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September 15, 2014

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Definitely a case of "Just when you think you've heard everything."

The only possible justification I can come up with (and it is purely speculation) is that maybe the group is, contrary to its assertions, in fact a government black-ops cover. That would at least make the "national security" argument make some sense. Of course, it would also mean that whichever agency is running it is in violation of Federal law by trying to influence domestic political opinion....

wj - I was thinking the same thing, but hard to say assertion of the privilege is justified if there are potential criminal acts underlying it, as you note.

I have to say, I'm pretty jaded and this definitely stunned me a little bit.

I'm betting its something really stupid, likely to save someone from embarrassment. There are a number of Obama (and W, and Clinton) advisors on the rolls of UANI according to Wikipedia.

Or, alternatively, as any number of those advisors likely had clearance, maybe some classified reports on Iran's capabilities entered circulation at UANI.

Coverup of unauthorized release of documents and saving face.

Honestly, I sort of don't get it. Unless there is something to the story that is missing...how is this not going to blow up in their face? This is going to bring all kinds of publicity and pressure to this group, this case, and to the DoJ.

...how is this not going to blow up in their face?

Easy, since Iran is EVIL, it will not have many defenders and those that do/are can be discredited easily (they are defending EVIL people, for Jessica's sake!). Compare the treatment of lawyers for Gitmo inmates.

The NYT itself speculated about an Israel connection, in this portion--

"Another possibility is that the Justice Department is trying to protect foreign relations with Israel, a vital ally. In court documents, Mr. Lowell has accused United Against Nuclear Iran of being financed by unidentified foreign interests. He has tried to force the testimony of Israel’s former intelligence chief and a prominent Israeli businessman, who he said helped pass information about his client.

Lee S. Wolosky, a lawyer for United Against Nuclear Iran, said the group had received no money from foreign donors. He said nobody on its advisory committee — which includes Meir Dagan, the former Israeli intelligence chief — was involved in Mr. Restis’ case. "

The whole concept is deeply antithetical to democracy, and has been bullshit since day one. Sadly, it's bad faith all the way down.

can be discredited easily

Both sad and true...but only up to a point. At some point that just stops working because the inherent ridiculousness of the assertion of authority (in this case, state secrets) becomes too hard to ignore.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Is it more like Kafka or 1984?

I was thinking that it'd make the perfect Onion story.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

I think a better motto for today's politics is "show me a good loser and Ill show you a loser".

show me a good loser and Ill show you a loser

It's hard to argue with tautologies.

CharleyCarp: Sadly, it's bad faith all the way down.

I think you mentioned once that it took a great deal of bad faith before a judge would stop assuming that the government was operating in good faith when responding to court orders and dealing with the other side. There might have been a name for it but now I've forgotten.

There might have been a name for it but now I've forgotten.

Phillips Faith of Magnesia

Maybe the presumption of regularity.

I believe the presumption of regularity (http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-presumption-regularity-explain-286858 ), also called the good faith presumption, is correct. Greenfield had a post about it a few months ago:

http://blog.simplejustice.us/2014/05/23/dont-blame-the-good-faith-presumption/

I'd agree with him. It's not the fact that we assume good faith on the part of the government (indeed, most government employees I've met I'd describe as acting in good faith). It's that the presumption has become axiomatic.

It's also curious how this intersects with the assertion of state secrets. Since its presumed the government is acting regularly and anything declared secret is validly secret...well, yeah, it seems to be a bulletproof way to hide 'irregularity.'

Speaking of irregularity, the 9th circuit had this to say:

The extraordinary nature of the surveillance here demonstrates a need to deter future violations. So far as we can tell from the record, it has become a routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/09/12/child-pornography-conviction-overturned-because-the-government-violated-the-posse-comitatus-act/

Thanks for the link to the Volokh Conspiracy. I've mostly stop reading it because the infuriating hack to interesting commentator ratio became too skewed for me.

This quote, from the dissenting opinion, is extremely depressing:

The exclusionary rule is “a judicially created remedy of [the Supreme Court’s] own making” whose “sole purpose” is “to deter misconduct by law enforcement.” … [E]xclusion is “our last resort, not our first impulse.” …

This is really sad. One might think that the purpose of the exclusionary rule is to vindicate the constitutional rights of the accused. Apparently not.

infuriating hack to interesting commentator ratio became too skewed for me.

I only read it when it is linked from another source. In this case, I think I saw it on /. but I'm not 100%.

But, yeah, I'd agree with that assessment in general. Every once in a while there is a good post.

Regarding the Brennen encounter...I think it's entirely expected. Congress has been yielding its authority to the executive for a long time now for political expediency. At some point, they need to be willing to take action against the executive if they want respect.

At some point, they need to be willing to take action against the executive if they want respect.

Yeah, thanks. That's been my beef with Congress for a very long time.

Three branches of Government, People! Not the evil Executive branch "grabbing" power. I give you the inept, stupid, bought Congress, thank you very much! And the ideologue mostly-Republican-appointed Supreme Court!

In current times, we're pretty lucky to have an exceptionally insightful and moral President to fill the vacuum. Love you, Barack!

And as for the main post, it's pretty obvious that Holder is protecting CIA undercover ops. Okay, so not "Kafka". Not "1984". But Valerie Plame, CIA stuff.

You don't like it that we have a foreign intelligence agency. Good for you.

This is another iteration of something I realized decades ago: To the extent that the government keeps secrets from us, we are not a republic.

I do have a problem with the US waging an undeclared war against Iran - this is not spy vs spy stuff, it's war.

And as for executive power, from the article:

The government’s power in such cases is absolute. Once it declares that information would jeopardize national security, a judge cannot force the government to reveal it.

IIRC, every case where the State Secrets Privilege has been used, and the underlying "secret" later revealed, has been completely BOGUS.

From the very first case, where the SSP was first established by those black-robed radical legislators from the bench.

Really, invoking SSP should be "automatic legal forfeit".

i?

Three branches of Government, People! Not the evil Executive branch "grabbing" power.

Branches yielding power to the executive are not an excuse for the executive taking that power.

And as for the main post, it's pretty obvious that Holder is protecting CIA undercover ops.

And your evidence for that is...?

