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Al-Awlaki taken out via drone

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You would avoid making a decision.

 

Thanks for the clarification. :lol:

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I read that more as "would make the decision to strike, and then not pretend that some sort of due process had been followed afterwareds". I doubt that it would be a good idea though - even the Bushies tried to maintain legal fig leaves where required.

 

TBH, I don't know for certain what could be done here or in similar cases. Personally, I would expect the US government to make every effort to extradite, by means of a treaty or otherwise, or otherwise get their hands on him. In the event of an assassination becoming necessary due to clear evidence of a direct threat, then at the least afterwards I'd expect the government to be able to show how they've legitimately tried to apprehend him and document the specifics of the plot. Scrutiny has a way of encouraging well-reasoned decision making, especially important in cases such as this with plentiful shades of grey.

 

Unfortunately, it's clearly a lot easier to simply blow troublesome characters such as al-Awlaki to bits and dodge the question later.

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There was a strong effort made to apprehend him, but also don't forget that Yemen doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US. This wasn't an easy situation that lent itself to an easy decision, as I think we would all agree. It would have been better to apprehend him, but it just doesn't seem to have been possible.

 

I guess Binaural's interpretation of cinzia's support for covert action is what she was actually getting at, but if that's true (and feel free to confirm that or clarify, cinzia), I don't see how she can possibly complain about a lack of constitutionality in the decision to take out al-Awlaki when she is saying she would do the same thing herself while just not claiming it was constitutional.

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then at the least afterwards I'd expect the government to be able to show how they've legitimately tried to apprehend him and document the specifics of the plot. Scrutiny has a way of encouraging well-reasoned decision making, especially important in cases such as this with plentiful shades of grey.

 

In a country where the US does not officially have troops, it would seem that his location was picked up from intelligence assets and any effort to fill in the details afterwards would probably compromise those assets.

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Here's a column from the NY Times' public editor about why using secret legal opinions to justify government actions should be considered unacceptable.

 

 

The administration invokes secrecy to shield the details while simultaneously deploying a campaign of leaks to build public support. For The Times, and its peers, this dynamic is beyond awkward: it gives the appearance that the government is manipulating them.

 

This scenario can only get worse as the United States, moving to pull conventional military forces out of Afghanistan, comes to rely ever more on covert operations like the C.I.A. drone strikes in the region.

(Glenn Greenwald has been complaining about the press acting as propaganda channel since the Bush years, and the situation has not improved in the Obama era, despite candidate Obama's promises to run a more transparent government than his predecessor.)

 

 

“How can the U.S. government have rules that spell out when it can use lethal force, even against a U.S. citizen, and not let the rest of the citizens know what those rules are?” Jane Mayer, who has written about the drone program for The New Yorker, said in an e-mail to me. “The press ought to be able to get access to and describe the legal opinions that govern this program. As we saw with the torture memos, which eventually leaked, legal reasoning can be extraordinarily revealing, and important."Kenneth Anderson, an American University law professor who told me he is a “centrist conservative” on national security issues, said he supports the use of drone technology for counterterrorism but cannot abide how the administration is handling the program publicly.

 

“One area in which I have been relentless in criticism of the Obama administration has been their refusal to say anything about it, and at the same time essentially conducting the foreign policy of the U.S. by leaked journalism,” he said. “I just don’t think that is acceptable.”

 

The dissonance has carried into the courtroom. Hina Shamsi, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said the A.C.L.U. has tried twice in federal court — unsuccessfully — to force the government to disclose its legal rationale for the targeted killings and to provide information about collateral damage, which is hard for reporters to obtain in the dangerous, remote places where drones are used.

 

“The government has refused to provide a detailed legal justification for the program through the courts and to the public, even as government officials make off-the-record and unverifiable statements to the press claiming specific strikes are legal or that civilian casualties have not occurred,” she said. “This undermines both real transparency and the rule of law.”

 

So I will repeat again, for those who didn't get it the first time: the government needs to do a better job of explaining to the American people why it went to the extraordinary lengths of assassinating an American citizen overseas, condemning him to death at least a year in advance, without issuing a warrant and refusing in court to even confirm to his father whether he was even under a death warrant.

