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A remarkably good discussion about our wars and the president's speech on Charlie Rose with Karen Greenberg, David Kilcullen, Micah Zenko, David Ignatius and Philip Mudd.  Note that David Ignatius arrived very late to the program, so he was not able to dominate the discussion with his regurgitating of the typical beltway spin. By then, the other analysts had set the tone and had made very salient points, and really dominated the show.  I find the contrast between their analysis and his to be stark -- something on the order of the difference between our discussion of the wars and policies here vs. the discussions on MSNBC or in a hyperpartisan diary. Their points are excellent and much more clear, intelligent and spot on than we are used to hearing in this country.  It's a half hour video and a good investment of time.  I don't see a way to embed it, so use the link in the title to get to the video.

Discussion about President Obama's speech

Discussion about President Obama's speech with Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations; David Kilcullen, former advisor to Gen. Petraeus; David Ignatius of the Washington Post; Karen Greenberg of Fordham Law School;and Philip Mudd, former Deputy Director of the CIA and the FBI

Note what Micah Zenko says about the state of affairs after the speech.  

And here is Zenko's recent article in the pay-walled Financial Times.  I'll try to excerpt to give you the essence of it or at least some of the major points.  Also note that Zenko comes out, right at the beginning of the article, and declares that what the president and all the president's men (and a few women) have been saying about our drone strikes is false.  False.  That's a big deal.  I should note that Zenko uses an average of the numbers from three data bases to arrive at the numbers of civilian deaths and while I understand why he might do that, I am skeptical of that method.  Zenko makes the important point that the administration claims that they will make the drone policies "uniform" between the CIA and the military which would no more signature strikes and that this would significantly reduce targeted killings.  This might explain the reduction in the number of recent drone strikes.  

How Barack Obama has tried to open up the one-sided drone war
The president has shed light on non-battlefield targeted killings, writes Micah Zenko 

The president was obligated to give his speech because drone strikes have vastly increased under his watch. [...] Roughly 50 took place during Mr Bush’s tenure, and 375 (and counting) under Mr Obama’s. [...] This is the most one-sided war in US history, with no government employee having directly lost their life.

The Obama administration’s repeated claim that targeted killings are limited only to al-Qaeda officials and affiliates, who pose an imminent threat of attack on the US homeland, is false. [...]

Rather than aligning public justifications with operational practice, Mr Obama on Thursday announced two reforms that could improve the transparency and legitimacy of these lethal operations.

[...]
The enduring impact of Mr Obama’s speech will not be what he says, but whether the new policies are reflected in how drone strikes are conducted, and whether his administration will finally and faithfully engage with the public, more than a decade after the operations began.

Continuing the discussion related to the Charlie Rose show and the Zenko article above... I think a lot of people are still mulling over the president's speech.  I know that I am.  I have so many thoughts on it that have not gelled yet.  I believe that we will be reading a lot of analysis related to it in the weeks to come especially since this is a holiday weekend.  I'll just throw out a few things here, but I have a lot more to say and I hope that everyone else does too.

Signature strikes have not been acknowledged officially by this administration and they have been controversial within his administration for a long time.  When Eric Holder said that three of the four Americans killed by our government were "not specifically targeted", he might have been referring to signature strikes done by the CIA.  There are many obvious problems with signature strikes (ah, and that's an understatement).  One of them is that you don't know if you're going to hit American citizens since you don't know who you are killing.  This shouldn't be the primary reason for stopping them (other than the fact that they are arguably war crimes when not in a war zone) but this national conversation has, not surprisingly, generally discussed what's right and wrong about drone strikes only when it's in the context of killing Americans and sometimes in the context of civilian deaths.

