Obama’s Yemen EO Still Lets Our Spooks Pay the Targets of the EO

As I noted earlier, Obama just signed an Executive Order ostensibly targeting the US assets of those who undermine Yemen’s stability, potentially including US citizens who do so. I’ve been comparing this EO to one of the analogous ones pointed out in Karen DeYoung’s article on the EO: one issued against Somalia in 2010 (h/t to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross for the link).

The EOs are very similar, including the language potentially targeting US citizens. But there are some interesting differences.

As DeYoung pointed out, the Yemeni EO, unlike the Somlia one, does not include an annex with named targets, even though the EO itself speaks of “certain members of the Government of Yemen.” As such, this EO seems to be a threat with consequences, not an immediate sanction.

The Yemen EO also uses slightly different language in the clause targeting those who materially support those destabilizing the country. Whereas the Somalia EO includes those who provide “logistical” or “technical” support, the Yemen EO includes those who provide “technological” support. So make sure you don’t serve as webmaster for someone Hillary Clinton thinks is destabilizing Yemen.

The most interesting difference, IMO, is this clause, which appears in the Yemen EO but does not in the Somalia one.

Sec. 5. Nothing in section 1 of this order shall prohibit transactions for the conduct of the official business of the United States Government by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof.

In other words, while Obama doesn’t want you, or Ali Abdullah Saleh’s leave-behinds, or the AP to destabilize Yemen, he reserves the right for US government employees, grantees, or contractors to do so. Which presumably means, as happened in Afghanistan, we are and plan to continue paying some of the people who are in violation of this EO.

I wonder. Among all the adjectives we might use to describe the Saudis, do we use “grantee” among them?

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.

25 replies
  1. joanneleon says:

    @mzchief: Oh, it’s just a small bank in the U.S., they said, and the Chinese are going to “to go slow and learn the market”. It is “unlikely to make significant inroads into the U.S banking industry anytime soon”. Is that supposed to make me feel better?

  2. MadDog says:

    Given the nebulous nature of certain “targets” of this EO, it seems that the US government retains for itself the latitude to bribe folks with their own assets.

    Such as:

    “Hey 3rd cousin of Saleh. If you be wanting those millions you siphoned off from our military aid package over the years and that you stuffed into your JP Morgan Chase account, please find yourself another residence outside of the ME, and take up butterfly collecting.”

    I also note this part of the EO:

    “…The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order…”

    I would take this to mean that the CIA Station Chief in Yemen and the JSOC Commander in Yemen are now managing directors of the Yemeni Outward Bound Displacement funds.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I guess this EO is designed to help make sure that the house of Saud and other “friendly” dictators do not suffer a recurrence of the Arab Spring. Or was that a film starring Warren Beatty and Vivien Leigh? Never mind.

    What Johnson, Nixon and Reagan would have done with this power. David Halberstam would have been driven out of Saigon and back to Nashville, and we would still think “the best and the brightest” was a good thing to be. “Hanoi” Jane would have been blackballed from films and wouldn’t have had a dime to spend on fitness tapes. Martin Luther King would have been treated as if he were Ghandi in South Africa. And any critic of America’s wars in Latin America would have been forced into court and the soup line.

  4. MadDog says:

    OT – Via Lawfare’s Steve Vladeck comes this news:

    Federal Judge Enjoins Section 1021 of the FY2012 NDAA

    Out today, a 68-page opinion from Judge Katherine Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, entering a preliminary injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the substantive detention authority codified by the FY2012 NDAA on the ground that enforcement of the relevant provision (section 1021) might interfere with the plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment rights…”

  5. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: As I’ve been reading through Judge Forrest’s opinion, I came across this interesting colloquy from pages 31-32:

    “…The Court then asked: Give me an example. Tell me what it means to substantially support associated forces.

    Government: I’m not in a position to give specific examples.

    Court: Give me one.

    Government: I’m not in a position to give one specific example.

    Tr. 226.

    The Court then asked: What does ‘directly supported’ mean?

    Government: We have not said anything about that in our brief.

    Court: What do you think it means?

    Government: . . . Your Honor, we had focused so much on the phrase that was challenged by the plaintiffs, ‘substantial support’ that I have not thought through exactly and we have not come to a position on what ‘direct support’ and what that means.

    Tr. 229-230.

    The Court then asked: “Assume you were just an American citizen and you’re reading the statute and you wanted to make sure you do not run afoul of it because you are a diligent U.S. citizen wanting to stay on the right side of §1021, and you read the phrase ‘directly supported’. What does that mean to you?”

    Government: Again it has to be taken in the context of armed conflict informed by the laws of war.

    Court: That’s fine. Tell me what that means?

    The Government then returned to the Laws of War and finally stated, “I cannot offer a specific example. I don’t have a specific example…”

  6. joanneleon says:

    @MadDog: Boy, that’s pathetic.

