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August 31, 2011

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All those invoices and receipts.

The banality of evil.

Yes, there was a "food fight". A lovely time was had by all.

One side got to to repeat its ancient bromides about how unfair it is to bad-mouth those with the pluck and enterprise to make money by filling an unmet need -- in the aviation field,say. People earn their money, you see.

Whether by swapping credit defaults or by flying government "invitees" around the world, people who get paid money must be doing something useful -- or nobody would be paying them to do it. So, no fair "taking their stuff."

It must be some consolation to the "government is too big" tribe to note that these little junkets were carried out by good old American corporations in pursuit of profit -- which is what corporations are supposed to pursue. It would have been a rotten shame if over-paid government employees had done the job. That would have been Government "crowding out" Free Enterprise.

And you know these corporations were part of the competitive system of free enterprise: they're suing each other, after all. It's good, healthy competition that makes goods and services like rendition flights cheaper for us all. It is important to have courts where healthily competing entrepreneurs can sue each other over breaches of contract. And it is important that we, not the corporations who rely on Government to protect them from other corporations, pay for courts and such. Corporations are entitled to the services of the judicial system.

Rendition as Government policy is an evil thing. Rendition as a corporate business is much better: look at all the well-paid jobs the rendition entrepreneurs created in the private sector. Let's cut their taxes!

--TP

Hi Tony,
sorry, the appellation 'food fight' was not to make some claim about the value of the arguments, just an attempt to note that I am reading what people are writing and trying to note that it is related. I'd love to suggest to the government is too big brigade that they turn their rhetoric on the deli platters and expensive hotels, but that's more Count-me-in territory.

I do think that this is why you have some rather strange bedfellows in a lot of the government is better if it were smaller camp, but I'm not trying to yank anyone's chain here. The B side of this is. I suppose, that somehow, when you advocate increased taxation, you are accepting that this is the norm, but I think that the distance between arguing that the government can't reduce food stamps and extraordinary rendition is a pretty good stretch, though I wouldn't be surprised if some argue that it is the same thing.

One of the things that struck me (and hence the request to the lawyers here) was what questions that faced the court actually did reveal this. I'm also curious about the time elapsed between the article and the resolution of the court case (it sounds as if the evidence was there and the case was finished maybe 2 or 3 years ago, but I'm really not sure)

I think that this kind of abuse of taxpayer dollars is exactly the kind of thing I've been kvetching about ever since...well, ever since kvetching became part of my lexicon, at least. It's certainly no more palatable when it's being used to squirrel away prisoners from US and international law.

It's business in the front; party in the back all the way through.

Speaking of Teh Grauniad, this article caught my eye a few days ago:

Swinburn's paper comes up with a clear primary culprit: a powerful global food industry "which is producing more processed, affordable, and effectively-marketed food than ever before".

He said an "increased supply of cheap, palatable, energy-dense foods", coupled with better distribution and marketing, had led to "passive overconsumption".

Passive overconsumption. As if you didn't just drink that 64-oz Slurpee; you just caught some passive calories from the dude next to you that did.

It's fine, as far as I'm concerned, to admonish people to stay aware of what they're eating, but to imply that they're involuntarily eating stuff is a tad on the ridiculous side. You don't just gain that extra 20-30 lbs overnight. You don't not notice it. This notion is an order of magnitude more nebulous than "passive smoking", where at least there's some insidious disease out there waiting to pounce on you unawares.

People get lazy and sloppy and stop caring about what they eat, and what they weigh. Been there; done that. It turned out my threshold of god-I've-gotta-do-something-about-this was something like 40 lbs over my (extremely fit) college-freshman weight. But I've been working with a white belt guy that is 70 lbs over what he weighed as a Marine, and to hear him tell it he racked that up over a space of just a couple of years.

It's not passive; it's highly active. It's just that calories are so freely available and comparatively cheap (as well as, apparently, highly tasty) that people gain weight. And they do it even though it's double-hitting them in the wallet: cheap snacks are more expensive than no snacks, and having to buy a new wardrobe every few months isn't exactly cheap. It's only as passive as habit is.

Calling it passive just passes the buck on responsibility.

What Model62 said.

The Nazis left an extensive paper trail of their war-crimes as well.

Great source material for "Nurenburg II: The Cheneying"

Conflating tax policy with how tax dollars are used won't add much to the dialogue. Extraordinary rendition may be an evil, or on rare occasions, a necessary evil, but I don't think that is the question either, at least at this time. Further, conflating how one company gouges the feds with how all companies and people treat each other is neither right nor useful.

I'm blasting off for El Paso shortly, so I didn't have time to follow LJ's links to the underlying case. I inferred someone didn't get paid and litigation ensued.

As for the charges, if you want to have a left/right go at it, they look like one of Michelle Obama's vacations.

Conflating tax policy with how tax dollars are used won't add much to the dialogue.

I sort of agree. Tax dollars are used to drain demand from the private sector. The government pays for stuff with money it creates from nothing. It should spend that created-from-nothing money more productively, that is, for worthwhile public purposes.

Passive overconsumption. As if you didn't just drink that 64-oz Slurpee; you just caught some passive calories from the dude next to you that did.

It's fine, as far as I'm concerned, to admonish people to stay aware of what they're eating, but to imply that they're involuntarily eating stuff is a tad on the ridiculous side.

Luckily that's not what it means, but I don't ever expect you to Google things, so here we are.

See, e.g., http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v9/n11s/full/oby2001124a.html :

Thus, overeating can be active and passive. Active overeating can be induced by a number of conditions: a cognate drive to consume above one's natural appetite (driven by either internal or external cues), a constitutional defect in appetite regulation (as occurs in many of the rare monogenic forms of human obesity), an inappropriate psychological response to stress, or a physical or pharmacological disruption of the hypothalamic satiety center. Passive overeating is a separate phenomenon, in which the consumption of amounts of food that would be absolutely appropriate against a background of normal physical activity has been rendered excessive by modern sedentary living.
Nowhere in there does it say anything about accidentally eating things or absorbing calories out of the air.

Words sometimes have specialized meanings in specialized fields. I would assume that someone who works in rocket scientism might know that, but some people need to be hand-held, apparently.

Extraordinary rendition: no so extraordinary anymore.

Kind of ordinary, actually. It makes the news when somebody forgets to pay the bill.

The trouble with normal is it only gets worse.

"Extraordinary rendition: no so extraordinary anymore."

russell, can you provide a link that tells us about any instances of extraordinary rendition and mistreatment under the Obama administration, other than the case of Raymond Azar in April of 2009? Although I know there is a policy allowing renditions, it's not the Bush policy of "extraordinary rendition. Azar's case was apparently troubling to the Obama administration, and no similar cases have occurred again.

Just curious if you have other information.

Anticipating the Friday Open Thread, I just think this is so effing cool:

Via Steve Benen

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/09/01/309856/in-same-district-where-rep-gabrielle-giffords-was-shot-gop-is-auctioning-off-a-glock-45-at-a-fundraiser/

Rep. Giffords should show up at that fundraiser, hit the cash bar, and submit the winning bid.

