THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.
While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.
Archive | Terra Terra Terra!
Sure does make you wonder, doesn’t it?
Over 120 CIA documents concerning 9/11, Osama bin Laden and counterterrorism were published today for the first time, having been newly declassified and released to the National Security Archive. The documents were released after the NSA pored through the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission and sent Freedom of Information Act requests.
The material contains much new information about the hunt before and after 9/11 for bin Laden, the development of the drone campaign in AfPak, and al-Qaida’s relationship with America’s ally, Pakistan. Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11 — but didn’t get the funding from the Bush administration White House to take him out or even continue monitoring him. The CIA materials directly contradict the many claims of Bush officials that it was aggressively pursuing al-Qaida prior to 9/11, and that nobody could have predicted the attacks. “I don’t think the Bush administration would want to see these released, because they paint a picture of the CIA knowing something would happen before 9/11, but they didn’t get the institutional support they needed,” says Barbara Elias-Sanborn, the NSA fellow who edited the materials.
[...] Many of the documents publicize for the first time what was first made clear in the 9/11 Commission: The White House received a truly remarkable amount of warnings that al-Qaida was trying to attack the United States. From June to September 2011, a full seven CIA Senior Intelligence Briefs detailed that attacks were imminent, an incredible amount of information from one intelligence agency. One from June called “Bin-Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats” writes that “(redacted) expects Usama Bin Laden to launch multiple attacks over the coming days.” The famous August brief called “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike the US” is included. “Al-Qai’da members, including some US citizens, have resided in or travelled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure here,” it says. During the entire month of August, President Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Texas — which tied with one of Richard Nixon’s as the longest vacation ever taken by a president. CIA Director George Tenet has said he didn’t speak to Bush once that month, describing the president as being “on leave.” Bush did not hold a Principals’ meeting on terrorism until September 4, 2001, having downgraded the meetings to a deputies’ meeting, which then-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has repeatedly said slowed down anti-Bin Laden efforts “enormously, by months.”
[...] One last thing is worth mentioning from the documents published today: Anyone with any doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dangerous to the United States is contradicting U.S. intelligence. “Violence between Israelis and the Palestinians, moreover is making Sunni extremists more willing to participate in attacks against US or Israeli interests,” the CIA wrote in February 2001. It is not the only piece of information revealed by the new documents that will be deeply uncomfortable for the Bush administration and hawks across the country.
Interestingly enough, these seven warnings dovetail with the descriptions by former CIA intelligence asset Susan Lindauer, who was held under the PATRIOT act for a year and publicly smeared in the New York Times (itself a publication known to be historically cooperative with the CIA) as mentally unstable. Lindauer says there were not only warnings, she believes there was controlled demolition of the WTC buildings to make sure the attacks were big enough to justify going to war. Again, it really makes you wonder.
Calling it an act of Congress that infringed on constitutional rights, a New York federal judge blocks NDAA, the bill that allows Americans to be held indefinitely on vague grounds. Yes, we still have some principled judges left:
A federal judge is blocking legislation authorizing the government to indefinitely detain without trial an “individual who was part of or substantially supported” groups “engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Tuesday’s decision by a New York federal judge halts a key terror-fighting feature of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act and is a blow to the Obama administration. The government urged U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest not to adopt a nationwide ban on the measure, saying the move would be “extraordinary” and “unwarranted” (.pdf).
But the judge, ruling in a case brought by journalists and political activists, said the law was too vague and did not provide clear guidance on whom the government could indefinitely detain.
British court rules that he will be extradited to Sweden, who of course will ping-pong him back to the United States – which has its own vindictive payback planned. There’s a long shot that it won’t happen:
Today a British court ruled that wraithlike WikiLeaks editor and catastrophically unpopular memoirist Julian Assange will indeed be extradited to Sweden, where he had been charged with rape and sexual assault. However, in something of a victory for Team Assange (Non-Hacking League), the court also allowed his lawyers an extra two weeks to “to consider whether to challenge a central point of the judgment on the correct interpretation of international treaties,” according to The Guardian. Sounds like the best two weeks ever!
This deportation postponement is something of another chance for Assange to steer clear of Sweden. The New York Times reports: “In granting that request, the court effectively opened, at least for now, a fresh opportunity for Mr. Assange to delay—and what legal experts said was a narrow and improbable chance to avoid—his forcible removal to Sweden.”
This is an enlightening piece, and of course it’s good to know that Obama agonizes over the risk to civilians, I guess. My deep disgust isn’t even specifically with him (because after all, all presidents have done this kind of thing) but with the entire nature of this “war on terror” apparatus: Namely, if we’re attacking groups of people because of their “characteristics” and as a deterrent effect to keep possible terrorists from gathering, well, doesn’t that make us terrorists? Going after broad targets to make the rest of them afraid seems to be the very definition:
Obama settled into his high-backed, black-leather chair. Hayden was seated at the other end of the table. The conversation quickly devolved into a tense back-and-forth over the CIA’s vetting procedures for drone attacks. The president was learning for the first time about a controversial practice known as “signature strikes,” the targeting of groups of men who bear certain signatures, or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity, but whose identities aren’t known. They differed from “personality” or “high-value individual” strikes, in which a terrorist leader is positively identified before the missile is launched.
Sometimes called “crowd killing,” signature strikes are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Obama struggled to understand the concept. Steve Kappes, the CIA’s deputy director, offered a blunt explanation. “Mr. President, we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t always know who they are.” Obama reacted sharply. “That’s not good enough for me,” he said. But he was still listening. Hayden forcefully defended the signature approach. You could take out a lot more bad guys when you targeted groups instead of individuals, he said. And there was another benefit: the more afraid militants were to congregate, the harder it would be for them to plot, plan, or train for attacks against America and its interests.
Obama remained unsettled. “The president’s view was ‘OK, but what assurances do I have that there aren’t women and children there?’?” according to a source familiar with his thinking. “?‘How do I know that this is working? Who makes these decisions? Where do they make them, and where’s my opportunity to intervene?’?”
In the end, Obama relented—for the time being. The White House did tighten up some procedures: the CIA director would no longer be allowed to delegate the decision to carry out a drone strike down the chain. Only the director would have that authority, or his deputy if he was not available. And the White House reserved the right to pull back the CIA’s signature authority in the future. According to one of his advisers, Obama remained uneasy. “He would squirm,” recalled the source. “He didn’t like the idea of ‘kill ’em and sort it out later.’”
UPDATE: Charlie Pierce has more, God bless ‘im.