The point about the drone propanda and the misleading Cheneyesque rhetoric abot who we have been killing, the Brennan denials about civilian deaths, cannot be stressed enough. While we are being told that we are only blowing up Al Qaeda leaders and militants who present an imminent threat to the U.S., as Zenko flatly said, this is false. Jeremy Scahill, by relating specifics about what he has learned on the ground, has been providing evidence of the same thing for years now, though in the past few months he has had the opportunity to tell the stories via a book and a movie all across the country, and has appeared on every news outlet that we can think of.  Marcy Wheeler, gathering all available evidence via writing and sources, has said the same thing for years now.  Several organizations, such as the Bureau of Investigation, have interviewed locals particuarly in Pakistan, have documented evidence of the same thing. And there are many more who have done so persistently even when their words seemed to be getting through only to a relatively small number of people and they seemed to be in the wilderness. And I'm only referring to the reporting in the U.S. It is a simple point, but it is huge and it is decidedly not understood by the American people in whose names these strikes are being conducted.  This has been happening in secrecy for years now, and this administration has not officially acknowledged the policy until very recently, despite the "authorized leaks".  

As of Thursday, the public debate has officially begun and questions posed to the administration can no longer be avoided.  This is something that has been managed until now via a propaganda campaign and authorized leaks and via coy or vague Obama discussions with citizens in Google Hangouts, etc.  This is the public debate that we have wanted. However, we should note that there's a big problem with this public debate.  CIA strikes are covert operations and can't be discussed by the president or anyone, as far as I know, except in broad terms.  I don't want to get off topic, so I won't dig into it very much but this is a big part of the issue, and claims that drone operations will be moved to the military and away from the CIA are dubious at best.  We currently have drone operations conducted by the military (special ops), drone operations conducted by the CIA, and a hybrid of the two.

There are a lot of reasons why this public debate is now happening and I don't believe that any of them involve this administration's desire to be the most transparent administration evah.  Part (maybe most) of the reason why they cannot control the discussion is that we live in a new world where people in the West and people in the Middle East can communicate with each other, where even people in remote regions of the tribal areas of Pakistan, in Yemen and in Afghanistan can get a message out to the world via the internet and social media and cell phone technology.  Another reason, IMHO, is that this country does not want Forever War, and despite the poll numbers on drones, this country does not want to kill innocent civilians and terrorize populations and this administration knows that.  Another reason is that Pakistani courts just made it illegal for us to blow their people up with drone strikes and the court ordered their military to defend against it.  Another reason is that this country has been called out for war crimes in various places around the world, and except for the U.S. and Israel, our counterterrorism policy is widely and extremely despised and that sentiment is growing.  

In other words, unless we want the world to turn against us, something has to be done about this drone policy and counterterrorism policy.  The president's speech was curiously held at 2pm on a weekday.  This makes me wonder who the audience was.  I've seen suggestions that the target audience was not really the American people though I don't think that's entirely true.  I think, and hope, that this was the opener, though I do agree that the president wanted to signal to the world a shift in our foreign policy. Whether or not it really is a true shift is another story.  

Anyway, sorry for the rambling.  I haven't fully collected my thoughts, for what they are worth, on all of this yet and there are a lot of them in there.  More on this later (probably a lot more) and maybe, just maybe, the real public debate and an end to the creepy silence on our Forever War has begun.  To some extent, that's up to us.  All of the focus and the trillions spent on terrorism -- this just isn't working and as we watch the senseless deaths in this country due to poverty, inequality and violence, crumbling infrastructure and economy. This isn't working.  It's working for the war profiteers and the other mega corps who seize the spoils of war and who want the Forever War which benefits them, the 1%, but it's not working for anyone else all across the globe and to boot, the Boston bombings show that it's not stopping terrorism either. And that can't be hidden anymore or obfuscated by the fog or shock of fearmongering.

Regarding the other war on civil liberties and freedom of the press... read this article.  It's a must read.  It seems that the DoJ thought they might never have to reveal the fact that they got Rosen's electronic communications and in fact wanted to leave the door open for monitoring him.  I can't help but wonder how many more secret search warrants on journalists are out there. Note that Eric Holder signed this warrant.

