Once you step beyond the tragedy of Aurora, the big news today centers on Penn State and the aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Louis Freeh. There is a lot of news, and implications to come, from today’s events.
First, and unsurprisingly, Penn State yesterday took down the fabled statue of JoePa. Abandoning larger than life symbols, whether human or otherwise, is never easy. And it is not just the specter of human faces in this regard either, witness the difficulty (irrespective of which side of the equation you reside on) of moving beyond “Redskins” and “Seminoles” as team mascots. But Paterno’s statue at PSU, by now, was more a testament and reminder of gross and wanton failure, not success. A defeating duality if there ever was one for a supposedly inspirational piece of art. The statue had to go the way of JoePa himself, and it now has.
The second part of the news, and discussion thereof, however, will have far greater repercussions. That, of course, is the actual penalties handed down to the Penn State football program. They have just been announced and are as follows:
1) A $60 Million fine to be applied to anti-child abuse charity and organizations
2) A four year ban on bowl appearances
3) A scholarship reduction of 10 initial scholarships year one and 20 overall scholarships per year for a period of four years.* Current athletes may transfer without penalty or limitation
4) Imposition of a five year probationary period
5) Mandatory adoption of all reforms recommended in the Freeh Report
6) Vacation of all football wins from the period of 1998 through 2011. A loss of 111 wins from the record book (109 of which were from Paterno)
These are extremely harsh penalties. In some terms, competitively anyway, the scholarships are the key element. A loss of twenty per year for for four years, when prospective players know they will never see a bowl game in their career, is crippling. It will be fascinating to see how PSU survives this blow.
USC provides the best analogy, as it is just finishing up its sanction of a two year bowl ban and loss of ten scholarships per year for three years. While the Trojans will be eligible for a bowl game again this year, they still have one more year of the scholarship reduction to get through. USC has remained competitive and, in fact, is considered to be a major contender for the championship this coming year. Penn State, however, has much longer terms, especially as to the Continue reading
Fallout continues from yesterday’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA to identify Osama bin Laden prior to the US raid that killed him. Marcy commented yesterday on the poor outcome from Leon Panetta disclosing Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA and I noted how the sentencing may have been one motivation behind the potential political impetus for yesterday’s drone strike in Pakistan (which has been followed up by yet another drone strike today).
I will get to the obligatory statement of outrage from Dana Rohrabacher in a bit, but first there is a very interesting article in Dawn that has a few details from Afridi’s trial. Although Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA occurred in Abbottabad, which is in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly referred to as North West Frontier Province), Afridi was tried in the town of Bara, which is in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The map on the left shows the FATA in blue, most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in green and the Abbottabad district in red.
In the Dawn quotations below, “Khyber” refers to Kyber Agency within FATA and not Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as far as I can tell.
Dawn describes where the trial took place and the convictions that were handed down:
Officials said Afridi had been tried at the office of assistant political agent (APA) in Bara. He was sentenced on the charges of conspiring “to wage war against Pakistan or depriving it of its sovereignty”, “concealing existence of a plan to wage war against Pakistan” and “condemnation of the creation of the state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty”.
“The trial conducted under the Frontier Crimes Regulation continued for one year during which Dr Afridi was denied the right to engage a lawyer,” said Rahat Gul, an administrative official at the Khyber House.
Dawn then moved on to citing criticism about where the trial took place:
Critics have said he should not have been tried under tribal law for an alleged crime that took place outside tribal jurisdiction, in the town of Abbottabad where he ran a fake vaccination programme designed to collect bin Laden family DNA.
A senior official in Khyber, Nasir Khan, defended Afridi’s trial.
“We have powers to try a resident of FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) under the FCR enforced in tribal areas,” he told AFP.
And the trial had to be secret so that Afridi would not be attacked: Continue reading
By this time in the day, the early morning report of the killing of Anwar Awlaki is old news. From ABC News:
Senior administration officials say that the U.S. has been targeting Awlaki for months, though in recent weeks officials were able to pin down his location.
“They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.
And today they got him. Awlaki was killed by a drone delivered Hellfire missile, via a joint CIA and JSOC operation, in the town of Kashef, in Yemen’s Jawf province, approximately 140 kilometres east of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. But not only Awlaki was killed, at least three others, including yet another American citizen, Samir Khan, were killed in the strike.
That’s right, not just one, but two, Americans were summarily and extrajudicially executed by their own government today, at the direct order of the President of the United States. No trial, no verdict, just off with their heads. Heck, there were not even charges filed against either Awlaki or Khan. And it is not that the government did not try either, there was a grand jury convened on Khan, but no charges. Awlaki too was investigated for charges at least twice by the DOJ, but non were found.
