Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Opacity of Trope

As if we needed any more clear and convincing evidence of the complete collapse of morality in American politics, there's this from the New York Times:
Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist.
The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., made the call to release the secret memo — and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials.
The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appeals court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public.
Everybody from civil rights groups like the ACLU to media watchdogs like the (ahem) New York Times has been clamoring for years to have the alleged justification for President Obama's drone assassination of Muslim cleric Anwar al Awlaki made public. The Obama administration has fought back for years, citing the usual feeble excuse of "national security" for keeping its rationale for murder secret.

But now that the nomination to the federal bench of Donald Barron (the Harvard crony who wrote the "legal opinion")  is in jeopardy, the president will deign, after all, to release a censored version of it. It seems that the credibility of a couple of Democratic senators who've been clamoring for years to get the information hangs in the balance. They would look like utter hypocrites if they approved Obama's guy without making at least a show of demanding the secret opinion. (And forget the Republicans -- they're bitching that Barron is still too liberal, despite the blood on his hands.)

 So, while we're waiting for Obama and Holder to stock up on their black Magic Markers, Democrats are prematurely and quite unbelievably proclaiming victory:
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, who is locked in a close re-election fight, had said he could not support the nomination if the White House did not release some of his legal opinions. After the administration’s announcement on Tuesday, he said he was “now able to support the nomination of David Barron.”
“This is a welcome development for government transparency and affirms that although the government does have the right to keep national security secrets, it does not get to have secret law,” Mr. Udall said. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, called the decision “a very constructive step.”
So, all will be well in the cosseted little world of senatorial civil liberties concern-trolling if the trope looks something like this: 

Based upon the foregoing and subject to the additional qualifications set forth below, we are of the opinion that:
            1.         The Company is validly existing as a corporation[1] and in good standing under Delaware law and is qualified as a foreign corporation and in good standing in [California].

 2.         The President has the corporate power to execute and deliver the Transaction Documents[2] in which it is named as a party and to perform its obligations thereunder.[3]

 3.         The President has duly authorized, executed and delivered the Transaction Documents in which it is named as a party, and such Transaction Documents constitute its valid and binding obligations[4] enforceable against it in accordance with their terms b 

Signed, Irving Washington, Attorney At Law.

Here is my Times comment:

Unless the memo also releases clear and convincing evidence that Anwar al Awlaki was planning an imminent attack, this "legal" opinion is not worth the paper it's written on.

I suspect the reason that the Obama administration has fought so long and so hard against its release is that such evidence is flimsy at best, nonexistent at worst. There's not even proof that Al Awlaki was a senior Qaeda operative. He published a magazine that apparently inspired the Fort Hood shooter, so the US government decreed he had to be neutralized. His due process arrest and trial would probably have inflamed too many of his followers. And it was likely a weak case, bound to open up a whole can of CIA/FBI worms.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill has revealed that Al Awlaki was a moderate imam before the FBI began hounding him, post-9/11, in hopes of getting him to turn informant on his fellow Muslims. After he fled the country to escape the harassment, he was thrown in a Yemeni jail without charge and without trial, where he languished for 18 months. It was there that he became radicalized.

It surprises me that the two Democratic senators now proclaim themselves satisfied with a bit of nontransparent transparency they have yet to see. Do you mean to tell me that as long as a memo is released, the contents or lack thereof don't matter and this man will sail on to confirmation?

Does the fact that he is "otherwise liberal" justify his apparent disregard for the Bill of Rights?

And in response to another commenter taking issue with my insinuation that had Awlaki constituted a real threat, his killing would have been justified:

The key phrase is "imminent threat" -- and so far, there is absolutely no evidence that Awlaki was on the verge of causing immediate harm to anyone. If he had, for example, been detected driving toward a crowded public place with a truck full of explosives, then taking him out with a Tomahawk missile obviously would have been justified. He would have been *planning* to carry out an atrocity. It's the same premise that justifies police neutralizing an active shooter or anyone immediately threatening to inflict grievous bodily harm to another. This is the exception to due process.

