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Targeted Killing Timeline

A timeline!

I’ve been working on this timeline for almost nine months, trying to pull together the known dates about strikes against Americans, the evidence supporting the strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the legal cases surrounding both targeted killing and torture, to which targeted killing is linked via the Memorandum of Notification, and Congressional efforts to exercise oversight.

September 17, 2001: George Bush signs Memorandum of Notification (henceforth, Gloves Come Off MON) authorizing a range of counterterrorism techniques, including torture and targeted killing.

September 18, 2001: Congress passes the Authorization to Use Military Force.

November 3, 2002: US citizen Kamal Derwish killed in drone purportedly targeting Abu Ali al-Harithi.

Late 2008: Ruben Shumpert reported killed in Somalia.

June 24, 2009: Leon Panetta gets briefed on assassination squad program.

June 26, 2009: HPSCI passes a funding authorization report expanding the Gang of Eight briefings.

July 8, 2009: The Administration responds with an insulting appeal to a “fundamental compact” between Congress and the President on intelligence matters.

July 8, 2009: Silvestre Reyes announces CIA lied to Congress.

October 26, 2009: British High Court first orders British government to release language on Binyam Mohamed’s treatment.

October 28, 2009: FBI kills Imam Luqman Asmeen Abdullah during Dearborn, MI arrest raid.

October 29, 2009: Hearing on declassifying mention of Gloves Come Off MON before Judge Alvin Hellerstein; in it, Hellerstein reveals NSA James Jones has submitted declaration to keep mention of MON secret.

November 5, 2009: Nidal Hasan attacks Fort Hood, killing 13.

December 24, 2009: JSOC tries but fails to hit Anwar al-Awlaki. On that day, the IC did not yet believe him to be operational.

December 25, 2009: With Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attack, FBI develops full understanding of Awlaki’s operational goals.

January 2, 2010: In conversation with David Petraeus, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=10SANAA4“>speaks as if Awlaki, whom he refers to as a cleric, not an AQAP member, was a designated target of December 24 attack.

Read more

Alleged Wacko Rand Paul Asks Serious Questions about Targeted Killings

TDS cites emptywheel for its Targeted Killing Memos request tally.

TDS cites emptywheel for its Targeted Killing Memos request tally.

The Politico went to some effort, it seems, to dismiss Rand Paul’s concerns about the drone program (as well as his threat to hold John Brennan’s nomination if and when it gets out of the Senate Intelligence Committee).

But Paul’s two letters on the subject are actually far more serious than those mocking them make out (the first one also brings the tally of congressional requests for the targeted killing memos to 19).

For example, Paul is one of the few people asking any questions about non-US citizens.

Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? What about the use of lethal force against a non-U.S. person on U.S. soil?

He also asks how the National Security Act and Posse Comitatus might play into a domestic strike.

Do you believe that the prohibition on CIA participation in domestic law enforcement, first established by the National Security Act of 1947, would apply to the use of lethal force, especially lethal force directed at an individual on a targeting list, if a U.S. citizen on a targeting list was found to be operating on U.S. soil? What if the individual on the targeting list was a non-U.S. person but found to be operating on U.S. soil? Do you consider such an operation to be domestic law enforcement, or would it only be subject to the president’s wartime powers?

[snip]

Do you believe that the Posse Comitatus Act, or any other prohibition on the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, would prohibit the use of military hardware and/or personnel in pursuing terrorism suspects—especially those on a targeting list—found to be operating on U.S. soil? If not, would you support the use of such assets in pursuit of either U.S. citizen or non-U.S. persons on U.S. soil suspected of terrorist activity?

And (here in his first letter to Brennan) Paul asks the seemingly unspeakable question: how 16 year old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki came to be killed by a US drone.

What role did you play in approving the drone strike that led to the death of the underage, U.S. citizen son of Anwar al-Awlaki? Unlike his father, he had not renounced his U.S. citizenship. Was the younger al-Awlaki the intended target of the U.S. drone strike which took his life? Further, do you reject the subsequent claim, apparently originating from anonymous U.S. government sources, that the young man had actually been a “military age male” of 20 years or more of age, something that was later proven false by the release of his birth certificate?

Paul even asks a question limited largely to Yemen experts — whether or expanding campaign there is really about counterinsurgency rather than counterterrorism.

Is the U.S. drone strike strategy exclusively focused on targeting al Qaeda, or is it also conducting counterinsurgency operations against militants seeking to further undermine their government, such as in Yemen?

Finally, Paul slips this question in, which has nothing to do with targeted killings, but has everything to do with Brennan’s seeming disinterest in the privacy of the American people.

