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Thanks again to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the public knows more details about the NSA's involvement in the Executive Branch assassination by drone program. The Washington Post reported on the program, focusing on the case of alleged Al Qaeda leader Hassan Ghul.

While it is in the public interest - though not terribly surprising - that NSA is involved in the assassinations, WaPo's report strikes the wrong tone, giving far too much ink to the government's "We Got Ghul!" cheerleading. WaPo reports that the documents "confirm his demise in October 2012." "His demise" is WaPo speak for his assassination at the hands of the U.S. government in a program that has taken the lives of thousands of innocent foreign civilians and several of our own citizens, including 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.

WaPo admits it sanitized the story at the request of the U.S. government:

The Post is withholding many details about those missions, at the request of U.S. intelligence officials who cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security.
This story sorely needs the investigative reporting of Marcy Wheeler (@emptywheel) and Jeremy Scahill (@jeremyscahill).  

There are so many obvious and significant questions WAPO does not address.

WaPo reports that ". . . the attack was aimed at “an individual believed to be” the correct target. . ."  Under what authority did the U.S. launch a drone attack without being sure of the target? Was this a signature strike?

NSA claims an e-mail from Ghul's wife revealed Ghul's location.
What happened to his wife and family in the drone strike? Were they collateral damage?

What about all the stupid decisions prior to Ghul's assassination? First the U.S. government captured Ghul. Then, after he gave the U.S. intelligence that helped the U.S. find Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. tortured him and held him in a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) black site (a.k.a. torture chamber). After two years, the U.S. released him to norther Pakistan, apparently expecting him to hold no ill will toward the U.S. after being tortured and held at a black site. Why was he tortured and held? Why was he released only to be assassinated?

The public is left to speculate on the answers to these questions, when any investigative journalist covering the story should have been asking them and finding answers.

There is a pattern to the reporting based on Snowden's whistleblowing disclosures. The first reporting reveals illegal, unconstitutional and/or immoral government conduct. Government officials obfuscate, misdirect or outright lie about their actions, usually in an attempt to cover-up wrongdoing. Additional disclosures reveal that the government has yet again misled the public.

The pattern is on full display in today's New York Times, which reveals that the Justice Department's National Security Division concealed from Solicitor General that it had a policy of not disclosing to criminal defendants when information gathered under the FISA Amendments Act was to be used against them. The Solicitor General, who later argued internally that there is no legal basis for such a policy, then misled the Supreme Court in a case attempting to challenge the FISA Amendments Act when he argued that a criminal defendant would have standing to challenge the FISA Amendments Act.

Jameel Jaffer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued in the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging the 2008 law, said that someone in the Justice Department should have flagged the issue earlier and that the department must do more than change its practice going forward.

“The government has an obligation to tell the Supreme Court, in some formal way, that a claim it made repeatedly, and that the court relied on in its decision, was simply not true,” he said. “And it has an obligation to notify the criminal defendants whose communications were monitored under the statute that their communications were monitored.”

The Obama administration has fought at every turn to prevent the courts from reviewing the NSA's massive domestic spying operation using every possible legal argument, no matter how far a stretch. The silver lining of the latest reports that the Solicitor General made an inaccurate claim before the Supreme Court is that a legal challenge to the FISA Amendments Act might finally be possible, as it should have been all along.

Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola has a fantastic analysis on the government's hiding NSA surveillance from criminal defendants:

If the government deliberately omits information that could make the success of a motion to suppress evidence possible, that is a violation of a person’s due process rights. Defendants also have a right, under the Fourth Amendment, to challenge any unconstitutional surveillance.

Beyond the rights of defendants, there is a larger issue that is highlighted: keeping the role of these surveillance programs secret in cases prevents a court from being able to review the practices.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good Questions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martini, lysias
    Why was he released only to be assassinated?
    My cynical guess is that he was released because he suckered the black ops people into thinking that they'd turned him.

    On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

    by stevemb on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 06:39:08 AM PDT

  •  Gen. Alexander has finally announced his departure (0+ / 0-)

    from his office next spring.  (The civilian Deputy Director of NSA is to leave by the end of this year.)

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:15:59 AM PDT

  •  Relative to drones... (4+ / 0-)

    There is a petition, which I signed but can't recall its origin, thanking Malala for personally asking Obama to stop drone killings.  She said they were doing a lot of damage by recruiting prospective terrorists against us after so many innocent people had been killed by drones.  Reddit also had an article a few days back about this White House meeting and a photo showing Malala, the president, and his wife and oldest daughter.  My hope is that the family shares Malala's opinion, but I suppose they would tend to be loyal.  

    Malala is one of the most courageous people in the public eye, in my opinion, to stand up to the Taliban and then to take advantage of her meeting with Obama to speak against this policy.  The ethics of this young girl as compared to his own must surely have embarrassed and shamed Obama, unless he has become too obsessed with promoting American military power, and his own, to see that she is right.

