- The WikiLeaks "Afghan War Diaries" provided
documented evidence of America's out-of-control lawlessness, including
Special Forces death squads (Task Force 373) extrajudicially murdering
or capturing suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures, many hundreds or perhaps
thousands on a so-called Jpel (joint prioritized effects) list, also willfully
killing civilian men, women and children, the London Times Kabul-based
Jerome Starkey reporting earlier on these crimes, suppressed in US media
accounts, presenting an embedded view of the war, omitting the targeting
of Americans until then Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair
acknowledged it in February, explaining that:
- CIA operatives and Special Forces death squads have been
authorized to kill US citizens abroad, suspected of terrorist involvement,
- "If we think that direct action will involve killing
an American, we get specific permission to do that," the criteria
being "whether that American is involved in a group that is trying
to attack us, whether that American is a threat to other Americans. Those
are the factors involved. We don't target people for free speech. We target
them for taking action that threatens Americans or has resulted in it,"
based on suspicions, not evidence.
- Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in
Yemen, was perhaps the first "announced" candidate, targeted
for opposing US belligerency, not crimes.
- In late June, Deputy White House National Security Adviser
for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John O. Brennan, acknowledged
a hit list with dozens of other names, saying:
- "There are, in my mind, dozens of US persons who
are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us,
not just because of the passport they hold, but because they understand
our operational environment here, they bring with them certain skills,
whether it be language skills or familiarity with potential targets, and
they are very worrisome, and we are determined to take away their ability
to assist with terrorist attacks."
- "If an American person or citizen is in Yemen or
in Pakistan or in Somalia or another place, and they are (suspected of)
trying to carry out attacks against US interests, they also will face the
full brunt of a US response. What we need to do is to apply the appropriate
tool and the appropriate response," leaving little doubt what he meant,
putting all Americans at risk globally, based on suspicions, not proof
- potential targets for lawless assassinations with impunity.
- It was standard policy under George Bush's November 2001
Military Order Number 1, authorizing the capture, kidnapping, or otherwise
neutralizing of non-citizens (and later citizens) suspected of terrorist
involvement, holding them indefinitely without charge, evidence, or due
process, treating them as non-persons, disappearing them forever, the practice
continuing under Obama.
- Last September, it was learned that then Central Command
head General David Petraeus issued a secret directive to send covert US
Special Operations forces to friendly and hostile states in the Middle
East, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa, and by implication anywhere in
the world to "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" terror threats
and "prepare the environment" for planned military attacks.
- On June 4, Washington Post writers Karen DeYoung and
Greg Jaffe headlined, "US 'Secret War' Expands Globally as Special
Operations Forces Take a Larger Role," saying:
- The Obama administration "has significantly expanded
a largely secret US war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups with
Special Ops forces in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning
of last year."
- On June 5, London Sunday Times writers Tim Reid and Michael
Evans repeated it, headlining, "Obama secretly deploys US special
forces to 75 countries across the world," saying:
- He usurped even greater power than George Bush to pursue
an "aggressive secret war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups,"
using increased drone attacks and 9,000 Special Forces in Afghanistan and
Pakistan, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians, operations
- Petraeus' order "also allowed for US special forces
to enter Iran to gather intelligence" for potential future operations.
The Pentagon's Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order authorizes
Special Ops forces sent anywhere, and its Joint Special Operations Command
(JSOC) deploys covertly to kill suspected suspects, including US citizens.
- Washington Denying Anwar al-Awlaki's Right to Legal Representation
- US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) regulations,
under The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, prohibit lawyers
from defending accused terrorists pro bono without government permission,
violators subject to up to 20 years imprisonment and fines up to $1 million.
