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Yesterday, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, gave an extensive speech defending the use of automated drones to target and kill suspected terrorists without due process - including Americans.  

Brennan listed the main criteria the administration uses to unilaterally decide who to target and assassinate. Yet, the one American we know was targeted and killed by a drone, suspected Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, meets NONE of Brennan's purported criteria.

(1) Brennan's first criterion is that the target have some particularized plan to attack the U.S., insisting that

. . . the mere possibility that a member of al-Qa’ida might try to attack us at some point in the future
is not enough to warrant a drone strike. There is no credible evidence that al-Awlaki did anything more than generally advancing propaganda and indicating a desire to support al-Qaeda. A desire to support a terrorist group is not a particularized plan of attack. The justifications for assassinating al-Awlaki that the Obama administration fed the media were:
* the Underwear Bomber stayed in Awlaki's house while the attack was planned;
* Awlaki helped write the Underwear Bomber's "martyrdom" video statement;
* Awlaki introduced the Underwear Bomber to a man who designed the explosive device;and
* the Underwear Bomber was inspired by Awlaki's extremist videos

None of these justifications constitute a particularized plan to attack the U.S. In fact, all of them happened in the past, despite the fact that Brennan claimed yesterday that drones strikes are not about "punishing terrorists for past crimes; we are not seeking vengeance."

(2) Brennan then suggested that a drone assassination would be a appropriate if an

. . .individual is himself an operative—in the midst of actually training for or planning to carry out attacks against U.S. interests.
No one has ever asserted that al-Awlaki was himself an operative, only that he supported operations through his propaganda.

(3) Brennan's third criterion is that

the individual possesses unique operational skills that are being leveraged in a planned attack.
Al-Awlaki fails to meet this criterion as well. Since when is producing hateful videos and advancing abhorrent principles a "unique operational skill."

There is no First Amendment exception for propaganda. If the First Amendment did not apply to propaganda, then the KKK, neo-Nazi groups and any number of Americans who advance hateful messages would be devoid of First Amendment protection.  

Moreover, if propaganda is enough to get you on the drone target list, then - judging from his speech yesterday - Brennan would qualify, which demonstrates that lack of credibility to Brennan's criteria and the problem with assassinating American citizens without due process. Despite the Obama administration's constant reassurance of "just trust us. We are being careful," the facts speak otherwise.

Al-Awlaki does not meet Brennan's supposed criteria, and civilian deaths are well above what the Obama administration has claimed. While Brennan claims that "it pains us and we regret it deeply" when drones kill innocent civilians, no one shed a tear when a drone killed al-Awlaki's innocent 16-year old AMERICAN son.

Brennan's speech also talked the talk on transparency:

Staying true to our values as a nation also includes upholding the transparency upon which our democracy depends. A few months after taking office, the President travelled to the National Archives where he discussed how national security requires a delicate balance between secrecy and transparency. He pledged to share as much information as possible with the American people “so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.” He has consistently encouraged those of us on his national security team to be as open and candid as possible as well.
Sounds great, but the Obama administration is not walking the walk. Despite Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder speechifying on the drone program to defend it, when advocates request documents on the program - like the legal memo "authorizing" the assassination of a U.S. citizen without due process - the Obama administration's position in court has consistently been to rely on the "Glomar doctrine" that it "can neither confirm nor deny" the existence of the drone program.

The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and Nathan Wessler articulated earlier this week how the Obama administration's position has little to do with transparency and everything to do with releasing information when politically advantageous while keeping potentially controversial or embarrassing information secret:

The [Glomar] doctrine has also been invoked since 9/11 to shape public debate. A slew of administration officials have already spoken about the targeted killing program to reporters, both anonymously and on the record, and President Obama himself answered questions about the program during an online town hall. Thus the Glomar doctrine is not serving to keep the targeted killing program a secret, but rather to control which facts about the program are made public, and when. Not coincidentally, the C.I.A.’s reliance on the Glomar doctrine also makes it more difficult for individuals injured by the agency’s counterterrorism policies to challenge those policies in court. . . .
The C.I.A.’s manifest abuse of the Glomar doctrine undermines public confidence in the classification system, distorts public debate about issues of extraordinary importance, and enables an agency with sweeping authority — including the authority to kill — to operate with insufficient public oversight.
The Obama administration's selective release of information around drones shows the many exceptions to Obama's wonderful sounding rhetoric on national security issues. Those of us who took those words to heart were again disappointed yesterday listening to former National Counterterrorism Center Director under G.W. Bush and now top counterterrorism adviser under Obama discussing the Obama administration's unilateral targeting and assassinating of Americans without charge or trial.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Tue May 01, 2012 at 05:36:43 AM PDT

  •  And people scoffed back when I said that... (11+ / 0-)

    electing Obama would amount to putting a friendlier face on the same old POS government we knew under Bush.

    To be clear, it would be the same under any president. Presidents don't run things around here. Assholes like the CIA and their ilk do.

  •  Obama takes foreign policy away from Republicans (8+ / 0-)

    The "warrior president" has succeeded in taking the foreign policy argument away from the Republicans.

    But at what cost in the actual foreign policy and for what happens at home?

    Drones have now been authorized for use here in the good old USA and were used already once that was reported. They have been patrolling the borders for some time.

    There are many issues in this post that should be of critical concern to every American.

    1. use of secrecy to hide what government does

    2. unprecedented attack on whistle blowers

    3. continuing a foreign policy that the people of the world understand, but not understood here. Namely that the people of the world see USA as the terrorists.

