Dianne Feinstein Assures Us Her Review of Targeted Killing Is Adequate

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein just sent out a release assuring us all that her committee keeps close watch over counterterrorism programs, including targeted killing. In her statement, she asserted that “our counterterrorism efforts are lawful under the Constitution.”

The Attorney General presented the administration’s legal analysis for the use of force against terrorists, including Americans. I believe it is important for the public to understand the legal basis and to make clear that our counterterrorism efforts are lawful under the Constitution, U.S. law and the law of war.

We are made safer by strikes against terrorists who continue to lead and carry out attacks on the United States. There are legal limits to this authority and great care is taken to ensure it is exercised carefully and with the absolute minimum of collateral damage. The Senate Intelligence Committee is kept fully informed of counterterrorism operations and keeps close watch to make sure they are effective, responsible and in keeping with U.S. and international law. [my emphasis]

It’s all very nice for DiFi, a member of the Gang of Four, to tell us that her committee is keeping close watch on the assassination of American citizens.

She can say that, because she has actually seen the government’s legal memo authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Except that as of 6:47PM on Monday, according to Ron Wyden’s Communication Director, the full Senate Intelligence Committee still had not seen the legal justification for the Awlaki killing. Nor had it answered simple questions, like how much evidence the government needs to meet the Executive Branch’s unilateral standards for due process. Or whether the government can kill you in the US.

For example, the government should explain exactly how much evidence the President needs in order to decide that a particular American is part of a terrorist group.  It is also unclear to me whether individual Americans must be given the opportunity to surrender before lethal force is used against them.  And I’m particularly concerned that the geographic boundaries of this authority have not been clearly laid out.  Based on what I’ve heard so far, I can’t tell whether or not the Justice Department’s legal arguments would allow the President to order intelligence agencies to kill an American inside the United States.

If a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn’t know the answers to those questions, DiFi is simply wrong when she claims her committee has had adequate oversight over the killing of an American citizen.

It’s all very nice that DiFi tells us this is constitutional. But right now there’s still been grossly inadequate oversight to test that claim. Hamdi required an impartial adjudicator. But at this point, I’m not convinced we’ve even fulfilled the requirements of the National Security Act.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

32 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    DiFi is something of a DINO, and her husband is very tied into the M-I complex. Recall she was all about approving retroactive immunity too, so this stance is really nothing new. The only reason she was re-elected last time was that a Teabagger ran against her before they were called that.

    But the post’s point is very apt: how can there be full oversight if committee members are stonewalled from the critical and repeatedly requested information to do the oversight?

    There isn’t. And as I’ve noted before, while it’s bad enough under Obama, wait till we get a for-us-or-against-us fanatic in the WH that equates loyalty with patriotism. Look at the loyalty oath they have to take in South Carolina to run for office there. If this stands it is only a matter of time before a freak or an idiot succeeds with corporate help into the WH. A couple of weeks ago Kos ran a piece on how close several states were, close enough to steal. Bradblog has some interesting news on the ES&S optical scanners that are, shall we say, tilted toward the GOP. It’s not an impossibility.

  2. orionATL says:

    is there any convincing reason to believe feinstein is doing anything but flagrantly lying as a favor to prez obama –

    her (likely worthless) assurances, together with holder’s worthless speech, intended only to provide cover for obama latter in this election year?

  3. Arbusto says:

    Lord how I loathe DiFink. That she’s one of my Senators makes me realize how unrepresented I am in Congress, well that and my Rep is Dan Lungren. With the likes of her, Holder and Obama, Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams of affecting the USofA has been realized.

  4. Teddy Partridge says:

    She can say that, because she has actually seen the government’s legal memo authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

    I would like to know if there’s a separate memo for his kid. You know, the one Obama killed the following week. Or did the one memo suffice?

  5. MadDog says:

    Speaking of target killing, via the ACLU comes the US government’s response to the ACLU’s Anwar Al-Awlaki FOIA Request – US government answer (9 page PDF).

    The US government answer stands out due to the bizarre way they chose to respond to each and every individual paragraph of the ACLU FOIA request.

    The ACLU’s original “FOIA Request Regarding Targeted Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki” is here (12 page PDF).

  6. Teddy Partridge says:

    It’s so heartening to see all the progressive Democrats who demanded Bush release his Torture Memos crowding around to demand Obama release his Citizen Execution Memos. They’ve really made a big issue of it! Way to be consistent, Team Blue!

    Or, you know, not.

  7. rosalind says:

    recent Brad Friedman Tweet:

    “Long nat’l nightmare (funddrive) OVER! I’m BACK on my @KPFK show 2day, 3p PT/6p ET w/ guest @emptywheel! LISTEN LIVE

  8. MadDog says:

    More OT – via the AP:

    “FBI chief describes GPS problem from court ruling

    A recent Supreme Court ruling is forcing the FBI to deactivate its GPS tracking devices in some investigations, agency director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

    Mueller told a congressional panel that the bureau has turned off a substantial number of GPS units and is using surveillance by agents instead…


    …In January, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed to bar police from installing GPS technology to track suspects without first getting a judge’s approval.

    “We have a number of people in the United States who we could not indict, there’s not probable cause to indict them or to arrest them who present a threat of terrorism, articulated maybe up on the Internet, may have purchased a gun, but taken no particular steps to take a terrorist act,” Mueller said. “And we are stuck in the position of surveilling that person for a substantial period of time.”

    GPS trackers “enabled us to utilize resources elsewhere,” the FBI director added…”

  9. MadDog says:

    And even more OT – via the AP, OBL’s Fabulous 10 Year Pakistan Vacation.

