Thursday, October 25, 2012

Constitutional republics are, like, hard


It must've been Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink camping out in that ditch in Texas all those years that kept G.W. Bush from assassinating 16 yr. old U.S. citizens.

In the aftermath of 9-11, B-Daddy of The Liberator Today warned of the amassing of executive power as justified by the necessity to protect this country in our newly-minted War on Terror. Paraphrasing:

The Commander-in-Chief's intentions may be entirely honorable and he may not abuse the powers Congress has granted him but the framework for these powers to be abused are now codified into law and we may not always be blessed with a Commander-in-Chief with the best of intentions. What if Hillary Clinton becomes the next President? Would you trust her with these powers?

Here's Glenn Greenwald, a reliable lefty, writing for the Guardian UK in a column titled "Obama Moves to Make the War on Terror Permanent" :

The primary reason for opposing the acquisition of abusive powers and civil liberties erosions is that they virtually always become permanent, vested not only in current leaders one may love and trust but also future officials who seem more menacing and less benign.

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."

(italics, ours)

As we have written in these pages before, the administration is simply to lazy to be bothered with the nettlesome "capture and question" aspect of anti-terrorism and have opted to go heavy on the "kill" aspect. It is indeed, just too hard.

With respect to creating an infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war:

The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will.

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:

"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.

"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."

Again, the reasoning behind this disposition matrix appears to be a result of the incoherency of a anti-terrorism policy that wants to give Gitmo detainees civilian trials, while reaching out, touching and killing others overseas.

This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."

The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States".

In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" – "literally anything the government collects would be fair game". In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.

Greenwald writes of this new nearly unaccountable, supra-legal bureaucracy that, most likely, would have been rejected out of hand as recently as 10 years ago:

What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."

Consider the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born person who later renounced his citizenship when he turned radical cleric and who was considered by our intelligence community to be a top recruiter and strategist for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He wound up on the President's "kill list" and on September 30, 2011 he, along with Samir Khan were killed by U.S. deployed Hellfire missiles. al-Awlaki, who was said to be in regular contact with the Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, was most likely a bad actor, a very bad actor. However, throughout this nation's history, "most likely" didn't cut legal muster for the ostensible purposes of a targeted assassination.

It gets better: Two weeks after that, his 16 year old son, himself a U.S. citizen, Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, was cut down in a separate drone strike. To give you an idea of how far this program has already progressed and how far gone is the psychology and mentality that is guiding it, consider what former White House Press Secretary and current Obama campaign contributor, Robert Gibbs had to say with respect to the justification: (he) "should have [had] a far more responsible father." It was thought that Gibbs was unaware that the son was killed in a different strike but that is nearly a distinction without a difference as far as Gibbs is concerned; an unaccountable star chamber can afford to make flippant and callous remarks like this.

What is most disturbing to us is not only the lack of outrage but even the lack of any national conversation on this topic. It was a truly bipartisan effort by a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House that gave the President the powers he now wields via the American Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law at the end of 2011.

And consider the New York Times expose' of a couple months back that described the kill list in physical terms, as a deck of baseball cards... Now batting clean-up for Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki who's 2010-2011 disposition is "dead man walking"... That article was not intended in any way to blow the lid off the existence of the kill list or to paint the President as a blood-thirsty assassin who called his decision to assassinate al-Awlaki's son a "no-brainer" rather quite the opposite. The image of the President casually flipping through that deck of cards and giving the thumbs up or thumbs down was absolutely intended to burnish his credentials as a defender of the republic and not some effeminate, milque-toasty community organizer-type.

And it all happened just like that. No protests. No lawsuits. No screams of outrage from the left. And because of their inaction in this matter, it has proven them to be as morally and intellectually bankrupt as we always figured them to be. Nothing exists for the left except politics. No principles, no bearings, no convictions, only politics and winning elections.

Whereas 3 people get waterboarded and the Abu-Ghraib prison scandal created a virtual lefty Woodstock out there in that ditch outside of Crawford Texas for a few years, the existence and application of a kill list which led to the unlawful assassination of a 16 year old U.S. citizen has been met with deafening silence.

As the saying goes, "Only Nixon could go to China". Now it's "Only a leftist ideologue posturing as a pragmatic centrist could get a kill list" 'cause it sure as hell wasn't going to happen for a President from Texas.

Greenwald concludes with this:

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:

"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix."

We guarantee you this will be an issue if Romney wins the election when we all welcome back the anti-war left on November 7th.


Doo Doo Econ said...

Well, we could circle the wagons and support the disposition matrix with a "blame Obama" strategy, just for fun. We could point out every progressive who gets "disposed of" with glee and jubilation because if Obama is reelected this is what patriots will face.


We can oppose the assault upon liberty and the idea of America.

Mostly Nothing said...

This article tells me that the Obama administration is a terrorist state.

Dean said...

I'm at a failure to understand why this isn't getting more attention. Other than the "Only Nixon could've gone to China" rationale. Hugely disappointing.

Negocios Loucos said...

The only and very compelling reason to vote for Romney; get the hatred of war and death back in the media. It seems that the Dems love killing people when it's their guy doing the killing. They LOVE WAR when it is a nobel peace prize winner waging it.

I hope Romney wins for that reason alone. It will get our MSM back into questioning the government from sucking the government off every day of the year.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr. Loucos is right, but once the thugery is out of the bottle, it will be hard to cork it up, the new administration can just say he was following the old. Where is the ACLU and the liberals on this? But it's very much like the disdain of the liberals towards the military as the jets roared over their heads in the Clinton administration and one looks at the other and says, "yeah, but those are our jets now"

Road Dawg