HOW PROSECUTORS FOUGHT TO KEEP ROSEN’S WARRANT SECRET

The Obama Administration fought to keep a search warrant for James Rosen’s private e-mail account secret, arguing to a federal judge that the government might need to monitor the account for a lengthy period of time.
[...]
He argued that disclosure of the search warrant would preclude the government from monitoring the account, should such a step become necessary in the investigation. Machen added that “some investigations are continued for many years because, while the evidence is not yet sufficient to bring charges, it is sufficient to have identified criminal subjects and/or criminal activity serious enough to justify continuation of the investigation.”
[...]
The new documents show that two judges separately declared that the Justice Department was required to notify Rosen of the search warrant, even if the notification came after a delay. Otherwise: “The subscriber therefore will never know, by being provided a copy of the warrant, for example, that the government secured a warrant and searched the contents of her e-mail account,” Judge John M. Facciola wrote in an opinion rejecting the Obama Administration’s argument.

Machen appealed that decision, and in September, 2010, Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, granted Machen’s request to overturn the order of the two judges.

Holder claims that he recused himself from the AP case, though he doesn't remember exactly when he recused himself and he never turned over his authorities to his deputy in writing. But, he did not recuse himself in the Rosen case and again, note that Eric Holder signed the warrant.  Now look at his testimony to Congress.  DS Wright at FDL spells it out. I think Eric Holder is in a lot of trouble.
Did Attorney General Eric Holder Lie To Congress Under Oath?

During Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee he made an interesting statement in response to a question from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA):

JOHNSON: I yield the balance of my time to you.

HOLDER: I would say this with regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy. In fact my view is quite the opposite.

Interesting statement given that we now know Holder approved a search warrant for a reporter’s emails who was cited as a co-conspirator in a leak investigation.
I don't know what's going on with Media Matters but it's really freaking weird.  Another hat tip to DS Wright on this. Read his analysis here.  And below is an excerpt from Media Matters' latest twisted weirdness.  It just seems like the chickens are coming home to roost for a number of fierce defenders who feel obligated to defend this administration no matter what they do.  Both individuals and grassroots and other organizations are in "beyond the pale" territory and IMHO are likely to ruin their reputations and careers due to whatever Faustian bargain they struck, or whatever underlying reasoning drives them. In this post, they start off in a reasonable way and then veer off into the defensive weirdness.  You'll need to read the whole thing to grok the 11-dimensional chess going on here [facepalm].  I don't think we're anywhere near the end of this scandal. I get the intuition that there is a lot more.
It's Called Freedom Of The Press For A Reason

Yet it's also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there's little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it's "spying" on reporters), or that it's set out a dangerous new policy to "criminalize" the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn't been "targeted" by the Obama administration, despite Fox's plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There's certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith's baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice "went into" Fox News computer servers and "pulled things out.")
[...]
Prior to the Washington Post story being published on May 20, Rosen knew nothing of the search warrant or that it had been acted upon. And that's why the alarm bells sounded, and with good reason. The idea that federal law enforcement can simply grab a reporter's private communication without the reporter or his news employer ever being notified -- and without them given a chance to persuade a judge the stop the action (i.e. judicial relief) -- is wrong and it's dangerous and in the Rosen case it was unacceptable.

But also note that Rosen being unaware the FBI grabbed his emails was, in weird way, reassuring. It's reassuring because despite the alarming wording of the warrant request ("abettor and/or co-conspirator"), no charges were ever brought against Rosen, and according to the FBI none are expected to be forthcoming.

