Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

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Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby sardia » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:40 am UTC

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/us/po ... tml?ref=us
Summary: All the presidential candidates, despite their pledges on limited government, believe/state or have policy that all lend itself to a broad view of what executive power can do. This theory was started under the Bush government, (trigger word, most equate Bush with bad governance), and continued under Obama. It's important because it circumvents many constitutional restraints on power, such as the right to due process before being killed (E.g. US citizen is a terrorist, is declared a target and killed.) The right to military detention( Guantanamo bay) and of course the ability to start wars without congressional consent( war powers act, e.g. Libya)

This means that regardless of who wins the next election, and probably the election after that, the expansive view of executive power remains. It'll probably stay that way until Congress or the courts fight back, or god forbid a president refuse executive power. Btw, the Ronpaul is the only person running who would refuse or ask Congress for permission before doing any of those three things. Still not going to vote for him, but he is a man who sticks by his principles. Everybody else either refused to answer, or would proudly order the killing and detention of any US citizen. (the interviewers labeled the citizen a terrorist, but still...)

Spoiler:
In G.O.P. Field, Broad View of Presidential Power Prevails
By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Even as they advocate for limited government, many of the Republican presidential candidates hold expansive views about the scope of the executive powers they would wield if elected — including the ability to authorize the targeted killing of United States citizens they deem threats and to launch military attacks without Congressional permission.

As Republicans prepare to select their party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Newt Gingrich, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the Ronpaul, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have provided detailed answers about their views on executive power in response to questions on the topic posed by The New York Times, which is publishing the full text of their responses online.

The answers show that most of them see the commander in chief as having the authority to lawfully take extraordinary actions if he decides doing so is necessary to protect national security. Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.

The views of the other four candidates who responded echoed in many respects expansive legal theories that were advanced by President George W. Bush. In certain significant ways, they dovetailed as well with the assertive posture taken by President Obama since taking office, like his expanded use of drones to kill terrorism suspects around the world — including a United States citizen.

The answers come against the backdrop of a decade of disputes over the scope and limits of presidential authority. Because executive branch actions are often secret and courts rarely have jurisdiction to review them, the views of the president — and the lawyers he appoints — about the powers the Constitution gives him are far more than an academic discussion.

Instead, in practice, a president’s views can influence such momentous matters as whether and how the country commits acts of warfare abroad, the rights of American citizens at home and the ability of government officials to keep information secret from lawmakers, the courts and the public.

Asked to describe the circumstances under which the Constitution permits a president to order the targeted killing of a citizen who has not been sentenced to death by a court, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Huntsman, Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney all said that a president could order the killing of a citizen who joins an enemy force that is at war with the United States, at least under certain conditions.

“My preference would be to capture, interrogate, and prosecute any U.S. citizen who has engaged in acts of war against the United States,” Mr. Romney wrote. “But if necessary to defend the country, I would be willing to authorize the use of lethal force.”

The Obama administration embraced similar reasoning as the basis for a drone strike in Yemen this year that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen whom executive branch officials accused of being a terrorist operative.

Mr. Paul, by contrast, described the circumstances in which a president could order the extrajudicial killing of a citizen in one word: “None.” Similarly, while Mr. Paul said that a president should not order a military attack without Congressional permission unless there was an imminent threat, the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary.

An exception to that pattern was the use of signing statements to claim a right to bypass new statutes — often, provisions in bills that limit executive power — a president signs into law.

The three current and former governors among the candidates — Mr. Perry, Mr. Huntsman and Mr. Romney — each described circumstances in which he would use the device to raise constitutional concerns about legislation, with Mr. Romney outlining the most assertive version.

The two former House colleagues, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul, said they would not issue such statements. (Mr. Gingrich has taken a more assertive view about constitutional disagreements with the judicial branch, saying presidents may lawfully ignore Supreme Court rulings.)

Two other Republican candidates, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, did not answer the questions. Mr. Obama did not either; his re-election campaign said he had “pursued policies that strengthen our security” while “upholding our laws and values” and suggested that he would debate such matters in greater detail after Republicans chose his opponent.

Mr. Obama — along with Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul — participated in a similar project by The Boston Globe during the 2008 presidential primary campaign. His record in office shows how circumstances and the assumption of power can alter views expressed in a campaign.

Asked if a president could bomb Iran without Congressional permission, Mr. Obama, then a senator, said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

In 2011, after the United Nations approved an air campaign in Libya to protect civilians, Mr. Obama — without Congressional permission — deployed the American military to join NATO allies in airborne attacks on Libyan government forces. In asserting the legality of that step, the Justice Department issued a memorandum saying that Mr. Obama had inherent constitutional power to do so because he could “reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest.”

Later, Mr. Obama also adopted the view — overruling Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers — that he could lawfully continue the bombing and drone strikes beyond a 60-day clock imposed by the War Powers Resolution because they did not constitute the sort of “hostilities” regulated by that law.

In the survey answers, Mr. Perry criticized that approach, arguing that Mr. Obama should have instead asserted that the War Powers Resolution was an unconstitutional constraint on his wartime powers rather than employing “a convoluted, unbelievable definition of ‘hostilities.’ ”

Presidential power has been growing since the early years of the cold war and ratcheted forward under the Bush administration, which asserted sweeping theories of presidential powers to bypass statutory and treaty constraints, justifying a range of detention, interrogation and surveillance policies. As a candidate, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Bush of undermining the Constitution.

After taking office, Mr. Obama ordered strict adherence to antitorture rules; justified his counterterrorism policies as authorized by Congress and consistent with international law, rather than invoking any inherent powers as commander in chief; and sought to handle terrorism cases that arise on domestic soil exclusively through the criminal justice system rather than using the military.

