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August 31, 2011

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Also: serial killers whose victim counts are less than a few thousand are unworthy of concern. Just don't worry your pretty heads over them.

There's a pragmatic political objection one could make to the notion that one shouldn't criticize Obama. If someone isn't willing to criticize a President on at least some issues, I tend to write that person off as a partisan hack and don't trust anything he or she says. Now maybe I'm unique that way, but I doubt it.

In my case I'm much more likely to be convinced to vote Democratic by someone who acknowledges their numerous flaws than by someone who gets really angry when they are criticized. But then one often gets the impression that online political arguments are more about crushing the other guy's opinions into the dust, driving him forward before you in chains and listening to the lamentation of his women, than they are about persuasion. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I just found the source of the Conan quote.

link

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

Seriously, WTF works?

Terrorism exists because there are huge differences in power between political entities, and if you don't have a lot of power, terrorism is one of your top options for applying some kind of lever to whatever situation you're trying to address.

The dynamic that produces terrorism is structural. It's been around for as long as anyone has been paying attention, and it will likely continue to be around until the eschaton arrives.

If you think grabbing J Random Guy and subjecting him or her to their own personal Room 101 is going to change that, you are sadly mistaken.

The point is to keep people from actually killing you.

If what you are after is information, there is considerable evidence to say that the Room 101 approach is not the most effective one.

So I think it's a bad idea from a purely pragmatic point of view.

It also opens the door to a Pandora's box of officially sanctioned lawlessness and mayhem, and IMO the less of that the better.

Can you point to any examples where extraordinary rendition has been notably useful? Given that it's against the law in lots of places, and given that it strains our own concepts of lawfulness to the breaking point, in my opinion the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that it's worth the candle, rather than on me to demonstrate the opposite.

It's a horrendous f**ked up thing to send bands of professional kidnapper snd assassins around the world to grab people off of the street, take them to secret places, and deliberately and systematically f**k with their heads.

Let alone hand them over to people who will beat, mutilate, and kill them.

All outside of the framework of the law, all outside of any context where they can challenge what is happening to them, all outside of any framework of even the most minimal standard of accountability.

If you're not with me so far, we have nothing further to talk about.

What you're arguing is that all of that is OK if it keeps you and yours from being harmed.

I think that's wrong. In My Very Humble Opinion, it's more important to preserve something remotely approaching lawfulness than it is to try to absolutely rule out any chance of being killed by some crazy fanatical bastard.

Because you CAN NOT RULE OUT THE CHANCE OF BEING KILLED BY SOME CRAZY FANATICAL BASTARD.

Extraordinary rendition is f**ked up. I'd prefer we did not engage in it. If that means some larger number of us die through acts of terrorist violence, I guess I would prefer that to having us be in the business of sending bands of kidnappers and assassins around the world to wreak some other kind of havoc.

We all have our druthers. And, we're all gonna die someday, so there's only so far I'm willing to go to try to save my @ss or the @ss of my loved ones.

I don't want people grabbing people off of the street and cutting their genitals, hanging them from the ceiling, drowning them until they're not quite dead, beating the living shit out of them, burning them with cigarettes, threatening to or actually raping or killing their family members in front of them, confining them in tiny boxes until they lose their god-damned minds and become vegetative psychotic zombies, or any of the other fates we have visited upon people by the thousands, in my name.

Dig?

My two cents. We all make our own choices. That's mine.

Also, your bathtubs.

Time to waterboard the plumber!

I think the point is about the resources and the justifications for clearly immoral behaviors that are employed, often ineffectively or counterproductively, to mitigate various risks, relative to other risks, rather than one of the human agency involved in a given risk. It's a matter of perspective. But, if you think about it, the fact that your car and your bathtub aren't out to get you, but are more likely to kill you than are terrorists, should tell you something.