- According to Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center
for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the prohibition is unconstitutional, violating
the Separation of Powers and First Amendment protection of "the right
of non-profit lawyers and legal organizations to give pro bono legal representation
to any US citizen," guaranteed also under the Fifth Amendment. CCR/ACLU'/s
- "The notion that the government can compel a citizen
to seek its permission before challenging the constitutionality of its
actions in court is wholly foreign to our constitutional system, (and as)
non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting civil liberties and human
rights, Plaintiffs have a First Amendment (Fifth Amendment, and Separation
of Powers) right to represent clients in litigation consistent with their
- US law, not al-Awlaki, is at issue, the Obama administration
exceeding its predecessor's lawlessness, expanding its imperial wars, threatening
other parts of the world on every continent, openly targeting US citizens
globally, perhaps even in America covertly by disappearing them, and denying
lawyers the right to represent them - a clear example of despotism.
- Several times it tried unsuccessfully to kill al-Awlaki.
Covert efforts continue. CCR and ACLU want to defend him, saying civil
law must decide, not Treasury regulations or Pentagon/CIA assassins. His
father said "If the government has proof his son violated the law,
then they should charge him in public and let the law take its course."
- According to Quigley and others supporting the rule of
law, "The right to go to court to challenge the government is a core
- As a result, on August 3, CCR and the ACLU sued Treasury
Secretary Tim Geithner and Adam Szubin, Office of Foreign Assets Control
- "challeng(ing) the legality of a regulatory scheme
that requires attorneys to seek permission from the government before providing
uncompensated legal representation to or for the benefit of individuals
whom the government has designated as terrorists. In this case, the effect
of the scheme may be to deny legal representation to a United States citizen
whom the government is attempting to kill without any legal process."
- The suit seeks an emergency order, invalidating the Treasury's
unconstitutional regulation, permitting pro-bono representation to proceed
without criminal or monetary penalties. If successful, a second suit will
try to enjoin al-Awlaki's assassination. However, in today's lawless environment,
the federal courts stacked with right-wing ideologues, and a reckless,
out-of-control administration, CCR and ACLU lawyers face daunting obstacles
to succeed - despite only wanting constitutional law enforced.
- In early July, Nasser al-Awlaki, Anwar's father, retained
CCR and the ACLU on his behalf. On July 16, OFEC named him a "specially
designated global terrorist," prohibiting legal representation without
permission. CCR and ACLU sought it but were denied, their suit challenging
OFAC's decision "to invalidate the regulations and to make clear that
lawyers can (represent "designated") individuals without first
seeking the government's consent."
- Its purpose is to challenge the lawless decision to kill
American citizens, including al-Awlaki, without charge, evidence, trial,
or due process - authority not allowed under US and international law.
- "Under international human rights law, lethal force
may be used in peacetime only when there is an imminent threat of deadly
attack and (killing) is a last resort."
- Designating US citizens terrorists, providing no criminal
proof of guilt or evidence of an imminent threat, and denying them legal
representation is lawless and egregious by any standard. Yet, post-9/11,
"the US government has (targeted and) detained thousands of men as
terrorists, only for courts or the government itself later to discover
that the evidence (or charge) was wrong or unreliable and released them."
- No one should be denied due process and judicial fairness.
US policy is shocking, egregious and illegal, CCR, ACLU, numerous human
rights groups, and others challenging it courageously, representing our
rights like al-Awlaki's, fighting for the rule of law to prevent further
democratic freedom erosions, vanishing in plain sight.
- A Final Comment
- In a late development, Politico.com reports that the
Treasury Department will let CCR and ACLU represent al-Awlaki, OFAC Director
Szubin saying Treasury's policy "is to broadly authorize the provision
of pro bono legal services....To the extent that the particular legal services
that the ACLU (and CCR wish) to provide in this instance do not fall into
any of the broad categories that are generally licensed, (OFAC) will work
with (them) to ensure that the legal services can be delivered."
- At issue now is enjoining al-Awlaki's assassination,
CCR Executive Director saying:
- "President Obama is claiming the power to act as
judge, jury and executioner while suspending any semblance of due process....The
US government is going outside the law to create an ever-larger global
war zone and turn the whole world into a battlefield. Would we tolerate
it if China or France secretly decided to execute their enemies inside
- In a separately filed March Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) suit, the ACLU wants information on procedures followed to put individuals
like al-Awlaki on an unconstitutional hit list.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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