See, requesting at OBWI that the flame be turned down is a pointless, fatuous request when one side in the real world is arming itself to the teeth, just for laughs and profit.

Would anyone like to try to assuage Russell's justifiable anger by pointing out that, well, obviously, Jared Loughner was merely a crazy person listening to the voices in the vacuum of his head.

russell, can you provide a link that tells us about any instances of extraordinary rendition and mistreatment under the Obama administration

I guess the time frame I had in mind for the normalization of this crap is something like the last 30 or 40 years.

I recognize that Obama has at least nominally directed that the worst of this stuff stop.

To be honest, I haven't been keeping a close eye on this stuff for a while, because it was depressing the hell out of me, and what was the point? My druthers on the topic and a dollar would get you a cup of coffee.

So I'm not an reliable voice on whether things are better, worse, or about the same under Obama.

I don't know.

And given Obama's stance on secrecy, I'm not likely to find out. We all just have to take his word for it.

Well, funny, despite Bush's stance on secrecy, it became pretty obvious pretty fast how many abuses and horrors were occurring. But, yeah, we might as well assume that Obama is as bad as Bush. I mean, why not?

Because if we keep repeating the lie that Obama is as bad as Bush, we'll get another Bush. So please stop it. Maybe you'll get less depressed if you realize that things have gotten a hell of a lot better.

And given Obama's stance on secrecy, I'm not likely to find out. We all just have to take his word for it.

And until we can figure out how to close up the space our Executives have carved out for themselves, national security-wise, their word is all we get.

So please stop it.

If you read my initial post, you will find that Obama's name does not appear in it, at all.

If you read my second post, you will find that the frame of reference for my comment is considerably broader than the Obama vs Bush time frame.

Extraordinary rendition as currently practiced began at least as far back as Reagan, and was explicitly written into policy by Clinton. Used to be a controversial black op, now it's policy.

Even under Obama, it's policy.

What once was a controversial practice, became normal. So normal that, in spite of the intelligence community's twisted knickers every time somebody tries to take them to court about it, the details can be discussed openly in a lawsuit about an unpaid bill.

That's my point. It's not about Bush vs Obama, it's about the creeping lawlessness and lack of accountability of US intelligence operations.

Dig?

Frankly, I wish that Obama could write an executive order, sign it, and it would all go away. I fear it's got deeper roots than that at this point, Obama or no Obama.

But just to put your mind at ease:

Obama's better than Bush. There, I've said it.

Seriously, was anyone in any doubt whatsoever about my personal opinion on the topic?

Now get off of my freaking back about "repeating the lie".

"And until we can figure out how to close up the space our Executives have carved out for themselves, national security-wise, their word is all we get."

Again, a bit overstated. Enormous amounts of information about abuses came out during the Bush administration and since. Sure, all executives have wanted a certain amount of secrecy, sometimes for good reason. Their effectiveness in attaining it is quite another thing.

russell, if Scott Horton is to believed, your accusation that "extraordinary rendition" is policy under Obama. From the link I provided above:

"There are two fundamental distinctions between the programs. The extraordinary renditions program involved the operation of long-term detention facilities either by the CIA or by a cooperating host government together with the CIA, in which prisoners were held outside of the criminal justice system and otherwise unaccountable under law for extended periods of time. A central feature of this program was rendition to torture, namely that the prisoner was turned over to cooperating foreign governments with the full understanding that those governments would apply techniques that even the Bush Administration considers to be torture. This practice is a felony under current U.S. law, but was made a centerpiece of Bush counterterrorism policy.

"The earlier renditions program regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system. It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture. There are legal and policy issues with the renditions program, but they are not in the same league as those surrounding extraordinary rendition. Moreover, Obama committed to shut down the extraordinary renditions program, and continuously made clear that this did not apply to the renditions program."

Extraordinary renditions and renditions are two different things. One involves torture and keeping a prisoner away from justice. The other doesn't. Big difference. Don't equate them. Thanks.

Sorry, what I meant to say, russell, is that "Your accusation that 'extraordinary rendition' is policy under Obama is wrong."


Extraordinary renditions and renditions are two different things.

Rendition is transferring custody of someone from one jurisdiction to another.

Extraordinary rendition is rendition outside the law. It is commonly used to refer to apprehending someone in a country other than your own, without that country's consent or, perhaps, even knowledge. Extraordinary rendition normally or often also includes the rendition of the detainee to a third country.

Torture is not required for rendition to be "extraordinary" or extra-legal.

That's my understanding.

Scott Horton is an attorney, and I've provided his definition of "extraordinary rendition" and "rendition" as the term has applied to the actual policies that have been carried out. It's true that torture isn't required for rendition to be illegal or extra-legal, but who says that Obama has promoted policies that are illegal or extra-legal, other than the fact that you claim that "extraordinary rendition" is his policy? Do you have any evidence at all that he has apprehended people in other countries illegally? I know of none. If you're going to accuse him of illegal behavior, you should really discuss which behavior you're talking about and what laws.

I sort of agree with McTex, for two reasons. First, the financial argument doesn't make sense. The government has decided that the "terrorists" being rendered have superpowers such that holding them in a regular supermax prison is too dangerous and trying them in a regular civilian court is unthinkable. Now, I think this is a stupid decision, but it is one that the government has already made.

If they're too dangerous to be in a supermax prison, there's no way you can put them on a commercial airline flight. So how do you transport them? Military flights are probably too expensive. You need long range aircraft that can land at short runways, which means small civilian jets. At which point the question becomes the old rent-or-buy: do you pay a private company to use their jet and their pilot or do you buy your own jet and hire pilots with government benefits? Arguing about that question seems petty and stupid.

Secondly, it misses the point. Extraordinary rendition isn't problematic because it is implemented in an inefficient manner that wastes a tiny fraction of the federal budget. It is problematic because the CIA should not be kidnapping random people off the street and sending them to prison for eternity without any judicial review. If extraordinary rendition was a good thing, no one would care about the tiny number of dollars wasted. But it is not. It is a really bad thing, and it remains a really bad thing regardless of how efficiently it is implemented.

Scott Horton is an attorney

Lots of people are attorneys. This is called an appeal to authority, and it is a logical fallacy.

Here is another attorney weighing in.

Aha! Two can play the "an attorney said..." game.

Here is a newspaper article.

Here is another newspaper article.

If you grab someone and hand them over to some other jurisdiction outside of the framework of judicial and administrative due process, that is an extra-legal or extraordinary rendition.

I have no idea if or how many times this has happened under Obama. What I do know is that it is allowed as a matter of policy under Obama.

Obama is better than Bush. I'm glad he, and not pretty much anybody else who ran in 2008, is President.

But under Obama, and per his own executive orders and direction, folks acting on behalf of the US can grab somebody off of the street pretty much anywhere, with or without the knowledge or permission of the jurisdiction where that happens, and hand them over to some other party.

Most folks call that extraordinary rendition.

And to reiterate, my point overall here is not to make a comment about Obama specifically, but simply to note that practices that once were controversial and had to be kept under wraps, have now become ordinary and matters of explicit public policy.

No matter what Scott Horton says.