I think it's interesting how my comments are interpreted to accuse me of supporting torture when I unequivically stated that I am opposed to torture. Rather, I said that I don't believe that it's possible to accord due process (arrest warrants, extradition, etc.) to apprehend people in Yemen and Somalia, and yet I don't think those people should be allowed to plot attacks. I did NOT say that I supported the fact that the executive interprets the law. I said that it's an undeniable fact that that is the case now. Courts barely touch the issue of the executive's role in the military when cases ar challenged in court, and that has been true pretty much throughout the 20th century, as well as this one.

"I don't want people grabbing people off of the street and cutting their genitals, hanging them from the ceiling, drowning them until they're not quite dead, beating the living shit out of them, burning them with cigarettes, threatening to or actually raping or killing their family members in front of them, confining them in tiny boxes until they lose their god-damned minds and become vegetative psychotic zombies, or any of the other fates we have visited upon people by the thousands, in my name."

Really? I guess we're all agreed then! Making up lies about other people's positions is a technique worthy of Fox News.

As to the probability of being killed in a bathtub, let's remember that what we should really be scared s*&^less of is being in an elevator. But, as for statistics, 50,000 people worked at the World Trade Center and many more passed through each day - if the attack had occurred at a different time of day, it would have been even more catastrophic. A lot of similar plots have been foiled. The experience didn't do the country much good, even aside from the deaths.

If you think mass murderers should be let off the hook just because they have found refuge in a country that makes it difficult to arrest them, fine - we disagree. What we have now is a war (through the AUMF) targeting small numbers of people residing in multiple jurisdictions. I think that we (and the world community) need to work on creating a solution to terrorism that's effective and more humane than what we're doing now, because there will never be an end to this "war." But pretending it isn't a problem isn't an option many people will be willing to accept, especially if another large plot ever succeeds.

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

Also, your bathtubs.

True Christians don't bathe* (baptism excepted) and without cars there would be fewer car bombs (admittedly Mr.Buda used a horse-drawn cab when he blew up Wall Street).

*sinful worship of the earthly body

sapient: Rather, I said that I don't believe that it's possible to accord due process (arrest warrants, extradition, etc.) to apprehend people in Yemen and Somalia, and yet I don't think those people should be allowed to plot attacks....If you think mass murderers should be let off the hook just because they have found refuge in a country that makes it difficult to arrest them, fine - we disagree.

Better to summarily execute them and the people who happen to be around them via a drone strike (and also hope that we've struck the right person, and the person does, in fact, happen to be a mass murderer, or I guess planning on being a mass murderer, or thinking about it, or associating with other people who are thinking about being mass murderers on the theory that such a person can't be up to any good).

IOW, "Waaah, due process is too hard, just fncking kill 'em."

No due process in war, Ugh. That's why it's important to discuss this issue as if it were a real problem that needs to be addressed. Because it is.

People, no matter what the country, don't sit around complacently tolerating organized groups of thugs occasionally bombing their cities whenever their suicide bombers can breach security measures. Maybe you and russell just look out the window and watch the airplanes crash into buildings, but most people aren't willing to do that. Unless you have a realistic alternative to the war scenario, you've got nothing to add.

But, sapient, if we capture people, even if it's in a failed state, and we didn't get anyone's permission to capture those people, are you dead-set against any form of due process thereafter because we're "at war?" If we can send people to Saudi Arabia to be tortured, surely we can manage to bring them to some kind of court, military or civilian, in American territory. Would that be a problem for you, assuming it were feasible?

No due process in war, Ugh. That's why it's important to discuss this issue as if it were a real problem that needs to be addressed. Because it is.

...and part of treating it like a real problem is plugging one's ears and yelling "lalalalala" when anyone suggests reasons to question the treating of terrorism as acts of war rather than law enforcement matters.

Also, speaking as someone whose bleeding job is military legal, and is currently assigned to an Internment/Resettlement unit, the ignorance of your denial of the existence of due process in war is as staggering as it is reprehensible. I'm just saying.

Maybe you and russell just look out the window and watch the airplanes crash into buildings, but most people aren't willing to do that.

Who's "making up lies about other people's positions" again? Hmm?

"are you dead-set against any form of due process thereafter because we're "at war?""

No. Don't you read anything I've been saying?

