things that he couldn’t do”. Mr. Kyle was the living proof that psychological training of Navy Seals has improved greatly since the Vietnam war. He seemed to be the real life super soldier shown in Hollywood movies.


  4. (…..) Mr. Brennan, a former C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has taken a particular interest in Yemen, sounding early alarms within the administration about the threat developing there, working closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret C.I.A. drone base there that is used for American strikes, and making the impoverished desert nation a test case for American counterterrorism strategy. In recent years, both C.I.A. and Pentagon counterterrorism officials have pressed for greater freedom to attack suspected militants, and colleagues say Mr. Brennan has often been a restraining voice. The strikes have killed a number of operatives of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, including Said Ali al-Shihri, a deputy leader of the group, and the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. But they have also claimed civilians like Mr. Jaber and have raised troubling questions that apply to Pakistan and Somalia as well: Could the targeted killing campaign be creating more militants in Yemen than it is killing? And is it in America’s long-term interest to be waging war against a self-renewing insurgency inside a country about which Washington has at best a hazy understanding? Several former top military and intelligence officials — including Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired general who led the Joint Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the military’s drone strikes, and Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director — have raised concerns that the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen are increasingly targeting low-level militants who do not pose a direct threat to the United States. In an interview with Reuters, General McChrystal said that drones could be a useful tool but were “hated on a visceral level” in some of the places where they were used and contributed to a “perception of American arrogance.” Mr. Brennan has aggressively defended the accuracy of the drone strikes, and the rate of civilian casualties has gone down considerably since the attacks began in Yemen in 2009. He has also largely dismissed criticism that the drone campaign has tarnished America’s image in Yemen and has been an effective recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. “In fact, we see the opposite,” Mr. Brennan said during a speech last year. “Our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us. Yemeni citizens who have been freed from the hellish grip of A.Q.A.P. are more eager, not less, to work with the Yemeni government.”

    Christopher Swift, a researcher at Georgetown University who spent last summer in Yemen studying the reaction to the strikes, said he thought Mr. Brennan’s comments missed the broader impact. “What Brennan said accurately reflected people in the security apparatus who he speaks to when he goes to Yemen,” Mr. Swift said. “It doesn’t reflect the views of the man in the street, of young human rights activists, of the political opposition.” Though Mr. Swift said he thought that critics had exaggerated the role of the strikes in generating recruits for Al Qaeda, “in the political sphere, the perception is that the U.S. is colluding with the Yemeni government in a covert war against the Yemeni people.” “Even if we’re winning in the military domain,” Mr. Swift said, “drones may be undermining our long-term interest in the goal of a stable Yemen with a functional political system and economy” (…..)


  5. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mr Brennan is seeking nomination for the CIA not Chief of Protocol at the White House. A tough job that requires nerves of steel, cold analytic thinking and expertise. He is the right man for the bureaucracy with responsibility to keep America safe. The drone question should be addressed by lawyers, not by Mr. Brennan.


  6. Makaainana: Lawyers will say what Obama wants. They just use more and fancy words. The drone question should be addressed by Congress. They should first pass a law that says the intelligence services must confine their operations to gathering intelligence, and must not engage in clandestine wars. The requirement for Congress to “Declare” war is in the Constitution for a purpose. Obama is doing an end run by creating his own private (and secret) army.


  7. The White House on Wednesday directed the Justice Department to release to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees classified documents discussing the legal justification for killing, by drone strikes and other means, American citizens abroad who are considered terrorists. The White House announcement appears to refer to a long, detailed 2010 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in September 2011. Members of Congress have long demanded access to the legal memorandum. The decision to release the legal memo to the Intelligence Committees came under pressure, two days after a bipartisan group of 11 senators joined a growing chorus asking for more information about the legal justification for targeted killings, especially of Americans (…..) Administration officials said Mr. Obama had decided to take the action, which they described as extraordinary, out of a desire to involve Congress in the development of the legal framework for targeting specific people to be killed in the war against Al Qaeda. Aides noted that Mr. Obama had made a pledge to do that during an appearance on “The Daily Show” last year. “Today, as part of the president’s ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the Congressional Intelligence Committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice white paper,” said an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the handling of classified material. The official said members of the Intelligence Committees would now get “access” to the documents. Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the president’s move “a small step in the right direction.” But he noted that the legal memo or memos were not being shared with the Armed Services Committees, which have jurisdiction over Pentagon strikes, or the Judiciary Committees, which oversee the Justice Department. It was not clear whether the release involved more than one memo. The public should be permitted to see at least a redacted version of the relevant material, Mr. Anders said. “Everyone has a right to know when the government believes it can kill Americans and others,” he said (…..)