All indications are that the Obama administration sentenced this man to death based on their own paranoia and thirst for vengeance. Their esteemed intelligence community had displayed gross incompetence in failing to detect and stop the Fort Hood psychiatrist. They needed a scapegoat.

If they have anything implicating Awlaki other than his rhetoric, they should furnish it to the public along with their self-serving legal memo.

Since they have not already done so speaks volumes.


In the end, it all devolves into slimy politics. All they need is a trope, a literary device, some pretty redacted language as window dressing to absolve themselves as accessories to coldblooded, state-sponsored murder.

With a new Judge Barron now only a step away from a Supreme Court appointment, tell me again why it's incumbent to elect a Democratic president over a Republican. 


stranger in a strange land said...

Speaking of paranoia and thirst for vengeance: what about al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son (killed in a subsequent strike)? The phrase "beyond the pale" comes to mind.

annenigma said...

This Barron guy is real legal piece of work. He has put the nail in the coffin of our Constitution. Sure the Bush administration built the coffin, but Obama didn't have to kill it and put the body in! It's really starting to stink. I hope the smell clings to Obama like the sulfur smell that Chavez joked surrounded Bush. But Obama's killer smile will no doubt save him from any legal consequences such as Impeachment.

At least we know that Obama does indeed have a spine, can fight hard for what he wants, doesn't ask for anyone to hold his feet to the fire, and can work out deals to benefit himself. If only he would fight for anything other than his own campaigns, powers, and position. Oh wait, he fights for Wall Street. Oh well, same difference.

So when do we start the public funerals for our Constitution? I need to stock up on some black clothing and fake flowers to surround the casket. What ever happened to political theater anyway? Can you imagine the USG cracking down on a funeral? Oh right - they drop Hellfire missiles from Predator drones on them.

*Karen, did Emptywheel fall off your blogroll recently? She did make some changes over there. Marcy Wheeler agrees with you and has a nice companion piece to yours titled 'The Disturbing Paradox of the David Barron Nomination'

This really is GRAVELY disturbing.

Pearl said...

annenigma: I have to disagree with you about Obama having a spine. He chooses the people surrounding him to do the dirty work and goes with the flow, becoming their poster boy. Those wealthy people who determine the choices to be made favoring their agenda are no dopes. They got their money by clever manipulation and know well how to find the loopholes to get what they want for themselves. They just transfer their talents from the corporate world to the government/political sphere and make it complicated enough to confuse the public.
Just reading your listings of articles (empty wheel, etc.) are difficult to follow even for those of us who have some knowledge of what transpires and how the law is manipulated for their benefit. Unfortunately, the average citizen even with good intentions is not in communication with such publications and even if so would not be able to connect the dots.
Obama is the perfect weak and ambitious yet ignorant puppet for them to utilize for their purposes. I wonder if our President even knows or understands how he is being used especially since he has learned to be the Reaganesque charmer in his speeches and appearances.
But somehow the public is beginning to smell a rat and the sniff test of our current administration does not hold up well. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Pearl said...

Again the question is as I mentioned in my response to Annenigma in your last column, Karen, whether Obama is aware of his role in the current political drama and blindly follows the agenda of his wealthy corrupt sponsors in order to feel that he is as you said God's blessing to humanity. I fear that his mindset is skewed to this premise in order to keep believing that he is the savior of the country. If so it is a form of mental illness to not recognize what is really going on around him and this is indeed dangerous. And if he is aware of his role and that drones indeed are needed to protect us, etc. he is indeed paranoid and equally dangerous.
There is something about the Oval Office that exposes the weaknesses of presidents past and present it being a protective bubble from reality and the only president who operated sanely was FDR. Your column sent chills up my spine as it hopefully will for others. Look how long it has taken the public to recognize the dangerous deficiencies in their leaders - LBJ - JFK - G.Bush for example, who left destruction behind. And now the curtains are beginning to part for Obama.and how will it effect the election of the next president and will the media begin to report the facts?