By Scott Shane
April 6, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.
American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.
It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.
But the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told a House hearing in… Continue reading
April 6, 2010
SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 27
April 6, 2010
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
The U.S. Army is still struggling to come to grips with the unusually high rate of suicide within its ranks.
“The Army ratios are above the national average and in some months recently, there have been more suicides in the Army than combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan,” observed Nancy Youssef of McClatchy News last week. “There is no pattern to suicides. One third who commit suicide have never served in combat; another third commit suicide while in combat; and yet another third do it once they return, according to Army statistics.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh issued two directives on March 26 that are intended to further an understanding of the problem and to improve the availability of information to surviving family members.
Effectively immediately, all suspected suicides will be subject to an official (AR 15-6) investigation, the purpose of which is “to identify the circumstances, methods, and the contributing factors surrounding the event…. The completed investigation should provide clear, relevant, and practical recommendation(s) to prevent future suicides,” according to Army Directive 2010-01 (pdf).
A second Army directive (pdf) provided guidance for reporting (and redacting) information to be provided to family members, who are to be “kept fully informed while the investigation is underway.”
Although national security, third-person privacy and other FOIA-exempt information may be withheld, “the release authority cannot withhold information merely… Continue reading
April 5, 2010
The death of a whistleblower who said the UK government had “sexed up” a dossier on Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities in order to sell the Iraq war has been one of the most intriguing and confusing elements of the war’s history.
Now the UK’s Conservative Party is signaling that it plans to reopen the inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly if it wins the next election. The move could potentially harm the ruling Labour Party, which championed the Iraq war effort and is now trailing in the polls for this spring’s election.
On Sunday, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative Party’s “shadow” justice minister, said members of the public “have not been reassured” that Kelly’s death was a suicide, and if his government wins the election, he would want to reopen the case, reports the UK’s Daily Mail.
Kelly, a weapons expert with Britain’s Ministry of Defence, was found dead in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that the British government was lying about its claim that Saddam Hussein could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order.
Kelly’s death sparked suspicions that he may have been killed for undermining the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as the British leader stood with US President George W. Bush in pushing for an invasion of Iraq.
A former British ambassador quoted Kelly as having… Continue reading
March 31, 2010
From the Huffington Post:
In anticipation of a final announcement as to the trial venue for the 9/11 plotters, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is warning the president against “buckling to political pressure,” calling the use of military tribunals the “wrong thing to do.”
In a nearly four-minute long video, Donna Marsh O’Connor — a Peaceful Tomorrows member who lost her pregnant daughter when the Twin Towers collapsed — speaks both to the broad notion that America has a “historic commitment to justice” and, more narrowly, to the horse-trading politics that now surround terrorist trials. Reflecting disappointment with recent signals from the White House, O’Connor calls specifically for the president to reject a reported compromise proposal with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in which the administration would drop plans for civilian trials in exchange for Republican support for the closure of Gitmo.
“As 9/11 families, we have suffered greatly and waited almost nine years to see justice done with our own eyes,” O’Connor says. “We understand that you face political pressure to back down. We ask that you do not allow fear and prejudice to govern your decision as we are not afraid. We know our country is strong enough to hold on to our values in the face of terrorism.”
The video follows other efforts from Peaceful Tomorrows to advocate for civilian trials for the 9/11 suspects.
by Jason Leopold
The Justice Department has quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration had made about “high-value” detainee Abu Zubaydah, a Guantánamo prisoner who at one time was said to have planned the 9/11 attacks and was the No. 2 and 3 person in al-Qaeda.
Additionally, Justice has backed away from claims intelligence officials working in the Clinton administration had also leveled against Zubaydah, specifically, that he was directly involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.
Zubaydah’s name is redacted throughout the 109-page court document, but he is identified on the first page of the filing by his real name, Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn. He was the first detainee captured after 9/11 who was subjected to nearly a dozen brutal torture techniques, which included waterboarding, and was the catalyst, the public has been told, behind the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly admitted that personally approved of Zubaydah’s waterboarding.
