Daily Archives: February 5, 2013

Obama now ‘Judge, jury and executioner’: Legal experts fear implications of White House drone memo, dangerously expands definition of national defense


NBCNews.com | Feb 5, 2013

By Erin McClam, Staff Writer, NBC News

Legal experts expressed grave reservations Tuesday about an Obama administration memo concluding that the United States can order the killing of American citizens believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida — with one saying the White House was acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”

The experts said that the memo, first obtained by NBC News, threatened constitutional rights and dangerously expanded the definition of national self-defense and of what constitutes an imminent attack.

“Anyone should be concerned when the president and his lawyers make up their own interpretation of the law or their own rules,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and an authority on international law and the use of force.

Memo justifies drone kills even with patchy intelligence

“This is a very, very dangerous thing that the president has done,” she added.

The memo, made public Monday, provides detail about the administration’s controversial expansion of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens.

Among them were Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed by an American strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Both men were U.S. citizens who had not been charged with a crime.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a talk at Northwestern University Law School in March, endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans provided that the government determines such an individual poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the memo obtained by NBC News refers to a broader definition of imminence and specifically says the government is not required to have “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

RELATED: Read the memo on drone strikes against Americans

Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer who writes about security and liberty for the British newspaper The Guardian, described the memo as “fundamentally misleading,” with a clinical tone that disguises “the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.”

“If you believe the president has the power to order U.S. citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it’s truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable,” he wrote.

The attorney general told reporters Tuesday that the administration’s primary concern is to keep Americans safe, and to do it in a way consistent with American values. He said the administration was confident it was following federal and international law.

“We will have to look at this and see what it is we want to do with these memos,” he said. “But you have to understand that we are talking about things that are, that go into how we conduct our offensive operations against a clear and present danger.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that while the government must take the Constitution into account, U.S. citizenship does not make a leader of an enemy force immune from being targeted.

The drone strikes, and now the Justice Department memo, are expected to figure prominently Thursday when the Senate takes up the nomination of John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser and architect of the drone campaign, to lead the CIA.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and 10 other senators wrote to President Barack Obama on Monday asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the subject.

The senators said that Congress and the public need a full understanding of how the White House views its authority so they can decide “whether the president’s power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards.”

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, described the memo as reckless. He wrote that assuming that the target of a strike is an al-Qaida leader, without court oversight, was like assuming a defendant is guilty and then asking whether a trial would be useful.

But John O. McGinnis, a professor of constitutional law at Northwestern University who worked for the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, said he was persuaded by the arguments in the memo, which he described as “very cautious.”

“If this is someone who has taken up affiliation with an organization attacking the United States, I don’t think it matters whether they’re a citizen — they seem to me an enemy combatant whom the president can respond to,” he said. “I think this is not a hard case.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement Tuesday saying that her committee received the memo last year and wants to see other administration memos further explaining the legal framework for carrying out strikes.

At the same time, she appeared to defend the killing of al-Awlaki. She said that al-Awlaki was external operations leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and directed the failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The memo lays out a three-part test for making targeted killings of Americans lawful. The suspect must be deemed an imminent threat, capturing the target must not be feasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.”

Naureen Shah, a lecturer at Columbia Law School and associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the school’s Human Rights Institute, said that she was deeply troubled by the contents of the memo.

“We should be concerned when the White House is acting as judge, jury and executioner,” she said. “And there’s no one outside of the White House who has real oversight over that process. What’s put forward here is there’s no role for the courts, not even after the fact.”

Frank Serpico joins forces with whistleblower exposing NYPD corruption, suing for $50 million

Serpico, 76, who was credited with exposing corruption inside the NYPD in the 1970s, is joining forces with a whistleblower suing the police department for $50 million. David Handschuh/New York Daily News

Officer Adrian Schoolcraft is suing the NYPD after police allegedly dragged him off to a mental hospital after he accused them of fudging crime stats. Serpico, 76, was credited with exposing corruption inside the NYPD in the 1970s.


By Rocco Parascandola

Two whistleblowers are better than one.