None of the links you provide state that explicit public policy allows illegal abduction. None contain examples of illegal abductions.

None of the links you provide state that explicit public policy allows illegal abduction. None contain examples of illegal abductions.

Given that the administration has consistently refused to prosecute anyone for illegal abduction, or the torture and illegal detainment resulting from such abduction, I'm not sure why you think it wouldn't be allowed. When the government wants to deter illegal behavior, it prosecutes people. When it wants to wink and nudge and imply that the behavior is only technically illegal for PR purposes, it refuses to prosecute them. And then makes a big show of announcing that it will not prosecute people.

It would be much easier to believe that the current administration had no interest in illegal abductions if you could point to some kind of sanction for people who engaged in illegal abductions in the past. Obviously, prosecutions can never happen, but surely you can point to one person who was fired or demoted or had their pay cut by $1, can't you? Just one person, one dollar? The government fires and demotes people for so much less than illegal abductions leading to torture and illegal imprisonment, doesn't it?

Obama's executive orders allow agents of the US to grab people without the knowledge or permission of whatever jurisdiction they are in and hand them over to a High Value Interrogation Unit composed of CIA and other law enforcement personnel.

For interrogation. Someplace.

That's actually against the law in a lot of places. I'm quite sure it's against the law here, were agents of some other nation to come here and grab some US resident off the street.

But, call it whatever you like.

I'm not arguing for or against, I'm not equating Obama with Bush. I'm simply stating the clear and obvious fact that actions that once were considered highly controversial and which were conducted purely as black ops are now matters of explicit public policy.

Who knows, that might even be a good thing. The explicitness, I mean. But either way, it's the reality.

If you want to continue this debate further, you will have to play the part of me, because I've said the same thing about three times in a row and I'm not sure I have anything else to add.

Peace out.

"Obama's executive orders allow agents of the US to grab people without the knowledge or permission of whatever jurisdiction they are in and hand them over to a High Value Interrogation Unit composed of CIA and other law enforcement personnel."

cite?

Sorry, missed the part that you didn't want to provide any further support.

I generally agree with your comments, russell, and am glad that your prefer Obama to Bush. But it wont' get him reelected if you continue to make comments such as

"Extraordinary rendition: no so extraordinary anymore.

Kind of ordinary, actually. It makes the news when somebody forgets to pay the bill.

The trouble with normal is it only gets worse."

Well, it hasn't gotten worse. It's gotten better.

So, yes, peace.

cite?

The link is from the NYT article I cited upthread. Which is to say, this is the second time I've provided it.

I found it in about 3 minutes with the great google.

Before you rush to reply, I encourage to READ MY POSTS to see what, exactly, it is I'm claiming. Then, if you wish to rebut, rebut what I've actually said.

Thanks.

Sorry, I don't see that in the document you provided. Maybe I'm dense, but I don't see anything about unlawfully grabbing people in the document you provided.

Here's an article about renditions under Bush and Obama. The point regarding Obama seems to be that we're more into killing people than arresting them now. Or a US-backed country does the dirty work for us. That's getting back to the sort of American values I grew up with.

link

But it wont' get him reelected if you continue to make comments such as

Look, this I will respond to.

This is a blog. It has a regular readership that probably numbers in the hundreds. Among that regular readership, most folks already know if they are or are not voting for Barrack Obama in 2012.

My comments on this thread will have exactly and precisely zero impact on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election.

We're here to talk amongst ourselves about things that are of interest to us. If Obama does something I like, I'll say so. If he does something I don't like, I'll say so.

If I have a point of fact to contribute that might, perhaps, reflect negatively on him, my choice of whether to share it or not will not be based on how it will impact his odds in 2012.

Not least because it WILL NOT IMPACT THEM AT ALL. Ever.

Likewise, your staunch advocacy of him here is not likely to improve his chances.

We're just not that important.

" If Obama does something I like, I'll say so. If he does something I don't like, I'll say so."

I think that's the rule that should apply to almost everyone at almost all times. I can think of exceptions, but that's what those would be--exceptions.

Details on the policy changes, here: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/August/09-ag-835.html

Thumbnail:

1) The Army Field Manual applies w/r/t to interrogation techniques;

2) US authorities must seek "diplomatic assurances" w/r/t to transferred detainee treatment;

3) The State Department has a larger role than it previously had in monitoring detainee treatment;

4) The US will continue to use "seven types of transfers conducted by the U.S. government: extradition, transfers pursuant to immigration proceedings, transfers pursuant to the Geneva Conventions, transfers from Guantanamo Bay, military transfers within or from Afghanistan, military transfers within or from Iraq, and transfers pursuant to intelligence authorities."

Does the last of those include illegal abductions?

I dunno. This story (http://www.thenation.com/article/161936/cias-secret-sites-somalia) from the Nation suggests, "yes."

Here's Scott Horton on Scahill's reporting (http://harpers.org/archive/2011/07/hbc-90008152):

"President Obama pledged when he signed his executive order that the United States would win the struggle against terrorism “in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.” The latest report from Mogadishu shows that his order has instead been interpreted very narrowly, leaving CIA proxy-prison regimes in place. The result is a considerable gap between the values Obama articulated on the campaign trail and in his speeches, and those of the nation’s clandestine services under his leadership."

Look, a couple of points.

First, in my comments I have deliberately avoided the term "illegal". What I have said is "extra-legal", where extra-legal means outside the framework of due process.

They can't get a lawyer, they can't submit a habeas writ, they can't challenge the reason for or terms of their detention, they have no recourse to the courts.

The reason I deliberately avoid the term illegal is because whether that is illegal or not is something of a jump ball.

Illegal where? Under what conditions? According to who?

Not only is the legality unclear on the substance, it's unclear that there is any way to clearly determine whether it's illegal or not.

Not least because the actor is a particularly powerful sovereign nation. If someone wants to actually take an action based on the alleged illegality of us grabbing somebody on their turf and holding them for interrogation, they will be talking to the hand.

Just ask Dick Cheney.

What it *clearly* is, is outside the framework of the law. And that is commonly known as extraordinary rendition.

Some folks prefer to just call it rendition, because ideally nobody gets any bones broken. If using that phrase makes you happy, have at it.

But as a matter of public policy, the United States reserves the right to grab people it is interested in interrogating and taking them someplace else, possibly including some third country, for that purpose. Without recourse to the courts, or legal representation, and possibly (read: likely) without the permission or even knowledge of the jurisdiction they were grabbed in.

I am still surprised that many liberals still accept the proposition that transferring individuals without a judicial or administrative process is fine. Imagine that some country came and yanked you from the US, without having to prove to a court that it had probable cause to do so. I suspect you would be upset - whether or not your "rendition" let to torture.

The argument that this practice is equivalent to extradition is absolutely false -- as the link someone provided above discusses. Extradition is done through the court system or some administrative process. Rendition -- whether extraordinary or not -- is done through law enforcement/military/CIA alone.

This is not what human rights advocates prefer. In fact, much of the liberal criticism of extraordinary rendition during the Bush administration focused on the extra-legal aspects of the program, as well as torture. http://dissentingjustice.blogspot.com/2009/02/still-flip-flop-my-fellow-liberals-push.html

Russell said: "But as a matter of public policy, the United States reserves the right to grab people...."

