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The Jehoshua Novels


John Brennan Doesn’t Rule Out Targeting Americans for Assassination in United States – Mark Karlin, Editor BuzzFlash and TruthOut

I’ve known  Mark Karlin (online) for a while.  As editor of BuzzFlash, he was generous enough to run my voting rights and other  articles on more than a few occasions.  He’s an excellent analyst in addition to his editorial skills and a solid progressive Democrat from Chicago.  All the more reason to take  his article below is a fair warning about the potential abuse of power.     Michael Collins

By Mark Karlin, Editor
BuzzFlash and Truthout

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.

Sometimes, it even takes BuzzFlash at Truthout a little time to write commentaries about killer issues, in this case literally.

According to the Wall Street Journal (in a February 15 article), Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, ambiguously left open the possibility that US citizens could be targeted for assassination in the United States:

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, didn’t rule out the use of unmanned drones in the U.S. when quizzed about the matter.

Mr. Brennan’s written answer came in response to questions from the Senate intelligence committee following his confirmation hearing last week. The Senate intelligence committee released a declassified version of Mr. Brennan’s responses in a 30-page document Friday.

Mr. Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism chief, was asked, “Could the Administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?” His reply was: “This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.”

A few days back, Democracy Now analyzed excerpts from the Brennan Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination, including this one:

SEN. RON WYDEN: Let me ask you several other questions with respect to the president’s authority to kill Americans. I’ve asked you how much evidence the president needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed and whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. In my judgment, both the Congress and the public need to understand the answers to these kind of fundamental questions. What do you think needs to be done to ensure that members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it’s allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues, the question of evidence and the authority to use this power within the United States?

JOHN BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs, as far as our explaining what we’re doing. What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. I don’t think that it’s one or the other. It’s trying to optimize both of them. And so, what we need to do is make sure we explain to the American people what are the thresholds for action, what are the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, the reviews. The Office of Legal Counsel advice establishes the legal boundaries within which we can operate. It doesn’t mean that we operate at those out of boundaries. And, in fact, I think the American people will be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined, very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.

If ever there was the epitome of obfuscating bureaucratic blather, Brennan achieved it in pointedly not ruling out the killing of US citizens on US soil.  READ THE REMAINDER OF POST AT BuzzFlash.com

*******************

From The Agonist, October 4, 2010 Lawless Nation:  Congress Michael Collins

Some time before February 2010, the President of the United States authorized the assassination of a U.S. citizen living overseas. The citizen was identified by the White House as a terrorist.

Unlike previous government programs to kill individuals overseas, this one wasn’t a covert operation. The program was openly announced, without qualification. Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, discussed the plan in February at a congressional hearing. A few weeks later, John O. Brennan, the president’s National Security Adviser, announced that the marked man was one of “dozens” of U.S. citizens put on the presidential death list because “they are very concerning to us.”

The principal of unfettered executive power, absent political and judicial restraint, was officially established. Executive power now supersedes established law.

We have come to the point where the president can openly designate a U.S. citizen as a terrorist removing all rights, including the right to life. The administration implied that this was for overseas targets only. But recall that the illegal wiretapping program was originally for overseas calls only. It rapidly spread to domestic surveillance as well.

11 comments to John Brennan Doesn’t Rule Out Targeting Americans for Assassination in United States – Mark Karlin, Editor BuzzFlash and TruthOut

  • Celsius 233

    Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end with posting/commenting and this thread is a perfect example.
    No comments!
    WTF!!!!????
    I’m not speaking of only the Agonist; but to the whole internet shtick!
    Fill a bowel with cornstarch; add water to make it a paste; then punch it; punch it with all your might! Nada, it absorbs the entire energy expended with no effect!
    That’s my metaphor/simile to the sum total of the internet on society at large. No effect!
    So, I’m just about done with this shit! What’s the point? I don’t feel better; I don’t see any sea change anywhere! Period!
    So, good luck Michael; you’ve got more tenacity than I after all these years…

    • Tina

      Celsius I feel your anguish. I think our outrage meters are just worn out. It seems like nothing seems to be able to stop the roller coaster we are on.

