The Obama administration has filed a brief arguing that no one can legally challenge their order for the assassination of Anwar al-Aulaqi because it would compromise “state secrets” (Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald). To review: Anwar al-Aulaqi is an American citizen living in Yemen. While he is suspected of aiding Al-Qaeda, he has never been convicted or even charged with a crime in the US courts. It is probable that he is guilty of crimes, and possible that he could be convicted, but Obama has pre-empted that by ordering his assassination, which can be carried out even if he is located outside of a combat-zone.
Claiming the power to assassinate Americans is odious enough, but the Obama administration has raised the stakes by claiming the courts cannot hear the case. Given the way the state secrets claim is made, does anyone imagine that the administration would ever allow a legal challenge to any assassination without crying about state secrets?
In effect, the administration is trying to lay the groundwork for a right to kill Americans that is not subject to real judicial oversight. So long as the legislature is cowed, the constraints on the President would be extremely weak. I suppose it’s nice to think that Obama isn’t the type to abuse this–though I hope you’re asking yourself what kind of man asserts this power–but does that change all that much? What matters are the powers themselves, not the man holding them. Obama is not a tyrant, but he is repeatedly demanding tyrannical powers. Not only may future Presidents be less trustworthy, the powers themselves are abhorrent.
I would not want to slander the majority of Democrats by saying that they’ll support this decision just because it’s Obama. That would be unfair, as most Democrats have the good sense to say that this kind of decision is really just awful, before pivoting and talking about healthcare. With this unpleasant business forgotten, they can get on to explaining how the “professional left” is full of people who “need to be drug tested”, see the glass as “half full”, and act petulant when the President doesn’t give us “world peace.”
There’s too many accomplices out there.
This is an a noteworthy story about a man who refused to answer the Border patrol agents’ questions about the details of his overseas trip, and was held for 90 minutes as he spoke to various officials. His refusal to answer questions is perfectly legal–absent reason to arrest or otherwise interrogate him in relation to some crime, a US Citizen has an unconditional right to reenter the US. Note that he did make an adequate customs declaration, without false statements, and allowed them to perform all searches they asked to do.
There’s a lot of points that can be said, but one lesson fits with what we already know–an enormous number of law enforcement officers do not know what they need to about citizens’ rights. This is amply demonstrated every time a citizen or journalist is arrested for exercising their right to record the police.* While I vacillate on whether Lucaks’ action was worthwhile, that it pressures law-enforcement to learn about their legal responsibilities can only be a good thing. It is simply unacceptable for law-enforcement officers to be ignorant in this fashion.
* Just in case you want legal advice, there is a patchwork of local and state laws. In some places, many forms of recording may be illegal. But in a majority of places, it is legal and there are hundreds, if not-thousands of arrests for citizens exercising their rights to record police in jurisdictions that allow them to do so.
A New York Times article discusses the phenomenon of innocent suspects confessing to crimes. In some ways, I don’t think the article is that good. While it describes a few false confessions and notes how police may feed information to the suspect to make a confession look accurate, what’s needed is the kind of vivid description that will make people understand how someone could feel hopeless enough to confess to a crime they didn’t commit.
The upshot, which is mentioned in the article, is that recording police interrogations is essential. Even with recorded interrogations, defense lawyers would face a huge task in defending an innocent client who’d confessed, but without them, it would be almost impossible, even where there’s a great deal of other evidence at hand. Sadly, I think no amount of reporting will change that dynamic.
I’m on the bus, and extremely busy to boot, but it’s worth attending to this story. Have a look at Glenn Greenwald’s report on the subject.
Every tyrant can point to real and legitimate threats that they feared.
Ask supporters of Fidel Castro why he imprisoned dissidents and created a police state and they’ll tell you — accurately — that he was the head of a small, defenseless island situated 90 miles away from a huge superpower that repeatedly tried to overthrow his government and replace it with something it preferred. Ask Hugo Chavez why he rails against the U.S. and has shut down opposition media stations and he’ll point out — truthfully — that the U.S. participated to some extent in a coup attempt to overthrow his democratically elected government and that internal factions inside Venezuela have done the same. (Glenn Greenwald)
Whenever I get down about declining levels of freedom in the US, it always helps to think about Britain. Here’s what they’re up to now: “Passports Will Be Needed to Buy Mobile Phones.”
Ahh, the feeling of merely relative deprivation.
You should also read Jeff Goldberg’s Atlantic article on the TSA and security theatre. Aside from being informative, it has a number of delightful absurdities, such as a Beerbelly™ liquid carrier, and an “Osama Bin Laden, Hero of Islam” t-shirt.
Radley Balko has some worries about Biden that I hadn’t heard before. Back when I tended to prefer Edwards, an article about Obama’s views on civil liberties was one of the first things that moved me towards him, so hearing that Biden has such a bad record galls me.
I thought about highlighting this aside from James Fallows’ article on China’s manufacturing, an article which is worth reading for its own sake:
(I might as well say this in every article I write from overseas: The easier America makes it for talented foreigners to work and study there, the richer, more powerful, and more respected America will be. America’s ability to absorb the world’s talent is the crucial advantage no other culture can match—as long as America doesn’t forfeit this advantage with visa rules written mainly out of fear.)
So while I knew that customs is searching and/or making full copies of information contained in laptop computers entering the country, it’s quite timely that an article I got from my friend Nick let me knew they are also often keeping the laptops for weeks or even months. While much of the press has focused on the business travelers’ need to avoid losing sensitive information, it’s also clear that the effect on individuals is terrible: how many of us have spare laptops to replace the one that’s confiscated (side note: there are four laptops in my household). In my case, my laptop is second only to my family and the cats, and just as with them, I reserve the right to kill to defend it. So please do not take my laptop. It would be terribly inconvenient for a great many people if I was forced to kill the government.