Reserving a "right" to do something does not make it legal....nor does it actually confer a right to engage in that conduct. By what authority is rendition legal? The US accepts international law that requires extradition of suspects. This power sounds like an out-of-control executive.

I'd call it more of an out-of-control mindset that the US (not just the executive branch) is above any law, especially but not exclusively foreign and/or international law (aka American exceptionalism).

I should clarify, I don't think that this is some playing field leveling argument about government spending, it was just a hook to end the piece on. I do think it is interesting that there is spending that conservatives really don't like and there is spending that liberals really don't like, so the argument that it all boils down to wanting to take someone else's stuff kinda misses the point, but that was definitely not the lede.

What I was most interested in was the fact that this was all revealed in what seems to have been a mundane filing over reimbursements, which suggests that secrecy is like a too small blanket that is always going to leave part of you uncovered.

I don't think people are arguing with you, LJ. Maybe a little at the start, but things have moved on.

True, but I didn't want to just ignore what McT said above.

I will weakly, and without any conviction, posit that the US doesn't unilaterally claim the right to rendition. Like many things the US does from a military/intelligence standpoint, we do it because wee are the country that can, and is trusted by many other countries not to abuse it. There is very little outcry from any corner of the globe, leading me to believe that this is a wink and a nod arrangement with lots of other countries.

I am not addressing the rights of the individual here, just the notion that the US "claims" the right and other countries don't object.

"Extra-legal" is really an empty concept. If the law doesn't forbid something, it is legal. Obviously, the ideal situation is that everyone lives under a government where due process is provided. Also, ideally, everyone is presumed innocent before being proven guilty, etc. We (many of us) try to protect those rights in this country, but it's difficult enough where we have a stable society, a system of courts, and a history of respect for the law. (Let's assume that all of that still exists - it's obviously becoming more questionable, and that I blame on Republicans.)

Mogadishu (Somalia) is a place with no central government, only warring factions. I doubt that we have an extradition treaty with Somalia, or that if we do have one it can be enforced. Who would capture and extradite people who we believe are committing crimes against various western societies? We have CIA people there to attempt to find out what actual terrorist networks exist - people who actually do have an agenda to explode various Western countries, including ours. If anyone can suggest effective ways to stop some of the real terrorism that is being plotted there in a manner that comports with U.S. Constitutional principles, I'd love for you to identify the institutions that will make that happen. Same with Yemen. And sorry, I'm as liberal as anyone else, but I don't believe that people in other parts of the world have a right to plot horrible crimes against people in the U.S., and the we should just hang out until it happens then hope that the nongovernment there catches up with them, so that we can extradite them from the country with the nongovernment. That's absurd.

If it's "extralegal" to find people in countries without a functioning government and take them somewhere else to have a trial, then I guess I'm in favor of "extralegal" behavior. If this concept only started 40 years ago, it's probably because the United States didn't deal very often with countries without governments.

As to the report about the secret prison in Mogadishu, same theory. We're there because we have to be in order to protect our country, not to occupy the place, or build a better civil society complete with comfortable prisons.

And, by the way, Donald, when we're at war with people, we kill them. And we kill American citizens (as in hostage situations) when they're actively engaged in threatening people's lives, and we have no safe way to bring them to justice. You can argue the point if you'd like, but I happen to think it's justified. And I'm pretty sure that most courts would agree.

The Obama administration uses rendition!

From a WaPo article YESTERDAY: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/ny-billing-dispute-reveals-details-of-secret-cia-rendition-flights/2011/08/30/gIQAbggXsJ_story.html

"President Obama closed the CIA’s secret interrogation program, but the administration continues to allow rendition in certain circumstances."

Also -- from an interview with Obama and the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/politics/08obama-text.html?pagewanted=all

Analysis: http://dissentingjustice.blogspot.com/2009/03/obamas-interesting-comments-about.html

The complaints from the left have subsided, however. Perhaps it's the economy. Perhaps, it's Obama. Perhaps, it's that folks only cared about torture -- not transfers without any judicial oversight.

russell, I do think what we say matters. What you say particularly matters because your writing is persuasive. Your perspective is already shared by a lot of people here, but your passion is contagious. In fact, that's really the point - passion and enthusiasm are the things that win elections. Obama won in 2008 based upon those things. It's important that he have them again in 2012. People don't go to the polls unless they think the distinctions are clear. People who understand the stakes have to make them clear.

What russell said is usually pretty much what I think. But when you say something I don't like, I say so. When the 2010 elections happened I was sick. It will be extremely hard to reverse what has happened to Congress in 2012 because of redistricting. I just don't know what our country will be like if we lose the presidency too. If we believe that what we say in public forums doesn't matter, I think we've already lost.

Yeah, Tony Smith: "I think we will have to think about how do we deal with that scenario in a way that comports with international law and abides by my very clear edict that we don’t torture, and that we ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus. to answer to charges."

That's what Obama said. And I'm okay with that.

So. If the folks who carry out the extraordinary rendition sleep in Motel 8 and pack their own lunch, that makes it:

A. A little bit better
B. Not as bad as it could be
C. No different than before
D. Still a crime
E. Indeterminate
F. OK as long as Obama says so
G. All, some, or none of the above

bobbyp,

Are you cleverly conflating "Motel 6" with "Super8 Motels"? I'd like to think so:)

Anyway, there IS a sense in which "a little bit better" is an appropriate answer. Not from the "invitee's" point of view, of course.

And not necessarily, either, from the point of view of a "fiscal conservative" -- the kind of person who thinks "we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem".

But from MY point of view, which is that some things ought not be done EVEN FOR PROFIT; that just because an entrepreneur makes money and "creates jobs" he is not necessarily serving the greater good; and that people who keep haranguing us about the virtue of profit and the social usefulness of plucky entrepreneurs ought to stop pretending that business is exclusively about producing widgets more efficiently.

So, yes, I would feel "a little bit better" about Dick and Dubya's vicious policy of "extraordinary rendition" if there had been no profits in it for their enterprising friends.

--TP

It's not as if just private contractors would combine their missions with luxury vacations. The CIA (to my knowledge not yet privatized) had some embarassing revelations there too in recent years (e.g. the knidnapping tour to Italy).
As someone above already said, it's telling that stuff like that comes out not because of someone's guilty conscience or moral outrage but due to squabbles about hotel bills. Excuse my Godwin but this looks to me as if we would have discovered and discussed Nazi crimes in terms of unpaid gas bills (yes, I know that they used HCN and CO not illuminating gas).
Banality of evil.
As I see it there is only a gradual difference between Dem and GOP administrations on topics like that. I'd say the Dems tend more towards pragmatic evil worsened by personal weakness (fear of the consequences for them if they do not commit those acts) while the GOP is by tendency sociopathic with a good deal of sadism mixed in. Dems go for the (assumed) path of least resistance, making Obama a prototypical Dem. GOPsters seem to prefer those 'solutions' that include making people suffer over those that don't. Add to that the extreme corruption of both parties and the picture ain't pretty.