      • JustPlainDave

        The primary issue here is not that anyone’s “outrage meter” is broken. It’s that *all* that is being sold here is outrage. There’s no thoughtful insights or avenues for exploration that might lead to greater understanding (or God forbid, potential solutions). The only thing thing going on is that “oooh, ugly” is being commoditized and sold for eyeball share. My take, the readership is sophisticated enough to understand the product of that amounts to a fart in a windstorm. Treat the readership like consumers and they’ll act like it.

        • Tina

          Really???? What thoughtful understanding or potential solutions? What avenues to explore should we be looking at? Protests, writing our representatives or president? I find the whole idea of assassinating Americans very offensive. We used to put people on trial, what a quaint idea.

          • JustPlainDave

            Policy options don’t come out of a vacuum. Folks need to ask themselves what option sets represent alternatives to the use of drone warfare and they need to talk about them publicly. They need not just to protest what they don’t like, but to demonstrate that they are receptive to the tradeoffs, costs and risks that go with alternative courses of action. I see only the most occasional lip service to that. It’s about 95% “don’t do this” and 5% “do something else” with the vast bulk of that being no more sophisticated than “do anything else”. And we should be surprised that the policymakers don’t assume the perceived risk of courses of action other than kinetics? Not from where I’m sitting.

            Seriously, think about this stuff. The central challenge from our perspective is that there are indigenous Islamist movements that serve as incubators that occasionally throw off transnational hyper-extremist fragments that seek to strike at the Western heartland. We know that trying to suppress these movements in toto is an impossible task (not to mention one that would ultimately cause massive blowback), so what are the moves that would inoculate those movements against transnationals looking for a pliant host? What would make it harder for those transnationals to do their work? What can we do to demonstrate to Islamist thinkers that their perspective of the west as an implacable unitary foe led by the United States is wrong? These are only the most basic top of mind questions, but where they get us is light years ahead of the “all outrage all the time” channel. Asking those questions and using them to structure thought helps everyone. Notably, the only folks they don’t help are the folks commoditizing outrage. MHO, that goes some way to explaining why they’re not on the market, with much of the rest being that the outrage mongers don’t have sufficient insight into the issues to provide any useful answers.

        • Celsius 233

          I agree, except for your very last sentence. I’m not sure I actually understand your meaning there.
          I guess in my naivete I used to view these sites as a kind of electronic/media Paul Revere. It’s apparent they are no such thing.
          Democracy and the 2 party system have failed; as has America’s form of capitalism and there seems to be no viable solution; nothing changes and entropy rules.

          • JustPlainDave

            Someone who sells you only outrage over an extended period is selling that because that’s the best (frequently the only) product they have on offer. My view, that’s treating you like a consumer. When retailers try to push goods on the customer that the customer really doesn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for, they don’t buy. MHO, the lack of engagement on this thread that you were decrying is what that situation looks like in the context of a blog. All outrage all the time, because that’s what the sellers have – not because that’s what the customers (readers) want, results in lack of engagement and apathy.

          • Celsius 233

            @ JPD, excellent points. Agree once again.
            It appears I did the right thing (for me) when I chose self exile as protest and action. I have quite literally withdrawn all material support of the machine.

        • Description is not provocation, Dave. I was interested in the piece for two reasons. First, I’d witten about Brennan’s initial utterance in 2012 and said, ” recall that the illegal wiretapping program was originally for overseas calls only. It rapidly spread to domestic surveillance as well.” (from the material i the origial post). I couldn’t believe that they’d extrapolate the policy to apply domestically, it seemed over the top. That’s optimism. Then I saw th piece in BuzzFlash/TruthOut which referenced the WSJ!

          Providing a description of an strange policy, on that indicates that those in charge have lost their moorings, is not salacious or provocative. It’s a description of what is.

