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In a piece in Mother Jones, Adam Serwer argues:
[W]hy didn't Obama just say, "no, the president cannot deploy drone strikes against US citizens on American soil"? Because the answer is probably "yes." That may not be as apocalyptically sinister as it sounds.
I disagree that the answer is yes and I disagree that it does not sound apocalyptically sinister. Serwer relies on law professor Steven Vladeck:
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Via Michael Isikoff at NBC News, here is the 16 page DOJ white paper titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force." Isikoff writes:
It concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The paper has an expanded definition of threat. [More...]
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A Senate Committee has released the results of its two year investigation into the $1.4 billion post-9/11 fusion centers The bi-partisan report finds the programs, intended to facilitate sharing of information among law enforcement, were ineffective, overly expensive and intruded on civil liberties.
“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Senator Tom Coburn, the Subcommittee’s ranking member who initiated the investigation.
The investigation determined that senior DHS officials were aware of the problems hampering effective counterterrorism work with the fusion centers, but did not always inform Congress of the issues, nor ensure the problems were fixed in a timely manner.
The iinvestigation reviewed 600 reports and found most had nothing to do with terrorism. The full report is here. [More...]
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A few days ago, the New York Times reported that Mitt Romney would overturn Obama's position barring the used of enhanced interrogation techniques.
There are 18 lawyers, most of whom were part of the Bush Administation, on Romney's National Security team.
Here's the memo they wrote.
In related news, Romney and Ryan are now getting security briefings from the Obama administration.
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California film producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has been released after voluntarily going to an LA Sheriff's station to be questioned by federal probation officers. According to sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, he decided not to return to his besieged home and was taken to an undisclosed location. His most recent attorney, Steven Seidman, who did not represent him in his federal bank fraud case for which he is on supervised release, visited the home this morning saying he was not at liberty to discuss his representation.
Nakoula is a Coptic Christian. In his federal case, an Arabic translator was required and appeared at all proceedings. He is a U.S. citizen. His lawyer in the case was James Henderson, Sr., who replaced Jack Whitaker due to a potential conflict of interest issue that arose.
Nakoula was detained in that case since his arrest in June, 2009. The Government asserted he was an extreme flight risk. He did not contest detention. After cooperating with the government in exchange for leniency at sentencing, in June, 2010, he was sentenced to 21 months, to be followed by 6 months in a halfway house. The Judge recommended he serve his sentence at Lompoc, and BOP records show his release date as June, 2011. There is no indication in the court record of any subsequent violations. He was also ordered to pay $794,700.57, in restitution. [More...]
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The U.S. Marines have arrived in Yemen following an attack there on the U.S. embassy.
Closer to home, bomb threats at University of Texas and North Dakota State University have led to evacuations.
Rhonda Weldon, the school’s director of communications, said the university received a call about 8:35 a.m. from a man claiming to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. The man said he'd placed bombs all over the campus that would detonate in 90 minutes.
There have also been attacks on embassies in Tunisia and Sudan.
The protests are rapidly escalating around the world. The U.S. has now identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the a self-described Coptic Christian, as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that sparked the protests. He is on federal probation in California for bank fraud and the Probation Department confirms they are reviewing his case to see if he violated his probation. One of the terms was he could not use the internet. Authorities say he is "a self-described Coptic Christian."
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Update: Al-Shihri says he's alive. So does a Yemen official:
The Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted an unnamed senior Yemeni defense ministry official as saying that DNA tests of the body have proved that the dead man was not al-Shihri.
Saeed Ali al-Shihri, the former Guantanamo inmate who after release, went to a Saudi rehabilitation camp and then returned to Yemen to form AQAP and become its second in command, has been killed in Yemen. The Yemen News Agency announcement is here.
This isn't the first time Yemen has announced al-Shihiri is dead. More on Al-Shehri (also spelled al Shihri) and the other top AQAP leaders here. You can read his father's statements disowning him here.
The former Seal who goes by the name Mark Owen was on 60 minutes tonight. He said the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound was not a kill mission.
He then describes how they were going up the stairs and had been told to expect one of bin Laden's sons to be there. They saw a figure disappear behind a door. They didn't know who it was. A Seal, on a hunch, whispers "Khalid." The figure peeks around the corner. The Seal shoots him dead. It was Khalid bin Laden.
Owen: “Curiosity killed the cat. I guess Khalid, too.”
But this was not a kill mission.
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The CIA had asked Afridi to run a fake Hepatitis vaccine program. Details here. Leon Pannetta criticized his arrest on "60 Minutes".
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The CIA says it thwarted a planned attack on a commerical airliner by al Qaeda Arabian Penisula (AQAP) in Yemen. They say it was more sophisticated than the Underwear Bomber's device.
The FBI is conducting tests on the device. It may have been made by AQAP bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.
The bomb had not been picked up by the would-be suicide bomber who was to do the attack. A target had not even been selected.
The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.
Did the suicide bomber get cold feet and go to the authorities? CBS reports:
The would-be suicide bomber was told to buy a ticket on the airliner of his choosing and decide the timing of the attack. It's not immediately clear what happened to the would-be bomber, the AP reported.
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Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, White House counterterrorism official John Brennan today defended the use of drones against al Qaeda.
“Yes, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives, the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” Brennan said.
He defended targeted strikes and the use of drones as "ethical." You can watch some of his statement here.
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A court in Pakistan has convicted Osama bin Laden's three wives and two adult daughters of illegally remaining in Pakistan, hiding their identity from authorities and forgery. The court sentenced them to 45 days in detention, after which they will be deported.
Although in custody in a private house since May when Osama was killed, they will get credit for time served since March 3 when they were arrested.
They have two weeks left, and they will serve the sentence at the home where they've been detained, not in prison. They will be allowed to take their minor children with them when they leave. Two of the wives are from Saudi Arabia, and one is from Yemen.
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Pakistan has decided to charge three of Osama bin Laden's wives and two of his daughters with the crimes of illegally entering and residing in Pakistan. The penalty is five years in jail. I wonder if they get credit for the 11 months served to date under Pakistani house-arrest in a "sub jail."
Two of the wives, Amal, 29, of Yemen and Khairiah, 61, of Saudi Arabia, had to be separated by Pakistani security officials. Amal suspects Khairiah of helping Americans capture Osama. Khairiah has accused Amal of "sticking to Osama like a prostitute who wanted sex 24 hours a day." [More...]
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At 4:30 pm ET, Attorney General Eric Holder will explain and attempt to legally justify the U.S. policy on targeted killings in a speech at Northwestern University in Chicago. He will also discuss the revamped military commission trials and successes of federal terror prosecutions.
Update: Prepared remarks here.
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As someone who supported American action in Afghanistan, it has become time for me to render a mea culpa - I was wrong. The people in charge of the action are simply not competent. Consider the Koran burning incident in Bagram:
The holy books and texts came from the library in the detention center in Parwan, where Americans house people suspected of being insurgents, including many of those captured during night raids. A military official said detainees had been using the books to communicate with each other and potentially incite extremist activity.
(Emphasis supplied.) It seems that for incitement of extremist activity, Americans are the champions. How in Gawd's name could this have happened? And this is not an isolated incident. The NATO commander General James Allen said:
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