Do you support the Attorney General’s 2012 guidance to the NCTC that it may deliberately collect, store, and “continually assess” massive amounts of data on all U.S. citizens for potential correlations to terrorism, even if the U.S. citizens targeted have no known ties to terrorism?

Now, to Politico this may be a big game. But Paul is asking a lot of questions that no one else in DC is asking (note: he may have more leeway to ask such questions than, say, Ron Wyden, who has presumably been read into some of these answers).

Which is, I guess, how the Village now defines wacko: those people who asks the questions they’re too afraid to ask.

Kerry Resists Rand Paul on Pakistan Funding Question

At his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Secretary of State, engaged in nearly ten minutes of discussion with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul managed to come off as not nearly as batshit insane as he sounds while campaigning (although Kerry did have to say “let me finish” several times), and actually came very close to making a good and substantial point. While discussing the issue of providing arms to Egypt, Paul mentioned the long history of the US supporting and providing arms to a series of groups including the mujahideen and even Osama bin Laden. I say Paul came close to making a good point because this part of his commentary was framed around these groups coming back to pose a threat to Israel. Paul could have made a very important point had he framed the discussion as part of the bigger issue of the blowback when these groups, especially bin Laden, set their sites sights on the US after being funded by us as “the enemy of my enemy”. Kerry did a fine job of ending this part of the exchange, by stating that answer to the issue of arming various parties is to “make peace”.

In the final third of the video above, Paul moves to the question of relations with Pakistan. I didn’t get to watch the hearing live and haven’t yet found a transcript, but at least in the questions Paul had about Pakistan, I find myself wishing different questions had been asked. Regarding Pakistan, I would have asked Kerry if his idea of diplomacy is represented by his actions in the Raymond Davis affair, when Kerry went to Pakistan to lobby for Davis’ release and smuggled out of Pakistan the driver of the diplomatic vehicle that struck and killed a Pakistani civilian while attempting to rescue Davis from the site where he had shot and killed two Pakistanis. I also would have asked Kerry what steps he had taken personally to follow up on his pledge to Pakistan that Davis would be subject to a criminal investigation for the killings in Lahore.

Instead, Paul asked Kerry whether he would condition financial aid to Pakistan on the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi. Neither Paul nor Kerry mentioned or condemned the vaccination ruse in which the CIA employed Afridi or the damage that ruse has done in terms of reduced polio vaccination rates and murdered health workers who were administering the polio vaccine. Instead, both lamented that someone who had helped the US to find bin Laden would find himself in jail. Kerry, however, stated that withholding aid would be the wrong approach. From the New York Times:

On Pakistan, Mr. Kerry said he had talked to Pakistani leaders about the Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned for assisting the C.I.A.’s effort to track Osama bin Laden.

“That bothers every American,” said Mr. Kerry, who said that he was nonetheless opposed to cutting aid. “We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it,” he said.

Dawn went into more detail on the exchange:

It was Senator Rand Paul, a new Republican face in the committee, who suggested cutting US aid to Pakistan “if they do not release Dr Shakil Afridi” who, he said, was imprisoned for helping the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader was killed in a US military raid on his compound in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

Mr Kerry informed the senator that he had discussed this issue directly with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and like most Americans found it “incomprehensible if not repugnant, that somebody who helped us find Osama bin Laden is in jail in Pakistan”.

And “that bothers every American,” he added.

The senior US lawmaker, who stayed engaged with both Pakistan and Afghanistan as President Obama’s informal emissary during his first term, urged Senator Paul to also look at what the Pakistanis say.

“Pakistanis make the argument Dr Afridi did not know what he was doing, who he was specifically targeting … it was like a business for him,” he said, adding that this was no excuse for keeping the physician in jail.

But he said that he would stay engaged with Pakistan rather than resorting to “a pretty dramatic, draconian, sledge-hammer” approach of cutting US aid to the country Senator Paul had suggested.

This discussion by Paul and Kerry of Afridi is the first time in several weeks that Afridi’s name has resurfaced. I still think it likely that Afridi will disappear from the jail where he is now held. The only question is whether he will reappear in the US (where people like Rand Paul and Dana Rohrabacher will certainly want to take him on tour with them in a victory lap) or just disappear entirely.

Did Fox News Really Interview Dr. Shakeel Afridi From Peshawar Central Jail?