          If describing the manifestations of decline and fall is commodity material, why is there so little of it? This wasn’t splashed across the network news or the talk circuit. It showed up in a few internet publications.

          Do you hae an opinion on this justification for the use of drones domestically? I’ be fascinated to hear it, seriously.

          • JustPlainDave

            You may like this guy, but my mileage varies. The central contention that he’s making is that Brennan is being mealy mouthed about targeting Americans in the United States. He leads with an unequivocal response to the specific question of targeting Americans in the US and then excoriates Brennan for being mealy mouthed in his testimony on the issue. The big problem with that is that the specific question about whether the Administration can target Americans inside the US is taken from the follow-ups committee members submitted after Brennan’s testimony and Brennan’s previous testimony was in response to a question focusing on what needs to be done to ensure that the public understands more about when the Administration thinks it can kill Americans. Funny how the testimony in response to that question focuses on balancing the need for secrecy and disclosure and doesn’t focus on the criteria.

            SENATOR WYDEN: Very good.

            Let me now move to the public side of oversight — making sure that the
            public’s right to know is respected. One part of oversight is Congressional oversight, and our doing our work here. The other is making sure that the American people are brought into these debates; just like James Madison said — this is what you need to preserve a republic.

            And I want to start with the drone issue. In a speech last year, the President instructed you to be more open with the public about the use of drones to conduct targeted killings of al-Qa’ida members.

            So, my question is what should be done next, to ensure public conversation about drones, so that the American people are brought into this debate and have a full understanding of what rules the government is going to observe when it conducts targeted killings?

            MR. BRENNAN: Well, I think this hearing is one of the things that can be done, because I think this type of discourse between the Executive and the Legislative Branch is critically important.

            I believe that there need to be continued speeches that are going to be given by the Executive Branch to explain our counterterrorism programs. I think there is a misimpression on the part of some of American people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions — nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative to taking an action that’s going to mitigate that threat.

            So we will need to make sure that there is an understanding. And the people that were standing up here today, I think they really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government, and the care that we take, and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths.

            And as the Chairman said earlier, the need to be able to go out and say that publicly and openly, I think, is critically important, because people are reacting to a lot of falsehoods that are out there. And I do see it as part of my obligation, and I think it’s the obligation of this Committee, to make sure the truth is known to the American public and to the world.

            SENATOR WYDEN: Mr. Brennan, I’m also convinced there are parts of drone policy that can be declassified consistent with national security. And I hope that you will work with me on that if you are confirmed.

            Let me ask you several other questions with respect to the President’s authority to kill Americans. I’ve asked you how much evidence the President needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed, and whether the administration believes that the President can use this authority inside the United States. In my judgment, both the Congress and the public needs to understand the answers to these kinds of fundamental questions.

            What do you think needs to be done to ensure that Members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it’s allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues — the question of evidence, and the authority to use this power within the United States?

            MR. BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs as far as our explaining what we’re doing. What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. I don’t think that it’s one or the other; it’s trying to optimize both of them.

            And so, what we need to do is make sure we explain to the American people: what are the thresholds for action; what are the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, the reviews.

            The Office of Legal Counsel advice establishes the legal boundaries within which we can operate. It doesn’t mean that we operate at those outer boundaries. And, in fact, I think the American people would be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined and very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.

            Lack of ubiquity says nothing about whether outrage is being commoditized. Other outlets have different products to “sell”, as compared to those internet outlets.

            As to your question, what justification for the domestic use of drones? I’ve read the transcript of the testimony, the pre-testimony responses to committee questions and the post-testimony responses. There’s no justification for the domestic use of drones advanced in there at all zippo, nothing, nada. This focus, this is being driven primarily by the fact that it’s perceived as the best possibility for selling outrage, which is the only product on offer by these sellers, which frankly fucking sucks because there was a lot more in the testimony that is much more important that this manufactured crap.

          • Celsius 233

            As an ex-Oregonian, I considered Wyden an exceptional human.

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