  •  'Al-Qaeda is a non-state actor' (0+ / 0-)

    We hear that a lot from folks who say there's no such thing as a GWOT, etc. Do you agree? If so then no international law, shaky as it is in the first place, makes 'assassination' illegal. If you think it's a legit war, then Ghul was a legit target. Either way, I don't see that particular action as wrong, nor in any way relatable to a specious strike on the younger AlAwlaki.

    While you dream of Utopia, we're here on Earth, getting things done.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:30:31 AM PDT

    •  I bet you would change you min (8+ / 0-)

      if another country started droning the US because of its policies.
      Seriously,, if the US can drop bombs on a country we are not at war with, why can't other countries attack the US?
      Why is it only called terrorism when it is done to us?
      There is an international law against countries invading other countries without UN approval.
      I can't believe you are in favor of the policy that has killed thousands of innocent people.
      Just wow.

      Passing a law that the Constitution doesn't allow does not negate the Constitution, it negates the law that was passed. Secret courts can't make up secret laws. SORRY FOR THE TYPOS :)

      by snoopydawg on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 10:02:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Dick Cheney disappeared and ended up in Iraq (0+ / 0-)

        4 days later to stand trial, would you make a squeak? I sure wouldn't. And Cheney's involvement was as a legitimate state leader, not a non-state actor.

        You clearly 1. don't know me 2. haven't seen what I've written on this, because I've said more than once that if we lacked such internal security as to have people like Ghul or Bin Laden basing themselves out of our country, I wouldn't for a second hold it against countries that they were plotting or warring against from taking them (or taking them out).

        While you dream of Utopia, we're here on Earth, getting things done.

        by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 11:41:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  what do you think about THESE deaths by Drones? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CIndyCasella

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 11:11:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  DOJ Battle about revealing evidence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, lysias

    Reached the NYT:

    Five years after Congress authorized a sweeping warrantless surveillance program, the Justice Department is setting up a potential Supreme Court test of whether it is constitutional by notifying a criminal defendant — for the first time — that evidence against him derived from the eavesdropping, according to officials.

    Prosecutors plan to inform the defendant about the monitoring in the next two weeks, a law enforcement official said. The move comes after an internal Justice Department debate in which Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that there was no legal basis for a previous practice of not disclosing links to such surveillance, several Obama administration officials familiar with the deliberations said.

    Sounds like Verrilli is going for early retirement.
    •  So they're refuting Bush's practices (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandino

      and this is a bad thing?  I don't see how this is a win for anything but more transparency, and it's coming from Obama's DOJ.  

      I also don't understand why nabbing an indicted terrorist and trying him in Manhatten gets no attention from Jessalyn or FDL.  Rule of law only matters if you can insinuate it's being undermined I guess.

      I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

      by I love OCD on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 09:23:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it is a good thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        I love OCD, lysias

        it is a bad thing that secret surveillance data has already corrupted unknown numbers investigators and trials.

      •  Would you feel the same way (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gerrilea, koNko, aliasalias

        if another country nabbed Bush, Cheney, or even Obama and took them to their country to stand trial for war crimes?
        Hmmmm?
        Transparency from Obama? Really?

        Passing a law that the Constitution doesn't allow does not negate the Constitution, it negates the law that was passed. Secret courts can't make up secret laws. SORRY FOR THE TYPOS :)

        by snoopydawg on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 10:05:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let me think now. This guy is under (0+ / 0-)

          indictment, living a nice life in a country that has no interest in preventing him from engaging in more terror attacks, and is now being tried in our court system, not tortured in Gitmo and that's a bad thing.  

          Let me ask YOU this:  if Spain grabbed Cheney and put him on trial for crimes against humanity would you demand his immediate release?  I wouldn't.  Bush?  Not so much, being Bush is punishment enough for the puppet.  Obama?  Good luck with that fantasy.  He ran on decimating the AQ leadership that orchestrated 9/11.  He published a list of the people he intended to kill or capture.  He followed through.  He was re-elected in a landslide victory.  He ended the war in Iraq, is ending the war in Afghanistan (both promised), and forced the world to honor the Red Line drawn by signatories after WWI without a shot fired and may be forcing Egypt's military to hold elections rather sooner than later, is repairing decades of damage in our relationship with Iran, is overseeing talks on a two-state solution for the I/P clusterfuck, managing to both support and call out both sides as appropriate, and by golly it turns out that Canada spies on foreign businesses and governments too.  

          Maybe it's time to stop being deeply outraged about what everyone knows every country does and start taking some action to rein in the NSA instead of fussing about it.

          I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

          by I love OCD on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 12:22:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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