His torture was videotaped and the tapes later destroyed. The destruction of 90 videotapes of his interrogations is the focus of a high-level criminal investigation being conducted by John Durham, a federal prosecutor appointed special counsel in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
In recent months, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen has been on a public relations campaign promoting his book, “Courting Disaster,” in which he defended the torture of Zubaydah, claiming, among other things, that he reviewed classified intelligence that revealed Zubaydah’s torture produced actionable intelligence… Continue reading
by Philip Giraldi
April 1, 2010 edition of American Conservative
Even in World War II, the United States did not attempt to assassinate U.S. citizens who went over to the enemy, but that has now changed with President Obama’s overseas contingency operations. On Feb. 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the United States government has developed procedures for killing American citizens abroad who are “involved” with groups threatening to carry out terrorist acts directed against other Americans. Three U.S. citizens have already been approved by the White House for summary execution as soon as actionable intelligence is developed to enable a pilotless drone’s hellfire missiles to do the killing. One is Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi; the second is American al-Qaeda member Adam Perlman, who goes under the name Adam Yahiye Gadahn; and the third is believed to be a Somali from Minnesota who has joined the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa. Anwar al-Aulaqi, linked in the media to the Christmas underwear bombing and with Major Malik Nadal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, has denied any involvement in either incident. Perlman, a propagandist for al-Qaeda, is in Waziristan. Killing these men would involve using military drones to attack targets in three countries with which the United States is not at war.
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a citizen due process and a public trial, as well as the right to confront his accuser. The Obama administration… Continue reading
March 5, 2010
By MIKE ROBINSON
AP Legal Affairs Writer
The Daily Journal
CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for the alleged torture by U.S. forces of two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen’s ruling did not say the two contractors had proven any of their claims. But it did say they had alleged enough specific mistreatment to warrant hearing evidence of exactly what happened.
Andersen said his decision “represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting.”
Andersen did throw out two of the lawsuit’s three counts but gave former contractors Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel the green light to go forward with a third count alleging they were unconstitutionally tortured under procedures personally approved by Rumsfeld.
In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said by telephone only that the department, which is representing Rumsfeld in the suit, “is reviewing the court’s decision.”
Vance and Ertel were described by their attorney, Mike Kanovitz of Chicago, as being in their early thirties. He said the two Americans went to Iraq in the fall of 2005 to work for the Iraqi-owned contracting firm of Shield Group Security.
The suit filed in 2006 alleges that while working for the company they saw fellow employees making payments to “certain Iraqi sheikhs” and… Continue reading
February 25, 2010
By Paul Craig Roberts
The Washington Times is a newspaper that looks with favor upon the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neocon wars of aggression in the Middle East and favors making terrorists pay for 9/11. Therefore, I was surprised to learn on February 24 that the most popular story on the paper’s website for the past three days was the “Inside the Beltway” report, “Explosive News,” about the 31 press conferences in cities in the US and abroad on February 19 held by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, an organization of professionals which now has 1,000 members.
I was even more surprised that the news report treated the press conference seriously. How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust? How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires? “A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7,” reports the Washington Times.
The paper reports that the architects and engineers have concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided “insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers’ destruction” and are “calling for a grand jury investigation of NIST officials.”
The newspaper reports that Richard Gage, the spokesperson for the architects and engineers said: “Government officials will be notified that “Misprision of Treason,’ U.S. Code… Continue reading
February 17, 2010
Contact: press [at] ccrjustice.org
New York — Yesterday evening, the district court in Washington, D.C. ruled against two men who died in Guantánamo in June 2006 and their families in a case seeking to hold federal officials and the United States responsible for the men’s torture, arbitrary detention and ultimate deaths at Guantánamo.
Following a two-year investigation, the military concluded that the men had committed suicide. Recent first-hand accounts by four soldiers stationed at the base at the time of the deaths, however, raise serious questions about the cause and circumstances of the deaths, including the possibility that the men died as the result of torture.
In dismissing the case, the district court ruled that the deceased’s constitutional claims that it was a violation of due process and cruel treatment to detain them for four years without charge while subjecting them to inhumane and degrading conditions of confinement and violent acts of torture and abuse, could not be heard in federal court. The men were held on the basis of an “enemy combatant” finding by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal later found by the Supreme Court itself to be inadequate.