  8. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    State sponsored assassination is an old practice. It doesn’t make any difference whether the instrument used to kill is an armed drone, Polonium poisoning, a group of killers or a huge car bomb. The use of drones to eliminate US and foreign citizens overseas is the result of technological advances in warfare. The legal and ethical aspects of it will be debated ad nauseam in law schools and politicians. Meanwhile, the new weapon is here to stay.


  9. (…..) But it’s still not possible to rule with perfectly clean hands. There are still terrorists out there, hiding in the shadows and plotting to kill Americans. So even today’s leaders face the Machiavellian choice: Do I have to be brutal to protect the people I serve? Do I have to use drones, which sometimes kill innocent children, in order to thwart terror and save the lives of my own? When Barack Obama was a senator, he wasn’t compelled to confront the brutal logic of leadership. Now in office, he’s thrown into the Machiavellian world. He’s decided, correctly, that we are in a long war against Al Qaeda; that drone strikes do effectively kill terrorists; that, in fact, they inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative; that, in fact, civilian death rates are dropping sharply as the C.I.A. gets better at this. Acting brutally abroad saves lives at home.

    Still, there’s another aspect of Machiavellian thought relevant to the drone debate.

    This is a core weakness in his thought. He puts too much faith in the self-restraint of his leaders. Machiavelli tells us that men are venal self-deceivers, but then he gives his Prince permission to do all these monstrous things, trusting him not to get carried away or turn into a monster himself. Our founders were more careful. Our founders understood that leaders are as venal and untrustworthy as anybody else. They abhorred concentrated power, and they set up checks and balances to disperse it. Our drone policy should take account of our founders’ superior realism. Drone strikes are so easy, hidden and abstract. There should be some independent judicial panel to review the kill lists. There should be an independent panel of former military and intelligence officers issuing reports on the program’s efficacy. If you take Machiavelli’s tough-minded view of human nature, you have to be brutal to your enemies — but you also have to set up skeptical checks on the people you empower to destroy them.


  10. Germany’s government recently announced plans to do a 180-degree policy shift by deploying armed drones in combat. It argues that remote-controlled killing machines are no different than any other weapons, but experts say the “new wars” have completely different — and revolutionary — rules.


  11. If President Obama tuned in to the past week’s bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself. Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country’s core values in the name of security. The debate is not an exact parallel to those of the Bush era, and Mr. Obama can point to ways he has tried to exorcise what he sees as the excesses of the last administration. But in broad terms, the conversation generated by the confirmation hearing of John O. Brennan, his nominee for C.I.A. director, underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush’s approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces. At the same time, a separate hearing in Congress revealed how far Mr. Obama has gone to avoid what he sees as Mr. Bush’s central mistake. Testimony indicated that the president had overruled his secretaries of state and defense and his military commanders when they advised arming rebels in Syria. With troops only recently home from Iraq, Mr. Obama made clear that he was so intent on staying out of another war against a Middle East tyrant that he did not want to be involved even by proxy, especially if the proxies might be questionable. Critics on the left saw abuse of power, and critics on the right saw passivity. The confluence of these debates suggests the ways Mr. Obama is willing to emulate Mr. Bush and the ways he is not. In effect, Mr. Obama relies on his predecessor’s aggressive approach in one area to avoid Mr. Bush’s even more aggressive approach in others. By emphasizing drone strikes, Mr. Obama need not bother with the tricky issues of detention and interrogation because terrorists tracked down on his watch are generally incinerated from the sky, not captured and questioned. By dispensing with concerns about due process, he avoids a more traditional war that he fears could lead to American boots on the ground. “I’d argue the shift to more targeted action against A. Q. has been a hallmark of Obama’s approach against terrorism, whereas Iraq was Bush’s signature decision in his global war on terror,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, using the initials for Al Qaeda (…..)