In a remarkable development, Fox News published a story Monday based on an interview Dominic Di-Natale says he conducted with Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who aided the CIA’s search for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. As I had described back in June, Afridi now is in the central jail in Peshawar, but local authorities there have been asking the federal government to find a safer place for Afridi to be imprisoned, because it is feared that militants will attack Afridi to exact revenge for the aid he provided in the bin Laden mission.

Prior to his trial earlier this year, it is believed that Afridi was detained by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. In the Fox story, Afridi is quoted as saying that the ISI is merely manipulating the US to obtain funding for Pakistan:

Pakistan’s powerful spy agency regards America as its “worst enemy,” and the government’s claims that it is cooperating with the US are a sham to extract billions of dollars in American aid, according to the CIA informant jailed for his role in hunting down Usama bin Laden.

/snip/

“They said ‘The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’” Afridi, who spoke from inside Peshawar Central Jail, said as he recalled the brutal interrogation and torture he suffered after he was initially detained.

Pakistan, and especially the ISI, vigorously denies that the interview could have taken place:

The ISI rubbished as ‘fiction’ on Tuesday a reported interview by a US TV channel of jailed Dr Shakeel Afridi, allegedly involved in tracing Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Fox News correspondent had interviewed Dr Afridi,” a senior security official said after preliminary investigations.

“It is all concocted and baseless,” he said as he laughed off the claims made in the interview. “It’s amusing how well he (as reported in the interview) learnt about ISI operations from the cell in which he was kept blindfolded for eight months, as claimed by him,” he added.

The jail in which he has been lodged has ‘jammers’ that block cellphone signals, another official said.

At yesterday’s press briefing at the State Department, Victoria Nuland said that the authenticity of the interview has not yet been determined:

QUESTION:Staying on Pakistan, I wondered if State Department’s had a chance to review a supposed interview that Dr. Afridi has given to Fox News and whether you think it’s credible.

MS. NULAND: Well, frankly, we can’t at this point verify the authenticity of the interview. Read more

Time to End the War in Iraq

The War Powers Resolution 6-Month Report has gotten unusual attention because it officially announces we’re at war in Yemen and Somalia (though I suspect the Administration has only finally officially announced we’re at war against al Qaeda in Yemen precisely because we’re not, just).

While everyone’s looking, let’s look more closely at this bit:

MILITARY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ

The United States completed its responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, in accordance with the 2008 Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq.

Jeebus pete. Can’t we avoid propaganda like “responsible withdrawal” in even these bureaucratic communications? (Or “working closely with the Yemeni government to operationally dismantle … AQAP”?)

Nevertheless, even dripping with propagandistic language as it is, this passage seems to be official notice to Congress that the war in Iraq is over, done, kaput.

So now can we repeal the Iraq AUMF?

As you’ll recall, over six months ago, Rand Paul proposed an amendment to repeal the still-active Iraq AUMF. It failed miserably, 30-67. During the debate on it, a bunch of reasonable Democrats (and all the usual suspect unreasonable ones) stood up and blathered on about why we need an AUMF for a war that is over. If you asked now they’d probably point to the bad crowd Iraq is hanging out with in OPEC circles.

Iran and Iraq are forming a strengthening alliance inside Opec, raising concerns among moderate Arab Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and increasing the potential for discord in the oil producers’ group.

[snip]

A particular bone of contention was a proposal by Venezuela – backed by other Opec hardliners like Iran, Iraq and Algeria – that the group should protest against the EU sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme. The move was rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and other moderates including Nigeria, Libya and Kuwait, who argued that such protests were the preserve of foreign ministers, not oil ministers.

(Yes, you read that right: Saudi Arabia is considered a “moderate” state in this context.)

Or they’d point to the series of bombings al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed credit for recently.

But the real reason they won’t repeal an AUMF for a war that has officially ended is because that AUMF expands the authority to fight terrorism beyond simply al Qaeda to whatever “terrorist” groups the President claims is in armed conflict with and poses a threat to the US. Indeed, in Mark Udall’s effort to “fix” the NDAA, he even suggested the Iraq War AUMF pertained to “covered persons” who could be detained indefinitely under that law.

I know it sounds funny, having to insist on ending a war the Administration just informed Congress is over. But it’s not over.

A Tale of Two Senators: Feinstein Calls for Apology to Pakistan, Paul Attempts to Defund

You know that things are truly screwed up regarding US policy on Pakistan when the “best of Senators” is Dianne Feinstein, but it’s hardly surprising that Rand Paul would step up in the Senate to carry Dana Rohrabacher’s sentiments forward and attempt to cut all funding from Pakistan until Dr. Shakeel Afridi is released.