I can't seem to fix the ital

fixed. novakant used an em tag, not an italic tag

To repeat, the NYT passed on the possibility that the US is protecting lobbying by the Israeli government.

But if it was black ops in Iran, there've been some Iranian nuclear scientists who've been assassinated. I'd like to know if we're doing that.

Donald:

To repeat, the NYT passed on the possibility that the US is protecting lobbying by the Israeli government.

I'd seen that. I suppose (and I don't know if you are trying to make this argument) I don't few that as a legitimate use of state secrets.

I view it as a possible explanation, but not as a possible *justification*.

Branches yielding power to the executive are not an excuse for the executive taking that power.

That's an interesting point of view, but it's not a fact. The State Secrets Doctrine was created by the Judiciary. It's a power that is recognized under the Constitution, not because of an executive coup, but because other branches of government have allowed it. In your view, the Executive Department shouldn't exercise its Constitutional power.

I don't like the State Secrets doctrine. But if I were in the Executive Branch, and I felt that I needed to use it in order to protect the security of the country, I would. People would wonder what was up, and whether I was hiding corruption or unlawful activity, and that would be very understandable. Still, it wouldn't change my mind if I felt that assertion of the privilege was a legitimately in the national interest.

Considering that United Against Nuclear Iran was founded and is staffed by former intelligence officers of various countries, they probably have knowledge of things that are still classified. Do I wish I knew more? Absolutely. There are probably narrower ways to solve this problem. But if the Executive has the power, no questions asked, to stifle it, why should the Executive go through hoops instead?

"I suppose (and I don't know if you are trying to make this argument) I don't few that as a legitimate use of state secrets.

I view it as a possible explanation, but not as a possible *justification*."

I agree. I don't think it's a justification, if true. It'd be a disgrace.

"But if the Executive has the power, no questions asked, to stifle it, why should the Executive go through hoops instead?"

That's certainly how they seem to feel about it.

More fun here.

The document, from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the N.S.A., notes that the agency had been compiling records of visits to pornographic websites and proposes using that information to damage the reputations of people whom the agency considers “radicalizers” — not necessarily terrorists, but those attempting, through the use of incendiary speech, to radicalize others.

It's all good though.

It's all good though.

I'm not sure that anyone takes the position that "It's all good." It's obvious to most people that Government agencies, especially FBI and CIA, abuse power occasionally, and have to be checked. All humans, and human institutions, are capable of doing things that are wrong, mistaken, ill-advised, etc., but also the opposite.

However, the poorly sourced article [using discredited Snowden's word for much of it] implies that the NSA is "compiling records" of American citizens. Of course, when you read the Huffington Post article, it's not clear that anyone in question was a citizen. If the Israeli information came from the NSA, then we need to complain, as the folks in Israel are doing.

The information age is scary in a lot of ways. The concept of privacy is changing. For example, when I walk into my office, I'm on camera. I suggest that Government needs information to the same extent everyone else uses it. I'd prefer not to handicap people in charge of my country's security by forbidding them to collect information that my business's landlord is easily able to obtain. How they use it is not "all good". Abuses need to be called out, but it takes more than the Executive Branch of government to restrain itself. The other two branches need to play their Constitutional role.

Snowden has been discredited? Cool. So all that stuff he stole from the NSA he just made up.

From Ugh's link--

"Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society."

Of course the Israeli whistleblowers might not be referring to any info that they got from the NSA. In fact, surely not, because it's not like we'd ever assist our allies the Israelis in hurting Palestinian civilians in any way whatsoever. Perish the thought.

"

Let's parse this sentence: 'Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications."

Snowden supposedly knows that transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications ... of "countless" (he didn't count them?) Arab- and Palestinian-Americans (he verified their nationalities?) whose relatives (he did a family tree?) in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets (they could? well, sure, who can't we say the same about. We are all potential "targets".) ...

Snowden had a lot of information. He didn't have any of that information in context. All of the above is pure speculation.

Should we worry about stuff? Sure. I'm not one to say the "information age" is harmless. When people talk about government having information versus corporations having it, the scare words are "but government can put people in jail!!!" Sure. But, as here, anyone can embarrass, discredit and intimidate, and you bet your britches that your opponents, whoever they may be, can probably do that with information technology. It's ugly. Just google it!

sapient:

In your view, the Executive Department shouldn't exercise its Constitutional power.

That would be a great point, if I had at any time said that. In the future, I'd appreciate if you'd refrain from telling me what I think.

I'm all for the executive utilizing its powers under the constitution. I think that's a necessary part of government. However, I don't think they should go beyond that.

I also don't think congress failing to execute its responsibilities as a check to the executive as justification for the executive expanding its power.

For example, when we attacked Libya in 2011. Congress did nothing functional. Didn't authorize force, didn't condemn it. The administration deployed forces in the absence of congressional approval.

I think congress should have made a decision to intervene, or not, and made it clear to the executive. I think the decision to deploy military force should reside with congress, and not the executive. It is inexcusable, imho, that congress abdicated its responsibility.

However, also imho, that doesn't justify the executive taking that action without congressional authorization.

I don't like the State Secrets doctrine. But if I were in the Executive Branch, and I felt that I needed to use it in order to protect the security of the country, I would.

I similarly recognize somethings are important to keep secret. However, there are things sap my faith in the system. For example, in the past has been revealed to be hiding corruption and incompetence, as others have alluded to. Especially concerning is this a nominally a private group with no ties to the government. What state secrets could they legitimately possess?

Considering that United Against Nuclear Iran was founded and is staffed by former intelligence officers of various countries, they probably have knowledge of things that are still classified.

I'd point out that DoJ intervened in response to a subpoena for the donor list and information UANI had about the plaintiff. And at no point should any classified document have found its way into the possession of UANI, even if its members had clearance. So, I'm left wondering what possible justification the DoJ could have.

But this brings me back to an earlier question. You said:

And as for the main post, it's pretty obvious that Holder is protecting CIA undercover ops

I don't find that obvious at all. I don't actually see any evidence suggesting that is the case. I'm actually confused how a legitimate CIA operation could be involving a non-profit trying to sway public opinion. So, I'm curious what you think is going on, and what facts in this case make it 'obvious' to you.

But if the Executive has the power, no questions asked, to stifle it, why should the Executive go through hoops instead?

Because transparent governance is in the best interests of the country, and I like to think that's what the executive is working towards.