    Government: I’m not in a position to give specific examples.

    Court: Give me one.

    Government: I’m not in a position to give one specific example.

    Tr. 226.

    The Court then asked: What does ‘directly supported’ mean?

    Government: We have not said anything about that in our brief.

  7. joanneleon says:

    I wonder if they can be paying you *and* freezing your accounts at the same time. Heh.

    I can haz the monies you paid me?
    Noes. I will puts the monies in yur accounts but you can’t haz it.

  8. MadDog says:

    @joanneleon: Even more pathetic is what the Judge Forrest writes of here on pages 33-34:

    “…It must be said that it would have been a rather simple matter for the Government to have stated that as to these plaintiffs and the conduct as to which they would testify, that § 1021 did not and would not apply, if indeed it did or would not. That could have eliminated the standing of these plaintiffs and their claims of irreparable harm. Failure to be able to make such a representation given the prior notice of the activities at issue requires this Court to assume that, in fact, the Government takes the position that a wide swath of expressive and associational conduct is in fact encompassed by § 1021…”

  9. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And I perhaps should correct my comment # 8 above.

    Given what EW has written today about Obama’s new Executive Order and the potential it has to target folks like Jeremy Scahill for muzzling blackmail at the total whim of the Executive Branch, Judge Forrest’s opinion seems not at all OT.

    It is all of a piece in the US government’s unlimited definitions of “associated forces” and “directly supported”.

    And one should note that while EW has used a noted journalist like Jeremy Scahill as a real potential target for US government animus, I suspect that modesty might play a role in EW not casting herself also as a potential US government target.

  10. MadDog says:

    Speaking of Yemen (as we seem to do quite regularly these days, and to my pleasure), Ginny Hill has an interesting article on some additional nuances to take into account with regard to Yemen over at the Foreign Policy blog that I recommend:

    Yemen’s presidential gambit

  11. ondelette says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but since you called the previous order an “EO against Somalia”, and since Glenn called it (since it’s part of the genesis) a “radical and controversial power that Obama has seized for himself” after labeling it a violation of the first amendment and the rights of Somalis, I would take it that you oppose both orders even without that exemption clause 5.1.

    Tell me the exact nature of your opposition to freezing funds to people who obstruct humanitarian aid and provide arms and materiel to armed groups who do so in Somalia, please? I know you don’t speak for Glenn, but I’ll take just your opinion on it for now.

    I’ll remind you that if you’ve ever pasted a comment back on someone through the glass of dead children from drones which I know most here have: I will see your response through the glass of 1 million dead in the Horn of Africa between May 2011 and November 2011. That’s more than the total war dead of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 put together, so think before you speak about supporting “free speech” that consists of running guns and money to people who obstruct humanitarian aid in time of famine. Materiel and money is way beyond speech and part of the violence. You’d say that if you were talking the USG in Bahrain, so don’t weasel out of your double standard on Somalia.

    I know Glenn thinks money is speech, he supported Citizens United, but that’s ridiculous and lethally sad fucked up logic. People died by the thousands by the day, you heartless nitpicking jerks. People made Sophie’s choices at the border, sewed coins into their clothes so they could barter being robbed for being raped. Show me where in Glenn’s precious Brandenburg v. Ohio it indicates that providing money to buy guns for groups that obstruct humanitarian aid during famines is protected speech. That’s just chilling.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @ondelette: Hi! Welcome back here, where once again you claim I’ve said things that I have not!

    I would take it that you oppose both orders even without that exemption clause 5.1.

    This time, your insinuations aren’t even worth a response. If you want to engage here solely to argue against me, argue against something I’ve actually said, rather than repeatedly swooping in here to argue against things I’ve not said.


  13. emptywheel says:

    @ondelette: Sure. Because in your brain, what people say is what you say they’ve said regardless of evidence to the contrary. Hell, if you would actually read this post and others you would see I explain why the Yemen one is more troubling than the Somalia one. And that’s well before any idiot reading them can see they’re targeted at very different people.

    But you won’t do that. Instead of doing that you’re going to first insinuate unlike things are like things, make conclusions based on that, and then start name calling.

    Or are you REALLY suggesting that humanitarian aide is exactly the same thing as letting a dictator’s second in command take over for the dictator and calling that democracy, all in a deal imposed by more dictators? Those are like things in your mind?

    In any case, I think your repeated use of name-calling here is getting to the point where it is no longer acceptable.

  14. Frank33 says:

    Yeah cowardly, standing up for freedom and the Constitution and objecting to the torturers and objecting to “executive orders” that terrorize Americans.

    This latest XO is a Signature Strike against America. Obama may himself be insane with his murderous, bloodlust. If you have evidence that some “bad guys” have killed millions, then links should be included. Bad Guys is the official designation by the US Government for the Enemies of Corporate America, especially the enemies of Oil Companies which is everyone.

