Richard Pryor comments on the police

 

I’m thankful today…

…because one of Uncle Sam’s drones has yet to put a cap in my ass. Some, however, have not been that lucky.

Quote of the day

The state of the world today is in such a condition that a Nobel Peace Prize winner affirms permanent war and political murder. As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to
Seal of the Office of the Director of National...make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Greenwald continues by noting that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which generates the “kill lists” for the President, has access to the extensive and diverse information collected at home and abroad, information nominally meant to provide a resource for deterring terrorists but information which also includes every American who has left a digital record from his or her life. Thus the federal institution charged with generating (unconstitutional) “kill lists” also surveys the behavior of and accumulates data on every American. Americans watch other Americans. They collect data on them — themselves! — and generate profiles which allegedly encapsulate the lives of those they study.
Greenwald summarizes his argument:

What has been created here — permanently institutionalized —is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The upshot: What Greenwald depicts is the institutionalization and exercise of prerogative powers by the de facto sovereign of the United States. These powers are, by definition, extra-legal. The President with access to these powers governs unencumbered by the rule of law.

Yet, as Miller reports, “For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

These administration officials and permanent government apparatchiks they work with are, in a word, deluded.

Update

Chris Floyd has this (among other things) to say about Barack Obama’s newly instituted system of murder:

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

Floyd had previously addressed this topic:

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Barack Obama has been a “system politician.” He will remain a system politician as long as he is President. Mitt Romney is a system politician. He will remain a system politician if he is elected President. The reforms Americans need to implement will not be the product of system politicians, especially those politicians who embrace death squads, murder by drone strikes and, to be sure, empire.

The ACLU sues the Obama administration

The reason for the suit: “…[T]he release of records related to the U.S. government’s ‘targeted killing’ of U.S. citizens overseas.” The Obama administration has selectively released information regarding assassinations carried out under the targeted killing program, which it otherwise cloaks with claims of national security. The ACLU suit seeks to subject this assassination program to public scrutiny and even legal contestation. Glenn Greenwald pointed to the tyranical aspect of America’s assassination program:

From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?

Killing American citizens now sits within the prerogative powers of the American President. This ‘achievement’ ought to be considered a threshold passed on a road that ends in a dictatorship.

The rule of law in America today

Does it exist? Is the United States a Nation of Laws? It is clear that some rules do exist. But do they conform to the spirit and letter of the rule of law doctrine?

Glenn Greenwald thinks not. He recently identified four rules of American justice:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage — and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.

It is thus clear that some Americans are not subject to the rule of law. The rule of law makes sense only when everyone is subject to the same laws. The United States is not a country governed by laws.


Update

David Dayen of FireDogLake walks over some of the same ground as Greenwald:

The Administration has reserved some of its most punitive uses of their prosecutorial discretion for government leakers and whistleblowers. Government information gets leaked all the time, of course, often by official sources doing so on behalf of the Administration for political reasons. But no Administration has prosecuted as many government officials for leaking as this one; in fact, the six criminal cases are more than all other Presidents combined. It has unquestionably had a chilling effect on other whistleblowers. The case against former NSA official Thomas Drake, which thankfully collapsed last year, is the most celebrated of these cases. But the inadequacy of that case has not stopped the Justice Department from continuing to wage war on leakers.

Boogeyman dead, boogeyman live forever

A New York Times headline proudly proclaims:

USA, USA, USA!!!!

A dictatorship gestating

Reuters reports that (h/t to Glenn Greenwald who wrote about this matter):

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

And:

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.