  12. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: In homeland security, Pres Obama is doing exactly what the American people expect and demand from him. The Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine sets the US on a permanent state of warfare domestically and internationally. The new national security doctrine has two salient characteristics. First, US foreign policy became even more military biased. In a hypothetical scenario, an Al-Qaeda cell is detected in Mexico. How does the White House reacts? send Secretary of State John Kerry to talk to the Mexican authorities to eliminate the threat or send armed drones to do the job? Second, the war on terror doctrine curtails civil liberties. The US has moved from a society of greater freedom into a society under surveillance and suspicion. Citizens considered enemies of the State are no longer taken to a Court of Law. They are assassinated by armed drones. The land of the free became the home of the surveillance.


  13. Modern Man: This is exactly why Obama is a terrific president – he’s pragmatic. I believe he entered office with good intentions, and has merely realized that given the realistic situations in front of him, he needs to do things he and the public may be uncomfortable with. I’ve lived in the Middle East for a while and experienced a wide range of cultures – while we can be a bit more idealistic about our domestic programs, realism is the name of the game in international relations. Obama is a realist, and while he takes heat for it, it’s much better than the alternative.


  14. Rational Pragmatist: I work in marketing and communications and it seems obvious that Pres. Obama has attempted to “rebrand” his similar decisions, but pragmatically he is doing some of the very stuff that Pres. GW Bush did. I see that as a validation of GWB and so will history, frankly. No serious authors of history will be able to delineate between the two without looking biased. To call Pres. Obama open or more transparent for having been forced into a dialogue about secret memos is naive and unreasonably biased. Pres. Obama seems to have the aggressiveness of Pres. GW Bush, but the battle plan of Pres. Clinton. I recall two occasions in 1998 when Pres. Clinton carpet-bombed Iraq for four days and authorized missile strikes in Afghanistan that same year. This was the real subject of the book “See No Evil” by Robert Baer: that one group of Presidents (Presidents GHWB and GWB) put feet on the ground digging for Intel to fight the war on terror while Pres. Clinton dismantled much of that intel machine, favoring long distance strikes. Pres. Obama continues the Clinton bombing approach, but has put more feet on the ground (especially in Afghanistan and very much so at the end of the Iraq war.) Pres. Obama is just getting more help from Democrats and so the critiques have been less. GWB seemed to identify American terrorists respecting their Constitutional rights and then put them through a legal military trial somewhat like a spy. Pres. Obama however is skipping all of that and bombing the suspect?


  15. Bill B: Clinton did not carpet bomb Iraq. Carpet bombing is when you indiscriminately bomb a selected area. The invasion of the country by GWB was based on exaggerated claims about WMD and had nothing to do with the struggle against al-Qaida,to which Bush paid little attention to before 9-11. As to differences between Bush and Obama, using that as a validation of Bush’s policies is a mark of bias. Obama hasn’t done full-scale invasions of entire countries on spurious claims…and if you want to talk about body counts from bombing people, Bush wins hands down.


  16. ScottW: How can you be so sure his is a “terrific President” when he refuses to disclose the legal and factual basis for targeted killing? The kill list is secret, the criteria for finding someone a high level operative is secret, the level of threat required secret, geographical scope of strikes secret, number of civilians secret, and when the global war on terror can finally be considered over secret. This is not a personality contest between Bush and Obama, but an all out assault on the peoples’ right to know how the government conducts OUR business so we can determine if the activity is lawful, ethical and meets with our approval. It is called a democracy and it consists of more than just going to the ballot box every 4 years and then being told we have no right to know anything about drones other than that which the government selectively discloses.


  17. MiddleWayGuy: But heavens, we can’t apply that standard … it might left Bush off the hook …


  18. Kurtis Fechtmeyer: Thanks for the viewpoint from Australia. I’m much more worried about incompetence than realism. The NYT had a recent article about a drone strike that killed an important potential ally. Do you really trust that these people will pick the right targets without some due process to put thought in the mix.