Still, Mr. Obama has outraged civil libertarians by keeping in place the outlines of many Bush-era policies, like indefinite detention and military commissions for terrorism suspects. And in the Libya air war and the targeted killing of Mr. Awlaki, he went beyond Mr. Bush’s executive-power record.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Iulus Cofield » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:49 am UTC

Why does every journalist and critic of America's involvement in Libya ignore the UN Charter? Congress approved the bombing campaign before my father was born.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:27 pm UTC

I still don't understand how we would have done "due process" against Anwar Al-Awlaki... a man who was hiding in Yemen so that we explicitly wouldn't be able to catch him. True, he was a citizen, but a citizen who was actively plotting attacks against America (With connections to so many Muslim based terrorist attack since 9/11. Fort Hood, Time Squares Bomber, Underwear Bomber... I'm almost willing to bet that he actually was involved in every one since 9/11). Just as police are allowed to shoot mentally ill US Citizens who take people into hostage situations... I do believe the President should have powers against those who are involved in so many terrorist attacks.

True, it wasn't proven in a court of law. But American Courts have that issue where you have to kinda be present in the court for them to be useful. Unless we start using secret courts or something to decide those sorts of things... there really is no improvement upon the Awalki case.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Zamfir » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:18 pm UTC

I am not sure I am following you there. You are arguing that you can't try people in their absense, and that they should therefore be killed without trial? So you're taking a rule that is intended to protect people, and use it to defend their execution?

EDIT: I can see how this would work if it's an explicit deal: if you give yourself up, you'll get a fair trial, otherwise we'lle assume you are guilty of the worst. But was that deal made with such clarity? Once you declare a willingness to kill someone on sight, you can hardly take their hiding as an admission of guilt. And guilty-by-default is still highly problematic, it's all the bad things of a trial in absentia without the good things.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:26 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:I'm almost willing to bet that he actually was involved in every one since 9/11
Really? You're almost willing to bet that he was guilty of the crimes we executed him for?

We certainly could have dropped a bomb on Ted Kaczynski's house, rather than risking law enforcement lives to bring him in. Still, Kaczynski got his day in court because he was an American citizen, even though he was a suspected terrorist in hiding from the government. This alleged YouTube terrorist should have been given the same treatment, not because he deserved it, but because the people deserve to know that their rights are inviolate, and that they don't crumble away every time someone's afraid to open their mail or get on a plane.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Vaniver » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.
...
Mr. Paul, by contrast, described the circumstances in which a president could order the extrajudicial killing of a citizen in one word: “None.” Similarly, while Mr. Paul said that a president should not order a military attack without Congressional permission unless there was an imminent threat, the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary.
...
The two former House colleagues, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul, said they would not issue [signing] statements.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby kiklion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:17 pm UTC

the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary.


This is probably my hatred of the english language, or at least how we use it, but if it was 'necessary' that already means that it is possible.

That probably didn't come out right so I will attempt to explain with an example. "I would murder children if it was necessary." You can add 'If it is necessary' to just about any action to justify it and without explicitly informing people of what would make it necessary you are creating a non-falsifiable argument.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby The Reaper » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:26 pm UTC

Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.

<cough>Gary Johnson as well</cough>

Paulbots and their selective vision. I believe Buddy Roemer is also in the category of limited power...

Similarly, while Mr. Paul said that a president should not order a military attack without Congressional permission unless there was an imminent threat, the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary

Are these 2 different things? perceived imminent threat and perceived necessity...

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby kiklion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:44 pm UTC

The Reaper wrote:
Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.

<cough>Gary Johnson as well</cough>

Paulbots and their selective vision. I believe Buddy Roemer is also in the category of limited power...

Similarly, while Mr. Paul said that a president should not order a military attack without Congressional permission unless there was an imminent threat, the other four candidates agreed that a president could do so if he decided it was necessary

Are these 2 different things? perceived imminent threat and perceived necessity...


Similar to my statement, perceived necessity implies imminent threat, but also other cases. Imminent threat could be, 'President could do so if the other nations attack would hit before congress could convene and vote' (Think pearl harbor, we see a bunch of naval ships just launched planes heading towards a naval base without prior warning. That would require immediate action and Ron is saying he would feel comfortable ordering our military to attack that attacking navy)

'if it was necessary' includes anything and everything. For instance it could include, 'Hey, I don't like saddam and congress won't give me permission to do it but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway because I think it is necessary.'

~About Gary johnson, this article is an article about responses to a question posted by the times. It seems Gary did not respond to the article by the times or the times simply didn't post his response. So this article in question had no source to reference from Gary.

~More edit, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011 ... power.html each candidates response to Under what circumstances, if any, would the Constitution permit the president to authorize the targeted killing of a United States citizen who has not been sentenced to death by a court?, their responses to the question about authorizing an attack was not posted it seems.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:43 pm UTC

Whatever happened to the joys of limited government?
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Vaniver » Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:54 pm UTC

The Reaper wrote:<cough>Gary Johnson as well</cough>
Gary Johnson is no longer a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby The Reaper » Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:13 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
The Reaper wrote:<cough>Gary Johnson as well</cough>
Gary Johnson is no longer a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

It would seem fallacious to talk about people expanding presidential power if one were to just consider only the Republicans and Obama, like they're the only things that matter/exist in the forecoming elections.. Besides, OP's summary said
All the presidential candidates
(bold added)

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:20 pm UTC

This is why I hate what is, ultimately, a two party system. If both parties agree on something, it's very difficult to avoid getting stuck with it.