 

In this case specifically, the government should explain why Awlaki was considered an "imminent threat" and how placing him on a list a year in advance qualifies as a legal definition of such a threat. What we got instead was an initial campaign of stonewalling on the part of the White House. When that didn't satisfy the public and some journalists, the administration appointed anonymous leakers to talk about parts of a secret Office of Legal Counsel memo (without releasing the memo itself.) Conquistador gave a link about that memo.

 

And yet this memo now functions as law, since it is the basis for an act that has now created a precedent of assassinating an American citizen without due process.

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(Glenn Greenwald has been complaining about the press acting as propaganda channel since the Bush years

 

Noam Chomsky has been complaining about this since the Vietnam era. Hopefully, you have read Chomsky or heard of him at least. ;)

 

 

So I will repeat again, for those who didn't get it the first time: the government needs to do a better job of explaining to the American people why it went to the extraordinary lengths of assassinating an American citizen overseas, condemning him to death at least a year in advance, without issuing a warrant and refusing in court to even confirm to his father whether he was even under a death warrant.

 

This was clear the first time, but you are giving a detailed explanation over a point which nobody has disputed.

 

You were asked - "what would YOU have done?".

 

From what i can gather, given the same decision parameters, you would have taken the same decision as Obama - so he took the optimal (possibly least worst) decision and should be commended.

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If Obama was working with intelligence gathered from covert operations and undercover assets, do you believe that information should be published in the NY Times for the whole world to read, even if those assets are compromised or even killed?

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Nobody knows what information Obama was working with, either, or where it came from, which is very convenient for him, isn't it?

 

What you seem to be suggesting, kropotkin, is that we all just trust the security state to work within its own rules, whatever those are and whether or not they jibe with federal and international law. That about cover it?

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What you seem to be suggesting, kropotkin, is that we all just trust the security state to work within its own rules, whatever those are and whether or not they jibe with federal and international law. That about cover it?

 

Not at all. As i stated earlier, i am not comfortable with the whole thing, but see a balance between secrecy and individual rights. The notion that the President is required to take decisions under uncertainty with a questionable or controversial legal basis is nothing terribly new.

 

The NY Times complaining about lack of access is amusing.

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cinzia, it's simply impossible for all of the information used by Obama to make national security decisions to be made public, and it's simply unreasonable to suggest that nothing be kept secret that government does or uses as information, i.e., that all government actions be scrutinized publicly will full information provided. You have stated your support for covert operations, so please tell us what sort of covert action you imagine that a President cinzia would have authorized against al-Awlaki.

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Since you have asked me to provide an answer for the question of what I would have done had I been in the position Obama might have been in vis a vis Awlaki, it's fair for me to ask kropotkin what limits he might see (if any) to the doctrine that the federal government should basically be able to do anything it wants, without public justification, as long as it claims some kind of national security emergency.

 

Apparently, the laws we have in place now are not up to the task.

 

If you want to jump in and answer that, you're welcome to. I don't intend to be the only one on the defensive.

 

kropotkin, it's important to distinguish between the NY Times and its public editor (used to be called an ombudsman.) In the column I excerpted, the public editor is (gently) chastising the paper for allowing itself to be put in the position of unquestioning public mouthpiece for the administration.

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Since you have asked me to provide an answer for the question of what I would have done had I been in the position Obama might have been in vis a vis Awlaki, it's fair for me to ask kropotkin what limits he might see (if any) to the doctrine that the federal government should basically be able to do anything it wants, without public justification, as long as it claims some kind of national security emergency.

 

I have never implied that the government should have no restrictions. In this particular case (singular), i see the situation as legally problematic, but not rampantly abused, i.e. the current administration is not openly hunting down scores of its own citizens without due process.

 

As much as i wish i could produce a legal framework in a few minutes which could function as an amendment to the Constitution, i don't think i'm up to it, not have i ever claimed that i am.

 

You have been on the offensive in insisting that no course of action could satisfy the legal or constitutional requirements of cinzia while completely ignoring the possibility that there could have been an imminent danger. I have concluded that we differ on two major assessments:

 

1. the magnitude of risk of terrorist attacks on the US and on US citizens abroad.

