The American Bear


UK police accused of supplying target information for military 'kill list' | The Guardian

Another story that slipped through the cracks this week: UK collusion in the Obama Murder Program:

British police have been accused of illegally supplying information on potential targets for a highly controversial military “kill list” in a legal challenge being launched at the high court on Wednesday.

The role of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been put under the spotlight by the claims, which are set out in papers to be filed on Wednesday morning.

Lawyers acting for an Afghan man who lost five members of his family in a missile strike are demanding a judicial review of Soca’s role, saying there is evidence the agency has been helping compile and review Nato’s Joint Prioritised Effects List (JPEL).

They say this breaches Soca’s remit and exceeds the unit’s statutory mandate and powers.

Soca, which is responsible for tracking down organised crime gangs and drug-traffickers, has denied any wrongdoing.

The case revolves around in incident on 2 September, 2010, when Nato forces in Afghanistan launched a missile strike against a convoy in Takhar province.

They believed they were targeting an insurgent leader and hailed the “precision air strike” a success.

However, the military operation may have been a case of mistaken identity.

Instead of hitting a man called Muhammad Amin, an alleged member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the missile killed five men who were relatives of an Afghan bank worker called Habib Rahman.

Rahman’s two brothers, two of his uncles and his father-in-law died in the missile attack. Three other members of his family were injured.

The men were driving around in convoy helping another member of the family who was campaigning for a parliamentary seat. In all, 10 people died in the attack.

Amin was not among them; he has since been seen alive.

The legal challenge states that Amin was on the “kill list” and that information from Soca has been used to help the US military decide whom to target.

It cites a report to the committee on foreign relations in the US Senate, which says Soca was one of the agencies providing information for the “kill list”.

Papers filed to court say: “The UK’s involvement in the list is not limited to military or intelligence officials but includes civilians working for Soca.

“The US Senate report specifically acknowledges such involvement by Soca.”

The author of the report was Douglas Frantz, who was chief investigator of the committee at the time, working for John Kerry, now US secretary of state.

In a witness statement in support of the demand for judicial review, Frantz says he conducted interviews and was a witness to briefings which left him in no doubt of Soca’s involvement.

“The statements made by the Soca officer quoted in the report and by others during my trip to Afghanistan led to my understanding that Soca was indeed involved in collecting and evaluating evidence as part of the preparation of the [list],” Frantz said.

Referring to the 2005 legislation that set out Soca’s powers, lawyers acting for Rahman said it would be illegal for the unit to provide any information that could lead to someone being killed.

“Nothing in the 2005 Act indicates that Soca is mandated to carry out activities outside the scope of civilian law enforcement,” the papers say.

“In particular, there is no express statutory authorisation for Soca to be involved in activities connected to armed conflict and the potential killing of individuals.”

Soca officers are not members of the armed forces and do not have the right to directly participate in hostilities in an armed conflict, the document adds.

The legal challenge relates to “an issue of fundamental constitutional importance, namely whether a UK public body is unlawfully involved in the taking of life. If there is any such involvement, either as alleged or at all, then prompt judicial oversight of the legality of the practice challenged is essential.”

Obama's secret kill list – the disposition matrix

… Berjawi and Sakr both travelled to Somalia after claiming that they were being harassed by police in the UK, and were then stripped of their British citizenship. Several months later they were killed. The exact nature of any intelligence that the British government may have shared with Washington before their names were apparently entered into the disposition matrix is deeply secret: the UK has consistently refused to either confirm or deny that it shares intelligence in support of drone strikes, arguing that to do so would damage both national security and relations with the US government.

More than 12 months after Sakr’s death, his father, Gamal, a businessman who settled in London 37 years ago, still cannot talk about his loss without breaking down and weeping. He alleges that one of his two surviving sons has since been harassed by police, and suspects that this boy would also have been stripped of his citizenship had he left the country. “It’s madness,” he cries. “They’re driving these boys to Afghanistan. They’re making everything worse.”

