Updated Finally, we have our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week. This week, it's actually a series of interrelated outrages.
We have to start with a bit of history. Back in April 2010, I responded to the revelations that Barack Obama had ordered the “targeted assassination” of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a suspected terrorist but also an American citizen abroad, by writing, in part,
Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are?I was far from the only one outraged at the time and the issue has remained let's call it contentious to at least some degree since.
We (supposedly) have no king, no czar, no leader with absolute authority. So who do you think you are that you can order the murder - and let’s be honest here, that’s what we’re talking about, the cold-blooded murder - of an American citizen? An American citizen who has been convicted of no crime, who has had no day in court, but is to have his body ripped to shreds based solely on the kind of intelligence that has served us so well in the Middle East, from the fall of the Shah to the supposed existence of WMDs.
You are claiming for yourself a power, an authority, that even the Bush administration - that shredder of the Constitution, that underminer of privacy, that stripper of civil liberties, that embracer of torture, that invader of foreign lands without justification - an authority even the Bush administration did not claim for itself: the power to order, on your own authority, subject to no oversight and no need for proof beyond your personal belief, the “extrajudicial killing,” the “targeted assassination,” the murder, of American citizens.
That's the first outrage here: that there is such a policy, a policy to kill with drones, a policy including killing American citizens with drones, the only restriction - as of now - being that those citizens must be outside the territory of the US.
The thing is, the Obama administration claimed to have legal authority to do that based on, it claimed, a legal memo expressing that judgment - a memo that was, of course, classified. Several members of Congress requested, asked, begged, or demanded to see this memo, but it was all talk to the hand.
Several suits were filed over this, one of which finally succeeded: In April, in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit by the ACLU and the New York Times about some memos related to the drone program, including the one authorizing the killing of Americans, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the administration to release the documents.
Obama of course didn't want to and had 45 days to file an appeal. So much, yet again, for "the most transparent administration in history."
But The Amazing Mr. O had a problem: He had nominated an author of that memo, one David Barron, to a seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. And a number of folks, including several Senate Democrats, were unhappy enough about not being able to see the memos Barron wrote to use his nomination as leverage to force their release.
Here, by the way, is the next outrage: the very fact that this guy, the Obama gang's John Yoo, is being nominated for a lifetime position on the federal bench. In fact, he's worse than John Yoo: Yoo only came up with an argument for why it's okay for a president to order the torture of people; this guy came up with an argument for why it's okay for a president to order the murder of people, including US citizens.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the O. gang offered a compromise: members of the senate could see the memos, but they still wouldn't be released where we mere peons might get a look at them.
That, as it turned out, didn't satisfy some people such as Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who said they might oppose Barron over the issue.
So on Tuesday, the day before a key procedural vote on Barron's nomination, "two officials who are not authorized to comment publicly" - that is, it was a leak, which as we all know is a horrible practice which Obama deplores - two officials made it known that the administration would not appeal the order to release the memo.
It will, however, try to convince the appeals court to redact - that is, censor - even more of the memo and the other information involved in the decision than the court already did in ordering the release of its own redacted version. Which is another layer of the outrage, because it means even after saying the administration will not oppose release of the memo, the O. gang is still going to try to suppress as much of it as it possibly can, no doubt while declaring its commitment to "openness."
It also means it easily could be weeks or longer before the memos actually see the light of day and we have no idea how much will be stripped out and remain hidden behind the administration's wall of secrecy.
Even so - and this is where the outrage starts to boil over - even so, that promise of "something will come out some time in the future" was enough for those stalwart Democrats - including both Udall and Wyden - to start falling all over themselves to get in line.
Just throw 'em a bone and they come licking your face.
Licking face even to the point where some, such as Pat Leahy, were dismissing the whole issue of the memos and their release, the whole question of Barron's role in providing the basis for a policy of legalized assassination of American citizens - something which by the way, we denounce as a violation of basic human rights when other nations do it to their own citizens even when they claim, as we do, "national security" as justification - some senators were dismissing the entire question as irrelevant. Apparently this is another part of Obama's policy of "look forward, not backward" and amnesty - and amnesia - apply to members of his administration as well as to the Bush gang and Wall Street.
So sum it up: We have a policy that allows the president - any president - to assassinate, to murder, US citizens based solely on their unreviewable, unchallengeable, conclusion that the person is some kind of "terrorist" or they are around where some kind of "terrorist" is, the person who came up with a legal justification for it is rewarded with a seat on the federal bench, and the supposed liberals, the great humanists, of Senate Democrats can't even rouse themselves enough to say no and mean it.
Yeah, that is an outrage.
Updated with the news that on Thursday, May 22, the Senate confirmed Barron to the federal bench in an almost straight party-line vote.
In support of Barron, our own Senator Ed Markey said Senators should ignore the whole memo business, saying Barron was merely "a lawyer who was asked to do legal analysis for his client: the president of the United States." Yeah, a legal analysis that - gasp! shock! sacre bleu! whooda thunk it! - wound up telling his "client" exactly what that client wanted to hear,, leaving Obama sighing "Thank God for coincidence."
I'm sure, by the way, that on request Senator Ed can provide copies of the statements he must have made defending John Yoo against criticism of his role in writing the torture memos for George Bush.
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