2) US authorities must seek "diplomatic assurances" w/r/t to transferred detainee treatment;
aka wink wink nudge nudge

"Extra-legal" is really an empty concept. If the law doesn't forbid something, it is legal.

Realistically, for "extra-legal", you can probably read "illegal but nobody either wants to, or is in a position to, do anything about it".

Or, in other words, what CCDG said.

If it's "extralegal" to find people in countries without a functioning government and take them somewhere else to have a trial, then I guess I'm in favor of "extralegal" behavior.

Trial?

russell, I do think what we say matters.

I think what we say matters, too.

What I don't think is that what I say, here, is going to win or lose the White House for Obama in 2012.

Even if I did, I would still say what I thought was so.

"Trial?"

Yes. Here is an example of how rendition worked under Clinton:

"Though rendition was widely deployed after the September 11 attacks, the programme began under Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, in the early 1990s. It is credited with bringing to justice Ramzi Yousef, who was picked up in Pakistan, brought to the US and convicted for plotting the 1993 bombings at the World Trade Centre in New York."

I think that's an appropriate use of rendition. Obviously rendition starts by questioning the suspect, and the person would be let go if the person was not someone plotting an attack.

And I say what I think too. I just try to joining in the pervasive media attempt to pretend that "Both sides do it!"

"And, by the way, Donald, when we're at war with people, we kill them. And we kill American citizens (as in hostage situations) when they're actively engaged in threatening people's lives, and we have no safe way to bring them to justice. "

Sure, sapient. And if there are people within the US who might be plotting against, oh, I don't know, Cuba, it would have been fine for Castro to send drones into our country and start firing away without proof and while claiming to have achieved a zero percent civilian casualty rate. Fortunately, though, we can be assured that if any Americans ever plot against other countries or harbor people who plot against other countries or engage in war crimes our justice system will take care of it and so there's no need to countenance extra-legal activities of the sort that we are forced into with respect to inferior nations elsewhere.


I'd argue that there a difference between extraordinary rendition that brings someone into the US to stand trial and one that ships someone outside of the US to receive 'enhanced interrogation'. I also note that there is also the kidnap someone in one country and move them to another country.

" inferior nations elsewhere."

I'm not talking about "inferior nations". I'm talking about nations where there is no justice system, or one whose justice system is compromised by war. Like the Libertarian paradise of Somalia, for example. And as for people in our country plotting against Cuba, yes, I think our justice system should take care of matters like that. When it doesn't, I'm glad that other countries are afraid to strike people with drones. It's an advantage of living here, for sure.

2) US authorities must seek "diplomatic assurances" w/r/t to transferred detainee treatment;
aka wink wink nudge nudge

I just want to highlight Hartmut's (IMO) under appreciated point here. The technical rules regarding rendition are a complete joke. They've been repeatedly violated in the past to send innocent people to the worst torturting regimes in the world. If you believe Jane Meyer's book, the Dark Side, American government officials specifically sought out the worst torturing nations in the world because they were the worst. No one has ever been punished for that; not even a slap on the wrist or a $1 fine. Nothing. And it is illegal for anyone serving in the government to tell us if the same behavior is happening right now. Perhaps we'll find out in a few years.

We have a system that is supposed to keep us from sending people to be tortured by third party nations. This system failed. Repeatedly. Over and over. And we've done nothing to fix it. So why should anyone believe that we're not sending people to be tortured?

Related to this discussion is this long article from the Washington Post regarding the CIA.

Among other things, it includes statements "You’ve taken an agency that was chugging along and turned it into one hell of a killing machine" from a former official, and, more troubling, this "We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now" from the current head of the CIA's counter terrorism center, which was referred to in the article as a "typical profane reply" by the CTC chief. IMO he should be fired yesterday if that's his mindset.

Overall, the article gives the impression that CIA is, if anything, less accountable than ever, that it has been freed of the restrictions placed on it by the Church Comission, and it now has a robust paramilitary wing able to launch missles from drones at will as a "killing machine" (118 "strikes" last year, or basically one every three days), the last of which has accelerated under Obama. There is a whole "targeter" career path there now.

Finally, this is also not so encouraging: "'When CIA does covert action, who does the president turn to to judge its effectiveness?' [said] a former senior U.S. intelligence official. 'To the CIA.'"

Here is an example of how rendition worked under Clinton

Bill Clinton isn't President anymore. That was 15 or 20 years ago.

Rendition for purposes of bringing someone back to the states to stand trial in our criminal justice system is a different kettle of fish from capturing someone to hold them, someplace, incommunicado, while CIA guys squeeze information out of him. Let alone capturing someone to hand them over to some other country so they can squeeze information out them, through whatever means.

Just ask Abu Talal.

All of which brings me back to my original point:

First, questionable things are normalized. Then they get worse. Then, the new bad thing is normalized.

Lather rinse and repeat until we have a former Vice President selling a book in which he proudly declares his utter lack of regret for institutionalizing a regime of what are considered by most of the rest of the world to be war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I'm sure he's on the radio or TV somewhere, right now, having a chuckle about giving those bad guys a dunk in the water.

What once were vices are now habits.

As a complete aside, I'd say the thing most likely to keep Obama out of the White House in 2012 is not what folks say or don't say here, but the unemployment rate.

I do applaud your efforts to discredit the "both sides do it" mantra. The two sides are not the same.

This seems relevant too: With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.

Notably absent from the notable exception is extraordinary rendition. That said, Rizzo is not the most credible source, having his nomination to be CIA General Counsel shot down by Democrats, among other things.

Ugh, I don't read Glenn Greenwald anymore. I just don't. As to the Washington Post article, if you can propose a better way to prevent people who use failed states as places to plan terrorist attacks on the United States from doing so, please let us know.

russell, the country got a fascist regime in 2000, and we haven't overthrown them yet, since they've infested the Congress, the courts and to a certain extent the federal bureaucracy. There are plenty of people trying to use the unemployment rate to try to bring them back. That's why it's important to keep on message.

if you can propose a better way to prevent people who use failed states as places to plan terrorist attacks on the United States from doing so, please let us know.

I'm not Ugh, but I have an idea: prosecute people who torture. Or at least fire them. Or take away their coffee. Do something, anything, to signal that torturing people is NOT COOL. Ideally something involving long prison sentences, but at this point, I'll settle for anything.

Organizations that lack accountability also lack effectiveness. The history of CIA Directorate of Operations is one of unaccountability leading to staggering levels of incompetence. Incompetent organizations cannot protect us from anything.

"As to the Washington Post article, if you can propose a better way to prevent people who use failed states as places to plan terrorist attacks on the United States from doing so, please let us know."

Agreeing with Turb's point, some sort of accountability in general would be nice--maybe then we wouldn't have officials making claims so utterly idiotic they should embarrass anyone who hears them Zero Civilian Casualties from drone strikes

Instead we've got an administration that is an enthusiastic prosecutor of whistleblowers, as pointed out by people besides Glenn Greenwald. Here's the NYT on that subject--

link

But just so your head doesn't explode, sapient, yes, the Republicans are worse. In fact almost the whole party seems insane these days.