Regarding Ugh's recent link:

it's not clear that anyone in question was a citizen

One of them was either a citizen or a permanent resident, who hold many of the same rights as citizens.

implies that the NSA is "compiling records" of American citizens.

There are other examples. Frex: http://techcrunch.com/2014/07/09/nsa-and-fbi-spied-on-muslim-american-leaders/

Well, thompson, I'll go in reverse order with your points, except skipping techcrunch, which maybe I'll look at later.

One of them was either a citizen or a permanent resident, who hold many of the same rights as citizens.

The "citizen" or "permanent resident" was living abroad, and we don't know who he was. You don't specify what "many of the same rights as citizens" is for "permanent residents of the United States" who are "living abroad" [permanent residents of the U.S. living abroad? Oxymoron anyone?]

The fact is we don't know anything about any of these people. You are speculating the worst, which is your right.

Because transparent governance is in the best interests of the country, and I like to think that's what the executive is working towards.

Sure. Me too. But really? If there was a legitimate (in your view) secret, and you had a legal tool to keep it that way, wouldn't you use it? If you were a lawyer, and you didn't use it, you'd be in breach of your ethical obligations to represent your client zealously within the bounds of the law. So, sure, let all the nuclear secrets out because you don't like the state secrets privilege. If you were President, you could be impeached. If you were a lawyer, you'd be disbarred.

I'm actually confused how a legitimate CIA operation could be involving a non-profit trying to sway public opinion.

I'm not confused at all. The non-profit is staffed by former intelligence agents from three different countries. Whether they have classified material (documents) or not, they know stuff. We don't happen to know what they know that Eric Holder doesn't want made public through this court proceeding. It's probably not a current "op". It's probably an op that occurred while some of these guys were working. It's not too hard to use your imagination to figure out that classified stuff regarding operations that occurred during the past 10 years could be revealed.

On the other hand, I get it that too much stuff is classified, and that we're too tight with Israel. I agree with that, but it's tough to imagine changing it.

this a nominally a private group

You're letting corporations be people again. It's a private group made of ex-spooks. (Ex? Do we know?)

I'm all for the executive utilizing its powers under the constitution. I think that's a necessary part of government. However, I don't think they should go beyond that.

Cool, you don't think that the State Secrets privilege is Constitutional, so you don't think the Executive Department should use it. Unfortunately, thompson's Rules of Constitutional Construction are irrelevant to what the Constitution is all about. The Judiciary made up the State Secrets rule (or imported it from English law). Congress is okay with it. The Executive can then assert it - doing so is not unconstitutional. Do I wish that somebody would get rid of it? I sure do - I wish the Courts would revisit the issue and narrow it, at least. Or, Congress could do so. It's not up to the Executive to decide to spill national secrets in the interests of "transparency". The Executive is not self-limiting. That's not how the Constitution works. That's how thompson wishes life would be.


Donald Johnson: Regarding Snowden (who now works for your close soulmate, Putin): please read.

"And nearly as soon as Obama took office, Snowden developed a deep aversion to the new president. TheTrueHOOHA reacted furiously when Obama named Leon Panetta as his new director of central intelligence. But it was Panetta’s credentials he objected to, not his stance on surveillance matters. “Obama just named a fucking politician to run the CIA,” Snowden erupted. And he became furious about Obama’s domestic policies on a variety of fronts. For example, he was offended by the possibility that the new president would revive a ban on assault weapons. “See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment,” Snowden wrote, in another chat. “Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.”"

The conscience of the man! Truly a great civil libertarian.

I read the techcrunch (techcrunch?) article, thompson. Greenwald is going to publish some new revelation about this spying (which appears to have been authorized by FISA, in other words, law)? When?

Tick tock.

Whether they have classified material (documents) or not, they know stuff.

How does that relate to a subpoena for documents? The government wasn't objecting to a demand to have the staff testify about anything. They were objecting to a demand for files. Which documentation, if it indeed contains state secrets, the organization has no obvious need nor authorization to have. (And if the staff members were recording secret information which they know in the files of their current employer, they are in violation of the law regarding state secrets.)

How does that relate to a subpoena for documents?

I don't know. Maybe these people knew things that they wrote down? We don't know. That's the point. It's the effort of the government to keep us from knowing.

Okay, I don't like it either. I want to know everything too. In a perfect world, we all would. But it's not a perfect world.

There are a lot of classified documents that I wish were revealed. I'm completely annoyed that over 50 years after Kennedy was assassinated, there are still classified documents about the assassination.

I would support any effort for Congress to restrict the classification of documents, or for the courts to curtail the state secrets privilege. I'm not going to expect the Executive branch to do so - the President is the one who will take the entire fallout if something goes wrong with what is revealed. It makes no sense to put that on the President. Not only this President, but any President.

It, I say if, the folks there wrote down the secret information that they have, the the duty of the Justice Department is clear: they should be prosecuted for that violation of the law, and the documents siezed. But note that neither of those things have happened. Why not?

who now works for your close soulmate

Sapient, really, stop being a jerk. You can make your point without these pissy little asides.

I saw the name Sean Wilentz, sapient, and didn't read. I vaguely recall that he'd written a hatchet job about Snowden sometime back. I saw a book from the local library about Snowden and may read that. Whether Snowden is perfect or not and his personal politics don't interest me that much. In the real world one sometimes votes for imperfect people and one can also learn things about our government from imperfect people.

The crack about Putin as my soul mate was just some random brain static from you, I think. It made no sense.

On Snowden's claims about info given to Israel--I would prefer to see some actual NSA document about that myself, but it hardly seems unlikely, given that the US probably does cooperate with Israel on intelligence matters to some degree and the Israeli whistleblowers say that their government engages in the usual sort of Stasi-like dirty tricks one expects from intelligence agencies. Given what else we've helped the Israelis do to Palestinians, what Snowden claims is actually pretty small potatoes by comparison.

The conscience of the man! Truly a great civil libertarian.

Sapient,

The sarcasm dripping from that comment may well be justified (i.e., Snowden might well be a libertarian right wing, Putin puppet jerk), but the politics of it make you look like an asshole to many of your fellow Democrats. Certainly not all, not most, or even not that many. But that is the audience, small as it may be, that is exhorted every election to vote Dem no matter how often you tell them they are f*cking childlike idiots.

