Posts Tagged ACLU

Obama Adopting Targeted Killing AND Interrogation on U.S. Naval Ships?

What’s coming out of the Obama administration on its intentions re targeted killing v indefinite detention of suspects is getting more complicated.  Obama, in a stirring defense of empire disguised as something else, told the world two weeks ago at the United Nations

The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

Obama’s May 23 speech, the one he was forced to delay because of the Guantanamo prison hunger strike, Obama set out broader parameters for those who could be targeted — as he argued, legally — for killing.  Obama defended broad executive authority to kill targets, perhaps even more widely than he has previously. His speech amounted to an argument for, and announcement of a permanent infrastructure for assassination. As the McClatchy newspaper put it,

“In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed ‘senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces’ plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.

“But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from ‘those who want to kill us’ and ‘terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat’ to ‘all potential terrorist targets.’”

Saturday U.S. forces grabbed one of the FBI’s most-wanted suspects in Libya, abu Anas al-Libi.  The Libyan government, which the U.S. installed through its 2011 “humanitarian intervention” may or may not have been involved, but is now raising protests that the rights of tge prisoner are not being respected, because he’s being interrogated on a U.S. ship away from the reach of Libyan, or international, law.

The Associated Press asks, Did Obama swap ‘black’ detention sites for ships? saying, “Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end.”  Further

“It appears to be an attempt to use assertion of law of war powers to avoid constraint and safeguards in the criminal justice system,” said Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the director of the civil rights organization’s national security project. “I am very troubled if this is the pattern that the administration is setting for itself.”

John Bellinger in Lawfare notes

Because Article 22 of the Third Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war “may be interned only in premises located on land,” Obama Administration lawyers must have concluded that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Warsame and al-Libi, or that they are not POWs, or that they are not being interned.

Whatever the mix of targeted killing, indefinite detention, or rendition-like interrogations in international waters, the course set by the Obama administration of using “all elements of our power” remains one running counter to international law and due judicial process.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the New York Public Defender’s Office is demanded that, after 3 days, al-Libi, who has already been indicted on charges, get counsel and be brought immediately before a judge, as the law provides.  But,

The first round of interrogations, expected to last several weeks according to US newspapers, will be to extract intelligence. Only after that will he be offered a lawyer and questioned in connection with the case for which he has already been charged.

The process here, of targeted killing, indefinite detention, now mixed with a variant of rendition where the subject is hidden from the legal system while the FBI has a go — is no better, but perhaps more sophisticated, than what the Bush regime practiced.

Note: on October 14, BBC reports that al-Libi is in New York City, to be formally charged in federal court.

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Another Terrible 10 Year “war on terror” product: The USA PATRIOT Act

In this season of 10-year anniversaries, one almost got by me, just as it almost got by many of us on October 26, 2001.  The Ashcroft Justice Department, which could hardly find a case of discrimination against a Black person or a woman to prosecute, and was busy dismantling its Civil Rights division, had apparently been busy elsewhere.  Even before 9/11, they had written the USA PATRIOT Act (that’s “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” for those of you not patriotic enough to think that up yourselves).

They had cobbled bits of nefarious repression not included in the Clinton administration’s also egregiously-named 1996 “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This law has its own deep problems, as a vehicle for stepping up federal executions, and criminalizing protest.  The Bush regime built on it, and not because of the 9/11 attacks; a bill that long could not have been written in 15 days.

But let’s just be clear.  The Patriot Act is domestic political repression, widening the government’s power to spy on people electronically, break into our homes and offices physically in “sneak and peak” operations, view our email, reading habits, photos, and much more.

I thought this might be a big day: 10 years of a huge escalation of repression, but found a total of 38 articles in a Google search on “USA Patriot Act” published on the anniversary.

Carol Rose, in Boston.com points out how the act is actually used

The Patriot Act hasn’t been about getting the bad guys – namely, terrorists or even criminals. The government had the power to do that without the Patriot Act. Instead, the Patriot Act gives the government the power secretly to collect and forever keep information on ordinary people who are not suspected of doing anything wrong…It gives the Feds virtually unchecked power to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.

Carrie Johnson, for NPR quotes the ACLU’s report on the Patriot Act:

“We’re now finding from public reports that less than 1 percent of these sneak-and-peek searches are happening for terrorism investigations,” says Michelle Richardson, who works for the ACLU in Washington. “They’re instead being used primarily in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.”

The ACLU filed suit today to learn more about the secret use of the Patriot Act, citing an example of how there is no check on its use

One section in particular, Section 215, gave the FBI unprecedented authority to obtain “any tangible thing” for an investigation related to international terrorism or espionage. The FBI has the power to use Section 215 to collect records held by businesses such as hotels, banks, stores, and internet service providers. They need to show only that the information is “relevant” to an investigation and, in 2010, every single 215 request was granted.

Michelle Richardson of the ACLU warns us of more to come, says NPR.

“The White House’s cybersecurity proposal right now makes the Patriot Act look quaint,” Richardson says. “And really, the collection that it would allow would really outpace anything that’s probably being done under the Patriot Act.”

The ACLU calls for the act to be reformed.

I say the whole thing is unjust, fascistic, and should be repealed.  It’s the government that should be transparent, providing privacy for its citizens, and not vice versa.

 

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Obama Argues State Secrets to Protect Assassination Order

It was President Obama’s announcement that Anwar al-Awlaki was to be assasinated wherever he as found that move us to write and publish the Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them statement last May.

In August, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the ACLU filed suit against the order, for Nasser al-Awlaki, the targeted man’s father, who lives in Colorado.  Late Friday, the administration answered with a brief arguing, according to the Washington Post, that the case had to be dismissed because of “state secrets.”

UHHH…where have we heard that before?

Sign NOW!

Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them!

to be printed in the NY Times the week of October 3 to protest the 9th anniversary of the US war on Afghanistan.

Glenn Greenwald ripped into this today:

“Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s ”too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.  One other thing, as always:  vote Democrat, because the Republicans are scary!”

The Washington Post noted,

“The Obama administration has cited the state-secrets argument in at least three cases since taking office – in defense of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping, surveillance of an Islamic charity, and the torture and rendition of CIA prisoners. It prevailed in the last case last week, on a 6 to 5 vote by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU issued a statement saying

“The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy.

“In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check.”

People can be killed on the orders of a president with no trial, no sentence, no due process — not even an indictment?  I don’t want to live in any country that allows such actions.

Another reason to protest visibly and publicly.  Help get the protest statement into the New York Times the week of October 4, which begins the 10th year of the US occupation of Afghanistan.

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