The district court held that the claims were barred by a jurisdiction-stripping provision of the 2006 Military Commissions Act that bars any challenge by a Guantánamo detainee to their treatment, conditions, or any other aspect of their detention, while failing to address the plaintiffs’ arguments about the unconstitutionality of the provision itself. The court also dismissed the deceased’s claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act, following a holding by the D.C.…Continue reading
February 9, 2010
A reader asked whether the U.S. is still in an official state of emergency, and if so, what that means.
The answer is yes, we are still in a state of emergency.
On September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:
“A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America,
by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . . .”
That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 [throughout the Bush administration] to the present.
On September 10 2009, President Obama continued the state of emergency:
The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2009, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.
Does a State of Emergency Really Mean Anything?
Does a state of emergency really mean anything?
Yes, it does:
By Glenn Greenwald
January 27, 2010
(updated below – Update II)
The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest today reports that “U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people.” That’s no surprise, of course, as Yemen is now another predominantly Muslim country (along with Somalia and Pakistan) in which our military is secretly involved to some unknown degree in combat operations without any declaration of war, without any public debate, and arguably (though not clearly) without any Congressional authorization. The exact role played by the U.S. in the late-December missile attacks in Yemen, which killed numerous civilians, is still unknown.
But buried in Priest’s article is her revelation that American citizens are now being placed on a secret “hit list” of people whom the President has personally authorized to be killed:
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. . . .
The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, “it doesn’t really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them,” a senior administration official said. “They are then part of the enemy.”
Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists… Continue reading
Justice department to accuse FBI of invoking crises to obtain details of more than 2,000 calls, Washington Post reports
by Chris McGreal in Washington
19 January 2010
The US justice department is preparing a report which concludes that the FBI repeatedly broke the law by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist to obtain more than 2,000 telephone call records over four years from 2002, including those of journalists on US newspapers, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
The bureau also issued authorisations for the seizure of records after the fact, in order to justify unwarranted seizures.
The Washington Post said the emails show how counter-terrorism officials inside FBI headquarters breached regulations designed to protect civil liberties.
The FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, told the Washington Post that the agency violated privacy laws by inventing non-existent terrorist threats to justify collecting the phone records. “We should have stopped those requests from being made that way,” she said.
Caproni said that FBI’s issuing of authorisations after the fact was a “good-hearted but not well thought-out” move to give the phone companies legal cover for handing over the records.
After the 9/11 attacks, the USA patriot act greatly expanded the government’s ability to monitor American citizens, including increased access to their phone calls with the approval of lower-level officials than previously allowed. But the authorisation had to be tied to an open terrorism investigation.
The Washington Post said two FBI officers had raised concerns. Special agent Bassem Youssef observed… Continue reading
January 10, 2010
by Tom Burghart
New revelations about the failed Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 continue to emerge as does evidence of a systematic cover-up.
With the White House in crisis mode since the attempted bombing, President Obama met for two hours January 5 with top security and intelligence officials. Obama said that secret state agencies “had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot … but that intelligence officials had ‘failed to connect those dots’,” The New York Times reports.
The latest iteration of the “dot theory” floated by the President, aided and abetted by a compliant media, claims “this was not a failure to collect intelligence” but rather, “a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.”
“Mr. Obama’s stark assessment that the government failed to properly analyze and integrate intelligence served as a sharp rebuke of the country’s intelligence agencies,” declared the Times uncritically.
While the President’s remarks may have offered a “sharp [rhetorical] rebuke,” Obama’s statement suggests that no one will be held accountable. Indeed, the President “was standing by his top national security advisers, including those whose agencies failed to communicate with one another.”
While the President may be “standing by” his national security advisers, the question is, are the denizens of America’s secret state standing by him? One well-connected Washington insider, MSNBC pundit Richard Wolffe, isn’t so sure.
Wolffe, the author of a flattering portrait of Obama, Renegade: The Making of a President, when asked… Continue reading
January 8, 2010
American civilian and military leaders have been creating new terrorists through
(1) Use of torture
(2) Killing of innocent civilians- especially children – in Arabic countries.