I would remind you that hippie punching may have unintended consequences.

But whatever. The real question is what do the documents Snowden has revealed show, and what is the import of that information? To assert that FISA is "the law" and therefore the abuses that "the law" imply are justified is simply Kafkaesque, verging on tautology. Racist assholes used the same line of reasoning to justify segregation....it was the law you know...until a significant number of people said, "Enough! This ends now."

I mean, you gotta' be kidding.

I, for one, do not really give a rat's ass as to whether or not Snowden is a 2nd Amendment jerk, and I do not try to divine his motivations.

Just food for thought, sir. Live long and prosper. Thank you.

On the other hand, I get it that too much stuff is classified, and that we're too tight with Israel. I agree with that, but it's tough to imagine changing it.

No, it is not "tough" to "imagine changing it". It is tough changing it. How about you join those trying to do so?

Regards,

the politics of it make you look like an asshole to many of your fellow Democrats.

I have no doubt that you're correct. If those fellow Democrats don't go out and vote for the better of two candidates because I don't agree with them that Snowden is any kind of hero, they deserve the condescension. Snowden did not reveal to me that the National Security State is too big. Dana Priest and William Arkin weren't "heroic" enough for them, because they didn't steal other people's computer passwords or download boatloads of information and revealing it straight to the world. I didn't elect Snowden to be my civil liberator, or my revelator.

FISA is comparable to Jim Crow? How hysterical, in the true sense of that word.

How would you suggest changing our relationship with Israel, by the way, bobbyp?

Donald, you won't read a "hatchet job" of Snowden because he's been discredited, but you don't want to believe that. Don't let the truth interrupt your dream.

It, I say if, the folks there wrote down the secret information that they have, the the duty of the Justice Department is clear: they should be prosecuted for that violation of the law, and the documents siezed. But note that neither of those things have happened. Why not?

Not sure what scenario you're imagining, wj. We obviously don't know what's going on. If this is so outrageous, maybe you should request an answer from your Congressperson, and start a movement for other people to do so? I'm not outraged, so I'll save my energy for other issues where I can actually make a difference.

How hysterical, in the true sense of that word. (emp mine)

Errr...

1610s, from Latin hystericus "of the womb," from Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb" (see uterus). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. Meaning "very funny" (by 1939) is from the notion of uncontrollable fits of laughter.

I'm relatively sure you aren't a misogynist, but I hope you feel some embarassment. Try taking it down a few notches and maybe you won't say something stupid like that again.

I was aware of the etymology, lj, but thanks for the lesson. "True sense" doesn't mean "archaic sense".

sapient:

You don't specify what "many of the same rights as citizens" is for "permanent residents of the United States"

The 4th amendment, which in theory provides broad protection against this kind of surveillance.

permanent residents of the U.S. living abroad? Oxymoron anyone?

No, that's not an oxymoron. Permanent residence is a legal status. Their actual location doesn't matter. Just like an American citizen can live in another country without losing their rights.

The fact is we don't know anything about any of these people.

We know one is a permanent resident, and entitled to 4th amendment protections.

If there was a legitimate (in your view) secret, and you had a legal tool to keep it that way, wouldn't you use it?

Yes, I would. However, some people might also use it to protect things illegitimately. This case doesn't seem to have any legitimate reason, as there is no legal way for this group to be in possession of classified documents.

If you were a lawyer, and you didn't use it, you'd be in breach of your ethical obligations to represent your client zealously within the bounds of the law.

There is exactly one legitimate reason for AG Holder to assert state secrets: a threat to national security.

You're letting corporations be people again. It's a private group made of ex-spooks.

Red herring. "Private" is a pretty widely used adjective to describe non-governmental entities. Corporate personhood was not mentioned, and is completely irrelevant. I really don't care what spies do in their off time or their golden years. But they don't get a free pass on civil discovery because they are/were spies.

Cool, you don't think that the State Secrets privilege is Constitutional, so you don't think the Executive Department should use it.

Again, sapient, don't tell me what I think. You're remarkably bad at it.

I read the techcrunch (techcrunch?) article, thompson.

Did you? It summarized a Greenwald article with a list of US persons under surveillance. I would have linked to Greenwald directly, but honestly I don't care for his writing style. I provided it as an example of data collection on US persons. As an aside, I find techcrunch to be a perfectly fine news aggregator.

If you want more, how about full take data collection of the Bahamas? Or do you believe no US citizen ever made a phone call from the Bahamas?

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-nsa-recording-every-cell-phone-call-bahamas/

I don't know. Maybe these people knew things that they wrote down?

If they recorded or transcribed classified information to documents in the possession of UANI, that would be illegal. I would be disappointed if the DoJ is using state secrets to conceal wrongdoing of administration officials, to say the least.

It's not too hard to use your imagination to figure out that classified stuff regarding operations that occurred during the past 10 years could be revealed.

Your imagination is clearly better than mine if you can come up with a legal way classified information ended up discoverable in documents request to a political advocacy group.

Okay, I don't like it either. I want to know everything too.

I don't want to know everything, and never said I did. But this seems like a ridiculous and illegitimate use of state secrets. I am concerned both with what it is concealing, and also the precedent of allowing the government to arbitrarily intervene in civil suits that don't involve it.

Not sure what scenario you're imagining, wj.

I wouldn't want to speak for wj, but I think what he is imagining if there are classified documents in the possession of private organization, that would likely be illegal. Something the DoJ should investigate, rather than conceal.

I'm not going to expect the Executive branch to do so

That much is clear. Personally, I hope that the executive would rise above the failures of the other branches. That they don't grab power, even if other branches yield it. In that sense they could help maintain a system of effective checks and balances.

I would prefer to see some actual NSA document about that myself

Here you go, document is linked in the article:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents

And as for the main post, it's pretty obvious that Holder is protecting CIA undercover ops.

[...]

We obviously don't know what's going on.

Make up your mind. Is it obvious what's going on or is it beyond our naive DFH ken? I know the only important thing is that we shut up and stop questioning the Executive, but is consistency too much to ask?

However, I will say I was passingly amused by your belittling DJ for not being willing to read the Wilentz piece given the fervor and volume with which you frequently, loudly, and proudly remind us of your categorical refusal to even consider reading anything Greenwald pens. So thank you for that.

