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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 17, 2014

 
Cold war

by digby

I realize that presidents have to make a lot of difficult decisions, but I'm hard pressed to think of any historical precedent for one sitting down and deciding which individual citizens to assassinate. Perhaps it's happened, but I think it must be pretty rare. To secretly institutionalize the practice strikes me as a very unusual step.
One of a handful of Americans who have joined al Qaeda in Pakistan may soon find himself in the crosshairs of a U.S. killer drone, but officials will not say which one.

Current and former officials involved in the fight against terrorism tell ABC News the most likely candidates include fugitive al Qaeda mouthpiece Adam Yahiye Gadahn, the son of a California goat herder and under indictment for treason, and as many as three other American citizens who have taken up arms with al Qaeda in Pakistan or with affiliated groups battling U.S. forces along the border with Afghanistan.

Two unidentified men who each called themselves "Amriki" – "American" in Arabic – appeared several years ago in propaganda videos of an al Qaeda-aligned group in Pakistan. A third American, unnamed by sources but described as a mid-level al Qaeda facilitator in Pakistan, may also be among those possibly eyed for a drone strike for plotting attacks on other Americans.

A top al Qaeda external operations leader also believed to be hiding in Pakistan, Adnan Shukrijumah, grew up in New York and Florida but is a Guyanese citizen and legally only classified as a "U.S. Person."
[...]
One senior official, who told ABC News that the individual under scrutiny is among a handful of known American "core" al Qaeda senior operatives in Pakistan, Syria, Somalia and possibly Yemen, added that the legalities of whether, how and who would be tasked with the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen posing a direct threat to other Americans have been resolved.

The target list has been fully vetted by administration lawyers, said knowledgeable sources, who believe there is high-level concern in the administration that one of the U.S. citizens may be collaterally killed in a strike primarily targeting a more senior al Qaeda leader. President Obama must approve any action to kill an American but incidental deaths of citizens traveling with al Qaeda targets have occurred three times in the past.

What exactly does "vetted" mean in this case? Clearly it's not a real trial of any kind where the evidence is challenged in some sort of systematic way. How do they know the charges of "wanting to kill Americans" is really true? And is it reasonable to assassinate someone on the basis of words they've said or do we think they should have to have actually perpetrated some kind of act?

What kind of war is this? We citizens don't know who these enemies are, what they want, the true nature of the threat, where they live, what their actual capabilities are or even if they've really done what they're being condemned for doing. This all seems like a pretty vague basis for allowing the president of the United States to have the power to unilaterally decide which of his citizens to assassinate.

But we'll never really know what this is all about, will we? Because we're in a "war" that's entirely based on secretly killing certain, specific individuals and we have no idea why or how or when it's going to end. What the hell is really going on here?


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