From above, where I cited the following newspaper excerpt as an appropriate use of rendition:

"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."

"If we can send people to Saudi Arabia to be tortured, surely we can manage to bring them to some kind of court, military or civilian, in American territory. Would that be a problem for you, assuming it were feasible?"

No. Why would you think I'm opposed to that? Did I ever say I was opposed to that? In fact, Obama is trying to do that, even though he is getting complaints by some people in Congress about that:

"some in Congress are also questioning whether all new terrorism cases should be handled by military commissions. Most recently, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said two men arrested by the FBI on terrorism charges should be prosecuted at Guantanamo Bay."


Also, speaking as someone whose bleeding job is military legal, and is currently assigned to an Internment/Resettlement unit, the ignorance of your denial of the existence of due process in war is as staggering as it is reprehensible. I'm just saying."

Right. What I should have said was that there is no due process for the people killed in warfare. Better?

No. Don't you read anything I've been saying?

I do. It's just that you seem to contradict yourself, so I was looking for clarification. In any case, I'm not entirely sure what your point is anymore.

And to be clearer, when people are killed by drone attacks, the due process issue doesn't come up, correct?

The issue would be the lack thereof.

Right. What I should have said was that there is no due process for the people killed in warfare. Better?

A little, but not much. To the degree that this true, there's no due process for those killed in state-performed executions, or police shootouts, or by roving gangs of mall cops dragging them from their cars and beating them to death with plastic flashlights. Yes, dead is dead, but the circumstances of said deaths are most certainly subject to legal scrutiny even in war, and if the circumstances are found problematic, there will be legal consequences. War is not a free pass to go kill whoever you want, however you want, whenever you want. This quaint notion is called "accountability", amongst other things. Now, this matters not a jot to the victim, obviously, but that doesn't mean their killings are not subject to due process... just that they will not be able to personally benefit from redress to violations thereof.

"In any case, I'm not entirely sure what your point is anymore."

My point is this: I agree that terrorism is best handled as a law enforcement matter, except that due process is not always feasible when the perpetrators have found a haven in a lawless country or in a country where extradition isn't possible. So, if people are insisting on probable cause for arrest, and arrest warrants, that's not going to happen in places like Yemen or Somalia, or some other countries. Nabbing is probably what's going to happen in there, nabbing and sending them elsewhere for questioning.

Sometimes it's impossible to nab, question and try people. It's difficult as a practical matter, and it's difficult because Congress makes a political issue out of allowing "terrorists" anywhere on U.S. soil. Congress has made it very easy for the Executive to strike people with drones.

This is where we are. Obama has these tools to prevent another terrorist attack. If he doesn't use them and an attack occurs, he will be blamed for it. I don't think it's a great situation, but I don't blame Obama for using the tools that he has. Does that clear it up for you?

"If you think mass murderers should be let off the hook just because they have found refuge in a country that makes it difficult to arrest them, fine - we disagree."

Maybe less than you think. It depends on whether you think there are high-ranking American war criminals and whether you think other countries have the right to assassinate them even at the risk of killing innocent bystanders. I can also think of a few close allies of the US where there might be a war criminal or two lurking about.

Maybe you and russell just look out the window and watch the airplanes crash into buildings

Maybe monkeys fly out of my behind.

Unless you have a realistic alternative to the war scenario, you've got nothing to add.

IIRC, the topic was extraordinary rendition.

I noted that it's still policy under Obama. You took exception, for a variety of reasons that shifted every time somebody called you on them.

The plain fact of the matter is that it is still policy under Obama.

Used to be controversial, something that could only be carried out in secret. Now, it's what we do.

It's not entirely Obama's fault that that is so, and I recognize that our policy states that we will not render to nations who torture.

Which was, BTW, always the policy.

But it used to be something we felt we needed to hide. Now it's explicit and official.

That's pretty much the only point I've had to make on this thread. Along with my opinion that that is not a good thing.

I don't really disagree, Donald. There's "right" and there's "might". It's sad that we still rely so heavily on "might". It's not a good thing, but neither is the alternative.