    4. use of drones to start wars by the administration without the action of congress as prescribed in the constitution

    5. congress in the pockets of the 1% and not doing their jobs

    6. a supreme court that is likely to certify all the new powers claimed by the administration. Thomas Jefferson thought that the Supreme Court should be abolished. Now we see his position.

    Politics is a spectacle.

    Has the USA lost the ability to reason?

    Al Gore wrote a book a few years ago entitled "Assault on Reason." This diary applies reason to the issue of the rationalization of drone strikes. Lets see what coverage this gets in the corporate media.

    •  Mind expounding/sourcing a bit? (0+ / 0-)

      See below, so that I can become more informed. Thanks!!

      There are many issues in this post that should be of critical concern to every American.

      1. use of secrecy to hide what government does

      To what extent is this acceptable?

      2. unprecedented attack on whistle blowers

      3. continuing a foreign policy that the people of the world understand, but not understood here. Namely that the people of the world see USA as the terrorists.

      Would you please provide the worldwide poll that supports this assertion? Thanks.

      4. use of drones to start wars by the administration without the action of congress as prescribed in the constitution

      What wars were started because of drone use? Thanks.

      5. congress in the pockets of the 1% and not doing their jobs

      Agreed, but at a 6%-ish approval rate, I don't think many disagree.

      6. a supreme court that is likely to certify all the new powers claimed by the administration. Thomas Jefferson thought that the Supreme Court should be abolished. Now we see his position.

      Do you think things like Roe vs Wade, etc should be abolished along with it?
      •  here are links on the world wide poll about USA (0+ / 0-)

        Do you really want these links? Do you want a dialogue?

        Are you a supporter of Obama no matter what is being done in this country and in the world?

        Here are some links about US status in the world

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

        http://blogs.mcclatchydc.com/...

        http://www.salon.com/...

        And Glenn Greenwald's just published column on the Brennen interview is about as strong an criticism of executive power as one can get

        http://www.salon.com/...

        In terms of secrecy, the government can leak secrets for political reasons, but if I pointed out waste, fraud and abuse, I could be locked up and charged under the espionage act and even be put to death.

        Jesselyn has written about this here several times. Click on her name and go back through her diaries.

        Here is another link about the selective leaking of state secrets

        http://www.salon.com/...

        and just for good luck, read all about our warrior president

        http://www.salon.com/...

        •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

          It seems you could've claimed that the majority of the MUSLIM world see us in a negative light (I missed the word "terrorists" in the articles) and be perfectly supported, and I think their sentiments are understandable given events over the last several years.

          I really hope no one is put to death for pointing out clear waste, fraud, and abuse....though I'm not very worried about right now since it's never even come close to happening.

  •  Did he give this speech at the (8+ / 0-)

    White House Correspondent's dinner, cause this shit sure is funny. His sense of irony is, uh, deadly.

    Staying true to our values as a nation also includes upholding the transparency upon which our democracy depends. A few months after taking office, the President travelled to the National Archives where he discussed how national security requires a delicate balance between secrecy and transparency. He pledged to share as much information as possible with the American people “so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.” He has consistently encouraged those of us on his national security team to be as open and candid as possible as well.
  •  Strange how Awlaki was targeted for his... (4+ / 0-)

    seemingly peripheral part  in the underwear bomber plot.

    * Awlaki introduced the Underwear Bomber to a man who designed the explosive device
    And the man (I forget his name) who designed and built the actual explosive device for use in that particular operation is still alive and free to walk the streets of Yemen.

    "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." ~ Aldous Huxley

    by markthshark on Tue May 01, 2012 at 06:34:29 AM PDT

  •  What can be said of those who... (0+ / 0-)

    continue to urge a strategy of  "more and better" and fealty to the Democratic Party on the arguments of  "giving them more time" and "the other guys are worse"? (What is worse than legalizing and normalizing killings and renditions with no due-process, torture, aggressive warfare and refusing to hold those responsible for these accountable?)

    Such a stance is arguably worse than the GOP and their overt sociopathy, because at least with the GOP there exists clear demarcations politically, economically and morally about what America is or should be and where to draw policy distinctions and where direct activism and demand accountability.

    Failure to recognize or acknowledge this, and hold their own party accountable makes it possible for the policies to be perpetuated and normalized without fear of political or legal repercussions. It ensures that we and our posterity will be further enveloped by stinking clouds of surreal hypocrisy, destruction and death.

    Increasingly, some say they do get it, but they won't change course or take a principled stand because they are in a sort of denial, they are self-interested, and they fear jeopardizing their own economic status.

    It would seem that we are once again upon those times that try men's souls.

    .

    Resistance Is Fertile - Occupy

    by Sean X on Wed May 02, 2012 at 07:19:11 AM PDT

  •  Warrants, evidence trials are relics of yesteryear (0+ / 0-)
    2millionlightyearstoandromeda said:

    Slowly and predictably the names of those denied their inherent legal protections will morph from Mohammed to Miguel to Michael and by then no justification will even be proffered.

    Soon the delusion that the U.S. constitution is still in play will disappear among even the most propagandized of the perception managed masses but by then it will be too late.

    Our overlords now pilfer and plot without precaution as they laughingly string along the gullible who still believe in a constraining rule of law mirage which was dialed to fade without announcement long ago.

    Obama's word is Supreme Law now and no challenges will be heard.

    Warrants, evidence and trials are relics of yesteryear and only serve to slow the rightful and necessary expansion of The Empire.

    If the King says you must die then you must die.

    That's the new process and you'll get what's due you.

    You don't want the world to come under the control of extremists?

    Resistance Is Fertile - Occupy

    by Sean X on Wed May 02, 2012 at 07:36:04 AM PDT

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