Edit: forgot the word "avoid".
Last edited by Ghostbear on Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Sweet » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

But if both parties agree on something, and the American public disagree on that something, then isn't it good that we have the option to vote for someone different than those two parties? I'm tired of people saying that they will not vote for a third party candidate because they feel that it would cause their vote to not matter. Yes, historically third party candidates have not won, but the world is changing. Everyone gets information at a rapid pace, and anyone can make a commercial that millions of people can see without having to pay millions to a TV network. If people stopped paying attention to who is leading in polls, and started paying attention to who they agree with the most, then we would have a chance at shrinking presidential power, and, more important, party power.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby sardia » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:48 pm UTC

While I did say ALL possible presidential candidates, I was being slightly pessimistic/realistic about who could actually win. I mean the Ronpaul was a stretch in my eyes, but since he was the biggest candidate with a contrasting position in the article, they included him. I would definitely vote for him in the Republican Primary for IL. I also assumed that whoever would win the next election would also win the election after that, assuming Obama didn't win. The best scenario I could forsee, for reduced presidential power quickly, would be a confluence of aggressive Congressional assertion of power, combined with either the Ronpaul winning this election, or a new democratic candidate, who would be for reduced presidential power, in the next election. Most presidents get reelected, and their positions don't change much.

KnightExemplar wrote: Just as police are allowed to shoot mentally ill US Citizens who take people into hostage situations... I do believe the President should have powers against those who are involved in so many terrorist attacks.

A couple points, a hostage situation to a police officer is way different from the same person giving out training camps/seminars or funding for others to become hostage takers. The idea is the terms clear and present danger, or imminent threat.
Next, just because a branch of government should have a power to become more efficient doesn't mean that they can claim it. If the constitution clearly separates, restricts, or provides a check on presidential power; then the president should follow the clauses outlined in the constitution. A constitutional amendment would provide this, but most times you just ask congress for permission, or hell, even ask congress for permission not to ask permission for the next X days. So long as the courts agree, than it would be kosher. (Hint, even if the courts don't agree, they are so slow and they might be willing to delay the case for a couple years before "rebuking" you. See President Lincoln and the civil war cases, SCOTUS waited til after the war was over before saying it wasn't ok to suspend habeus corpus and such.) The idea is to prevent a power grab in the name of security, and maintain rule of law, even if there are some inefficiencies.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:55 pm UTC

Sweet wrote:But if both parties agree on something, and the American public disagree on that something, then isn't it good that we have the option to vote for someone different than those two parties? I'm tired of people saying that they will not vote for a third party candidate because they feel that it would cause their vote to not matter. Yes, historically third party candidates have not won, but the world is changing. Everyone gets information at a rapid pace, and anyone can make a commercial that millions of people can see without having to pay millions to a TV network. If people stopped paying attention to who is leading in polls, and started paying attention to who they agree with the most, then we would have a chance at shrinking presidential power, and, more important, party power.

The problem is you would require large numbers of people to be willing to switch their votes, not just you. If you vote 3rd party, you can easily end up in a situation such as 2000, where the people that voted for Nader would presumably have much preferred Gore, and if they had voted for him instead he almost certainly would have won. Instead, they got the candidate they wanted the least. It's a product of us having a first past the post system, combined with the already existing power of the other two parties.

The bigger danger to people supporting policies that the public at large doesn't like is getting primary'd before their next election, and not 3rd party candidates. So long as we have the current voting system we have, that is very unlikely to change, no matter how stupid it is. I would love to switch to a preferential based voting system, but we don't have that yet, so I vote strategically.
-----------------------
It's amazing how easily they can get away with saying this stuff by adding "if there's a threat" or "if it's needed". If there are issues with the ability of someone to respond to emergencies quickly enough, they should create a legal framework for dealing with that, along with punishments for abuse (i.e. you could attack a country quickly if all signs indicate they'll attack us before congress could meet to approve such, but if you attack a country with poor justification, you're kicked out of office. That'd have huge issues too, of course, but it's just an idea). Restrictions on power aren't supposed to be fair-weather restrictions, after all.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I am not sure I am following you there. You are arguing that you can't try people in their absense, and that they should therefore be killed without trial? So you're taking a rule that is intended to protect people, and use it to defend their execution?

EDIT: I can see how this would work if it's an explicit deal: if you give yourself up, you'll get a fair trial, otherwise we'lle assume you are guilty of the worst. But was that deal made with such clarity? Once you declare a willingness to kill someone on sight, you can hardly take their hiding as an admission of guilt. And guilty-by-default is still highly problematic, it's all the bad things of a trial in absentia without the good things.


Not necessarily. The middle ground sucks even more than either of the extreme. I'd rather have the President decide in extreme cases to take out a dangerous US Citizen than to have an explicit system set up for Citizens to be tried in their absence. The current "use only when really really needed" seems to be working. There aren't very many cases like Anwar Al-Awlaki. IIRC, Anwar Al-Awlaki was working with a number of US Citizens who themselves are not on the "hit list", despite clearly being terrorists themselves.

Its kinda like tasers vs guns. A secretive court system that tries people in their absence would be abused more often than the power that allowed Obama to declare Al-Awlaki a target. As far as I know, there are so few cases like Al-Awlaki's that I'm frankly fine with it going on like this. (Whats the record? Once every hundred years?)

KnightExemplar wrote: Just as police are allowed to shoot mentally ill US Citizens who take people into hostage situations... I do believe the President should have powers against those who are involved in so many terrorist attacks.

A couple points, a hostage situation to a police officer is way different from the same person giving out training camps/seminars or funding for others to become hostage takers. The idea is the terms clear and present danger, or imminent threat.


And the President decided that there was a clear and present danger. Every argument you see on this subject will have multiple points on why Al-Awlaki was a "clear and present" danger to the US.