First, the good news from Feinstein. While many in Washington were getting overheated in response to a cost estimate finally being attached to the closure of NATO supply routes through Pakistan ($100 million a month), Dianne Feinstein made the courageous observation that the US could likely move ahead through the current diplomatic standoff with Pakistan by issuing a simple apology over the Salala raid:

A senior US lawmaker said on Wednesday that apologising to Pakistan over the Salala incident would improve Washington’s relations with a key ally.

“National security of the US will be better served with a positive relationship with Pakistan,” Senator Dianne Feinstein told a Senate hearing on budget priorities for 2013.

The Senator, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, observed that both sides made mistakes in handling the Nov 26 incident, which caused the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US air raid.

/snip/

Senator Feinstein noted that the dispute over the supply lines could be solved “with some civilian acceptance of the mistakes” the US had made.

Such an acceptance could also lead to the reopening of Nato supply lines, she said, adding that “it would do well to apologise” for the mistakes made.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was very quick to respond to this overture:

“We appreciate Senator Feinstein for showing the way forward in normalising ties in a relationship that is important to both sides and critical for stabilising the region,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman while welcoming the gesture.

Rehman’s time in Washington this week has been difficult, as seen by Rand Paul’s attempt at “diplomacy”:

US Senator Paul Rand was blocked from attaching an amendment to the farm bill that would withhold US aid to Pakistan.

The amendment would have defunded US aid to Pakistan until the country frees an imprisoned doctor, who worked for CIA in hunt for al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Rehman was happy for the move to block Paul’s action, but it appears that her task is doomed: Read more

Day of Surprises in Afridi Case: Conviction Not Related to CIA Help; Ignatius Chastises CIA

There are many developments today surrounding Pakistan’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison, including two that are quite unexpected. According to documents released today to multiple news agencies, it turns out that Afridi’s conviction is not on the treason charges relating to his work with the CIA in finding Osama bin Laden that many thought were the basis of the charges against him. Instead, the documents indicate that Afridi was convicted for aiding the outlawed group Lashkar-e-Islam, which is said to be in open conflict with Pakistan. Equally unexpected is today’s column by CIA spokesman reporter columnist David Ignatius in the Washington Post where he chastises the CIA for using Afridi in a vaccination ruse, citing the resultant danger to public health as vaccination programs come more generally under suspicion in the areas where they are needed most urgently.

Reuters gives us the basics on the documents released today by the court:

A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was imprisoned for aiding militants and not for links to the CIA, as Pakistani officials had said, according to a court document released on Wednesday.

Last week, a court in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border sentenced Shakil Afridi to 33 years in jail. Pakistani officials told Western and domestic media the decision was based on treason charges for aiding the CIA in its hunt for the al Qaeda chief.

But in the latest twist in the case, the judgment document made available to the media on Wednesday, states Afridi was jailed because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which amount to waging war against the state.

Dawn fills in more details:

The order said intelligence reports had indicated that the accused had close links with the defunct LI and “his love for Mangal Bagh, Amir of Lashkar-i-Islam, and his association with him was an open secret”.

Referring to the report submitted by the JIT, it said the accused had paid Rs2 million to LI when he was serving at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Dogra, Bara, Khyber tribal region.

The court also accused Mr Afridi of providing medical assistance to militant commanders like Said Noor Malikdinkhel, Hazrat Sepah, Wahid Shaloberkhel and others at the hospital which he headed.

It also referred to statements by some people that militant commanders used to visit the hospital and hold private meetings with the accused. “These meetings were usually of longer duration and most often those meetings were followed by attacks by militants on security forces’ checkposts and other places at night,” the order read.

It said LI’s design to wage war against the state of Pakistan was a reality known to all and that those attacks were planned in the office of the accused. Being a public servant, the involvement of the accused in subversive activities and his role in facilitating the waging of war and attacks on security forces made him liable to be proceeded against, it added.

There is one more point that stands out in the Dawn article: Read more

Senate Passes Defense Authorization

The final vote was 86-13. No votes were Lee, Paul, DeMint, Risch, Crapo, and Coburn (the last three not on civil liberties grounds), and Cardin, Wyden, Sanders, Durbin, Franken, Harkin, and Merkley.

I’m sure Obama will sign this in time for us all to be indefinitely detained this weekend.

Update: Senator Franken sent out a statement explaining his no vote. It ends, “Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and this wasn’t the way to mark its birthday.”

Why the Iraq AUMF Still Matters

The big headline that came out of yesterday’s American Bar Association National Security panels is that DOD General Counsel Jeh Johnson and CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston warned that US citizens could be targeted as military targets if the Executive Branch deemed them to be enemies.