  19. American Man: With no disrespect for your opinion, your comment is one which is made with ignorance of the truth. Obama, has an ideology of life he lives by, and my observation of his performance has shown to me, that he has no good intentions, unless it is for his good. He is not a terrific President, he is a very bad one, you are only repeating State Media propaganda, not the truth. 1: He insists on an irresponsible spending binge which has only hurt the Nation and it’s citizens with absolutely no betterment. An economic crash is coming with high inflation, dollar devaluation. 2: His bail outs all failed , including GM, which lost the Nation over 38 million on stock dumped already, and the Volt is a complete failure, which they are going to make in China. 3: He has never closed Gitmo. 4: He has created a soft Marshall’s Law , muting our freedoms, with tyranny, a kill list of Americans, who can be murdered with no due process, and no real proof of any wrong doing. 5: He wastes money like a King, on himself and family, when poor people just get promises, but no true help. 6:He has made more Americans dependent on Federal welfare , to make them live life as a servitude, as voter dependence. 7: He is weakening our Military, building a DHS private army to control a more and more unhappy Citizenship. 8: He has done nothing to lower the debt, and no plan to promote businesses to hire people. …100 I’ve hit my limit.


  20. PhD.: Oh make it stop. More debt than every other President combined. Failed bailout spending sprees…worst unemployment since Carter….more people on welfare since the great depression. Obama=Worst ever. Get over it.


  21. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: I want to bring motivation and politics into Obama’s war on terror approach to foreign policy. As the first elected black president, he must be quite sensitive about public perception of his presidency on homeland security. Fear not pragmatism is the main motivation propelling Obama’s decision on keeping America safe. The 48% of the electorate that voted for Romney — and the GOP — will obliterate Obama if he screws up in national security. This explains why he is even more aggressive than former Pres W. Bush in deploying armed drones, keeping Guantanamo open and robust use of Patriot Act in domestic espionage. Political pragmatism comes handy.


  22. OldEngineer: The notion of due process and transparent accountability is so passe, given a president with the qualities of a deity. Unfortunately, we have this President and 3,000 drone casualties including quite a bit of “collateral damage”. But then as a famous Secretary of State might have said”What difference does it make?” Given that you are writing from Sydney, perhaps we should allow for some upside-downness in your view…


  23. Daisy: Liberal hypocrisy at it’s best. Let’s replay some of those over the top anti-Bush comments made by Barack Obama back in 2008. Mr. Obama did not enter office with good intentions. His intention was to “fundamentally transform” America. America did not need to be “transformed”.


  24. The details of American antiterrorism policies, put in place after 9/11, are still largely hidden, but more pieces of this sordid history are dribbling out. A valuable new report issued this month by the Open Society Justice Initiative documents the extent of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of extraordinary rendition — the practice of abducting suspected terrorists and transferring them to countries with reputations for torturing prisoners during interrogations. Reporting by The Times and other news media has long established that the C.I.A. operated a secret detention program with “black site” prisons outside the United States. In December, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a highly critical, classified report on this program that has not been released. Committee members invoked its findings without revealing any useful new information at the recent confirmation hearing for John Brennan, the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism official, who was named to head the C.I.A. But the committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, has said that the black sites and coercive techniques were “terrible mistakes.”

    According to the Open Society report, 54 countries participated in this program, including many where the rule of law is weak or nonexistent, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia and Somalia. More surprising and alarming is the collusion of leading democracies. Belgium, Finland and Denmark, among others, allowed their airports and airspace to be used for flights associated with C.I.A. rendition operations. Britain, Italy, Germany and Australia helped interrogate one or more suspects and either allowed or actively aided in their transfers. The report also contains information about the identities and treatment of 136 suspects who were subjected to C.I.A. detention or rendition. There may be many more individuals caught in this program, but the total number remains unknown. There has been no accountability for the program’s violations of American or international law. President Obama refused to investigate Bush administration officials who bear responsibility for authorizing human rights abuses. He ordered an end to President George W. Bush’s torture policies and the closing of C.I.A. detention facilities, but the Open Society report said Mr. Obama did not repudiate rendition and suggested that some activities could be continuing, including a secret prison in Somalia run with C.I.A. involvement.