I'm not that naive. Your real argument is that there wasn't a trial, and that it was a single branch that decided this. That the President's decision (or the decision of his men... I'm not sure how high up the chain the Al-Awlaki order went) and it was the executive branch's decision alone that you're uncomfortable with. Which I understand.

Nonetheless, I'm quite sure the world is better off without Al-Awlaki. And that's all I really care about. The President always will have the power to screw the country over (and indeed, compared to say, the FBI's treatment of the Civil Rights Movement, Al-Awlaki thing is relatively tame). If I have to worry about my rights getting taken away when I'm running away, hiding in a foreign country as a high-ranking leader of a terrorist organization... you know what? I don't really mind that. The US has done much worse in the past. If that is the worst that has happened, well then, we honestly are in a much better place than where we were 50 years ago.

----------------------

Here is the real issues I have with this article:

Presidential power has been growing since the early years of the cold war and ratcheted forward under the Bush administration, which asserted sweeping theories of presidential powers to bypass statutory and treaty constraints, justifying a range of detention, interrogation and surveillance policies. As a candidate, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Bush of undermining the Constitution.


I mean, the real issue I have with this article is the absolute ignorance it has of history. Neither Bush nor Obama played with the powers of COINTELPRO(1956 to 1970s+) or SHAMROCK(1952 to 1975) or MINARET (1967 and 1973). A civil rights activist today does not have to worry about getting drugged by the FBI and shot a few hours later while unconscious. And presidents of the past did abuse these programs for political gain. (Nixon being extremely noteworthy of it)

Comparing the current President's power to his predecessors in the Cold War seems a bit folly to me.

EDIT: Anyway, I don't doubt that the president's power has expanded technically over the recent years. We've got NDAA which explicitly codifies the indefinite detention of US Citizens if they're deemed a terrorist and all that. But I don't like this "doom and gloom" we're heading somewhere bad for the next decade.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby sardia » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:15 pm UTC

Man, if you're going to argue that we need security over freedom, you should at least acknowledge the price we pay for it. You've ignored Extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo bay. Having a prison that is under US control but technically outside US soil shouldn't let you ignore the constitution and just torture people. Especially if you have no way of proving that they are dangerous. Remember the Uyghur so called "terrorists"? They were hardly a threat, yet we kept them for over 3 years. The Bush administration jumped through hoops and made retarded legal arguments to justify it too. Yes, there's a ban against torture, but not enhanced interrogation. We aren't on US soil, therefore the constitution doesn't apply? That's laughable if it wasn't so depressing. All that is a picnic compared to extraordinary rendition. We send out our prisoners to 3rd world countries who would happily torture and imprison people when we didn't want the press looking. If it happened once, or Bush got rebuked for it and it stopped, that would be one thing. But the problem with the war on terror is it is almost unending. So president Bush kept detaining, torturing, and killing people in the name of security. Who decides what is ok and what are the limits? The executive branch. Who makes the arguments and see if everything is kosher? The justice department, who happened to be all appointed by Bush. Guess what happens if you aren't "a loyal Bushie", you get fired. Starting to see the problem?

It's an everlasting security problem where one man/small group has all the power, and anyone with dissenting viewpoints is fired.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

Man, if you're going to argue that we need security over freedom, you should at least acknowledge the price we pay for it.


I don't believe that's what I'm arguing.

When taken in isolation, is the killing of Anwar Al-Alwalaki a good thing or a bad thing? Is the world a better place? Or does this specific abuse of Executive power harm the world in anyway (aside from undermining the constitution, etc. etc.) ? At the end of the day, a high-ranking influential member of a terrorist organization is dead and we don't have to worry about him. The rule of law is nice and all, but if the greater good can be achieved by ignoring it, then I wouldn't hesitate to execute the order.

This was a man who was in Yemeni Custody in 2007, and released because he "repented". Then just a year later the Fort Hood shooting happens, and Alwalaki is connected to it. Then the underwear bomber the year after that. Then the next year he's connected to the Times Square bomber. And over the past year, he released videos urging violent Jihad against the American Devils without fatwa.

I mean sure, I would agree a trial would have been nice and more consistent with our ideology. But this was a dangerous man, and I ultimately support the killing of him.

--------------------

As far as other abuses of the Executive branch... I take them on a case by case basis. I don't really think Extraordinary rendition is a good thing, but Congress has moved and refused to try gitmo terrorists in Civil Court. We can't try them here, and we don't know if its safe to release them. Obviously, we're gonna have issues catching innocent people and all, but what can the President do about it? Until Congress allows suspected terrorists to be tried, then the best we can do are Military Tribunals I guess.

I'd continue to argue, but I honestly don't know the specifics of how military tribunals work. Like what rights people typically have during them and so forth.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Zamfir » Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:04 pm UTC

KE, you show a lot of trust that your intelligente services can honestly and reliably identify who deserves to die, even when they have little oversight from outsiders and lots of opportunity to hide their mistakes and transgressions. And that they can keep doing so.

Courts and trials don't exist purely to hold up abstract ideals. They also exist because without careful procedures and openness, people will invariable abuse the power they are given. Not even necessarily for their personal gain, but also to satisfy their paranoia, or the power trip of punishing probably-bad-people.

And when secret services get to kill and maim for the greater good and without much oversight, they start to attract people who like that. Some of them real sadists, but also people who like the power, or who feel that the country needs strong manly protectors instead of rule sticklers.

History is fullness if example where this ran out of hand, where the moral edge cases of the past became the new normal, and the unthinkable the new edge cases, etc.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:11 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:KE, you show a lot of trust that your intelligente services can honestly and reliably identify who deserves to die, even when they have little oversight from outsiders and lots of opportunity to hide their mistakes and transgressions. And that they can keep doing so.


