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Wed, 26 Oct 2016
The World for People who Think


'America doesn't torture' - It kills

© Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
If the president can order the killing of American citizens abroad should he decide they are involved with Al Qaeda, can he assassinate suspected Al Qaeda - connected US citizens in London or Berlin? What about a suspect's teenage son, a junior in a Canadian boarding school? If he can drop hellfire missiles on a house in northwestern Pakistan because he believes a terrorist cell is meeting inside, could he blow up a motel in Florida where supposed terrorists are staying and chalk up any dead vacationers as "collateral damage"?

Of course not. Pakistan is completely different. Anwar al-Awlaki may have been a US citizen, but he was in Yemen, which is different too. As for his 16-year-old son, killed in Yemen in a drone attack some weeks later along with several other people, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it well, if ungrammatically: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children." Unlike in the United States, in Yemen kids choose their parents.

Whatever happened to arresting people, extraditing them, giving them lawyers, putting them on trial - all that? Even in the hottest days of the Cold War, when millions believed communism threatened our very existence as a nation, Americans accused of spying for the Soviets had their day in court. No one suggested that President Eisenhower should skip the tiresome procedural stuff and just bomb the Rosenbergs' apartment.

The president and his choice to head the CIA, John Brennan, assure us that they are extremely careful, and the kill list is "legal, ethical and wise" (although they won't tell us anything more about it). Brennan asserted in 2011 that no civilians have been killed by drones. Maybe he even believes this, although the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented more than 500 civilian casualties in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, with a high estimate of many more.

When President Obama appointed Harold Koh legal adviser to the State Department in 2009, it looked like he was sending a message: the bad old days are over. Koh, who once referred to President Bush as the "torturer in chief," was an outspoken critic of that administration's legal rationales for torture, Guantánamo and "targeted killings." Fast-forward to today, and Koh provides legal rationales for those same "targeted killings" and gives critics the kind of snide brushoff the Bushites were famous for: justice for enemies "can be delivered through trials. Drones also deliver."


Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists

© Alamy
The Obama DOJ again tells a court that it cannot safely confirm or deny the existence of the CIA drone program
As the nation spent the week debating the CIA assassination program, Obama lawyers exploit secrecy to shield it from all review

It is not news that the US government systematically abuses its secrecy powers to shield its actions from public scrutiny, democratic accountability, and judicial review. But sometimes that abuse is so extreme, so glaring, that it is worth taking note of, as it reveals its purported concern over national security to be a complete sham.

Such is the case with the Obama DOJ's behavior in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama's CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the "targeted killing" program: such as "the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out."

Everyone in the world knows that the CIA has a targeted killing program whereby it uses drones to bomb and shoot missiles at those it wants dead, including US citizens. This is all openly discussed in every media outlet.

Key Obama officials, including the president himself, not only make selective disclosures about this program but openly boast about its alleged successes. Leon Panetta, then the CIA Director, publicly said all the way back in 2009 when asked about the CIA drone program: "I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective because they have been very precise." In 2010, Panetta, speaking to the Washington Post, hailed the CIA drone program in Pakistan as "the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history". This is just a partial sample of Obama official boasts about this very program (for more, see pages 15 to 28 here).


Obama defends drone assassinations in State of the Union address

© Latuff
The most significant point in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night was a passing and euphemistically worded reference to his program of extra-judicial drone assassinations. "Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans," he declared.

Every congressman, senator, cabinet member, Supreme Court justice and general in the House chamber knew that with that statement Obama was defending his asserted power to secretly order the assassination of anyone in any part of the world, including American citizens. The president went on to make clear he was intent on making state murder a permanent and completely institutionalized government function.

His administration, he said, had worked "tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework" to guide such operations. He went on to indicate he might be open to suggestions for giving the assassination program a fig leaf of "transparency" and legality, pledging to "engage with Congress to ensure... our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances..."


The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State

© Mr. Fish
On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who "substantially supports" - an undefined legal term - al-Qaida, the Taliban or "associated forces," again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until "the end of hostilities." In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent, according to Section (c)(4), to any "foreign country or entity." This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

Stock Down

Market collapse in process? Billionaires continue to dump U.S. stocks, traders are betting against U.S. economy

Billionaires Dumping Stocks, Economist Knows Why
Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful of billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.

Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate. He recently complained of "disappointing performance" in dyed-in-the-wool American companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods.

In the latest filing for Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in "consumer product stocks" by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel.

With 70% of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffett's apparent lack of faith in these companies' future prospects is worrisome.

Unfortunately Buffett isn't alone.

Comment: Looks like the elite are preparing for their big move. The NDAA is in place, the drones are in place, the people are hysterical, and now the casino market 'movers and shakers' are calling in their chips.

Eye 1

JSoc: Obama's secret assassins

© Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
US Navy Seals on a night mission in the Middle East. Seal Team 6, which killed Osama bin Laden, is a secret elite unit that works closely with the CIA.
The president has a clandestine network targeting a US 'kill list' justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad?

The film Dirty Wars, which premiered at Sundance, can be viewed, as Amy Goodman sees it, as an important narrative of excesses in the global "war on terror". It is also a record of something scary for those of us at home - and uncovers the biggest story, I would say, in our nation's contemporary history.