Last year Gamal and his wife flew to Cairo, formally renounced their Egyptian citizenship, and on their return asked their lawyer to let it be known that their sons were no longer dual nationals. But while he wants his family to remain in Britain, the manner in which his son met his death has shattered his trust in the British government. “It was clearly directed from the UK,” he says. “He wasn’t just killed: he was assassinated.” [must read]

[The Orlando] Letelier assassination fit the pattern of all other Condor operations, and indeed of all these regimes’ purely domestic modes of repression: implemented covertly, so as to give these regimes ‘plausible deniability,’ it also enabled them to deliver an extremely clear message to their political opponents. It is this system of shadows, of illegal activities fully visible but denied by the authorities, of supposedly ‘out of control’ and ‘independent’ ‘death squads’ targeting political opponents while official responsibility is denied, of people being ‘disappeared,’ leaving their families with no possible recourse and faced with official silence, that created the pervasive feeling of dread and terror that hovered over Latin America for so many years. Remi Brulin | State Secrecy and Targeted Assassinations, from Operation Condor to the Obama Administration

The ACLU declares that ‘it is unconstitutional for the government to put people on secret lists and deny them the right to travel without even basic due process.’ It is also unconstitutional for them to put people on secret lists and deny them the right to life without even basic due process. The secret Kill lists and the No Fly lists compiled by unknown National Security State bureaucrats don’t just both undermine the Constitution. They make a mockery of our claim to live in a democracy in which the people have the ‘right to know’ what is being done in our name. What do Kill lists and No Fly lists have in common?

Obama trumpets how he has stopped the practice of renditions and water boarding (although given Brennan’s opaque testimony on ‘transparency’ we don’t really know if this is the case), but the president has doubled down on Dick Cheney’s transgressions by just assassinating alleged terrorists, along with accepting the collateral damage of civilians, including women and children without any due process, habeas corpus, or court oversight. These are the powers of a modern day Nero, not the leader of a nation based on the foundation of a Constitution guaranteeing specific rights and legal recourse. And what would prevent the executive branch (Democrat or Republican) from moving from drone assassinations to just murders of perceived ‘enemies of the state’ in the US, were Brennan’s non-denial of potential drone strikes in the US representative of Obama’s to-kill list position (and given that Obama is appointing Brennan to head the CIA, one can assume it is)? Nothing. John Brennan Doesn’t Rule Out Targeting Americans for Assassination in United States

I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in ‘A Court to Vet Kill Lists' (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens. Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it. I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity. Desmond Tutu, February 11, 2013 (via androphilia)

(Source: The New York Times, via randomactsofchaos)

Push to Expand U.S. 'Kill List' |

Senior U.S. officials are pressing to mark for the killing or capture of the self-proclaimed mastermind of last month’s attack on an Algerian natural-gas facility that claimed the lives of 37 foreign hostages, including three Americans.

Adding the Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar to a U.S. targeted-killing list would represent a significant U.S. expansion into northwestern Africa, extending the reach of the U.S. program of drone strikes and other lethal counterterrorism operations, which have concentrated on Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. [more]

I think it is important, especially for those of us who oppose the vile, barbaric practices of this abominable State, always to keep in mind just how pathetically dumb and inept these people are when considered individually. As I watch these ludicrous buffoons go through their paces — and the Brennan hearing is entirely typical of all such hearings, commissions, etc. — I often think that a strong, persistent gust of wind would simply sweep all of them away, and onto the stomach-churning dung heap where they fully deserve to spend the rest of their days. … But about the question of oversight, and the related pleas for ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’: keep in mind what the Murder Program is. The executive branch claims that it can murder anyone it chooses anywhere in the world, for any reason it wishes. Someone needs to explain to me how oversight, accountability and transparency will make such a program better. But they can’t explain that — because it cannot be done. A program that is evil in the manner the Murder Program is evil cannot be ‘improved,’ or ‘managed’ so as to make it decent and humane. The Murder Program is an abomination. You don’t ‘fix’ abominations of this kind. You end them. You end them this very moment.

Arthur Silber

The Idiocies of “Oversight” and “Accountability”

Bipartisan Group of Senators Seeks Legal Justifications for the Deliberate Killing of Americans | Press Releases | U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence prepares to consider White House national security official John Brennan’s nomination to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Al Franken (D- Minn.) have sent a letter to President Obama seeking the legal opinions outlining the President’s authority to authorize the killing of American citizens during the course of counterterrorism operations.