DS Wright's analysis of it.
Media Matters Offers Odd Apologetic For Press Spying

Media Matters, while condemning the government’s actions against AP and Rosen, seems content to completely ignore the broader implications. [...] A practice, ironically, Media Matters constantly cites conservative media for engaging in. These actions by the Obama Administration are not isolated incidents – they are part of a larger context which Media Matters should know, and worse, probably does.
[...]
We should be “reassured” that the Justice Department misled a judge to get a warrant? [...] Media Matters’ attempt to hijack the public’s outrage over the Obama Administration’s attack on journalism and channel it into a more partisan-friendly frame is shameful. Our First Amendment hangs in the balance of these cases [...]

Now while we're in the twilight zone, and in light of what we know his administration has been doing, also keeping in mind that Holder is one of his right-hand men, the most senior officer of the law in this country and one of the most powerful people in the world, let's review what the president just said in his speech on Thursday. Let's also remember that Obama insisted on a national security exemption to the media shield law which would have exempted both the AP and the Rosen case. In other words, it would not have shielded them at all.
Remarks by the President at the National Defense University

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society.  As Commander-in-Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field.  To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information.  But a free press is also essential for our democracy.  That’s who we are.  And I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.  Our focus must be on those who break the law.  And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government overreach.  And I’ve raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concerns.  So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and he’ll convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review.  And I’ve directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

While reviewing the transcript of the president's speech, I note (and you probably already knew) that they have updated the transcript with some of the things that Medea Benjamin said.  Personally, I am really pleased by that. But I note that the question she asked about 16-year old Abdulrahman Awlaki, killed by a drone strike, is not included.  There is a statement about a 16-year old, but her question about Awlaki's son is not in there.
We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our courts.  That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square. It's in a court of law that we will try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.  Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is, as we speak, serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison here in the United States.  In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, “The way we treat you…is the measure of our own liberties.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  How about Abdulmutallab -- locking up a 16-year-old -- is that the way we treat a 16-year old?  (Inaudible) -- can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA?  Can you stop the signature strikes killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re addressing that, ma’am.

MSNBC catches what Benjamin said on video. Check me on this.  Does the White House transcript pick up the part where she very clearly asked about Awlaki's son?  I don't think it was "inaudible" at all.  The third interruption starts at the 1:40 mark.  "How about Abdulhahman al-Awlaki. 16-year old American. Killed by drones.  Is that the way we treat a 16-year old American? Why was he killed? Can you tell us why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed?  Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities ..."  I think that White House transcript above needs to be corrected immediately.  Do you agree? That is not inaudible at all.  I will be writing more about this in a separate diary.  That transcript needs to be updated.  I'm really happy that they included the "audience member" but it needs to be accurate.  This is important.

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Action


First, a message from Cornel West, one of the many prominent intellectuals, artists, musicians, and voices of conscience who signed the Close Guantanamo ad:
“I am so glad to join with my dear brothers and sisters in calling for Guantanamo to be closed, and for the brothers on hunger strike to receive justice so long denied them.”

Thanks to the hundreds of you who donated for, signed, circulated, and are helping make this ad in The New York Times happen this week (click to download final version).
World Can't Wait, with 500+ donors, succeeded in getting the Close Guantanamo ad sent to The Times. We hope that it is printed Thursday morning in the national section just as Obama is about to make his national security speech about Guantanamo and drones.

We borrowed $6,000 to get the ad to The Times quickly so that you could send this message to 4 million readers of The New York Times across the world.

$5 to $500 YOU can make the difference. Please donate now.


To Those Who Have Supported My Coverage of Bradley Manning’s Court Martial (So Far)

Every dollar donated to help fund coverage of Bradley Manning has helped transform me into a foremost journalist on one of the biggest cases in military justice history.

Every post of mine shared on Facebook or Twitter has helped amplify critical coverage that is keeping the world informed of how the government is prosecuting Manning as if he is a traitor that aided terrorists.
[...]
I hope you will keep sharing my reporting with family, friends or those in your social network, and, when possible, make donations so I can remain a fixture in the press pool at Meade and keep up my coverage of the Manning case.

With gratitude,

Kevin Gosztola
Firedoglake.com Journalist



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