But at least Awlaki was on Barrack Obama’s “Americans That Are Cool to Kill List”. Not so with Samir Khan. Not only is there no evidence whatsoever Khan is on the classified list for killing (actually two different lists) my survey of people knowledgeable in the field today revealed not one who believed khan was on any such list, either by DOD or CIA.
So, the US has been tracking scrupulously Awlaki for an extended period and knew with certainty where he was and when, and knew with certainty immediately they had killed Awlaki and Khan. This means the US also knew, with certainty, they were going to execute Samir Khan.
How did the US then make the kill order knowing they were executing a US citizen, not only extrajudicially, but not even with the patina of being on the designated kill list (which would at least presuppose some consideration and Yoo-like pseudo-legal cover)?
Did Barack Obama magically auto-pixie dust Khan onto the list with a wave of his wand on the spot? Even under the various law of war theories, which are not particularly compelling justification to start with as we are not at war with Yemen and it is not a “battlefield”, the taking of Khan would appear clearly prohibited under both American and International law. As Mary Ellen O’Connell, vice chairman of the American Society of International Law, relates, via Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Dangerroom:
“The United States is not involved in any armed conflict in Yemen,” O’Connell tells Danger Room, “so to use military force to carry out these killings violates international law.”
O’Connell’s argument turns on the question of whether the U.S. is legally at war in Yemen. And for the administration, that’s a dicey proposition. The Obama administration relies on the vague Authorization to Use Military Force, passed in the days after 9/11, to justify its Shadow Wars against terrorists. Under its broad definition, the Authorization’s writ makes Planet Earth a battlefield, legally speaking.
But the Authorization authorizes war against “nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” It’s a stretch to apply that to al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, which didn’t exist on 9/11. But when House Republicans tried to re-up the Authorization to explicitly bless the new contours of the war against al-Qaida, the Obama administration balked, fearing the GOP was actually tying its hands on the separate question of terrorist detentions.
“It is only during the intense fighting of an armed conflict that international law permits the taking of human life on a basis other than the immediate need to save life,” O’Connell continues. “In armed conflict, a privileged belligerent may use lethal force on the basis of reasonable necessity. Outside armed conflict, the relevant standard is absolute necessity.”
So did al-Awlaki represent an “absolute” danger to the United States? President Obama, in acknowledging Awlaki’s death on Friday morning, didn’t present any evidence that he did.
And therein lies lies the reason the US killing of Samir Khan may be even more troubling than the already troubling killing of al-Awlaki. There is no satisfactory legal basis for either one, but as to Khan there was NO process whatsoever, even the joke “listing” process utilized for Awlaki. The US says it took care to not harm “civilians”, apparently that would mean Yemeni civilians. American citizens are fair game for Mr. Obama, list or no list, crime or no crime, charges or no charges. Off with their heads!
People should not just be evaluating today’s fresh kills as to Awlaki, Samir Khan should be at the tip of the discussion spear too.
The West Memphis 3 are free!! Yea!
Three men convicted in the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, were ordered released after entering new pleas following a court hearing, prosecutor Scott Ellington said Friday.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 years in prison with credit for time served, a prosecutor said. They were to be released on Friday.
The three entered what is known as an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to maintain innocence while simultaneously acknowledging that the state has evidence to convict, Ellington said.
Cause for celebration, right?
Not here; I feel nothing but sweet sorrow because, while Damien Echols (who had actually been on death row most all of the intervening time), Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin are free, a solid little chunk of the American justice system, due process and fundamental fairness was sacrificed in the process.
Let one of the three, Mr. Baldwin, speak for himself and me here:
This was NOT justice. I did not want to take this deal, but they were going to kill Damien an I couldn’t let that happen.
And therein lies the huge rub. The facts had never been particularly solid against these three once young men. They were brow beaten by avaricious prosecutors, sought to be lynched by a southern community ginned up on fear, horror and emotion and poorly served by their attorneys at the original trial level. In short, every facet of the American system of due process was compromised and tainted, and they have sat convicted, one on death row, ever since as a result.
Thanks to a litany of friends, motivated activist celebrities like Johnnie Depp, Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder, and documentary filmmakers the cause of the West Memphis Three has never died. And, in fact, I would love to say that all that sweat, love and belief was vindicated today. But, sadly, that is simply not the case.
Yes, it is good, and truly heartwarming, to see “The Three” in sunshine. That said, justice and the rule of law are a little more dead for the effort if they are truly innocent. And the facts, including the key absence, indeed exclusion, of DNA evidence, now known – almost unequivocally – militate to a conclusion of innocence. While people should be happy, no thrilled, they are out of custody, I cannot believe there is not concurrent shrieking at the highest levels as to how exactly that has transpired.