Though they wisely refrain from drawing inferences, Scahill and Rowley have uncovered the facts of a new unaccountable power in America and the world that has the potential to shape domestic and international events in an unprecedented way. The film tracks the Joint Special Operations Command (JSoc), a network of highly-trained, completely unaccountable US assassins, armed with ever-expanding "kill lists". It was JSoc that ran the operation behind the Navy Seal team six that killed bin Laden.

Scahill and Rowley track this new model of US warfare that strikes at civilians and insurgents alike - in 70 countries. They interview former JSoc assassins, who are shell-shocked at how the "kill lists" they are given keep expanding, even as they eliminate more and more people.

Eye 2

Obama grants himself license to kill: This is the power claimed by kings and tyrants

After stonewalling for more than a year federal judges and ordinary citizens who sought the revelation of its secret legal research justifying the presidential use of drones to kill persons overseas - even Americans - claiming the research was so sensitive and so secret that it could not be revealed without serious consequences, the government sent a summary of its legal memos to an NBC newsroom earlier this week.

This revelation will come as a great surprise, and not a little annoyance, to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, who heard many hours of oral argument during which the government predicted gloom and doom if its legal research were subjected to public scrutiny. She very reluctantly agreed with the feds, but told them she felt caught in "a veritable Catch-22," because the feds have created "a 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."

She was writing about President Obama killing Americans and refusing to divulge the legal basis for claiming the right to do so. Now we know that basis.


It has happened here in America: The Police State is real

The Bush regime's response to 9/11 and the Obama regime's validation of this response have destroyed accountable democratic government in the United States. So much unaccountable power has been concentrated in the executive branch that the US Constitution is no longer an operable document. Whether a person believes the official story of 9/11 which rests on unproven government assertions or believes the documented evidence provided by a large number of scientists, first responders, and structural engineers and architects, the result is the same. 9/11 was used to create an open-ended "war on terror" and a police state. It is extraordinary that so many Americans believe that "it can't happen here" when it already has. We have had a decade of highly visible evidence of the construction of a police state:
  • the PATRIOT Act, illegal spying on Americans in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
  • the initiation of wars of aggression - war crimes under the Nuremberg Standard - based on intentional lies,
  • the Justice Department's concocted legal memos justifying the executive branch's violation of domestic and international laws against
  • torture, the indefinite detention of US citizens in violation of the constitutionally protected rights of habeas corpus and due process,
  • the use of secret evidence and secret "expert witnesses" who cannot be cross-examined against defendants in trials,
  • the creation of military tribunals in order to evade federal courts, secret legal memos giving the president authority to launch preemptive cyber attacks on any country without providing evidence that the country constitutes a threat, and the Obama regime's murder of US citizens without evidence or due process.
As if this were not enough, the Obama regime now creates new presidential powers by crafting secret laws, refusing to disclose the legal reasoning on which the asserted power rests. In other words, laws now originate in secret executive branch memos and not in acts of Congress. Congress? We don't need no stinking Congress.

Despite laws protecting whistleblowers and the media and the US Military Code which requires soldiers to report war crimes, whistleblowers such as CIA agent John Kiriakou, media such as Julian Assange, and soldiers such as Bradley Manning are persecuted and prosecuted for revealing US government crimes. The criminals go free, and those who report the crimes are punished.

Comment: In light of the revelation that there is no depth to which the Obama administration/US regime will go to silence its critics, what are we to make of Aaron Swartz's father's claim that the US government is responsible for the death of his son?

Who killed Aaron Swartz?

Suicide or not in this case, lists of critics are always drawn up and 'taken care of' by fascist regimes...


Stop the unconstitutional drone killings

This week, an unclassified memorandum prepared by the Justice Department for members of Congress on the drone killings accidentally became public. The actual Office of Legal Counsel opinion which purports to authorize this program is still a wrongfully classified secret, and a federal judge just refused a FOIA request from the New York Times for release of the document.

This is exactly how the infamous torture memo came into existence during the Bush administration, a secret OLC opinion, the legal reasoning of which was so flimsy that it could not survive the light of day. So not only are we not supposed to question the murder of people in multiple countries, we are not even allowed to question the legal basis for it. It is sheer lunacy that LEGAL arguments need to be classified.

Better Earth

Bell's Superstorm and The Death of Millenniumitis


The day after tomorrow... might only have been a movie but it has happened repeatedly in the past.
This weekend I happened upon a publisher's closeout sale at a local mall. A Tom Clancy hard cover dominated the first clearance table past the front door and his 500-page Into the Storm was slashed to $2.00 (publisher's price $27.50.) On the next table, another thick stack of fire sale hard cover books rose above all others. It was the The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell, Whitley Strieber for $7.00 (publisher's price $23.95.) In terms of effort and value, Clancy deserved a better break because Superstorm is long on speculation and short on value. However, the rapidly fading interest Superstorm is more than a failed publishing venture, because it also serves as a fitting tombstone for the cold corpse of millenniumitis.

The Decade of Millenniumitis

During the last decade, the prospect of end-times catastrophes in the year 2000 plagued many with fear about an uncertain future. Yet, there was a tangible public concern that the year 2000 would bring disaster.

This fostered a consensus of fear that was aptly coined "millenniumitis" by the media and this social event was focused on a set date. As we came closer our fears escalated at a geometric rate.

In the midst of all this came books like Superstorm, which offered a loosely structured, populist speculation that relied more on the public notoriety of the authors for credibility than upon quality research and organization. Nonetheless, the central premise of Superstorm still remains a valid point of discussion for those interested in the process view of catastrophe, as opposed to those who prefer the populist event-driven view.