While I do have trust in intelligence services, I certainly don't deny your claim. I've brought up historical programs of far more widespread abuse. Again, COINTELPRO was a systemic abuse where the FBI had extrajudicial harassment and even in some cases killed US citizens on US soil. Indeed, it is our job as citizens to remain vigilant against such behavior, and to revolt in disgust.

On the other hand, there are some decisions I'll have to ultimately agree with. The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is one of them. And despite the fact that it was an extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, I still see it as for the common good.

I think my issue comes down to this:

History is fullness if example where this ran out of hand, where the moral edge cases of the past became the new normal, and the unthinkable the new edge cases, etc.


I think it comes down to something said in a previous thread: I generally reject the "slippery slope" argument by default. If there's a 95% chance that a falling tree knocks down another tree... then one may argue that the whole forest is at risk. Unfortunately, a quick calculation shows that 20 trees will fall down on the average. A solid 95% chance is not enough to endlessly propagate a slippery slope to destroy the whole forest so to speak.

EDIT: Basically, to really prove a "slippery slope", you need to establish why things will continue to move upon the same path, and have very strong reasons why it would continue that way. Ultimately, I reject the notion that Anwar al-Awlaki establishes a precedent, due to the unique circumstances that revolved around him.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby sardia » Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:27 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:When taken in isolation, is the killing of a US Criminal a good thing or a bad thing? Is the world a better place? Or does this specific abuse of Executive power harm the world in anyway (aside from undermining the constitution, etc. etc.) ? At the end of the day, a US criminal is dead and we don't have to worry about him. The rule of law is nice and all, but if the greater good can be achieved by ignoring it, then I wouldn't hesitate to execute the order.


Man, with an argument like that, we could empty at least half our prisoner pool by shooting them. Think of the money and lives we could save by getting rid of all the dangerous repeat violent offenders. I'm exaggerating since it's easier to kill someone than it is to go in and capture them, but your argument is flawed to say the least.

You know about past abuses of power, yet you're saying that since it's not so bad this time, therefore it's ok?

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:45 pm UTC

sardia wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:When taken in isolation, is the killing of a US Criminal a good thing or a bad thing? Is the world a better place? Or does this specific abuse of Executive power harm the world in anyway (aside from undermining the constitution, etc. etc.) ? At the end of the day, a US criminal is dead and we don't have to worry about him. The rule of law is nice and all, but if the greater good can be achieved by ignoring it, then I wouldn't hesitate to execute the order.


Man, with an argument like that, we could empty at least half our prisoner pool by shooting them. Think of the money and lives we could save by getting rid of all the dangerous repeat violent offenders. I'm exaggerating since it's easier to kill someone than it is to go in and capture them, but your argument is flawed to say the least.


Sure, but you pulled a "FTFY" and the statement above no longer reflects my argument. Anyone following the argument will notice numerous differences between "US Criminal" and "Anwar Al-Awlaki". The first of which, the criminals you're talking about are captured on US soil (by definition. They are in prison). Anwar Al-Awlaki was in a foreign country where the host state was unable to capture him, and the US also was unable to capture him.

This leads to the absolue core of my argument. You seem to think that the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki sets a precident that will allow more generic criminals to be treated in the same way. I just don't see that however. The situation that Anwar Al-Awlaki was in seems relatively unique to me.

You know about past abuses of power, yet you're saying that since it's not so bad this time, therefore it's ok?


I don't think the historical facts really apply to your argument in particular.

But just for everyone's information, here's where I'm going with them. They're simply there for historical context. Its there for those who believe that we're heading to an Authoritarian Police state, when in fact history seems to show the opposite. The paranoia that surrounded the US Public over "them dirty Communists" allowed our intelligence agencies to abuse their power in ways far beyond the current "terrorist paranoia". So lets not make any Cold War comparisons here...
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:01 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:Ultimately, I reject the notion that Anwar al-Awlaki establishes a precedent, due to the unique circumstances that revolved around him.

I assume you're referring to the one in a million year alignment of the planets that al-Awlaki was going to use to power his Doomsday Machine?
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:44 am UTC

Kulantan wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:Ultimately, I reject the notion that Anwar al-Awlaki establishes a precedent, due to the unique circumstances that revolved around him.

I assume you're referring to the one in a million year alignment of the planets that al-Awlaki was going to use to power his Doomsday Machine?
Or, to be less obtuse, the fact that we don't have a lot of US citizens who are top terrorists hiding in other countries?
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:57 am UTC

Except for that one other guy who was killed during al-Awlaki's assassination...
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:13 am UTC

Thats a bit dishonest Kulantan and you know it. Samir Khan was never on the target list and just happened to be with Al-Awlaki during that day. Hell, the fact that you have a leading propigandist for Inspire, who also was part of AQAP but wasn't on the hit list highlights the uniqueness of Al-Awlaki's case. You can be the lead editor to an Al-Queda magazine, running away from authorities and still not be placed on the hit list. The difference between them is that Al-Awlaki was found to be beyond just inspiration like Khan, but an operational planner in Al Queda. Its unfortunate that Khan was with him. Since Khan wasn't clearly related to terrorist attacks in the US, I would have definitely prefered for him to be let go if possible.

I guess there is a bit of a conspiracy here. We don't know how much the CIA knew when they ordered the hellfire missle strike on Al-Awlaki's car. They knew Al-Queda operatives were in the car and Al-Awlaki was the target. But would the presense of a US citizen change the use of lethal force? And do we know if Khan's presense was known? I do think Samir Khan's execution is a key controversy. But again, because the circumstances of his death are unknown, his collateral damage / assassination most definitely fails to set a precident as well.