Not sure what scenario you're imagining, wj.

sapient, the context (which I should have included) is this: I wrote
How does that relate to a subpoena for documents?
To which you responded:
I don't know. Maybe these people knew things that they wrote down?

That's the scenario that you proposed for why the DoJ was invoking State Secrets in opposing the subpoena. And I was attempting to point out that, if that happened, then the folks who wrote those things down were in violation of the State Secrets law as well. And DoJ, which apparently knew of it, should have acted on that knowledge.

And, as it happens, I have written my Congressman. I might not have been outraged previously, but if the DoJ is going to inject itself into a private civil law suit, it better have a seriously solid reason to do so. And I'm having trouble imagining one -- your being the best scenario I have heard, and it is problematic at best. And the other possibilities suggested here are, IMHO, worse.

"Donald, you won't read a "hatchet job" of Snowden because he's been discredited, but you don't want to believe that."

It is irrelevant to me whether Snowden is a rightwing libertarian with fanatical beliefs about guns. Snowden is important for the documents he has released, not for his own assertions. As I said already, I'd prefer to see a document showing that the NSA had done what he claims--if it is just his claim, then I take it with a grain of salt.

I read the Wilentz piece. I'm not sure what difference this is supposed to make to me. Snowden's politics aren't mine, but I don't think the current administration or the previous one can be trusted and I welcome leakers, until we have a government with genuine checks and balances (including for war criminals).

Okay, sapient, your turn to read a link. This Wilentz piece was discussed at Crooked Timber, as I think I mentioned when you brought it up at the time. My views are pretty much the same as Henry's in this post--

link

If Snowden were running for office, I might care about his views on various subjects. Since he isn't, I don't.

wj: The US doesn't have a "State Secrets Law", unlike the UK.

It has security clearances, which is based on contracts between the US and individuals, and the Espionage Act, which criminalizes passing on info to "enemies".

The State Secrets Privilege (SSP) is a judicially-created (at executive request) bypass of the judicial system. Not a law, not even particularly legitimate. The normal way of handling classified info in court is to have it reviewed by the judge and (cleared) lawyers "in chambers", so that the adversarial legal process is still valid. A claim of SSP is that the info is SO SUPER SEKRET that not even that is good enough, so the whole case has to be tossed. Yet, strangely enough, the cases where the basis for SSP has been revealed show that the actual basis is "this is too damn embarrassing, so we want it to go away". If the US presented that "secret because embarrassing" evidence, even in a secret in-chambers hearing, they'd just LOSE.

Unfortunately, since SSP is judicially-created out of whole cloth, even Federal law can't necessarily reign it in, and as Roberts and his Merry Band of Judicial Hacks has demonstrated, even the actual text of a constitutional amendment (15th, sec2) can't be counted on to stop the abuse.

Snarki, apologies for my sloppy phrasing. As you say, we have security clearances.

But there are laws surrounding those clearances, including around the disclosure of classified ("secret") materials. See, for example, 18 U.S. Code § 791 - 799 (AKA Espionage Act). FYI, possible penalties include fines, and prison terms of up to 10 years.

You agree with Henry, but you didn't read the piece, Donald?

I don't agree with Henry, and I did read the piece. That doesn't mean that I admire everything that Wilentz has ever written and done. The Democratic primary in 2008 was nasty, particularly by Hillary Clinton's supporters and campaign. I consider that to be politics - ugly politics, but politics.

In contrast, Snowden isn't a politician, he's someone who seeks sympathy for having broken the law to attain a higher purpose. His credibility and motives are important if you're going to believe other things he says. It's not just Snowden's politics that are questioned in the article; it's his willingness to shade the truth, to inflate his resume, etc. His analysis of the documents he stole is colored by his desire to redeem himself as a whistleblower. I don't trust his objectivity.

My opinion of Greenwald is based on several years of reading him, and occasionally interacting at his blog, before I realized that his agenda was to promote himself and vilify any dissenters, no matter how minor their differences.

Sorry, Donald. I was reading your comments one by one and didn't see that you read the Wiletnz article. My comment still stands, however. My discussion of Snowden was related to Ugh's link to the Bamford article, which was based on his time with Snowden, and Snowden's narrative.

Greenwald has an overly prickly personality--I agree with much of what he writes in spite of this. I had an email exchange with him back in 2009, I think, which was unnecessarily nasty on his end. (I argued that Bush wasn't as much of an aberration for US foreign policy as he and others thought and GG disagreed in his characteristically harsh and personal fashion--I think he has shifted my way since on that point.) I didn't stop reading him because I think he's a jerk sometimes.


Snowden--same thing. If he runs for office, his other views will matter to me. What he says without documentary backing I take into account, but as someone who wanted to be in the intelligence community, it would not be surprising if he spins things.

It would be nice if we had a country where government officials could be held accountable for their actions, but since we don't, I'm glad there are people like Manning, Snowden and Assange who do what they do, even if they're not saints.

It would be nice if we had a country where government officials could be held accountable for their actions, but since we don't, I'm glad there are people like Manning, Snowden and Assange who do what they do, even if they're not saints.

To whom should government officials be accountable? To the entire country, most of whom couldn't care less? Or to a subset of people who are interested? Or more precisely, to an even smaller subset of people who don't accept that we delegate a certain amount of national security authority to people who act in secret (in some ways jusifiably)?

Or do we trust self-appointed vigilantes who are willing to betray the trust of their government?

I agree that in true "whistleblower" situations, where people are circumspect about what they divulge, say when people work with reporters who are willing to interview a number of people and sift through evidence to try to find an objective truth, these people deserve respect and deference. Obviously, when they break the law, they face prosecution, and have to mount a defense. That's why they are true heroes. The guys you mention? Not so much. At least Manning was willing to pay a price (probably on behalf of Assange).

Everyone in the country knew, from Dana Priest's and William Arkin's reporting, that the national security state deserved "discussion". People didn't care about it at all until they had a bandwagon in the form of someone they could perceive as an anti-government hero. I think the American people should be accountable for the lazy way they approach democracy.

