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The Washington Post reports:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday plans to provide the most detailed account to date of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad, as it did in last year’s airstrike against an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, officials said. . . . his speech Monday will mark a new and higher-profile phase of the administration’s campaign to justify lethal action in those rare instances in which U.S. citizens, such as New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, join terrorist causes devoted to harming their homeland.
But when GAP (and other civil liberties groups) request the legal memo justifying the killing of al-Awlaki from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), OLC maintains that the "existence or non-existence" of the memo is classified.
To review the Justice Department's completely ridiculous and indefensible position on the assassination memo:
- Days after the Obama administration engages in the targeted killing of an American citizen without due process, anonymous "administration officials" leak the existence of the legal memo rationalizing the assassination to the Washington Post.
- When the "don't worry, we've got a legal memo" excuse fails to satisfy civil libertarians questioning the expansion of Executive power to killing American citizens without affording a bunch of fundamental Constitutional rights (due process, jury trials, right to confront accusers, etc.), details of the memo appeared on the New York Times front page, including when the memo was written, who authored the memo, the memo's legal reasoning, and even the memo's number of pages in the memo.
- Now, the Attorney General is going to give a public speech at Northwestern University Law School important enough to warrant more anonymous leaks to WaPo further detailing the "logic" of assassinating Americans.
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As GAP Communications Director for the last seven years, I've heard about more than my fair share of travesties and wrongdoing within the federal government. But the evidence that whistleblowers relay to us involving defense, war and intelligence – the travesties that are committed, the wrongdoings and despicable behavior that is covered up – is exceptionally disappointing, considering the stakes. GAP has heard from hundreds of these federal employees over the past few years who simply don't know where to begin. Like many truth-tellers, they feel lost and isolated ... but these particular whistleblowers often reach a point where they deeply question their long-held assumptions about our government. Their very core can be shaken.
While these employees often feel alone – dealing daily with materials they cannot speak to their family about – they should (and must) understand that others have found themselves in similar situations before. And a very prominent whistleblower – GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack – has just published her new memoir about her experience as the Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower on the treatment of John Walker Lindh.
Her new book is: Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban"
This excellent book walks the reader through Jesselyn's experiences as an ethics adviser at the DOJ who disclosed that the FBI committed ethical violations in its interrogation of Lindh, such as interrogating him without an attorney present. She also exposed that the DOJ attempted to suppress that information, and that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior government officials made misleading public statements about the case.
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Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack at the Ridenhour AwardsThis coming Monday, February 13, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake will speak at Americans Who Tell the Truth: Ethics, Integrity and the Law, a “Founder's Day” event at the American University Washington College of Law (WCL), presented by the National Lawyers Guild and the WCL Program on Law and Government.
In addition to Radack and Drake, this program features a keynote address by Ralph Nader and talks by other notable activists and whistleblowers. The event is a mixed symposium of speaker portraits by artist Robert Shetterly and presentations by the individuals depicted in the art. Presentations will focus on ethics and integrity in the context of fighting for positive social change.
The symposium runs from 12 pm – 6 pm on Monday at the AU Washington College of Law, Room 603. More on the event can be found here.
About Radack and Drake
Jesselyn Radack is a former ethics adviser at the Department of Justice (DOJ) who disclosed that the FBI committed ethical violations in its interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, such as interrogating Lindh without an attorney present. She also exposed that the DOJ attempted to suppress that information, and that former Attorney General John Ashcroft made misleading public statements about the case. The Lindh case was the first major terrorism prosecution after 9/11. Since her ordeal, Radack has been a champion of whistleblowers, recently serving as counsel to Drake on whistleblower issues during the government's failed attempt to prosecute him under the Espionage Act.
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According to the reports in today's Washington Post, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pushed out career analyst Heather Kiriakou, wife to John Kiriakou, the former CIA employee who has the dubious distinction of being the sixth person in history charged under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information. WaPo reports that spouses working at an intelligence agency creates a difficult situation for the agency:
The case created an unusual security dilemma for the CIA, turning on whether the career of a senior analyst should continue even when her husband faces charges that he breached his agreement to protect the agency’s secrets.
In actuality, spouses working in the intelligence community is far from an unusual situation, and the ruining of Ms. Kiriakou's career – who the WaPo reports was forced to resign while on maternity leave – is an all too typical consequence for whistleblowers.
Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee John Dullahan (whose security clearance was pulled for socializing with Soviets in 1985) and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake (who was the fourth person charged under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information) both had spouses who worked at NSA. In Dullahan's case, his wife worked at DIA as a supervisor with access to Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.
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Courtesy of Flickr user publik15Yesterday, John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, gained the dubious distinction of being the SIXTH person charged in the Obama administration's record-breaking war on whistleblowers:
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah . . .
Worse, in Kiriakou's case, the Obama Justice Department appears to be covering for one of the most abhorrent crimes of the Bush administration – torture. Despite the flowery rhetoric that got him elected, Obama has a dismal record on accountability for Bush-era wrongdoing:
Criminal prosecutions for officials who authorized or conducted torture and warrantless surveillance: 0
Criminal prosecutions for so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers: 6
Accounts of last week's hearings in the case against Army private Bradley Manning contain eerie reminders of the unconstitutional military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Only a few days into the proceedings, we have a defendant subjected to treatment tinged with torture and vilified by the Executive branch, biased officials, unavailable witnesses, and exaggerated secrecy claims.
At the hearing last week, the public got the first view of Manning since he endured abhorrent treatment while in military custody:
At the jail on the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., he was held in isolation and forced to strip off his clothing and sleep in a tear-proof smock, a measure military officials said was necessary because he might be a suicide risk.
Manning's attorney, David Coombs, accused the hearing's presiding officer - the Army's version of a judge - of bias because the officer (Lt. Col. Paul Almanza) also works at the Justice Department. Coombs asked Almanza to recuse himself.
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Almanza refused to recuse himself and refused to suspend the case pending an appeal. With Almanza as the presiding officer, both prosecution and judge then both report to the Executive branch in some respect, but, nonetheless, an appellate court denied Manning's request for a recusal. Sounds eerily similar to Guantanamo proceedings where one branch of government served as both judge and prosecution.
Former Justice Department attorney Martin Lederman – a leading critic of George W. Bush's policies on torture, black sites, and rendition – was one of the authors of the legal memo justifying the assassination of American radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki without due process. Though the memo is still secret and Obama administration officials refuse to answer for it on-the-record, the New York Times reported on the memo's content in detail based on sources who had read it. The memo's authors used a lot of the same flawed Bush-logic used to justify the programs Lederman once condemned.
My organization– the Government Accountability Project – was the first to publicly file a request for the memo under the Freedom of Information Act.
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I pointed out the flawed rationalizations for the assassination in my Kos diary Sunday:
1) Al-Alwaki was taking part in the war between the United States and al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans--though he never picked up arms against the U.S.;
2) Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him--which is contradicted by Yemen's bragging that they gave us information to geo-locate him that was precise enough for a drone attack;
3) Al-Alwaki had evolved from being a "propagandist" to playing an "operational role" in al Qaeda--an assertion made for the first time ever by Obama after we killed him;
4) he was a "co-belligerant" (another Bush term for "enemy combatant"); and, taking a page directly from John Yoo,
5) the Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda that Congress enacted shortly after 9/11 allowed this because al-Awlaki was a lawful target in the armed conflict.