I don't think I'd be comfortable with them using lethal force with Samir Khan as calculated collateral damage. But again... the circumstances of the death are unknown. Its already a stretch to call Al-Awlaki's death an "expansion" of the President's power IMO. Khan's death is just completely irrelevant.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:57 am UTC

I'm not saying that Samir Khan was targeted (but colour me unsurprised if we find out that the CIA knew beforehand that he was in the car). What I am saying is that there are numerous US citizens within the command structure of various terrorist organisations. It isn't that much of a leap to say that in future it is likely that another US citizen will be an operational planner and hiding in a country where bringing him to trial is improbable.

That is even if you don't believe the reliable reports that at least two other US citizens are already on the assassination list:
The Washington Post wrote:Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:35 am UTC

Certainly, you make a strong point. If there are three Americans on the list (EDIT: Erm... two left...), then that would be pretty devistating to my argument of uniqueness.

However, I did some research into this.

1. Adam Gadahn is one of the individuals who is thought to be on the "hit list". He was indicted by a grand jury to high treason. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,219861,00.html. I admit, this evidence counters my earlier case that you cannot be tried in absense. Now that I know this... I'm interested in knowing how Gadahn was tried, and why it wasn't applied to Al-Awlaki. (Of course, its a Fox news story. But I doubt Fox could lie about the existance of a California court trial). I don't know the details of his indictment however. (Sooo many conspiracy theorists. Can't find good info online)

2. I can't seem to find any names mentioned on who the last American could be. But it is likely that he too is / was a high-ranking member of Al-Queda, like Adam Gadahn and Al-Awlaki.

There is also some ambiguity in this article, about whether or not the size of the "hit-list" is 2 people total, or just contains two people in Pakistan. I figure I'll post it up as the distinction is important.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nat ... story.html
Ayman al-Zawahiri and his second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, are the last remaining “high-value” targets of the CIA’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, U.S. officials said, although lower-level fighters and other insurgent groups remain a focus of Predator surveillance and strikes.


Its difficult for me to find any other mentions of Americans on the hitlist. All of the blog posts and articles that I'm finding reference the Washington Post article you linked to. Not trying to negate the evidence... its just hard to figure out the details of these people. Even Adam Gadahn is a bit of a stretch, and no one really knows who is on the hit list. I'm certainly appauled at the lack of transparency here. It seems like all we know is that unknown Americans were put onto a secret list of unknown size.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Djehutynakht » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:20 am UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:I'm almost willing to bet that he actually was involved in every one since 9/11
Really? You're almost willing to bet that he was guilty of the crimes we executed him for?

We certainly could have dropped a bomb on Ted Kaczynski's house, rather than risking law enforcement lives to bring him in. Still, Kaczynski got his day in court because he was an American citizen, even though he was a suspected terrorist in hiding from the government. This alleged YouTube terrorist should have been given the same treatment, not because he deserved it, but because the people deserve to know that their rights are inviolate, and that they don't crumble away every time someone's afraid to open their mail or get on a plane.



There's a difference though. The difference between Al-Awaki and Kacynski is staggering.

We couldn't arrest Al-Awaki. Even if we tried. Even if we cooperated with Yemen. Trust me, if we could bring him to court, I would have welcomed it. But we couldn't. He renounced America, he left, he militarized in a foreign nation and he fought us as a militant there. There was no walking up to his front door. We'd have to raid his compound with troops... many would die.. and chances are Al-Awaki himself would die, through combat or suicide, anyways.

Kaczynski was much, much different. He was in America. He was not in a military compound, but a shed. He was captured without a single shot fired (the local sheriff got him to come out on some minor issue and the FBI surrounded him).

We could get Kaczynski without risking a single life. We couldn't get Al-Awaki without risking numeous. If we could, I would've supported his live capture. But we couldn't.

Another thing is that the FBI was taking in a likely suspect, and a loner. The military/CIA was taking out a known militant terrorist, and a commander in a large group.

We didn't know Kaczynski was the Unabomber. We had "you know... he kind of sounds like the same guy. Let's go for it." We couldn't prove his guilt until after we had caught him. Al-Awaki... the man had been openly, flauntingly, attacking us for years. In a foreign terrorist base. We knew of his guilt long before killing him. Sure, one can argue that he was never formally declared guilty in court. But come on. We know he's guilty. He's said he's guilty. I honestly doubt he's covering for someone else.

If we could take Al-Awaki like we took Kaczynski, would we have? I believe we would have. Tis regrettable that we couldn't.
If we knew of Kaczynski's guilt but bombing him was the only way to stop him, would we have? I believe we would have.

I have a profound respect for the Constitution. But I don't believe that we should have let Al-Awaki press on simply because we couldn't peacefully bring him in.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:14 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:We could get Kaczynski without risking a single life. We couldn't get Al-Awaki without risking numeous. If we could, I would've supported his live capture. But we couldn't.
[...]
Sure, one can argue that he was never formally declared guilty in court. But come on. We know he's guilty. He's said he's guilty. I honestly doubt he's covering for someone else.

In some ways, I find this line of thing rather terrifying. The restrictions on power for the government doesn't have the qualifier "but ya know, if it's inconvenient, just go ahead and ignore this" tacked on at the end. They aren't fair weather restrictions, they aren't supposed to be ignored when it's "too dangerous" to follow them. Even in admissions of guilt to create a plea bargain will still need court approval, in order to prevent instances of abuse.