"I recognize that our policy states that we will not render to nations who torture."

Right, russell. And we have no reason to believe that such rendition is going on.

Right, russell. And we have no reason to believe that such rendition is going on.

...except, ya know, that it has been in the very recent past, and we've refused - not just failed, but refused - to hold those responsible accountable in any way. Our policy states it, but we (to include the current administration) state and demonstrate that there are, and will be, no consequences for violating said policy.

So tell me again: why we should have any faith that such behavior isn't - and will not start - occurring? Especially when the executive is exceedingly secretive, and quite aggressive in its pursuit of whistle blowers?

And we have no reason to believe that such rendition is going on.

Once more, with feeling.

Extraordinary rendition does not only apply to rendition to nations that torture.

My general impression is that if there's no torture on the back end, you're cool with it. At least if the state we are grabbing people from doesn't have a strong or coherent government.

Do I have the gist of it?

"Especially when the executive is exceedingly secretive, and quite aggressive in its pursuit of whistle blowers?"

If the defendant is actually a whistleblower, there are laws that protect him or her. So that someone is a "whistleblower" is an assumption that you're making (and the press is making - the press, of course, favors people who leak information because they rely on those people to make a living) about people who leak (or otherwise mishandle) classified information.

There are several issues here (that don't relate to extraordinary rendition). 1) Should the government be able to classify documents? 2) Who should make that decision? 3) What kind of oversight should there be? 4) How long should material stay classified, or how often should the classification be reviewed? 5) What happens when people who have authorized access to classified information divulge it? 6) Are there adequate procedures (including protection from retaliation) for whistleblowers to bring illegal actions by the government to the attention of the public?

I think that the system we use to classify material needs to be reviewed and amended, and that whistleblowers need better protection. But I don't think people who have authorized access to material should be able to divulge it based on their own assessment. I'm not opposed to prosecuting them.

russell, yes, you have the gist of it (except that I'll add: no torture on either end) until we come up with a better plan. I think rendition was appropriately in the Ramzi Yousef case. I think it was appropriately used in the Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame case.

I don't dismiss the possibility that there may be a better way to do things, and I hope that those ways evolve. I just don't know what they are.

I think that the system we use to classify material needs to be reviewed and amended, and that whistleblowers need better protection.

I.e., "I accept that whistle blowers can and should be allowed to exist; they should even be protected from prosecution."

But I don't think people who have authorized access to material should be able to divulge it based on their own assessment. I'm not opposed to prosecuting them.

I.e., "I don't accept that whistle blowers should be allowed to exist; they should be unprotected from prosecution."

Sapient, "people who have authorized access to material [divulging] it based on their own assessment", when their assessment is that said material is being classified or suppressed to hide government waste or malfeasance, is the very definition of whistle blowing. Period, full stop. If you say this should be prosecuted, as you do above, you cannot also claim to support any protection for whistle blowers. Because whistle blowing is nothing more, and nothing less, than someone with privileged access to information assessing said information's privilege on their own, and finding it to be a betrayal of the common good, and/or the law.

Recall the following:

Executive Order 13526, §1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.

(a) In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:

  1. conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
  2. prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
  3. restrain competition; or
  4. prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.

You would have whistle blowers left unable to assess if classified information has been classified for the above reasons. You would give the Executive full freedom to be accountable only to itself, if it feels like doing so. You would force us to take its word that it ain't misbehavin', by telling it that it doesn't need to tell us if it is, and indeed, if anyone tells us that it is when it doesn't want us to know, you're totally cool with it smashing down on them with as much force as it can muster. You would, in effect, make the above a dead letter. But wait, no, I'm sorry... you said you feel that whistle blowers need better protection. Wherever could I get the idea you thought anything different?

"people who have authorized access to material [divulging] it based on their own assessment", when their assessment is that said material is being classified or suppressed to hide government waste or malfeasance, is the very definition of whistle blowing. Period, full stop. If you say this should be prosecuted, as you do above, you cannot also claim to support any protection for whistle blowers. Because whistle blowing is nothing more, and nothing less, than someone with privileged access to information assessing said information's privilege on their own, and finding it to be a betrayal of the common good, and/or the law."