Or perhaps people only "cared" when they had some concrete evidence of just how much was going on. Say "the national security state deserves discussion" and you won't get anywhere near the interest for that abstraction as you will when someone shows that lots of clearly-not-related-to-national-security e-mails have been intercepted and read, and likewise phone calls recorded. That is something specific that people can relate to -- because they can see that it could be their e-mails and phone calls.

The person who actually revealed the specifics? Far less important, in my opinion. At most, he matters because the cries of outrage directed at him helped keep the situation in front of people until they picked up on what was going on. But I'm just not seeing "anti-government hero" as being a factor. (After all, those who were looking for one mostly already were on-board with the idea that the national security state was a problem.)

Or perhaps people only "cared" when they had some concrete evidence of just how much was going on.

Concrete evidence? Do you mean out-of-context documents that represent a .00001 of whatever the foreign policy they were a piece of? How enlightening, Americans! Americans, go sleuth it out!

The same story that shows up here all the time: so many people think that they can do somebody else's job better. 'cept they won't do it, either because they don't have the credentials, they won't devote the time, or they won't take the pay.

I think the American people should be accountable for the lazy way they approach democracy.

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writer's Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Bertolt Brecht - "The Solution"

Where is the uprising, novakant, and what is it about? Do you consider Obsidian Wings an uprising? I would take a walk on 6th Avenue in New York to see how worried people are about their civil rights. Or, in contrast, take a look here in Central Virginia, and notice the "Impeach the Benghazi Beast!" bumper sticker on the Mercedes convertable (and, yes, it was a nice day today). Or, if we're talking about people who really could use a better government, go check out the Section 8 housing where I work, where people do not give a rat's ass about the NSA.

Where's the uprising Bertholt? And what is it about?

Manning's revelations included details of how the US and Yemen lied about a US drone strike that killed civilians, and how the current administration worked to keep other countries from prosecuting torturers. There was information about Iraqi civilian casualties that had gone unreported. All trivial stuff, of course. Snark aside, I don't respect our government when it pretends to have moral values it clearly doesn't practice, so can't sympathize with American politicians or their fan base who get upset over some security breach. It'd be better if we had a government that obeyed its own laws regarding human rights and investigated and prosecuted its own war criminals and told the truth when it blew up civilians (even better if they didn't blow up civilians) and which didn't supply arms to allies knowing that they will be used to blow up still more civilians. It's also be better if people didn't make excuses for such actions when their guy is in the White House.

How many people lived because the U.S. fought a drone war against people who were intent on killing civilians?

Count that, and talk to me about morality.

Ooo, ooo, I know the answer to this one! Precisely one-eleventeenth of the number who lived because our drones' forward-leaning collateral damage killed civilians whose not-yet-conceived children were on track to grow up to be the next Hitlers.

Stop counting conveniently-plastic counterfactuals as known quantities, and talk to us about morality.

The drone war - apart from being cruel, immoral terror against civilians - is counterproductive:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/25/drone-attacks-pakistan-counterproductive-report

Stop counting conveniently-plastic counterfactuals as known quantities, and talk to us about morality.

A war against people organized to kill civilians is moral, in my view. Civilian casualties need to be avoided, but it's not possible to eliminate them entirely. It's your prerogative to disagree.

Perhaps you believe your moral compass is pointing True North if you watch the suicide bombings, kidnappings, extortion and beheadings of civilians, and deny responsibility to try to stop it. You are welcome to your higher state of consciousness.

To whom should government officials be accountable? To the entire country, most of whom couldn't care less?

Yes, to the entire country.

Seriously, have we gotten to the point where we are questioning if the government should be accountable to the populace?

If so, this conversation has had a pretty sad trajectory.

How many people lived because the U.S. fought a drone war against people who were intent on killing civilians?

I'd like to think that the ones supporting the killing should have the burden of making that case.

Yes, to the entire country.

Seriously, have we gotten to the point where we are questioning if the government should be accountable to the populace?

Then respect the fact that the populace voted (or chose not to vote). They reelected the President, and their various Congressional representatives. They were on notice of the National Security State well before Snowden.

You try to have it both ways, thompson. The government is accountable to the people through the electoral process. You don't like it because you lost.

How many people lived because the U.S. fought a drone war against people who were intent on killing civilians?

Count that, and talk to me about morality.

And how many will die because those actions spurred people on to join the fight on the terrorist side? Or as Rummy put it (paraphrase): Do we kill more terrorists than we create?
All these numbers are pretty hypothetical unless a terrorist is caught in flagrante delicto seconds before pulling the trigger.

Then respect the fact that the populace voted (or chose not to vote).

I do, very much so. However, I don't believe that respecting the democratic process means I yield my right to criticize, debate, and advocate.

The government is accountable to the people through the electoral process.

Absolutely, and those elections should be informed and enabled by a robust public debate.

You try to have it both ways, thompson.

If by both ways, you mean an electoral process and the right to engage in political speech between elections, you are correct. I do want both those things.

You don't like it because you lost.

Of course, this is coming from someone who has consistently railed against legally elected republican congressmembers. Can't you "respect the fact that the populace voted"?

Of course you can. You can respect the outcome of elections without yielding your right to dissent, and advocate, and criticize. It's ludicrous that you seem to be implying otherwise.

They were on notice of the National Security State well before Snowden.

I would point out, that one of the co-authors of the Patriot Act thinks the NSA has misused its authority in wake of the snowden documents.

A senior congressman (Sensenbrenner), known for drafting a strong expansion of the national security apparatus, reversing course in wake of snowdens documents suggests that he was not "on notice" about the extent of the "National Security State".

Perhaps you believe your moral compass is pointing True North if you watch the suicide bombings, kidnappings, extortion and beheadings of civilians, and deny responsibility to try to stop it.

Then again, I can feel a responsibility to try and stop it if only I knew of an effective way to do so. But when we do not have such a method, is it a moral imperative to do something, regardless of its utility? Or is that just "feel good."

If I thought there was a way for us to smack down the sort of barbarism we see from, for example, ISIL and keep it down, that would be one thing. But as far as I can see, there isn't. Or, perhaps more accurately, there isn't one that we can apply from the outside.

The only thing that has been shown to work is for the folks on the ground there to reject it. Which they are, if anything, less likely to do if we go wading in. At most, we can do a little something to shut down supplies to the barbarians. But beyond that, all our actions do is let the folks who really need to do the job off the hook.

moral imperative to do something

To quote Schneier: Something must be done! This is something, therefore it must be done.