2. the efficacy of policy changes in working with people in the Middle East / Asia to improve our relations.

 

----------

 

 

kropotkin, it's important to distinguish between the NY Times and its public editor (used to be called an ombudsman.) In the column I excerpted, the public editor is (gently) chastising the paper for allowing itself to be put in the position of unquestioning public mouthpiece for the administration.

 

That's hilarious. Do you take that seriously?

 

Do you have the impression that the NY Times is keeping the government in check? :lol:

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...the current administration is not openly hunting down scores of its own citizens without due process.

So two is OK, but scores is not? Where would you draw the line? Five? Ten? A dozen? Suppose one was located on US soil, would it be OK to kill by means of a drone strike then?

 

Was Samir Khan on the list of people authorised to be killed, or was he just unlucky?

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Since you have asked me to provide an answer for the question of what I would have done had I been in the position Obama might have been in vis a vis Awlaki, it's fair for me to ask kropotkin what limits he might see (if any) to the doctrine that the federal government should basically be able to do anything it wants, without public justification, as long as it claims some kind of national security emergency.

 

Apparently, the laws we have in place now are not up to the task.

 

If you want to jump in and answer that, you're welcome to. I don't intend to be the only one on the defensive.

 

kropotkin, it's important to distinguish between the NY Times and its public editor (used to be called an ombudsman.) In the column I excerpted, the public editor is (gently) chastising the paper for allowing itself to be put in the position of unquestioning public mouthpiece for the administration.

 

cinzia, I am just trying to understand what it is you deem would have been appropriate action for dealing with al-Awlaki, especially since you have endorsed covert action. You have really confused us with seemingly contradictory statements and now some clarification would really be good. If you know what isn't acceptable, you should also have some idea what is, no? If you are telling us that you can't substitute your judgement for that of Obama in this case in deciding a course of action because of a lack of information, doesn't it follow that you shouldn't be opposed to the action taken by the Administration against al-Awlaki without having that same information that it used to make the decision to take him out? Just sayin', you know.

 

Wheel- Khan apparently was not on the list. It wasn't very smart of him to be with al-Awlaki knowing the latter was being targeted. Given his role in Al-Qaida, most of us aren't going to shed tears at his demise for being foolish enough to be in the terrorist business AND hang out with al-Awlaki.

 

Obviously there would not be a need to use a drone on US soil.

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If you are telling us that you can't substitute your judgement for that of Obama in this case in deciding a course of action because of a lack of information, doesn't it follow that you shouldn't be opposed to the action taken by the Administration against al-Awlaki without having that same information that it used to make the decision to take him out?

Of course not, because without further information, which we are not allowed to know, the only logical conclusion is that Awlaki's assassination was illegal. Unless you subscribe to the notion that everything the President does is legal by definition.

 

 

Obviously there would not be a need to use a drone on US soil.

 

Clearly not. A grenade would do. People should know better than to hang out with people who may or may not be on the government's secret hit list.

 

By the way, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which is being used by some to excuse Awlaki's killing, does not make any distinctions between whether an "enemy combatant" is on US soil or not when action is taken against him.

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Of course not, because without further information, which we are not allowed to know, the only logical conclusion is that Awlaki's assassination was illegal. Unless you subscribe to the notion that everything the President does is legal by definition.

 

Clearly not. A grenade would do. People should know better than to hang out with people who may or may not be on the government's secret hit list.

 

By the way, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which is being used by some to excuse Awlaki's killing, does not make any distinctions between whether an "enemy combatant" is on US soil or not when action is taken against him.

 

Moving the goalposts, as always, cinzia. First you want civilian collateral damage avoided when al-Awlaki is taken out, and that's what the government did in taking him out when and where it did. But then that isn't good enough, you want another al-Qaida member dedicated to killing Americans protected as well. Doesn't Khan have some responsibility for being dumb enough to hang out with al-Awlaki and, presumably, work with him? It's a known occupational hazard for terrorists, after all.