    Is it necessary to repeat, it is all about the Oil.

  15. ondelette says:

    @Frank33: Not this time, simpleton. It’s about people’s lives. 1 million dead. You are supporting the people who made it possible because you think you can decide everything on a formula fit for an IQ of a toadstool.

  16. Frank33 says:

    We have heard it all before. How many more phony wars do we need? Actually, the Somalia intervention did not end so great the first time. To be honest, I really do not care if Somalians kill each other. Why should I? Do they have Oil? Yes.

    Now I am supporting the people who made one million people dead? Who would that be? You supply no links for your claims. Again, the obvious conclusion is US policy, supporting Dictators IS A FAILURE. That is why we have these XO’s, to control the message and suppress the true story, whether Somalia or Yemen. Then the lamestream mass propaganda, can blame ultra lefties for the genocide, as usual.

  17. ondelette says:

    @Frank33: Oh, yeah. Australian firm decides to look at drilling in Somaliland in April of 2012, and that justifies your bullshit over the whole mess for a famine in 2011 caused by a group that has been obstructing humanitarian aid since 2010?

    Ever heard of at least preceding the event with your proposed cause before asking to be taken seriously, there, logical wonderchild?

    Tell me something. Who is in control in Somaliland, al Shabab, the Transitional government? Or don’t you really know? (Here’s a hint, try neither)

    Maybe before you try to bluster your way through this one, you should try knowing something about the place you’re yelling ‘blood for oil!’ about this time. I realize it’s just a knee jerk reaction and you really don’t have an explanation for why you’re opposing that EO.

    Except that it says “Material Support” and it’s the same two words as in Holder v. HLP. Heads up: This time the material support really means material support. It refers to transfer of funds to groups over there. That’s why I’m assuming that you’re references to free speech must be by means of declaring money to be speech. And al Shabab really did obstruct humanitarian aid. And it really did contribute to the famine. A lot. And 1 million people really did die. And if you think that’s a good outcome, you’re the one who’s morally in the ditch, not somebody else while you sing in the choir about the Constitution.

    I like the Constitution too. And I’d like to see the CIA put out of business. But I’m not the one saying that material support for people who obstruct aid to starving people, obstruct their flight to safe haven, and loot them as they flee, or material support for the pirate and bandit types who murder, rob and rape them as they pass on their way to Dadaab is some kind of free speech. It’s actually very real support for behavior that shocks the conscience in every sense of the word.

    Go find your own links. It’s pretty easy to learn about what happened in the Horn of Africa last summer, and about the behavior of both the lawless groups and al Shabab. If you don’t know, you didn’t want to know. The only figure that ever takes a long time to find is the casualties, because everyone is too embarrassed to talk about it. But I gave you that. 1 million dead. Bank on that, it’s accurate.

    And disgusting considering how much time you people spend crowing about 5 or 7 or 18 that you wouldn’t know. Some peace freaks. Yet another humanitarian nightmare slips by while you were looking somewhere else, and now you construct elaborate great game theories as to why you shouldn’t care.

  18. ondelette says:

    @emptywheel: I read them. I read your characterization of them, too. “Any idiot” would see from your characterization that you consider them to be largely the same. “Any idiot” would see that Glenn Greenwald, who praised your work on them, considers both of them to be in a chain of radical usurpations of power dating back to George W. Bush that we should be up in arms about. “Any idiot” can see that you consider the major difference between the two to be an annex of groups on the Somalia EO and the phrase in 5.1 in the Yemen EO. And that’s all.

    Do you even care what happens on the ground? Because unlike you and Greenwald, some people who deal with these places neutrally, don’t see these things this way at all. We see conflicts in which there are countries awash with weapons. Yemen has somewhere between six and a dozen different armed conflicts going on, Somalia has multiple armed conflicts and hasn’t had a stable government in decades. We see a world in which there are 40 armed conflicts involving 70 armed groups — meaning groups that are parties to war that are not governments. We see a world in which atrocity increasingly dims the return to peace in country after country. We see a world in which, I’m sorry to say, the drones aren’t the number 1 source of dead war victims each day. We see a world in which the ostensible battle is oil and the real battle is something else, instead of the other way around (Have you heard of a place called Unity State? I knew you had. It’s capital is Bentiu.). Put that one into your bumper sticker model of the world.

    We have to deal with what happens next. And you aren’t helping.

    Because I believe just as much as you that people shouldn’t be prosecuted for free speech, shouldn’t be prosecuted for material support when it’s speech or when it’s humanitarian aid. But when it’s material support, especially when it’s running materiel, then I’m sorry. The world is awash with guns. That’s a whole lot of the problem. And defending the right of people to fund gun running is over the line, and if you do it, you very much have blood on your hands. Your hands, not somebody else’s while you make up artful logical dodges.

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