If you or the government thinks there should absolving conditions placed on them, then they should attempt to change the law to accommodate such. Until then, I'm going to say "but we knew he was guilty, honest!" isn't really reassuring. We also "knew" that Iraq had WMD, and well.. that didn't turn out so well, did it? Also, I think it's dangerous to say the precedent here was "US citizen terrorist with intent to harm the US living abroad in conditions where we can not apprehend them"; the precedent was "Citizen we believe is too dangerous to allow to live, where we doubt the ability to capture them". It's not that difficult for the second to travel down a slippery slope- I may doubt that it actually will travel down that slope, but I find the possibility dangerous.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:14 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote: We couldn't arrest Al-Awaki. Even if we tried. Even if we cooperated with Yemen. Trust me, if we could bring him to court, I would have welcomed it. But we couldn't. He renounced America, he left, he militarized in a foreign nation and he fought us as a militant there. There was no walking up to his front door. We'd have to raid his compound with troops... many would die.. and chances are Al-Awaki himself would die, through combat or suicide, anyways.

On the ground raids aren't that uncommon. Pakistan complains all the time about American special forces that kill and kidnap people, and raids appear to happen as well in Yemen in some form or another, though both the US and Yemen deny that American troops take part in the raids themselves.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604239.html wrote:U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials.

The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 [2010, Zamfir] strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.

The drone strikes are getting more popular, but on-the-ground raids in Pakistan and elsewhere seem nowadays more aimed at killing as well. I assume the US government wants to avoid taking too much prisoners, after Guantanamo and the extraordinary renditions became PR burdens.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Djehutynakht » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:37 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:We could get Kaczynski without risking a single life. We couldn't get Al-Awaki without risking numeous. If we could, I would've supported his live capture. But we couldn't.
[...]
Sure, one can argue that he was never formally declared guilty in court. But come on. We know he's guilty. He's said he's guilty. I honestly doubt he's covering for someone else.

In some ways, I find this line of thing rather terrifying. The restrictions on power for the government doesn't have the qualifier "but ya know, if it's inconvenient, just go ahead and ignore this" tacked on at the end. They aren't fair weather restrictions, they aren't supposed to be ignored when it's "too dangerous" to follow them. Even in admissions of guilt to create a plea bargain will still need court approval, in order to prevent instances of abuse.

If you or the government thinks there should absolving conditions placed on them, then they should attempt to change the law to accommodate such. Until then, I'm going to say "but we knew he was guilty, honest!" isn't really reassuring. We also "knew" that Iraq had WMD, and well.. that didn't turn out so well, did it? Also, I think it's dangerous to say the precedent here was "US citizen terrorist with intent to harm the US living abroad in conditions where we can not apprehend them"; the precedent was "Citizen we believe is too dangerous to allow to live, where we doubt the ability to capture them". It's not that difficult for the second to travel down a slippery slope- I may doubt that it actually will travel down that slope, but I find the possibility dangerous.



Well, I mean, the choice basically was "We can let him continue attacking the country, we could kill him, or we could send a bunch of troops to try and aprehend him, although this will almost certainly result in many of them killed or injured, and he himself almost certainly dead anyways."

It's not like Iraq, or Kaczynski. With Iraq it was "Well, this is a bunch of stuff we collected. It makes us think they probably have a WMD. We don't know, but we do think so".

Kaczynski was "His writing sort of sounds like the Unabomber. His old photos sort of look like him too. Let's check out his little cabin".

With Al-Awaki it was "Hello, this is Anwar Al-Awaki. I want to announce that I am renouncing America, I hate America, and my goal is to topple your government. I am now going to proceed to commit terrorist attacks." It's not like there's doubt. There is no doubt. The first two were speculation. We had definite proof with Al-Awaki. Not just words. Actions. Lying? Howso? He's covering for another person who's really committing terrorism in Yemen? Right...

The man's not some robber we decided to shoot instead of take into custody? He's not a man who we saw casually walking down the street in Baghdad and decided to assasinate instead of have extradited. Heck, he's not even a reclusive bombmaker in a tiny cabin. He's a military commander who is, in his own words, undertaking war against the country. Might not have had tanks. Might not have had drones. Lincoln didn't tell the Union Army "Hey, you can't kill any of those Southern Rebels. They have renounced our country, they may be actively trying to kill you, but they're still US citizens. We have to get them alive to go on trial".

I am a big supporter of the Law. I really hate death. But this case... I can't quite say that I agree that this is the wrong thing to do.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:08 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:We could get Kaczynski without risking a single life. We couldn't get Al-Awaki without risking numeous. If we could, I would've supported his live capture. But we couldn't.
[...]
Sure, one can argue that he was never formally declared guilty in court. But come on. We know he's guilty. He's said he's guilty. I honestly doubt he's covering for someone else.

In some ways, I find this line of thing rather terrifying. The restrictions on power for the government doesn't have the qualifier "but ya know, if it's inconvenient, just go ahead and ignore this" tacked on at the end.
The thing is, restriction on power is to prevent abuse. It's a concern of the people about the government's use of power. But lets say the government bypasses one of those restrictions in an act. If people see this, I don't think it's a problem if they weigh that act by itself and give the government a pass. That seems like something people should be able to do; it fits under the notion of "accountability to the people".

Certainly, we should be wary about events like these. But I don't think we must condemn them. Acknowledging that they were a problematic act that we will excuse in this instance seems acceptable to me.

Edit: typos!
Last edited by Greyarcher on Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:11 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:47 pm UTC

Greyarcher wrote:Acknowledging that they were a problematic act that we will excuse in this instance seems acceptable to me.

Thing is, on what grounds would you excuse this one instance? For such a controversial and attention-seeking case, the public evidence against al-Awlaki is surprisingly thin. The hard evidence out there is that he's a kind of columnist or blogger for militant islamists, someone who praises terrorists and who is read by English-speaking wannabe terrorists. Which is surely good reason for Americans to hate him, but hardly the stuff that excuses "problematic acts", which in this case meant executing him and some of his family and friends. In 2007 he was in prison, and apparently he wasn't dangerous enough yet to get him extradited.

