Many questions for John Brennan today and only a few hours to ask them

3:19 pm in Uncategorized by joanneleon

There are a lot of questions for John Brennan’s confirmation hearing today and only a few hours scheduled to ask them.

Many questions have been published by various news organizations and blogs. I very much want answers to their questions but I have one big, obvious question as well. This is my question:

What has changed since 2008-9 when John Brennan was considered to be too toxic to be confirmed as Director of the CIA? What is so different now that he is expected to be easily confirmed and that only a few hours are needed to question him?

In my opinion, he is even less confirmable in 2013 than he was in 2009. So what has changed? I’ll explain more about why I think he is even less suited for the job today, but first, let’s explore some of the questions posed by the media.

Most of the questions from journalists center around the targeted killing laws and the drone programs and about John Brennan’s actions and background. There aren’t many other questions about the operation of the CIA, though there are some.

This is not surprising, in my view.

The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice.
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Questions for John Brennan from journalists

A fair number of journalists, both mainstream media journalists and citizen journalists have many questions for John Brennan and have published them in the past week or so. Some of these questions are also undoubtedly for President Obama. Frankly, I wonder why the media has not been flooded with more such questions and for the life of me I cannot understand why only a few hours have been scheduled for a few senators to ask such questions, the only ones who can formally ask these questions when Brennan is under oath. I should note that this is not a full accounting of questions that have been documented by journalists.

Brennan has submitted answers to some questions in writing already, and you can find two PDF documents here, but personally, I am not satisfied by the answers in these documents and I don’t find the answers to be very enlightening. Hopefully the senators on the intelligence committee will use the time that they have very well, minimizing opening statements and bloviating.


The New Yorker

Amy Davidson from The New Yorker wants to know whom the president can kill and she wants a better definition of some of the fuzzy terms that are in the white paper that was leaked this week on the topic. Toward the end of the article she uses the

It is appropriate to ask Brennan, the Drone Assassination Czar, this question since he has been at the center of this program.

You know, it doesn’t get much more serious than this, and yet, there is a relatively small amount clamor for this question to be answered. It feels surreal. I think most Americans have no idea and think it could never happen here.

Some senators, particularly Sen. Wyden have been asking the president to release the memos that justify killing Americans with no due process (or rather with the Obama/Holder new age due process) for two years now. He should not have to ask the president for this. The Constitution says that Congress has oversight over the executive and could there even BE a bigger question than this? Yet the president denied this request and has only now released two memos (there might be more) to the intelligence committees. There is no declassified version. So our president claims the right to unilaterally kill American citizens, anywhere on the globe, including on American soil, but he will not disclose to those same citizens the specific reasons why he might target you.

John Brennan was the man who was in charge of the operation that killed at least one American citizen, al-Awlaki, and there are still quite a few questions and contradicting pieces of information around that. And yet Brennan will face only a few hours of questioning from the Senate intelligence committee today.

WHOM CAN THE PRESIDENT KILL?

The question isn’t whether al-Awlaki, who worked with Al Qaeda, was an innocent—the question is at what point he crossed the line and became killable without any judicial proceedings, and when, by extension, the rest of us could be put on a “kill list.”

[...]

A few weeks before the Stevenson speech, Nixon offered his own rationalization, in which he said that we were taking our war into Cambodia because the United States could not act “like a pitiful, helpless giant” [...] In our great universities, in the days that followed, there were protests and outrage at the expansion of the war. Between Nixon’s speech and Stevenson’s came the Kent and Jackson State shootings, where students who didn’t want the United States to go into Cambodia were killed, along with bystanders, by the National Guard and the police.

[...]

What if those students had been Americans at a university in, say, Paris, who formed a group to protest a war? Could a President who read the D.O.J.’s white paper tell himself that they were an “associated force” based in a foreign country, or that, if they succeeded in mobilizing Congress or public opinion against what it considered a necessary military action, that they would pose an “imminent threat”? Could he kill them then? Could he do so now?


ThinkProgress

ThinkProgress wants some answers about the policy and direction of the drone programs and about the end game of the war on terror.

The One Question Congress Must Ask Before Confirming Obama’s CIA Director

[...] but the hearing presents the perfect opportunity to get the current top Obama administration counterterrorism official perhaps most closely involved in the targeted killing program against al Qaeda to answer the fundamental question about it: when does it end?

[...]

In the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009, Brennan authored a scathing review of what was then U.S. counterterrorism policy. [...]

[...] In a profile written in the Washington Post, Brennan is identified as the primary supporter of codifying the rules regarding when and where armed drone strikes could be carried out into what’s now called “the playbook” and the benign-sounding disposition matrix that identifies targets for strikes.
So Brennan, then, is ideally positioned to answer the fundamental question that needs to be answered to get a hold on America’s targeted killing program:

What role do targeted killings play in the broader U.S. counter-terrorism strategy and under what circumstances might we cease to employ them?


Emptywheel

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