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.

[snip]

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

We knew that. Still, it’s useful to have the Constitutional Lawyer President’s top aides reconfirm that’s how they function.

But I want to point to a few other data points from yesterday’s panels (thanks to Daphne Eviatar for her great live-tweeting).

First, Johnson also said (in the context of discussions on cyberspace, I think),

Jeh Johnson: interrupting the enemy’s ability to communicate is a traditionally military activity.

Sure, it is not news that the government (or its British allies) have hacked terrorist “communications,” as when they replaced the AQAP propaganda website, “Insight,” with a cupcake recipe (never mind whether it’s effective to delay the publication of something like this for just one week).

But note what formula Johnson is using: they’ve justified blocking speech by calling it the communication of the enemy. And then apparently using Jack Goldsmith’s formulation, they have said the AUMF gives them war powers that trump existing domestic law, interrupting enemy communications is a traditional war power, and therefore the government can block the communications of anyone under one of our active AUMFs.

Johnson also scoffed at the distinction between the battlefield and the non-battlefield.

Jeh Johnson: the limits of “battlefield v. Non battlefield is a distinction that is growing stale.” But then, it’s not a global war. ?

Again, this kind of argument gets used in OLC opinions to authorize the government targeting “enemies” in our own country. On the question of “interrupting enemy communication,” for example, it would seem to rationalize shutting down US based servers.

Then, later in the day Marty Lederman (who of course has written OLC opinions broadly interpreting AUMF authorities based on the earlier Jack Goldsmith ones) acknowledged that Americans aren’t even allowed to know everyone the US considers an enemy.

Lederman: b/c of classification, “we’re in armed conflicts with some groups the American public doesn’t know we’re in armed conflict with.”

Now, as I’ve noted, one of the innovations with the Defense Authorization passed yesterday is a requirement that the Executive Branch actually brief Congress on who we’re at war with, which I take to suggest that Congress doesn’t yet necessarily know everyone who we’re in “armed conflict” with.

Which brings us to how Jack Goldsmith defined the “terrorists” whom the government could wiretap without a warrant.

the authority to intercept the content of international communications “for which, based on the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent persons act, there are reasonable grounds to believe … [that] a party to such communication is a group engaged in international terrorism, or activities in preparation therefor, or any agent of such a group,” as long as that group is al Qaeda, an affiliate of al Qaeda or another international terrorist group that the President has determined both (a) is in armed conflict with the United States and (b) poses a threat of hostile actions within the United States;

It’s possible the definition of our enemy has expanded still further since the time Goldsmith wrote this in 2004. Note Mark Udall’s ominous invocation of “Any other statutory or constitutional authority for use of military force” that the Administration might use to authorize detaining someone. But we know that, at a minimum, the Executive Branch used the invocations of terrorists in the Iraq AUMF–which are much more generalized than the already vague definition of terrorist in the 9/11 AUMF–to say the President could use war powers against people he calls terrorists who have nothing to do with 9/11 or al Qaeda.

So consider what this legal house of cards is built on. Largely because the Bush Administration sent Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to our Egyptian allies to torture, it got to include terrorism language in an AUMF against a country that had no tie to terrorism. It then used that language on terrorism to justify ignoring domestic laws like FISA. Given Lederman’s language, we can assume the Administration is still using the Iraq AUMF in the same way Goldsmith did. And yet, in spite of the fact that the war is ending, we refuse to repeal the AUMF used to authorize this big power grab.

Give Them a Damn Ticker Tape Parade Already

“Who will be the last senator to not want to end a mistake? Me.” – John Kerry

That’s the way MightyOCD interpreted John Kerry’s vote–along with 66 of his colleagues–not to repeal the Iraq war that is ending whether they like it or not next month.

The vote was on a Rand Paul amendment to repeal the 2002 Iraq War AUMF.

Along with Paul, DeMint, Heller, and Snowe, a bunch of liberals and Blue Dogs like Bad Nelson and Manchin voted to end the Iraq mistake.

Yet liberals like Levin, Stabenow, Reed, and Whitehouse voted to continue the war that is ending.

By my count, something like 25 men and women who weren’t around to vote for the AUMF when it first passed in 2002 voted in favor of continuing this infernal war–and that’s not counting people like Levin and Stabenow who voted against it the first time.

So we’re going to have all these AUMFs lying around on the books. authorizing secret powers we’re not allowed to know, rather than simply and cleanly declaring a war over. Done.

In the good old days, you’d declare victory and give the men and women who served a big parade. How I’d love a parade about now.