I don't believe that respecting the democratic process means I yield my right to criticize, debate, and advocate.

Who's asking you to do that? What I'm asking you to do is to recognize that the democratic process resulted in the National Security State, and that under the laws of this country, Snowden is probably guilty of a crime. He was not elected to determine whether or not material should be classified. In fact, he and his facilitators have chosen not even to live in the United States.

As to Hartmut's and wj's views regarding the effectiveness of intervention, thanks for bringing the subject back to policy rather than "morality".

recognize that the democratic process resulted in the National Security State

I recognize that there is a nominally democratic process, and that there is a national security state. However, that doesn't mean the scope and extent of the NSS was determined democratically.

Indeed, as I noted, the breadth of the NSS surprised a democratically elected legislator who drafted one of the laws its based on. In other words, large portions of the NSS are not democratically derived.

This is the fundamental problem with secrecy. I don't have an objection to operational secrecy, concealing Valerie Plame's job, etc. I have a problem with entire programs being concealed.

It's one thing if the extent of the NSA's collection was well known and discussed publicly, part of a debate that can inform the elections.

That is not the case now, and it certainly wasn't the case before the string of leaks.

Snowden is probably guilty of a crime

I would agree. That doesn't mean the documents he released to reporters are any less damning.

As to Hartmut's and wj's views regarding the effectiveness of intervention, thanks for bringing the subject back to policy rather than "morality".

I believe both of them were responding to comments you made. I'm sorry you don't appreciate responses to your comments. Personally, I find both Hartmut and wj to be worthwhile contributors, and I'm glad they take the time to add to the discussion.

I believe both of them were responding to comments you made. I'm sorry you don't appreciate responses to your comments. Personally, I find both Hartmut and wj to be worthwhile contributors, and I'm glad they take the time to add to the discussion.

I thanked them for bringing the discussion back to policy, where it belongs, rather than "morality" - the holier-than-thou crap that has no place in an honest discussion. I don't know what you're talking about here.

It's one thing if the extent of the NSA's collection was well known and discussed publicly, part of a debate that can inform the elections.

There are plenty of people who believe that the government has an obligation to protect the security of the United States, and that part of that responsibility involves secrecy. We can all discuss the particulars of what we think is appropriate or not, but I haven't seen any laws passed reforming the NSA, have you?

Despite all of the brouhaha regarding Executive power grabs, Congress still does nothing but assent.

Are you going to pretend that their inaction is anti-democratic as well after all of the public discussion that has gone on?

In fact, the will of the people is clear. They like the status quo. You don't, but don't pretend that the government is failing to be accountable to the people. You are not "the people".

sapient, I did take your point. But in thompson's defense, it took me two readings to see how you meant it.

I would say that policy and morality both come into it. Policy should not be divorced from moral considerations. But pushing morality which has no available policy implementation is pointless for anything but stoking up guilt.

"Civilian casualties need to be avoided, but it's not possible to eliminate them entirely. "

It's kind of basic common sense to realize that if a government chooses to lie about it when it does kill civilians then it doesn't have as much of an incentive to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum. Which is why it was a good thing that leaked stolen government documents show that the US government lied about a drone strike in Yemen that killed civilians. Which is why I cheer for people who leak such documents and think it is a disgrace that Manning is in jail while US government officials are not held accountable for lying.

If you support the drone program and think the civilian death toll should be minimized, you should applaud those who leak documents that expose government lying about civilian deaths. If you instead call for jailing people who leak those documents and ignore the lying, it suggests you have other priorities.

Amnesty International says wikileaks cable corroborates US drone strike

"If you support the drone program and think the civilian death toll should be minimized…"

BTW, the "you" in that paragraph doesn't just refer to sapient--it refers to all the people in Washington including politicians, government officials and pundits, who are obviously much more outraged by leaks than they are by government lies about civilian deaths.

It's kind of basic common sense to realize that if a government chooses to lie about it when it does kill civilians then it doesn't have as much of an incentive to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum.

That's absolutely not true. The government has a huge number of reasons to not want to advertise its own errors during a war. Obviously civilian casualties (even if they're minimal compared to other forms of warfare) give ammunition to those who oppose the war effort, and are great propaganda for the other side.

If you support the drone program and think the civilian death toll should be minimized, you should applaud those who leak documents that expose government lying about civilian deaths.

No, actually, I don't applaud people who give aid and comfort to the enemy, and assist their propaganda war.

sapient:

. We can all discuss the particulars of what we think is appropriate or not

I believe that's what we were doing. Or what I'm trying to do, anyway.

Are you going to pretend that their inaction is anti-democratic as well after all of the public discussion that has gone on?

I think congressional inaction is deplorable, and have said as much upthread. I largely agree with the article you linked, congresses failure to act solidifies the creep of executive power. Not only is congressional inaction preventing the proper functioning of our government, but it is solidifying the failure of our checks and balances.

I think there are many reasons for congressional inaction, largely political. Campaign-wise, it's hard to hold someone accountable for a vote if they never vote. While I wouldn't describe their inaction as "anti-democratic", I doubt very much that the will of the people is that congress be unproductive.

In fact, the will of the people is clear. They like the status quo.

I doubt that very much. Polling generally is around or less than 1/3 that the country is on the right track or similar questions.

On the NSA, the data is more split. I fully accept that I am not representative of the nation. But the will of the people is far from clear.

We have a democratic system. That doesn't mean its immune to political paralysis and corruption.

You don't, but don't pretend that the government is failing to be accountable to the people.

The government is not accountable for actions that it conceals. How can it be?

adjective: accountable
1. (of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.

If those decisions and actions are secret, how can the populace demand they be justified?

The government is not accountable for actions that it conceals.

In your view, there can be no secrecy in government intelligence. If you think that it's a popular view that we should dismantle United States intelligence agencies, I believe you're incorrect, no matter what drifty polls you cite about the "way the country is headed."

The fact is, most people want government to have intelligence capabilities, and recognize the need for secrecy. Despite the NSA revelations, no laws have substantially changed. Why? Because people are either happy with where the lines are drawn, or don't know where, or how, to draw them.

Case in point: There's a student missing from the University of Virginia, in the town where I live. There are leads regarding her disappearance because she was seen on public surveillance cameras.