These legal opinions issued by the Department of Justice have remained hidden from the general public and have been withheld from members of Congress, inhibiting Congress’ ability to conduct necessary oversight. Several requests for these opinions have been either ignored or denied in the past, most recently a request by Senator Wyden made directly to Mr. Brennan several weeks ago. [++]

Pakistan officials complained for years, and again after the attack on Malala in October, that U.S. forces were doing too little to stop Fazlullah. But that has changed. A senior U.S. Special Operations official said recently that Fazlullah is a priority — stalked by spies on the ground and squarely in the sights of armed drones. ‘He is very high on the leader board,’ said the senior official, referring to a list of Special Operations targets. ‘We have assets focused on killing him.’

Tragedies tied to Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah link girls a world apart | The Washington Post

A senior official confirms that Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulana Fazlullah is on the “kill list”.

The Folly of Obama National Security Officials Making Their Own Drone ‘Rules’ | Kevin Gosztola

[Though] this may be considered a “rule” book, one must dispel all illusions and ask, what happens if the “rules” are not followed? Does anyone expect the administration to do anything to any official or section of the agency that would make it impossible for that official or section to enjoy wide latitude to execute operations “necessary” to kill targets?

Think about the nature of the drone programs now: They operate completely in the dark free from the constraints of law. There is no judicial review of targets selected for execution. If the government counts the members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates killed, it does not make such counts public. If civilian deaths are counted, it does not make such counts public either. It will neither confirm or deny how many people are being assassinated extrajudicially. The officials involved know there are aspects that are completely immoral. They also are well aware that government agencies could be launching attacks with flying killer robots for the next century if the status quo remains in tact because all involved are able to operate with great impunity.

These same officials have now developed a “rule” book and the public, without being able to read it, is expected to believe that it will constrain the programs? How do we know that aspects that have stirred outrage have not been made permissible by “rules” written by individuals who have an interest in keeping the drone programs going? Does anyone else see how perverted this is that a third party did not develop the “rules”?

Those who favor more accountability and transparency may find this is a step in the right direction, but one could argue it is a proactive measure to dissuade the establishment of any process of independent judicial review and may be worse than now.

Currently, the administration can claim drone operations are somewhat new and officials are working through all issues and concerns to develop policies that make everything more legal and just. After careful deliberation, the president will retain the power to act as judge, jury and executioner. The Executive Branch will continue to pervert the concept of “due process” by arguing they engage in a fair process of reviewing intelligence to appropriately determine who to kill. There will be nothing to excuse the inhumane, immoral and lawless acts of the Obama administration in countries like Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen, but, having been further entrenched in government, it will be even more impossible for Congress, civil society organizations or US citizens to challenge the technocratic barbarism of empire.

Critics [The astonishingly small number of Americans that haven’t lost their fucking minds] see the manual as a symbol of the extent to which the targeted killing program has become institutionalized, part of an apparatus being assembled by the Obama administration to sustain a seemingly permanent war.

CIA drone strikes will get pass in counterterrorism ‘playbook,’ officials say | The Washington Post

… In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans [just trust us! Also, that really is not true, ed.]. That could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” a senior administration official said, or “intelligence that . . . a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.”

The playbook has adopted that tighter standard [which does’t actually exist in practice, ed.] and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval on drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, [where the agency uses “signature” strikes, or pattern of behavior or guilt by proximity strikes, ed.]. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

The priest-like John Brennan is so in tune with Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine and “just war” theory, so uniquely gifted in his ability to see pure evil and eliminate it with precision, so trustworthy that he doesn’t even have to follow his own “rules”. And the anonymous officials are cool with it. Because, if Brennan says all of the hellfire-charred pieces of bodies are militants planning on attacking the United States then god dammit all those motherfuckers are militants. Got that? He’s perfect.

The Shadow That Hangs Over Obama's Second Term | Tom Junod

… And so Monday, on the day set aside for the remembrance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, the man who will be inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States will be a man who accepts — and has been energized by — the idea that evil can be identified as that which kills even one innocent child. He will also be man who has killed innocent children himself, by the dozens and perhaps by the hundreds, as a direct consequence of his orders.