 

I haven't seen you argue specifically against the points raised by the Justice Department memo, but I remind you that you are claiming a lack of information at the same time you claim Obama's action was illegal. Can you, for example, with your lack of information, rule out that al-Awlaki posed an imminent danger? No, you can't.

 

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a person who thought that all soldiers walked around Fort Hood armed would also fail to understand that drones are used when US troops can't get to a target or it would be way too dangerous, which wouldn't be the case inside the US.

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I'm not getting the impression that you understand the concept of the rule of law, Conquistador. This action smacks of the Star Chamber. All such mechanisms end in abuse, if they don't begin with them - a lesson the drafters of the constitution understood well.

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I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a person who thought that all soldiers walked around Fort Hood armed would also fail to understand that drones are used when US troops can't get to a target or it would be way too dangerous, which wouldn't be the case inside the US.

 

You claim that people hanging out with Awlaki, who should have known that he was on the CIA death list, deserved to die for being physically close to a known target, whether they were personally involved in terrorism, or not. They were running a risk and lost.

 

Does that somehow not apply to people who hang out near US soldiers on a US military base, which is obviously a terrorist target? If not, why not?

 

You seem to think that everything is fair game when the US does it, but not when our enemies do the exact same thing. Your attitude is not unusual, but I have a hard time understanding it.

 

As you repeatedly assert, we have declared war on Al Qaeda and to you and many others, that makes anyone the US government identifies as AQ an "enemy combatant" and fair game for capture or execution. Why would you think that AQ is not justified in fighting back when war has been declared against them?

 

I do not mean to suggest here that I have no sympathy for our troops or that I have some kind of un-American allegiance, even though you have accused me of just that.

 

I just don't understand why so many Americans are surprised when people violently oppose the American government, even though we have declared war against them. We have engaged them in war. Which is really the same thing as inviting them to fight, right?

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I don't know why you continue to try to come up with justification for acts of terrorism and to suggest that Americans anywhere can legally be targeted by terrorists. I also don't know why you continue to push the concept of self-defense for Al-Qaida while emasculating it for the US.

 

You're also mistaken in saying I claimed "Khan deserved to die"- let's not forget that he was certainly not an innocent. He was an Al-Qaida terrorist who happened to die because he joined al-Qaida and willingly put himself in the company of another al-Qaida terrorist at a time when the US exercised its right to self-defense against Al-Qaida in accordance with September 2001 Congressional legislation authorizing the use of force against Al-Qaida. Note that the US waited to strike al-Awlaki until he was away from civilians. At any rate, I wouldn't assume that the US knew that Khan was with al-Awlaki. If Khan had not been with Al-Awlaki, he would not have died that day despite being an al-Qaida member, and if he hadn't joined al-Qaida, he wouldn't have had anything to worry about.

 

Khan isn't the equivalent of innocent civilians in the vicinity of a US base, whom I am sure you would not say are a legitimate terrorist target, even as you seem to think that US bases are. You also seem to forget that Al-Qaida made the choice to attack our embassies and the US homeland, and surely we have a right to defend ourselves against those actions and the terror group's continued attempts to kill Americans.

 

Coming up with excuses and justfications for Al-Qaida to kill is ludicrous, as is the moral equivalence drawn by you between the US government and Al-Qaida and Al-Qaida member Khan and innocent civilians. Given that Al-Qaida killing civilians and US military personnel is a very bad thing, it makes no sense to go to great lengths to justify it, and that is what I criticize you for most. Also, I wasn't aware that you subscribed to the view that the US is at war with Al-Qaida- do you now believe that it is? You can't have it both ways, cinzia. claiming the US can't kill al-Awlaki because we aren't at war and then suggesting al-Qaida can kill Americans because we are at war. Besides, given that al-Qaida sees you as the enemy, whether you want to admit that or not, why you would want to say or suggest anything that justifies their activities in any way is beyond me. Do you actually think US bases are legitimate targets for terrorists? Do you want them targeted? If you don't, then don't suggest that they can be.

 

Wheel- as I pointed out to cinzia, the principle of self-defense and the 2001 authorization of force against al-Qaida comprise rule of law in this case.

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