There is an occasional outcry against public surveillance cameras. Interestingly, there's no outcry going on right now - in fact, people are very grateful for them.

That would work the same with government intelligence. The outcry ends when it helps to solve a crime, or prevent an atrocity.

Isn't it possible for the people generally to be satisfied with the status quo even though the status quo isn't in their best long-term interests?

Isn't it possible for someone to break the law while still doing something of benefit, even without being a hero?

Isn't it possible for a democratically elected government to do wrong, even if it does so legally, according to the laws it has passed to keep said wrong-doing legal?

Isn't it possible for morality to inform policy-making?

(I'm just so full of questions today!)

I don't know what you're talking about here.

My mistake. I misunderstood your phrasing.

In your view, there can be no secrecy in government intelligence.

Again, that is not my view. As I've stated multiple times.

If you think that it's a popular view that we should dismantle United States intelligence agencies

I don't. And I am not advocating for that.

no matter what drifty polls you cite

Those polls have been drifting minimally for years now:

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/right_direction_or_wrong_track

And, yeah, I'd like to hear answers to HSH's questions.

(I'm just so full of questions today!)

I don't think that anyone disputes that the answer to all of the questions is yes. It's the specifics that there seems to be disagreement on.

Those polls have been drifting minimally for years now

Drifting minimally on the drifty question of whether the country is going in the right or wrong direction? Same as the polls on whether Obamacare is good or bad, but when you ask real questions about the real elements of the ACA, you get totally different answers.

People have the unsettled feeling that the times they are a-changing.


It does seem that at least one person here views the American people as firmly in the 1984 camp on the question I posed in the title, although not in the way I meant it.

It's kind of basic common sense to realize that if a government chooses to lie about it when it does kill civilians then it doesn't have as much of an incentive to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum.

That's absolutely not true. The government has a huge number of reasons to not want to advertise its own errors during a war. Obviously civilian casualties (even if they're minimal compared to other forms of warfare) give ammunition to those who oppose the war effort, and are great propaganda for the other side.

And that's an absolute non sequitur, and a pernicious one at that. sapient, the point was not that the gov't has no reason beyond not wanting to minimize CIVCAS to conceal the extent and severity of its CIVCAS. Simply put, it's that the gov't has noticeably less motivation to minimize those casualties if they can instead simply conceal them.

I'd say more, but I don't think more really needs said. Plus, for whatever reason I haven't been able to post from any PC browser I've tried (Post and Preview are greyed out), and posting from my phone as I'm doing now is... painful.

*for the last several days I haven't been able to...

Simply put, it's that the gov't has noticeably less motivation to minimize those casualties if they can instead simply conceal them.

I find it interesting that everyone's assumption here is that government officials think that killing as many civilians as possible is the bomb.

In fact, most people aren't killers of random people. Most people abhor killing civilians. That includes people who aren't you.

There is some space between thinking "that killing as many civilians as possible is the bomb" and thinking that any killing of civilians is a non-starter. In fact, there is an enormous range between simply being indifferent to killing civilians and wanting to kill as few as possible.

I don't think anyone here assumes that government officials want to kill civilians. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few who do. Sociopaths occur in any organization.) But there are some here who think that the evidence suggests that the level of reluctance to kill civilians in pursuit of other objectives is not as high as it ought to be. That's where the disagreement comes -- how many is an acceptable level?

This is my big problem with you, Nombrilisme Vide, and you, Donald Johnson. You seem to think that you're the moral conscience of the Universe.

Well, in fact, sitting by and watching people slaughter other people, other civilians, on purpose, is deeply immoral. You protest something like, "No, I didn't say we should WATCH!!!!"

Well, you don't specifically advocate sitting back with your popcorn, but that's in fact what you propose to do.

But there are some here who think that the evidence suggests that the level of reluctance to kill civilians in pursuit of other objectives is not as high as it ought to be.

Let's google "civilians killed by Al Qaeda"

We all know that hundreds of suicide bombings have occurred in the last decade, and that many thousands have been killed, but what results to we get?

We get Donald Johnson bullshit about drones killing civilians. We're over there doing nothing but killing brown people, folks! There's nobody over there who ever did anything wrong!

Oh, but I did find something. Finally, in 2011, quite a few years into the fray, came this:
"For the first time, researchers describe the impact of suicide bombs on both Coalition military forces and Iraqi civilians. They found that that the disparity between the numbers killed has been vastly different between the two cases, with 60 times as many civilians killed as soldiers (12,284 vs. 200). This disparity is extreme by any standard, and evidence that civilians are not just the "collateral damage" of suicide bombers in Iraq but an intended target."

That was in Iraq, the war I opposed.

I wonder what I can find for Afghanistan. Probably nothing, because the statisticians are much more worried about civilians killed by our side.

A recent one. Reported as "scores. Let's not worry about exact numbers for the other side.

This is my big problem with you, Nombrilisme Vide, and you, Donald Johnson. You seem to think that you're the moral conscience of the Universe.

Well, in fact, sitting by and watching people slaughter other people, other civilians, on purpose, is deeply immoral.

Spare me the righteous lecture, sapient. You pass judgement on foreign Others who kill, and deem it immoral to question how many innocent die under the fig leaf of double effect in pursuing said Others, and you further deem it immoral to acknowledge those deaths, let alone watch them. If it's immoral for us to do nothing while innocents are being killed, or can readily be predicted to be killed, what does that say to us who observe the "anticipated but not intended" civilian casualties in GWOT et al?

And regarding your sidebar about civilian casualties in Iraq, how many were there in 2001? That's the real question. OF COURSE some guerrillas target civilians. It's a civil war, and a fairly sectarian one at that. And we laid the groundwork for it by refusing to stand back and watch a people live under a tyrant. Millions upon millions of Iraqi civilians would not be dead or displaced had we not taken the tack of intervention, and this was both predictable and predicted. Citing Iraq doesn't help your unwavering pro-intervention stance at all. It's not the simple calculus you portray it to be, and our role in destabilization doesn't go away just because you don't want us to trouble our collective beautiful mind with it.

I think that's it for me on ObWi for the weekend, because if I come back, I'll get sucked back in and posting from my phone is intolerable, given how wretchedly verbose I am.

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