My head has survived many explosions, but thanks, Donald.

As to prosecuting torturers, we've had this conversation before, and Yglesias had it yesterday. Although I agree with Lithwick in theory, I also see that there are problems, as mentioned by Yglesias and discussed in the comments there. I think the comments of isaachummel and Wes Frank are particularly interesting. Anyway, if Obama had prosecuted any political figures, any convictions would certainly have been overturned by this Supreme Court. We're in a bad place, and it's going to take a lot of persistent, patient work to get out of it. First order of business, let's not keep electing the blatant fascists.

As for prosecuting whistleblowers, sort of the same thing - they have to win the case in order for the prosecutions to be effective. If they win, what does that say about the law? There are three branches of government. The executive is prosecuting these cases in order to protect its prerogative. It prosecutes under laws made by Congress. The cases are decided by a judge. This is a chance for checks and balances to operate. It's the best our system can do.

Ugh, I don't read Glenn Greenwald anymore. I just don't.

You're not obliged to read everything, and I understand why you don't read GG, but that was Glenn quoting a Frontline interview of John Rizzo (to be broadcast on Tuesday night), not anything Glenn wrote himself or even an interview Glenn did. I guess I should have linked the Frontline page with the quote, which is here.

if you can propose a better way to prevent people who use failed states as places to plan terrorist attacks on the United States from doing so, please let us know.

Who needs a failed state to plan terrorist attacks on the United States when it can be done in, e.g., Germany, or hell, in the U.S.? Is Pakistan a failed state? Indonesia?

More generally, is there anything in your view Sapient that we're allowed to criticize the Obama Administration on with respect to the War on Terror? Anything?

Anyway, if Obama had prosecuted any political figures, any convictions would certainly have been overturned by this Supreme Court.

Well, since the only options in the universe are prosecutions and absolutely nothing at all, I guess we're stuck. I mean, if your child misbehaves, there's nothing you can do but ignore it or execute them. There is no middle ground.

Or, perhaps, the government could incur some other penalty...perhaps firing? Demotion? Pay cuts?

I think Sapient's point is that there is no legal way to go after people in failed states, thus the only way is extra-legal, if not necessarily illegal, a la the distinction russell made earlier. The failed states are extra-legal territory, so to speak.

I think the rub lies in what you do with those people after getting them, or how you physically go about getting them, as opposed to what sort of consent you obtain. Where do you send them? Do they have legal recourse thereafter? Are they treated humanely? Do you just kill them on the spot? Do you kill anyone else while getting or killing them?

But that's all separate from the question of what authority's consent you obtain before doing whatever it is you do in places where there is no authority to give consent, which I think is a valid question, though its validity doesn't absolve Obama of any blame whatsoever for whatever he's done wrong or allowed others to do wrong.

(That last sentence really makes me question my writing skills.)

Morality aside, I guess "sticker shock" got to me. When I flew corporate jets back in the 1980s I made $300/day and certainly didn't pad my expense account with luxury hotel rooms and expensive meals. & my bar tab was non-reimbursable. Somebody at the Agency should have run a tighter ship.

Ugh, I'll be sure to watch the whole Frontline program.

As to Germany or the U.S., our system of justice is adequate, so we don't need to use "rendition" or drones. Please let me know if you think Obama is rendering people from Germany or the U.S., or using drones on them. If so, I will criticize.

Pakistan? The issues in Pakistan are complicated by Waziristan and the Afghan war. Indonesia? Are we currently doing something wrong in Indonesia too?

Ugh, you can criticize all you want. What's your alternative plan for protecting the country against more 9/11 scenarios? Even if we changed our foreign policy and became total isolationists and became a country of devout Buddhist monks, I'm not sure that the people who are determined to mount terrorist attacks on western nations are just going to stop. I mean, we weren't at war in 2001. Frankly, I'm kind of glad that the government is trying to prevent something like that, or worse, from happening again. I am against torturing people. I am not against fighting people who are trying to kill us.

Turbulence, yes, I agree. Something should have been done. Maybe we should start a petition.

Or even non-WOT related things, like, say, this?

Yes, Ugh, I saw that. It deserves criticism. Of course, jobs. But whatever, it's depressing.

Here is part of what the NYT editorial said--
-------------------------------------------------
"In the case in question, Thomas Drake, an N.S.A. employee, faced 35 years in prison for espionage after he leaked information to a reporter about a potential billion-dollar computer boondoggle. The case collapsed last month with Mr. Drake walking away after a token misdemeanor plea to providing information to an unauthorized person. The government was deservedly berated by Judge Richard Bennett of Federal District Court in Maryland for an “unconscionable” pursuit of the accused across “four years of hell.”

Prosecutors dropped the felony charges at the 11th hour after Judge Bennett ordered them to show allegedly classified material to the jury. But Mr. Leonard said he was willing to testify for Mr. Drake that there were no secrets at issue and that he had never seen “a more deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document.”

The Obama administration has misguidedly used the Espionage Act in five such cases of news media disclosures; previously there were no more than four in all of White House history
--------------------------------------------------

I don't know what it means to say the executive branch is prosecuting these cases to preserve its prerogative. It sounds more like abuse of power to me.

As for this--

"Even if we changed our foreign policy and became total isolationists and became a country of devout Buddhist monks, I'm not sure that the people who are determined to mount terrorist attacks on western nations are just going to stop. I mean, we weren't at war in 2001. "

Attitudes like this is where I don't see much difference between many Republicans and many Democrats. I remember the year following 9/11--you couldn't even mention anything ever so faintly critical of US policy in the Middle East without being accused of saying that the victims had it coming. But anyway, we weren't Buddhist monks. We supplied weapons to various people in the Mideast who used them to kill others, some of those others innocent civilians. We supported dictators who used torture. We had imposed harsh sanctions which had caused an unknown death toll in Iraq and which had brought the economy to its knees. Nothing excuses terrorism, but then I'm not real sure what excuses some of what we do either.

I'm as liberal as anyone else

No, you're not - it's pretty obvious.

Scott Horton is an attorney

Yeah, if that mattered, I would have converted someone by now.

What's your alternative plan for protecting the country against more 9/11 scenarios?

You seem to be under the delusion that the CIA is effective at protecting the country. Given that a recent rendition in Italy involved CIA officers checking into a hotel under their real names so that they could collect frequent flier points, while they were kidnapping someone without the authorization of (presumably lawless) Italy, I don't understand this belief. Using your real name is very bad spycraft. If you are so stupid as to do that, you are not protecting the country from anything. Stupid people don't solve problems; they aggravate them. And organizations where stupid people flourish can't protect anyone.

For the CIA to be effective, it must be accountable. The administration has decided that there will be no accountability where the CIA is concerned. I don't need a plan besides 'fire incompetent people and torturers'; that would be a huge improvement over the current policy of 'you can never get fired no matter how many genitals you wire up to car batteries'.

No, you're not - it's pretty obvious.

If you're talking about committed to taking practical steps to have a liberal democracy in America, I certainly am.

"I don't know what it means to say the executive branch is prosecuting these cases to preserve its prerogative. It sounds more like abuse of power to me."