Now, this post is not the first to remark on the difference between President Obama’s words and actions — his words regarding the lives of children in America and his actions regarding the lives of children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. In the immediate aftermath of Newtown, a few bloggers and tweeters pointed out that the President seemed to care a lot more about children dying by Bushmaster in Connecticut than he did about children dying by drone in Wurzistan, but most Americans not only forgave that kind of contradiction; they appreciated it, because they understood that caring more about American kids than Pakistani ones is the President’s job. He is, after all, our Commander-In-Chief, and he is, after all, prosecuting a war against a stateless enemy in Al-Qaeda, and children, after all, have died in war since the beginning of time. Barack Obama cannot be compared to Adam Lanza because no matter how many children Barack Obama has killed he has not tried to kill them, he has not made killing them an end in itself, he has not killed them for killing’s sake, he has not killed them to expunge his own demons or, God help us, for pleasure. He has killed Pakistani kids — and Afghani kids and Yemeni kids and even one American kid — because he is living up to his sworn obligation to protect American kids, even if kids from other parts of the world have to die in the process. He is absolved by intention, even if his intention ends inevitably in accidents and the accidents end up inevitably in line with the President’s own idea of evil.

The rub, of course, is that there are no accidental drone strikes. The Lethal President has built the Lethal Presidency from his own moral pedigree, from the notion that the Lethal Presidency exists not to kill but to end the killing. We have heard from this White House that it does not take killing lightly, and that the President himself takes the ultimate responsibility for the exercise of ultimate power. We have heard that each killing is carried out with precision technology, and is the result of intense and even agonized deliberation. The problem is that whenever the White House describes the process by which the killings are undertaken, it seems to be talking about a process that has killed dozens or maybe even hundreds of people, when in fact it has killed thousands, including children. By the White House’s own terms — its own advertising — the killing of children can’t be entirely accidental. There must be a calculation for it when the President’s advisors produce their disposition matrices; there must be room for it in the President’s own deliberations. War has always killed children, as part of its madness; what distinguishes the Lethal Presidency is that when it kills children it does so from the madness of reason.

Humankind has changed the definition of evil in the course of its existence. It once measured evil in terms of madness; now madness, duly medicalized, has become exculpatory. We know nothing of Adam Lanza, except that he was “troubled,” and perhaps on the autism spectrum; what intensified the initial apprehension of his evil was not the suspicion that he was in the grip of psychosis during the murders but rather the suspicion that he was not. It is evil that exists as a byproduct of reason that we find unforgivable now — evil advanced with cool calculation, for a cause, towards an end, with no feeling or regret — and it is reason rather than madness that hangs its shadow over the children killed by Barack Obama.

On Monday, he will talk about children during his speech. He will talk about protecting them, educating them, encouraging them, and inspiring them, and he will talk about working hard to make sure that the future is theirs. He will talk about children, in other words, in the same way as he talked about them four years ago, with the difference that he knows now how hard it is to protect them, not just from people like Adam Lanza but from people like him. He knows that he will be asked to make decisions that will result in the killing of the children, and that he will do so, that he can do so, not because he is an evil man but rather because he has readily and rationally accommodated himself to the necessity of evil. Four years ago, we did not know this about him. We know now, and although many Americans will applaud him for being able to do what needs to be done, there are others, I among them, who will never get over it.

Senator Asks CIA Nominee When Drones Can Kill Americans | Danger Room

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter on Monday to John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism adviser and nominee to be head of the CIA, asking for an outline of the legal and practical rules that underpin the U.S. government’s targeted killing of American citizens suspected of working with al-Qaida. The Obama administration has repeatedly resisted disclosing any such information about its so-called “disposition matrix” targeting terrorists, especially where it concerns possible American targets. Brennan reportedly oversees that matrix from his White House perch, and would be responsible for its execution at CIA director.

“How much evidence does the President need to determine that a particular American can be lawfully killed?” Wyden, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, asks in the letter, acquired by Danger Room. “Does the President have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender before killing them?”

Wyden’s questions about the targeted-killing effort get specific. He wants to know how the administration determines when it is “not feasible” to capture American citizens suspected of terrorism; if the administration considers its authority to order such killings inherent in its Constitutional war powers or embedded in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force; and if the intelligence agencies can “carry out lethal operations inside the United States.” Wyden also expresses “surprise and dismay” that the intelligence agencies haven’t provided him with a complete list of countries in which they’ve killed people in the war on terrorism, which he says “reflects poorly on the Obama administration’s commitment to cooperation with congressional oversight.”

[…] “For the executive branch to claim that intelligence agencies have the authority to knowingly kill American citizens but refuse to provide Congress with any and all legal opinions that explain the executive branch’s understanding of this authority represents an alarming and indefensible assertion of executive prerogative,” Wyden writes. [++]