Perhaps there is much better evidence, evidence that shows that he was actively involved in attacks on the US and a real danger for the future. I even expect some of that, given that his death was widely publicized and people in the future will surely look into the details when they become public.

But hundreds of others are also executed by the same process, except without the scrutiny (now or in the future) that results from being a US citizen. KnightExamplar worries about a "secretive court system" above, and such a system appears to exist. Even when the target is a US citizen and the media are on the case, people still won't tell how that system works, what evidence it considers, what standards of proof it requires, at what level of involvement the system decides that killing someone (and the people around them) becomes justified. It's all "trust us, he was a dangerous man".

Which would be one thing if it really was an isolated event, but it's not. It's a routine event that this time happened to involve an American passport. Which was good for bringing attention to the issue, but at the same time disappointing in what that attention managed to achieve.

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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:33 pm UTC

Isn't that usual for military decisions at almost any level? The general public isn't privy to the intel that goes into their decision-making. That being the case, it's less of a "secretive court system" and more like standard military decision making.

If I were to give it a pass, I think it would mostly be because I see the event within a context of military engagements in foreign countries rather than domestic criminality. The powers and permissions are different, and I'm okay with that, because the two really shouldn't be treated the same and it seems practically necessary.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:41 pm UTC

The American public has unfortunately made it clear that we don't want to give suspected terrorists a civilian trial. Obama tried to close Gitmo by putting everyone there on trial. Instead, congressmen refused to let the the prisoners to get tried in their districts. I think its safe to say that no district in America is actually willing to conduct such trials.

And thats people who are captured and stuck in Gitmo. The President made it clear in 2010 that putting them on trial is a necessary step to eventually close Gitmo... but we Americans as a whole refused. And thus, Gitmo remains open. I just don't see us affording the same thing to the CIA "high-value targets" list... when we can't even afford it to prisoners.

In 2007 he was in prison, and apparently he wasn't dangerous enough yet to get him extradited.


2007 was before the Fort Hood shooting, the Underwear Bomber, the Times Square Bomber, and the mail bombs to Chicago synagogues. Each of which Al-Awlaki was connected to. The difference between 2007 and 2010 is that Al-Awlaki made a move from just propaganda to being an operational planner. But based on how often his name comes up in so many of AQAP terrorist plots between 2007 and 2011, I just don't have any doubts that he's an operational planner. The fact that al-Asiri (the actual bombmaker of all of the AQAP plots) was thought to have been in the car with Al-Awlaki adds to the evidence.

The Fort Hood shooting was most likely only an "inspired" attack. But Al-Awlaki seems to be more deeply connected with the other ones. It was after the Underwear Bomber was taken into custody that Al-Awlaki was placed onto the list.

I'll give you this: the FBI/CIA hasn't released the pieces of evidence that fully connect Al-Awlaki to the operational planning of these attacks, especially the Underwear bomber. I do believe they should for the sake of transparency. Its hard to think of a legitimate excuse to keep them secret at this point.

Al-Awlaki is a very interesting character... just after 9/11/2001, he was invited to a White House dinner to talk with the military and improve Muslim Relations. In just over 10 years, he is then assassinated by a remote drone strike. I'd be interested in his biography if one is ever made.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Telchar » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:47 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:EDIT: Basically, to really prove a "slippery slope", you need to establish why things will continue to move upon the same path, and have very strong reasons why it would continue that way. Ultimately, I reject the notion that Anwar al-Awlaki establishes a precedent, due to the unique circumstances that revolved around him.


How about the fact that it's gone down hill for 3 presidential terms, through 2 very different parties, and if the article is to be believed will continue for at least another 4 years. That's 1/5 of a century we've had/will have of unchecked expansion of executive power.
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:50 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:I'll give you this: the FBI/CIA hasn't released the pieces of evidence that fully connect Al-Awlaki to the operational planning of these attacks, especially the Underwear bomber. I do believe they should for the sake of transparency. Its hard to think of a legitimate excuse to keep them secret at this point.
OPSEC?* Any information not released is information they can't analyze.

* Or would that be INFOSEC? Eh, trying to use a shorthand only made this post longer. At any rate, the latter statement stands.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.

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Zamfir
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Re: Expansive Presidential Power For At least Another Decade

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:17 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:I'll give you this: the FBI/CIA hasn't released the pieces of evidence that fully connect Al-Awlaki to the operational planning of these attacks, especially the Underwear bomber. I do believe they should for the sake of transparency. Its hard to think of a legitimate excuse to keep them secret at this point.

Yeah, that's what bugs me. There's a fairly clear level of evidence that would make the case very defendable. Both from a "what's good for the US" POV, and from a wider "can you do this to your enemies" POV. Reliable evidence that makes him a planner of one of those attacks. And given what we do know, it's definitely possible that he was involved, and that the US government has this level of evidence. If I had to bet, I would put money on "they have convincing evidence and at some point in the future we will find out". Not a sure bet, given the Iraq WMDs, but still.

At the same time, assasinating civilians is serious stuff. The US has made it a standard tool of foreign policy, and the people of Pakistan at least do not believe that it is done carefully and on appropriate targets only. This could have been a showcase. A "best practice" example of what the US goes through to decide that a seemingly civilian person can be killed with some collateral damage included. Because the people of the US can demand such a showcase if one of theirs is killed, even when the people of Pakistan or Afghanistan cannot.

For all the attention, that didn't happen. We don't get to see real evidence, we don't get to see how the decision is taken and what safeguards were present against mistakes. The people of the US are the only people who can push for that kind of clarity, and they were happy with "he's a real terrorist, trust us". That makes it unlikely to get any clarity on the more problematic cases, the anonymous Pakistani and their families whose ties to actual attacks on the US must be far harder to prove than for al-Awlaki.


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