    In a connected matter, Mr. Obama has adopted the Bush administration’s claim of a right to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including Americans, off the battlefield without judicial review or meaningful Congressional oversight. Victims seeking compensation for wrongful detention and torture in overseas prisons have been turned away by federal courts because the Obama administration has continued its predecessor’s wildly broad claims that such lawsuits divulge state secrets. But there is hope in legal recourse in other venues. Two weeks ago, an appeals court in Italy convicted a C.I.A. station chief and two other Americans for kidnapping a radical cleric in Milan in 2003 and sending him to Egypt. The decision means all 26 Americans tried in absentia for the abduction have been found guilty. On Tuesday, Italy’s former military intelligence chief was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in the case. In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the kidnapping and treatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen mistaken for a terrorist and brutalized by a C.I.A. team at the airport in Macedonia in 2003, amounted to torture. He was never charged with a crime or given access to a lawyer. The case was brought against Macedonia because the European court does not have jurisdiction over the United States. Both judgments are important condemnations of C.I.A. tactics under the Bush administration. They are also a warning to Mr. Obama that pressure for the United States and its partners to acknowledge and make amends for gross violations of international legal and human rights standards is unlikely to subside. (source: Editorial – NYTimes – 18/02/2013)

  25. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The existence of black sites in US ally territories is not a surprise. The US intelligence services have experience in such question. During the 70s, military dictatorships in the Southern Cone established a similar regional cooperation program of abduction and torture of enemies of the State. The CIA was involved in such program as either observer of active participant as in the case of Chile of Pinochet.

    As far as the black sites mentioned in this piece, nothing will happen in the US judicial system or UN international tribunals. The Bush-Obama war of terror doctrine is more alive than ever.


  26. Opening a new front in the drone wars against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, President Obama announced on Friday that about 100 American troops had been sent to Niger in West Africa to help set up a new base from which unarmed Predator aircraft would conduct surveillance in the region. The new drone base, located for now in the capital, Niamey, is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where insurgents had taken over half the country until repelled by a French-led force. In a letter to Congress, Mr. Obama said about 40 United States military service members arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of those deployed in the country to about 100 people. A military official said the troops were largely Air Force logistics specialists, intelligence analysts and security officers. Mr. Obama said the troops, who are armed for self-protection, would support the French-led operation that last month drove the Qaeda and affiliated fighters out of a desert refuge the size of Texas in neighboring Mali. Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, signed a status-of-forces agreement last month with the United States that has cleared the way for greater American military involvement in the country and has provided legal protection to American troops there. In an interview last month in Niamey, President Mahamadou Issoufou voiced concern about the spillover of violence and refugees from Mali, as well as growing threats from Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group to the south, in neighboring Nigeria (…..)


  27. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: An irresistible combination: Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine + advanced drone surveillance/armed systems = natural security doctrine in search of a theater of operation. In 1963 President Kennedy sent the first contingent of military advisers to South Vietnam to combat the Vietcong. Today, 2013, President Obama sends the first squadron of Predator drones to Mali to combat Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Different continents, different enemies but the permanent state of conflict since the war of independence.


  28. Martha Shelley:

    Niger’s largest export is uranium. It also has substantial gold, coal, and other mineral deposits. U.S.-based companies (Hunt Oil and Exxon) have purchased rights to drill for oil in various areas, as has China National Petroleum. I wonder if these facts might have a little something to do with the increased U.S. military presence.


  29. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: In the 20th century, mineral wealth, oil and natural resources may have been an important factor for the deployment of military forces by the US government. Not anymore, the raison d’être has changed. In the 21st century, the Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine combined with a powerful lobbying from the intelligence-military industrial complex is THE main reason for military intervention in non nuclear armed third world countries.

    Take the case of South America. After 9/11, the US pressured Brazil and Argentina to search for terrorists among the large Arab population living in the triple frontier with Paraguay and Argentina. Brazilian and Argentinian authorities did not play the game. Otherwise, US military bases in the region would be flying Predator drones over Brazilian, Argentinian and Paraguayan airspace.