How is it an abuse of power to bring cases to court for a judge to decide the outcome? That's how the Constitutional system works. If the law that's applied is problematic, it's time to change the law. If there was abuse, that could have been brought before the court. Sanctions are available for prosecutorial misconduct.

I agree that some of our historically screwed-up policies may have contributed to terrorism. But we're here now, and I'm not willing to sit passively by while people plot terror.

Turbulence, I get it. I agree.

What's your alternative plan for protecting the country against more 9/11 scenarios?

To close each and every U.S. military base* that sits on foreign soil (including Gitmo), which means, among other things, ending the wars (or "kinetic military actions", thank you George) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other nations we've not heard of yet. To cut U.S. military spending by a third (or more) over the next few years.

To raze the CIA to the ground and rebuild it as solely an intelligence gathering organization (with full access by every member of congress to its files/operations). To end U.S. support of dictators abroad who oppress their people while enriching themselves (the support of such dictators the Obama administration is supremely guilty).

I'm sure there are a bazillion other things that would help as well, none of which the Obama administration is willing to do, see above.

*I might make an exception for bases on the Korean peninsula. Might.

Cool, Ugh. Get that guy elected!

Ugh's cut the military bases program was foreshadowed by Bush II. Bin Laden objected to US bases in the holy land of Saudi Arabia. The invasion of Iraq allowed a quiet (al Qaeda compliant?) withdrawal.

My take on the US military overreach would spare naval bases in piracy prone East (and now West) Africa.

We are protecting the peace in the still turbulent Korean peninsula, but in Germany? Okinawa? Italy? Bulgaria? Brazil?

How is it an abuse of power to bring cases to court for a judge to decide the outcome? That's how the Constitutional system works. If the law that's applied is problematic, it's time to change the law. If there was abuse, that could have been brought before the court. Sanctions are available for prosecutorial misconduct.

Did you even read what Donald wrote and linked before you wrote the above? The case being brought to court was based on the government having classifying a document that had no reason to be classified, but had been to spare the government embarrassment. They aggressively pursued felony charges against the whistle-blower for trying to expose this. How is this NOT abuse of power? To follow Donald's link one further:

The Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks has hugely raised the stakes for whistle-blowers. Mr. Drake is among five people charged with disclosing secrets to the news media under Mr. Obama, compared with three under all previous presidents.

Oh, and as to your assertion there would have been consequences had this really been abuse, um. From the above-linked:

[J. William Leonard, who directed the Information Security Oversight Office from 2002 to 2007] said in an interview [on 1 August 11] that he filed a formal complaint on [30 July 11] with his former office, seeking to force the two agencies to take disciplinary measures against officials who violated classification rules. Under the executive order governing classification, the punishment could include dismissal, suspension without pay, reprimand or loss of a security clearance.

(To respond to your question that I quoted, in case you actually can't see it, it's an abuse of power because pursuing unjustified cases against whistle-blowers has as its desired outcome intimidation as much as arrests, if not moreso. It's an abuse of power because subjecting personnel to aggressive and protracted prosecution, even if ultimately not successful, has a chilling effect on others who might otherwise come forward to reveal government malfeasance, corruption, etc.)

See also:

Two presidents and three secretaries of defense routinely have asked JSOC to mount intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countries with which the United States was not at war, including Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Syria.
...
The president has also given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them.
...
In Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal action against al-Qaeda was granted without additional approval. In the other countries — among them Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria — JSOC forces needed the tacit approval from the country involved or at least a sign-off from higher up on the American chain of command. In the Philippines, for example, JSOC could undertake psychological operations to confuse or trap al-Qaeda operatives, but it needed approval from the White House for lethal action.
...

The Defense Department has given JSOC a bigger role in nonmilitary assignments as well, including tracing the flow of money from international banks to finance terrorist networks. It also has become deeply involved in “psychological operations,” which it renamed “military information operations” to sound less intimidating. JSOC routinely sends small teams in civilian clothes to U.S. embassies to help with what it calls media and messaging campaigns.
...
Soon Obama was using JSOC even more than his predecessor. In 2010, for example, he secretly directed JSOC troops to Yemen to kill the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
...
As its name implies, the focus of Joint Special Operations Task Force-National Capital Region is not the next terrorist network but another of its lifelong enemies: the Washington bureaucracy.

But, nothing to worry about here.

I agree that some of our historically screwed-up policies may have contributed to terrorism. But we're here now, and I'm not willing to sit passively by while people plot terror.

The historical anomaly of 9/11 aside*, more Americans die every year slipping in their own bathtubs than are killed by terrorists. Get some perspective.


*Even then, more Americans died in car crashes that month than died in the terrorist attacks.

Ugh: Remember the AUMF?

"Section 2 - Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes [sic] any requirement of the War Powers Resolution."

We're at war. This is how we fight wars now. No president is going to stop authorizing what the Post article describes, and risk being blamed for a terrorist attack because he didn't use the measures that he was given to prevent it.

@sapient, w/additional emphasis added:

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

[...]

We're at war. This is how we fight wars now. No president is going to stop authorizing what the Post article describes, and risk being blamed for a terrorist attack because he didn't use the measures that he was given to prevent it.

You keep using that AUMF. I do not think it authorizes what you think it authorizes.

envy, it doesn't have anything to do what I think. Here is what somebody else ("just a guy") thinks of the current language and an amendment that's apparently being considered in Congress.

Obviously, people interpret language different ways. What really matters is how the Executive Branch interprets it because there is little restraint on Executive actions in military matters, something that has been true for a very long time. And no President is going to risk a terrorist attack. Not anytime soon anyway. That's true no matter what the actual risk is to most Americans as compared to car accidents.

From your link:

These developments, to be sure, underscore that there are still doubts about the AUMF's geographic and temporal scope--doubts the proposed legislation is intended to quell by affirming that the United States remains engaged in a "war on terror" that extends beyond al Qaeda or the armed conflict in Afghanistan.

I.e., the interpretation you glibly cite to quash criticisms is somewhat less unambiguously accepted than you'd have your critics think.

Also, I like how you've moved from Presidents being obliged - nay, forced - to act thusly to avoid accusations of not using powers Congress gave them to fight terrah, to them taking said power while being so powerful that no one is able to say anything about it...

Also, to quote "just a guy",

If the law that's applied is problematic, it's time to change the law.

"Also, I like how you've moved from Presidents being obliged - nay, forced - to act thusly to avoid accusations of not using powers Congress gave them to fight terrah, to them taking said power while being so powerful that no one is able to say anything about it..."

Both are true.

It's fine with me that you think there's a better way to combat terrorism - maybe someday we'll work that out. Bush/Cheney thought that it was necessary to invade and occupy two countries. I imagine that if we'd had Al Gore as President when 9/11 happened, some of these operations of killing suspected terrorists would have gone on, but the full-fledged wars wouldn't have happened. (The Iraq war definitely wouldn't have happened.) I think that it would have been preferable to skip the wars, while still trying to capture or kill the terrorists.

