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DOJ's Secret Assassination Guidelines Leaked on Eve of Brennan Hearings | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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DOJ's Secret Assassination Guidelines Leaked on Eve of Brennan Hearings


CIA director nominee John Brennan, who has been painted as a proponent of drone strikes. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Can it be coincidental that two top stories in the media this morning involve key issues sure to be major topics in the Senate confirmation hearings for John Brennan as CIA director on Thursday, where he already faced (one hopes) some tough questioning?

First up: I haven’t had a chance to study this, so will just post a link and the opening of an e-mail to me from Open Society, the rights group, for now and return with more later. “The time has come for the US and its partner governments to own up to the truth and secure accountability for the abuses committed around the world as part of these CIA programs,” said Amrit Singh, senior legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative and author of the report. “The taint of torture and other abuses associated with these programs will continue to cling to the US and its collaborators as long as they hide behind a veil of secrecy and refuse to hold their officials accountable.”

Globalizing Torture is the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims, and lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit.

More than ten years after the 2001 attacks, Globalizing Torture makes it unequivocally clear that the time has come for the United States and its partners to definitively repudiate these illegal practices and secure accountability for the associated human rights abuses.

See this New York Times story by Scott Shane, just posted. Includes bullshit defense by former CIA chief Michael Hayden that, hey, no one complained about the torture and rendition at the time. Pathetic and completely false.

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The second story, the Department of Justice “white paper” just leaked to NBC, is a fresh revelation on Obama White House current rules on killing US citizens abroad. Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, calls it “a profoundly disturbing document,” declaring: “It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority—the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”

From the Times:

Obama administration lawyers have asserted that it would be lawful to kill a United States citizen if “an informed, high-level official” of the government decided that the target was a ranking figure in Al Qaeda who posed “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and if his capture was not feasible, according to a 16-page document made public on Monday.

The unsigned and undated Justice Department “white paper,” obtained by NBC News, is the most detailed analysis yet to come into public view regarding the Obama legal team’s views about the lawfulness of killing, without a trial, an American citizen who executive branch officials decide is an operational leader of Al Qaeda or one of its allies.

Here’s the key: “It adopts an elastic definition of an ‘imminent’ threat, saying it is not necessary for a specific attack to be in process when a target is found if the target is generally engaged in terrorist activities aimed at the United States. And it asserts that courts should not play a role in reviewing or restraining such decisions.”

UPDATE: White House spokesman declares drone policy "ethical" and "wise."

In a related issue, Marcy Wheeler, the longtime "Emptywheel" blogger, reports, "Eleven Senators just sent President Obama a letter asking nicely, for at least the 12th time, the targeted killing memo. They remind him of his promise of transparency and oversight."

Robert Dreyfuss bids a not-so-fond farewell to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her warmongering in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

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