  30. (…..) There are two points I have been driving toward. The first is that the outrage at targeted killing is not, in my view, justified on moral or legal grounds. The second is that in using these techniques, the United States is on a slippery slope because of the basis on which it has chosen to wage war. The United States has engaged an enemy that is dispersed across the globe. If the strategy is to go wherever the enemy is, then the war is limitless. It is also endless. The power of the jihadist movement is that it is diffuse. It does not need vast armies to be successful. Therefore, the destruction of some of its units will always result in their replacement. Quality might decline for a while but eventually will recover. The enemy strategy is to draw the United States into an extended conflict that validates its narrative that the United States is permanently at war with Islam. It wants to force the United States to engage in as many countries as possible. From the U.S. point of view, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because they can attack the jihadist command structure without risk to ground forces. From the jihadist point of view as well, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because their efficiency allows the jihadists to lure the United States into other countries and, with sufficient manipulation, can increase the number of innocents who are killed. In this sort of war, the problem of killing innocents is practical. It undermines the strategic effort. The argument that it is illegal is dubious, and to my mind, so is the argument that it is immoral. The argument that it is ineffective in achieving U.S. strategic goals of eliminating the threat of terrorist actions by jihadists is my point.

    Unmanned aerial vehicles provide a highly efficient way to destroy key enemy targets with very little risk to personnel. But they also allow the enemy to draw the United States into additional theaters of operation because the means is so efficient and low cost. However, in the jihadists’ estimate, the political cost to the United States is substantial. The broader the engagement, the greater the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam, the easier the recruitment until the jihadist forces reach a size that can’t be dealt with by isolated airstrikes. In warfare, enemies will try to get you to strike at what they least mind losing. The case against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles is not that they are ineffective against specific targets but that the targets are not as vital as the United States thinks. The United States believes that the destruction of the leadership is the most efficient way to destroy the threat of the jihadist movement. In fact it only mitigates the threat while new leadership emerges. The strength of the jihadist movement is that it is global, sparse and dispersed. It does not provide a target whose destruction weakens the movement. However, the jihadist movement’s weakness derives from its strength: It is limited in what it can do and where.

    The problem of unmanned aerial vehicles is that they are so effective from the U.S. point of view that they have become the weapon of first resort. Thus, the United States is being drawn into operations in new areas with what appears to be little cost. In the long run, it is not clear that the cost is so little. A military strategy to defeat the jihadists is impossible. At its root, the real struggle against the jihadists is ideological, and that struggle simply cannot be won with Hellfire missiles. A strategy of mitigation using airstrikes is possible, but such a campaign must not become geographically limitless. Unmanned aerial vehicles lead to geographical limitlessness. That is their charm; that is their danger. (Read more: Hellfire, Morality and Strategy | Stratfor)

  31. Listen Tome: The “Dark Continent” of Africa has now become a hotbed of terrorism that is threatening US security? The real reason that the US is interested in Africa is no different than was Europe’s in the last century. Natural resources and expansion of empire. It took WWI and WWII before Europe finally realized that the booty they could loot from their empires cost more than it was worth. It was too expensive fighting other people’s civil wars too, and freedom fighters we call “terrorists”. Colonized people have a habit of fighting foreign invaders. Great empires are always in either an expansionary mode or contraction. Every new conquest becomes a domino to protect. Once any domino falls it threatens the entire empire, so the thinking is of the great world conquerors. Wasn’t that the rational for the Vietnam War too? Our great foreign policy geniuses still see the world as pivots and a game of dominos. To keep an empire growing takes a strong military and a strong domestic economy to fund it. That requires maintaining a very difficult balance. A declining home economy will no longer be able to afford its military. The economic base of empires bleeds to death internally. Our great leaders tell us now that in a few days the people will have to cut their extravagant entitlements. These cuts will be from muscle not fat. When there is nowhere else to cut or when the citizens revolt the empire will fall. This has been the history of all great empires. Is it our future too?


  32. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The British Empire came down not because of lack of political will to dominate and conquer but because the Empire went bankrupt, out of money. Perhaps, the same thing will happen to the so called American Manifest Destiny.



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