I disagree with Phil that the terrorist threat is relatively insignificant. Organized networks of people bent on destruction can (and will, if not stopped) produce significant destruction. I don't know the answer, but I think that a certain degree of extraordinary action is justified. The Bush/Cheney administration went way too far, but there is an exigency about terrorists use lawless nations to plan attacks, a situation that allows action beyond those that protect due process as that term is understood in U.S. courts. I know some people here disagree.

I don't know the answer, but I think that a certain degree of extraordinary action is justified.

vs.

If the law that's applied is problematic, it's time to change the law.

Make up your mind. Either you're for rule of law, or you're against it. You can't ague that both are appropriate. Either the solution is to impose a legal structure that makes extrajudical detention and executions legal (and, one would hope, accountable), or to abide by existing legal structures, even if it means you can't have your warm fuzzy from the US government (and only the US government, or their chosen proxies) "protecting" you from whomsoever they brand "terrorists" by doing whatever they decide to tell you is protecting you from them. Anything else is devolving into "rule of law for thee, but not for me", i.e., abjuring the rule of law.

Obviously, people interpret language different ways. What really matters is how the Executive Branch interprets it

This is not such a good concept.

There are lots of ways to address terrorism, and we have employed a number of them. We have had mixed results.

However it is *extremely far from clear* to me that grabbing people, flying them off to safe houses of our own and/or handing them over to intelligence agencies of other countries to be, basically, f**ked with, physically or mentally, in order to squeeze information out of them has been the best or most effective approach.

In fact, examples to demonstrate that this, specifically, is a *very very bad* idea abound.

Start with Curveball.

The AUMF does a lot of things, some of them perhaps not so good, but I don't see language in there that authorizes extraordinary rendition.

And saying that the best approach will be to let the executive decide what it does or doesn't mean is a freaking bad idea.

Very very bad. Historically, disastrous.

envy, you're making up stuff that I didn't say, and you're jumping between two issues that we've been discussing on this thread, rendition and prosecuting leaks. Until you make up your mind what we're talking about, I don't think anything i say is going to be responsive.

We have a difficult challenge in apprehending terrorists. This is not just a U.S. problem. I never said that only the U.S. has to face it or do something about it. In fact, I'm a huge proponent of working through these problems with the international community when possible. I do think we are a major target and have a right to defend ourselves against people who are plotting massive crimes. (And many of these crimes have taken place elsewhere, which is why we get so much cooperation from other countries.) If you don't agree, fine. The problem is that many of these criminals seek refuge in places without a legal system, or in places which have a government that shelters them. We have to figure out a way to deal with the problem in a manner that doesn't encourage abuse. It took a long time for various nations to create civil liberties guarantees for their own citizens, but still protect them from crimes. We're still not perfect at doing it, although we have the theory down. I hope that we are able to learn to apply better standards in international situations, but maybe it will take awhile. I don't think it's practical to say that we should ignore the threat.

Whistleblowing and leaks are a different issue, and I don't have time for it now. There are laws about them. Work to change them if you don't like them. By the way, changing them involves Congress, not just asking the President to refrain from doing what he's authorized to do.

russell, you're good at saying what's bad; not so good at identifying what works. And when I said that it was the Executive's interpretation that matters, I wasn't endorsing it as a great solution. As a practical matter, it is the way things are. It just is.

Now, you tell me how to break up terrorist cells in Yemen and Somalia. Although if you reply, I'll have to read it later.

Remember when it was the wingnuts (or *ahem* classical liberals, if you prefer) who kept cajoling dissenting loser-defeatists to clap harder while trying to justify the unjustifiable (lest TEH TERRORISTS WIN!!11)?

Good times.

Also, if "oh yeah, well can YOU think of a better way to do things?" or "oogaa boogah -- terrorists under teh bed!!1" are the best counters Obama partisans can muster when facing criticism then we are fncking FNCKED in 2012.

Seriously, how well did a noun, a verb & 9/11 work out for the GOP in '08?

envy, you're making up stuff that I didn't say, and you're jumping between two issues that we've been discussing on this thread, rendition and prosecuting leaks.

Can't exactly see where I'm making up things you're not saying. OTOH, yes, it was rude of me to ask for consistency from you in your political pontifications.

russell, you're good at saying what's bad; not so good at identifying what works.

Fascinating. So if someone doesn't want to continue the current approach, which hasn't been working, and indeed, has exacerbated the situation, they have to come up with something demonstrably better before we are allowed to stop doing something that's making things worse? I.e., passively avoiding adding further fuel to the fire isn't enough because, no, we must have some active recourse to replace the counterproductive measure whose cessation is contemplated, or else, why, we'll just have to go on generating blowback without improving things, lest we be accused of sitting passively by while people plot terror? And to make it clear I'm not making up things that you didn't say when suggesting you said you're pro-extraordinary-rendition:

I don't know the answer, but I think that a certain degree of extraordinary action is justified.

Also, what MB wrote. Really, much more concise and to the point than me, but hits everything needing said.

Jeez, how is it that no one has pointed out that interpreting the law isn't really up to the executive branch? I mean, sure, they have to do it to decide what they should and shouldn't be doing, but they don't get the last word on it.

I'm getting the sense that Sapient's view on how the executive branch under Obama should conduct itself is based on how it is willing to conduct itself. It's similar to the free-market fetishizers who figure that, if you've managed to get lots of money, that you must have deserved it. Otherwise you wouldn't have gotten it, right?

I get the minor point about failed states and places that are, in practical terms, lawless, requiring decisions based on something other than the consent of the authority having jurisdiction, since there isn't one. But, damn, it doesn't justify a free-for-all.

And using the courts to fnck with people, who don't quite have the resources of the federal government, is a serious abuse of power. The fact that they're using the courts doesn't make it okay. Neither does the fact that it isn't illegal, per se. (I'm no lawyer, but I imagine it's possible that one could argue that there was a legal line crossed by way of prosecutorial misconduct, and that they got lucky (it is luck?) that it wasn't pursued.)

(Sorry if I've rambled at all. I'm toasting the labor movement this weekend.)

matttbastard got me thinking of this, something he'll recognize, I think:

Has your child completed his or her suspicious activity booklet?
Don’t let this summer go to waste.
The enemy is preparing their children are you?
Time to show them who’s boss.
Moloch demands fresh blood to maintain the appetite of his mechanical heart.
Will you sacrifice your first born like Abraham would his Isaac?
Will you sacrifice your first born like Abraham would his Isaac?

Tell me, why Dick Cheney underneath my bed?
Hell no that ain’t cool!

I disagree with Phil that the terrorist threat is relatively insignificant.

Unfortunately for you, the facts support me. If you add in Madrid, London and Mumbai to 9/11 you still don't even get to 4,000 dead in 10 years. More than ten times that many will die in automobile accidents in the United States this year alone. Five times that many will die in falls. Six times that many will die from accidental poisoning.

But by all means, somebody come up with some plan that's not what we're doing but is still as, er, effective to stop something that wouldn't even make the top ten causes of accidental death in a given year.

Panic and unreason are not your friends.

Seriously, people; your automobiles are out to get you. Just look at the statistics!

Also, your bathtubs.

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Whatnot


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