Let’s be honest, no prosecutor in his right mind walks these three men out the front door of the courthouse if he truly believes they are guilty and there is even the slightest chance in hell he can make the charges stand up in a retrial. And no prosecutor lets them do it through Alford pleas. I do not care what kind of happy pablum they spew to the television cameras and press, it is really just that simple.
So, what we have here is nothing but a reaffirmation, ratification and craven ass covering of the original miscarriage of justice that railroaded the West Memphis Three. There will be no words of commendation here for the prosecutors, nor for Judge David Laser for giving the court’s imprimatur of propriety to this; in fact, they should all be questioned as to their ethics and morals.
This is nothing short of Mike Nifong making the Duke lacrosse players take misdemeanor pleas and register as sex offenders in order to save his precious reputation and job, and stop civil damage suits. Nifong did not get away with such depravity in Durham, and the prosecutors in Jonesboro Arkansas should not either.
Somewhere a gold lady with a set of scales weeps because another pint of her lifeblood has been spilled in Jonesboro Arkansas in the name of prosecutorial malice, vanity and civil damage mitigation. So many people have put their souls into this case, but the work is not over and the job not done yet. Because until the names of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin are cleared in full, due process has been denied and fundamental fairness refused.
Hot on the heels of the big DADT victory in Congress, which pretty much got passed in spite of Obama instead of because of him, comes this giant lump of coal for the Christmas stockings all those who believe in human rights, due process, the Constitution, and moral and legal obligations under international treaties and norms. From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration is preparing an executive order that would formalize indefinite detention without trial for some detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but allow those detainees and their lawyers to challenge the basis for continued incarceration, U.S. officials said.
The administration has long signaled that the use of prolonged detention, preferably at a facility in the United States, was one element of its plan to close Guantanamo. An interagency task force found that 48 of the 174 detainees remaining at the facility would have to be held in what the administration calls prolonged detention.
This is certainly not shocking, as the Obama Administration long ago indicated there were at least 48 or so detainees they felt too dangerous to release and their cases unable to be tried in any forum, Article III or military commission. This is, of course, because the evidence they have on said cases is so tainted by torture, misconduct and lack of veracity that it is simply not amenable to any legal process. Even one of their kangaroo courts would castigate the evidence and the US government proffering it. That is what happens when a country becomes that which it once stood against.
Pro Publica fills in some of the details:
But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.
Nearly two years after Obama’s pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo, more inmates there are formally facing the prospect of lifelong detention and fewer are facing charges than the day Obama was elected.
That is in part because Congress has made it difficult to move detainees to the United States for trial. But it also stems from the president’s embrace of indefinite detention and his assertion that the congressional authorization for military force, passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks, allows for such detention.
“It’s been clear for a while that the government would need to put in place some sort of periodic review, and that it would want it to improve on the annual review procedures used during the previous administration,” said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School who worked on detainee issues during the Bush administration.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as if this ballyhooed “review” amounts to anthing meaningful to the detainee. Although the detainee would have access to an attorney, it would obviously not be unfettered access, completely on the government’s self serving terms, there would be only limited access to evidence, and, most critically, the “review” would only weigh the necessity of the detention, not its lawfulness. In short, it is a joke.
So, the next time you hear Mr. Obama, or some spokesperson for his Administrations decrying the horrible Congress for placing a provision in legislation prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the US for civilian trial, keep in mind how quickly Mr. Obama rose up to take advantage of it – before the measure was even signed – and also keep in mind how Obama stood mute when he could have threatened a veto of such an inappropriate invasion of Executive Branch power by the Legislative Branch. Keep in mind that this is likely exactly what the Obama Administration wants to cover feckless and cowardly indecision and so they do not have to make the difficult political choice of actually protecting the Constitution and due process of law.
Just go read it. Because every word Glenn Greenwald wrote in his post today, entitled Nostalgia for Bush/Cheney Radicalism, is the gospel truth. It is rare that you will see a post here just pointing you somewhere else because the other source says it all. This is one of those times. Here is a taste:
How much clearer evidence can there be of how warped and extremist we’ve become on these matters? The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan — “applying the rule of law to terrorists”; delegitimizing Terrorists by treating them as “criminals”; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture — are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy — “to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against” Terrorists — is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists. In those rare cases when Obama does what Reagan’s policy demanded in all instances and what even Bush did at times — namely, trials and due process for accused Terrorists — he is attacked as being “Soft on Terror” by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the mere notion that we should prosecute torturers (as Reagan bound the U.S. to do) — or even hold them accountable in ways short of criminal proceedings — is now the hallmark of a Far Leftist Purist. That’s how far we’ve fallen, how extremist our political consensus has become.
Now go read the rest and weep for your country.