    “…bin Laden hid for several months in 2002 in Salman Talab, a suburb of Kohat, a northwest Pakistani border town. There bin Laden was visited at least once by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind arrested in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003…”

    I wonder if KSM has confirmed or will confirm this? And is that with water or without?

  10. PeasantParty says:

    Either DiFi is out of her mind and needs to be removed from office or somebody better explain to me how this constitutional cause I don’t think it is.

    What am I missing? Did they rewrite a Constitution without telling America?

  11. DonS says:

    Thanks DiFi. Oh, and fuck you.

    Do these people ever remember a time before we became a ‘security state’, and reasonable people considered civil rights, and the Constitution a legitimate subject for discussion.

  12. Alice_X says:

    The above ground government that you see and hear is just a front for the secret government that you don’t.

    But you will. Holder announced that you can be assassinated by the CIA, he named them. They are the secret government and they are emboldened.

  13. orionATL says:


    no, they don’t,

    because they are never under any threat from the state (“state” being used here in the philosophical sense).

    they are not under threat because they are part of the state and readily support the state, as in this instance.

    that is the trade-off feinstein made – a trade-off between integrity and truth-telling on the one hand,

    and power, money, and security-from-the-state on the other.

  14. PeasantParty says:

    @P J Evans: More secret laws that the public is supposed to understand but not know about. Yeah, anybody that makes laws like that has serious mental problems.

  15. PeasantParty says:

    @Bob Schacht: Bob, thanks. However, I do not consent.

    Our government is completely defunct. There is no real legislating going on in DC. What they are doing is a daily exercise of how to replace everything this country stands for with their own plots.

  16. PeasantParty says:

    @orionATL: Correct! They don’t live in the same country we do. They live in a protected world where they have convinced the military, the FBI, CIA, and all those other lettered agencies that honest working citizens in this country are the enemy. Now, they have brain washed those agencies into thinking that unemployed and hopeless citizens are the enemy.

    Just learned a few minutes ago that a single unemployed mother hung herself today because she was evicted with no place to go, and no money.

  17. DonS says:

    Since we, the progressives, are not perceived as playing for the team, we become the enemy. We need to get used to being in this position; it’s the only one that keeps us alert enough to ‘survive’.

  18. orionATL says:


    are the nitwits at the new york times as oblivious to irony as this article suggests:


    – bank mortgage fraud covered up by obama admin using attny generals as cover

    – nationally (and internationally) illegal torture by u.s. gov agents covered up by obama admin

    – british petroleum oil spill covered up by obama admin

    – persecution of whistle blowers whose revelations about gov’t incompetence and fraud in nat’l security matters revealed misconduct by bush admin officials

    – securities and exchange commission head of prosecutions retained even though he had been a ubs(?) exec who helped invent the collateralized debt obligations that nearly destroyed the u.s. economy

    – attorney general holder appointed and retained even though he had worked for a large private law firm and helped develop a legal rational for mortgage fraud by banks.

    – president himself used an illinois political bagman and the bagman’s wife to help him purchase a house in hyde park. prez had been instrumental as an illinois state senator in establishing a state board (medical ?) in which bagman and politicos were interested.

    corruption, eh?

    and it’s bad for a well-functioning gov’t?

    who could have guessed from nytimes domestic coverage from 2001 to the present?

  19. Bob Schacht says:

    Slightly OT, but related:
    Our state of perpetual war is starting to be discussed more openly:
    Law professor: U.S. in state of perpetual war
    By Eric W. Dolan, Wednesday, March 7, 2012 18:38 EST
    This California Law professor was on the Dylan Ratigan show today, so this is a news story about a news story. In addition, Ron Paul was talking about the same thing last December:
    Ron Paul assails ‘perpetual war’
    By Agence France-Presse, Wednesday, December 21, 2011 16:45 EST

    (Both stories were covered by Raw Story.)

    Oddly enough, Ron Paul’s talk about this issue has been mostly ignored by the mainstream media because, well, you know, its just Ron Paul talking so therefore we can ignore it because he’s a crank.
    Now that Dylan Ratigan is covering it, maybe it will get more of the coverage that it deserves.

    Every candidate for president should be asked what they plan to do about this perpetual war. There needs to be more coverage of this, and more public debate about it. Please do what you can to pass the word around.

    Bob in AZ

  20. Jeff Kaye says:

    @Teddy Partridge: Anything not to jeopardize the Democrats and their candidates, especially Obama, in November. That’s the tune the vast majority of progressives are dancing to. And if that means tolerating a bit of assassination, torture, indefinite detention, the spiking of investigations into torture and war crimes, well, I imagine the vast majority of these “progressives” feel this is a small price to pay.

    I’d note, that except for EW and Alyona Minkovsky at RT, the entire progressive world ignored my exposure of lies surrounding the deaths of two of the Guantanamo detainees, while the safe issue to pontificate on re Guantanamo (uniting both Cheneyite conservatives and mainstream liberals) was… a soccer field!

  21. Bill Michtom says:

    Short version of US government’s response to the ACLU’s Anwar Al-Awlaki FOIA Request:

    “We don’t know nothing and nobody we know knows nothing neither.

  22. Bill Michtom says:

    YES, there is a new Constitution. Not in order, but here are some of the new Articles & Amendments:

    1. Jose Padilla’s imprisonment & torture
    2. FISA Amendments Act
    3. Destruction of the rule of law under Bush/Cheney/Obama
    4. Creation of Guantanamo concentration camp
    5. Abu Ghraib
    6. NDAA
    7. War against Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen,Somalia, Libya
    8. Support of Israeli genocide
    … n.

  23. blind says:

    @MadDog: yes, because big brother keeping track of your neighborhood gun rights activists keeps them from “stopping terrorists” which is obviously why we need every citizen to install as many cameras in their house as possible

    “k, thx. bail” (big brother loves you, why don’t you love him?)

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