No. Whistle blowing also means bringing classified material to the attention of people who also are allowed to see it (perhaps an independent, Congressionally supervised committee) who can provide a second opinion as to the alleged malfeasance. If you believe that some material needs to be classified (which I do) it makes absolutely no sense for people to be able to disclose it using their own independent judgment.

sapient,

A low-level clerk discovers some impropriety happening under cover of classification. She brings it to the attention of her boss -- or, if it's the boss's own impropriety, to the attention of HIS boss. That person can bring it to the attention of the agency head -- or, if the agency head authorized the impropriety, to the attention of the relevant congressional committee. The committee can call it to the attention of the president -- or, if it's the president's own classified directive that authorized the agency head to order the lowly clerk's boss to commit the impropriety, to the attention of the PRESIDENT's boss.

I hope we agree that the president's "boss" is the public. The problem is that the WHOLE POINT of "classification" is to deny certain information to "the public".

So what would you have the relevant congressional committee do? Honor its pledge to not divulge "classified" information, or bring the impropriety to the attention of the president's boss?

Also, what would you have the lowly clerk do when the impropriety continues long after she blows the whistle to her boss's boss?

--TP

A whistleblower shouldn't have to bring a case to her boss unless that was a comfortable first step. A better procedure would allow complaints initially to be filed initially (by the lowly clerk) with an independent review board. Reporting by the board would be required. Skeletal information about the results of any review could be published.

Although I've stated my belief that it's important for the government to have the ability to maintain certain classified information, my impression is that classification has gotten way out of hand, and that much more material is classified than should be (not to mention that the NSA, etc., are way more massive than it should be). That is a problem that requires oversight. But if maintaining classified information is to have any meaning at all, people can't be allowed to disclose it at will. Or if they do, they can attain "hero" status by accepting the sometimes unpleasant consequences. That said, I think it's possible to work on whistleblower protection procedures while at the same time maintaining the ability for the government to maintain necessary secrets.

But you know what, Tony P.? Most of the horrible news that I'm reading right now is about things being done by Republicans right in front of my face. In fact, this has been true for quite a long time. It's been pretty obvious to this voter who's been doing what to whom, even if I don't know every detail. So somehow, right now, although it's certainly a worthy topic, it isn't on the top of my list.

Geez -- y'all ain't clappin' nearly hard enough yet.

The terrorists and Republicans are totally winning.

sapient: No due process in war, Ugh.

Really? What were all those Geneva Convention thingys about then? And which part of the Constitution says due process is suspended in war? I see the part about the Great Writ in cases of rebellion/invasion, anything else?

"Or if they do, they can attain "hero" status by accepting the sometimes unpleasant consequences."

Unpleasant consequences are for the little people, including whistleblowers. For the not-so-little, we have to look forwards, not backwards.

A low-level clerk discovers some impropriety happening under cover of classification.

There are actually toll-free numbers to call to report impropriety in the area of e.g. Department of Defense, even if the information is classified. You're not going to be able to discuss classified details over the open line, but they will get you someone to talk to over a STU line, or in person.

I can look it up if you want me to. I believe this is one of perhaps several hotlines available for Defense-related help.

Of course, such things become more complicated to report with higher levels of classification and compartmentalization. For garden-variety Secret and TS reporting, though, it should be a piece of cake. Start getting into some tightly compartmentalized areas and you might have to leave out some classified details until investigators can be read into the compartment.

NB: I really have no idea what that might look like, as my own experience with DoD clearances is at a much more mundane level.

Ugh, did you read my subsequent comments? Yes. I miswrote - I was talking about dead people.

Donald, gotcha.

"The terrorists and Republicans are totally winning." Sadly so.

In addition to having people kidnapped in Kenya and sent to Somalia to be held in bedbug infested prisons and "interrogated freely" (which I'm sure is not a euphemism for torture) we also have the US government requesting the arrest of US citizens in foreign countries who are then tortured by the local government while being questioned by the FBI.

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