A high-level American Special Ops interrogator says that information obtained
from torture is unreliable, and that torture just creates more terrorists. Indeed,
he says that torture of innocent Iraqis by Americans is the main reason
that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the
A former FBI interrogator — who interrogated Al Qaeda suspects — says categorically
does not help collect intelligence. On the other hand he says that
torture actually turns people into terrorists.
A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most
senior managerial ranks, says:
“This is not just because the old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture
doesn’t work — it doesn’t — but also because they know that torture
creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly
Former counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke says that America’s indefinite
detention without trial and abuse of prisoners is a leading Al Qaeda recruiting
Torture puts our troops in danger, torture makes our troops less safe, torture
creates terrorists. It’s used so widely as a propaganda tool now in Afghanistan.
All too often, detainees have pamphlets on them, depicting what happened at
The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously found:
“The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies
… strengthened the hand of our enemies.”
Two professors of political science have demonstrated that torture increases,
rather than decreases, terrorism.…
by David Edwards and John Byrne
As noted below, a Giuliani spokesman “clarified” the mayor’s statement later in the day, arguing that the mayor meant no attacks after 9/11.
“Whatever the mayor meant, it’s not what he said,” Stephanopoulos wrote on his ABC blog. “All of you who have pointed out that I should have pressed him on that misstatement in the moment are right. My mistake, my responsibility.”
Original story follows below
The former New York City mayor who has sometimes been mocked for using “a noun, a verb and 9/11″ in stump speeches appears to have forgotten — or has mentally reclassified — the worst terrorist attack on American soil. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” Rudy Giuliani told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Friday.
Even if Giuliani doesn’t consider the attacks on 9/11 a “domestic” attack then surely he forgot about the anthrax attacks of 2001 or an Egyptian national who attacked the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002.
While ABC’s George Stephanopolous let Giuliani get away with his misstatement both during the interview and on his blog, ABC’s Jake Tapper called the former mayor out.…Continue reading
January 6, 2010
by Ray McGovern & Coleen Rowley
Yesterday, a blogger with the PBS’ NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general.
Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones. So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.
After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end. The Q & A is below:
Question #1 – What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible? Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?
The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that “certain plots will succeed.” A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, “why they hate us.”
If we don’t go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any
“counter terrorism apparatus” is doomed to failure.… Continue reading
January 6, 2010
In an extended interview, award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn looks back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions over the last twelve months. “I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism,” Nairn says. “But once he became president…Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off…but he chose not to do so.” He continues, “In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year.”
Guest: Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist and activist.
Website: News and Comment (www.allannairn.com)
ANJALI KAMAT: On Tuesday, President Obama made another statement on the failure of intelligence agencies to intercept the Christmas Day plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. He said the US government had the necessary information to stop the twenty-three-year-old Nigerian suspect from boarding the Detroit-bound flight, but he excoriated the intelligence community for failing to connect the dots in time.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed… Continue reading
by James Ridgeway Published by Mother Jones
Scan, baby, scan. That’s the mantra among politicians at all levels in the wake of the thwarted terrorist attack aboard a Detroit-bound passenger jet. According to conventional wisdom, the would-be “underwear bomber” could have been stopped by airport security if he’d been put through a full-body scanner, which would have revealed the cache of explosives attached to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s groin.
Within days or even hours of the bombing attempt, everyone was talking about so-called whole-body imaging as the magic bullet that could stop this type of attack. In announcing hearings by the Senate Homeland Security Commitee, Joe Lieberman approached the use of scanners as a foregone conclusion, saying one of the “big, urgent questions that we are holding this hearing to answer” was “Why isn’t whole-body-scanning technology that can detect explosives in wider use?” Former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff told the Washington Post, “You’ve got to find some way of detecting things in parts of the body that aren’t easy to get at. It’s either pat downs or imaging, or otherwise hoping that bad guys haven’t figured it out, and I guess bad guys have figured it out.”
Since the alternative is being groped by airport screeners, the scanners might sound pretty good. The Transportation Security Administration has claimed that the images ” are friendly enough to post in a preschool ,” though the pictures themselves tell another story, and numerous organizations have opposed them as a gross invasion of… Continue reading