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They never laid a glove on him — not, I suspect, that many of them wanted to do so — and John Brennan looked very comfortable in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee during his extended job interview to become the head of the CIA. After all, they were all members of the national-security priesthood, one way or the other, and if they had to discuss their deadly private liturgies (in however cursory a fashion) in public (however briefly), well, that's just the price of doing business. And if Senator Jim Risch felt the need to bluster about a leak, Brennan got to bluster back, so the call-and-response ritual of the liturgies was adhered to in public as it would have been in private. But there was about the hearing a feeling of pure show, because both sides were operating under a tacit agreement that there are things that the American people must not, and should not, know about what it being done in their name. Once that agreement is struck, once that private communion is joined, the fundamentals of self-government are left behind.

What we learned about John Brennan and didn’t learn about torture and targeted killings.

Once the first set of demonstrators was ejected, it quickly became clear that most of the Senators on the panel were much more supportive than Code Pink had been. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who heads the Intelligence Committee, seemed to see her role as making sure Brennan got through unscathed. She began by claiming that during the past few years, the annual number of civilian casualties from drone strikes has been in the single digits—a figure many intelligence experts and monitoring groups regard as laughably low. As Feinstein was speaking, more demonstrators started hooting and hollering. When it happened for a fifth time, Feinstein ordered the Capitol Hill police to clear the room and invited Brennan to join her in a back room. “I speak for the mothers,” one of the protesters shouted as she was frog-marched out. “We are killing children… the children of Pakistan and Yemen. We are making more enemies.”

That was about the last serious note of dissension about drones for a couple of hours. Although a good number of Senators seemed exercised about the White House’s tardiness in turning over its legal rationale for assassinating American citizens, few, if any, of them appeared to have any more fundamental qualms about the drone program. Brennan didn’t express any, either. “The people who were standing up here have a misleading view of what it is we do,” he said, referring to the protesters. They “don’t understand the agonies we go through to avoid collateral damage.” Under questioning from Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, the most Brennan was willing to concede was that, on occasions when American drones did kill the wrong person, or people, the United States should fess up. “We need to acknowledge it to our foreign partners,” he said. “We need to acknowledge it publicly.”

John Brennan Refuses To Say Whether Waterboarding Is Torture (VIDEO)

LEVIN: Well, you've read opinions as to whether or not waterboarding is torture. And I'm just asking, do you accept those opinions of the attorney general? That's my question.
BRENNAN: Senator, I've read a lot of legal opinions. I read an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the previous administration that said waterboarding could be used. So from the standpoint of that, I can't point to a single legal document on the issue. But as far as I'm concerned, waterboarding is something that never should have been employed, and as far as I'm concerned, never will be if I have anything to do with it.

LEVIN: Is waterboarding banned by the Geneva Conventions?

BRENNAN: I believe the attorney general also has said it's contrary and in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Again, I'm not a lawyer or a legal scholar to make the determination as to what's in violation of an international convention.

America’s Global Torture Network

The title, “Globalizing Torture,” says it all. This meticulous accounting of the network of torture chambers that the United States has authorized in more than 54 nations is a damning indictment that should make all of us in this country cringe with shame.

The report is a product of the Open Society Foundations, funded by international financier and philanthropist George Soros, who, as a young Jew, suffered through the Nazi occupation of Hungary and emerged from that experience an uncompromising fighter for human rights. That his lifelong goal to “foster accountability for international crimes,” reflected in his organization’s mission statement, now includes our government is a condemnation as awful as it is deserved.

How Secrecy Corrodes Democracy

This image of a hubristic United States has its own negative consequences. It feeds not only anti-Americanism abroad but a sense of alienation at home. Many Americans see democracy as not only short-circuited by all the manipulative political techniques bought by billionaires but by an intentional starving of an informed electorate denied factual sustenance by the government.The not-unreasonable assumption among many Americans is simply that there is no legal coherence to the policy, at least not one that can be defended in the court of public opinion. Many Americans thus conclude that the government is arrogant, a judgment that runs parallel to an opinion held by many people in Yemen and other countries where drone strikes have occurred.

Can the Military Detain US Citizens? Appeals Court Hears Arguments in NDAA Lawsuit

Plaintiffs arguing that a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows for military detention of US citizens, squared off with Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers Wednesday morning in a Manhattan appeals court. The plaintiffs, who include journalist Chris Hedges and six political dissidents, claim their rights have been chilled as a result of the new provision, and that they have reasonable fear of prosecution under what they claim are new domestic military powers.

The DOJ argued that the controversial sections of the NDAA don't add additional powers to the executive branch: They merely restate those that already exist.


Plaintiffs arguing that a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows for military detention of US citizens, squared off with Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers Wednesday morning in a Manhattan appeals court. [...]
After the morning's arguments, the panel of three judges adjourned the court, hinting they may not issue a ruling until after the Supreme Court hears a related case involving warrantless wiretapping - Clapper vs. Amnesty International - in which Hedges is also a plaintiff.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues

Breaking: Brennan Refuses to Call Waterboarding Torture - Updated

Bigelow's Tortured Excuses

RFK and the Drone Strike White Paper

Questions for John Brennan

What becomes of the broken hearted?- Jimmy Ruffin
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