Frank Serpico has joined the legal team of Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, a cop suing the NYPD for $50 million after police allegedly dragged him off to a mental hospital after he accused them of fudging crime stats.

“This is the way they do it,” Serpico told The News. “They make you a psycho and everything you do gets discounted. But I told Adrian just to tell the truth as he knows it and to be himself. When you tell the truth, they can’t do a damn thing to you.”

Serpico, 76, was credited with exposing corruption inside the NYPD. He testified in front of the Knapp Commission in 1971 and retired the following year. His career was captured on the big screen in the 1973 movie “Serpico,” starring Al Pacino as the Brooklyn-born cop.


Though decades apart, both Serpico and Schoolcraft worked at one point at the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Schoolcraft accused supervisors there of downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, enforcing arrest quotas and refusing to log crime complaints from the public.

He secretly recorded his superiors talking about cooking the books and arresting people for doing nothing more than standing on the street.

Schoolcraft said that on Halloween night 2009, police pulled him from his Queens apartment under the guise that he was a danger to himself — then took him to the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital, where he remained for six days.

Serpico said news stories about the case brought back bad memories.


“It was like I was reading something back in 1960,” he said.

Schoolcraft, 37, joined the NYPD in 2002. He has been under suspension for more than two years and is living upstate. Serpico said he will advise Schoolcraft in any way he can and plans to attend the trial. No date has been set.

A police source said Schoolcraft was taken to the hospital because of concerns for his mental well-being. Police officials have also said cops took Schoolcraft’s allegations seriously. An internal report backed Schoolcraft’s allegations, finding problems with about three dozen crime reports, including 11 he gave investigators, sources said.

The precinct supervisor, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, was transferred in July 2010. He was later slapped with departmental charges, accusing him of tampering with police reports and misleading investigators.

Freezing February set to be coldest on record since 1986

The UK was blanketed by snow at the end of January (Picture: PA)

Savage winter blast to plunge Britain into sub-zero temperatures

thesun.co.uk | Feb 4, 2013


WINTER is set to make a dramatic comeback this week as temperatures plummet – making this month the coldest February since 1986.

Freezing air from Canada will slam into Britain today, plunging the country into a second round of sub-zero misery.

February 1986 saw a brain-numbing average of -1.2C, with snow cover reported on 23 days in parts of the South and all month in Scotland.

The savage winter blast follows a relatively mild but wet week across most parts of the UK, which came after the country was blanketed with snow and ice from the continent a fortnight ago.

Forecasters even warned of polar temperatures of -15C in some remote parts of Britain.

Forecaster Helen Roberts said: “We will have some really strong gale-force winds across the country next week and it will feel very cold.

Freezing February set to be coldest on record since 1986

January was among Flagstaff’s coldest months

“Air originating across the Atlantic Ocean in Canada is going to hit Britain on Monday, bringing showery and increasingly wintry conditions.

“This is quite rare as usually we get our cold weather from the east and north.

“People in every part of Britain could well see snow and ice, and will certainly have rain and freezing temperatures over the coming week.”

She added: “The next week will be colder than this week, wet and windy, and distinctly wintry. Temperatures will be below average.”

Heavy rain has already waterlogged many parts of England, Wales and Scotland, which is feared could leave roads icy as the mercury drops.

North Yorkshire had some snow on Saturday, causing 20 cars to slide off the A171 near Guisborough. And the Met Office issued a blizzard warning for parts of Scotland yesterday.

Temperatures will drop tomorrow as snow showers spread across the country.

Health officials have issued a level-2 alert warning extreme low temperatures this week could pose a risk to the elderly and vulnerable.

Jonathan Powell, of Vantage Weather Services, warned: “This is a proper Arctic blast on the way. With fierce polar winds we could see temperatures plummet to -15C.”

Weather Outlook forecaster Brian Gaze said: “It’s possible February will be the coldest since 1986.”

Wednesday will be the coldest day of the week with a minimum -4C predicted.

Some warmer air will then move in to arrest the freeze and Thursday will be a dry, bright day in most parts.

Britain shivered through a bitter start to December then, following festive floods, a 15-day late-January freeze cost 19 lives and £4billion damage to the economy.