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Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:58

John Brennan Doesn't Rule Out Targeting Americans for Assassination in United States

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  predatordrone75 "Predator drone sometimes used in targeted killings"

Sometimes, it even takes BuzzFlash at Truthout a little time to write commentaries about killer issues, in this case literally.

According to the Wall Street Journal (in a February 15 article), Obama's nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, ambiguously left open the possibility that US citizens could be targeted for assassination in the United States:

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, didn't rule out the use of unmanned drones in the U.S. when quizzed about the matter.

Mr. Brennan's written answer came in response to questions from the Senate intelligence committee following his confirmation hearing last week. The Senate intelligence committee released a declassified version of Mr. Brennan's responses in a 30-page document Friday.

Mr. Brennan, the White House's counterterrorism chief, was asked, "Could the Administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?" His reply was: "This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so."

A few days back, Democracy Now analyzed excerpts from the Brennan Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination, including this one:

SEN. RON WYDEN: Let me ask you several other questions with respect to the president’s authority to kill Americans. I’ve asked you how much evidence the president needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed and whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. In my judgment, both the Congress and the public need to understand the answers to these kind of fundamental questions. What do you think needs to be done to ensure that members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it’s allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues, the question of evidence and the authority to use this power within the United States?

JOHN BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs, as far as our explaining what we’re doing. What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. I don’t think that it’s one or the other. It’s trying to optimize both of them. And so, what we need to do is make sure we explain to the American people what are the thresholds for action, what are the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, the reviews. The Office of Legal Counsel advice establishes the legal boundaries within which we can operate. It doesn’t mean that we operate at those out of boundaries. And, in fact, I think the American people will be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined, very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.

If ever there was the epitome of obfuscating bureaucratic blather, Brennan achieved it in pointedly not ruling out the killing of US citizens on US soil.

Jeremy Scahill, author of the best selling "Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army," commented about the exchange posted above at Brennan's confirmation:

Well, you know, if you listen to John Brennan, I mean, it’s like he’s talking about buying a used car and what, you know, sort of little gadgets and whistles it has on it. He used "optimize"? Ron Wyden was asking him about whether—about the extent of the CIA’s lethal authority against U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil and abroad. And, see, the problem is that while some questions were asked that are central questions, there was almost no follow-up. People wouldn’t push—senators wouldn’t push Brennan back when he would float things that were nonsensical or just gibberish, you know, or using terms like "we need to optimize this, we need to optimize that." There was no sense that—I mean, remember, this is a guy who is, for all practical purposes, President Obama’s hit man or assassination czar.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, at least some US citizens concerned about the potential for US government sanctioned kill lists on US soil have expressed dismayed outrage at this failure of the Obama administration to exclude killing US citizens on US soil (which would appear to be a minimal constitutional standard considering the appalling decision of an executive branch cabal and president to kill US citizens abroad):

"It's astonishing" said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. "But it's the logical end point of the administration's claim that our war against suspected terrorists has no geographic boundaries."

Obama trumpets how he has stopped the practice of renditions and water boarding  (although given Brennan's opaque testimony on "transparency" we don't really know if this is the case), but the president has doubled down on Dick Cheney's transgressions by just assassinating alleged terrorists, along with accepting the collateral damage of civilians, including women and children without any due process, habeas corpus, or court oversight.

These are the powers of a modern day Nero, not the leader of a nation based on the foundation of a Constitution guaranteeing specific rights and legal recourse.

And what would prevent the executive branch (Democrat or Republican) from moving from drone assassinations to just murders of perceived "enemies of the state" in the US, were Brennan's non-denial of potential drone strikes in the US representative of Obama's to-kill list position (and given that Obama is appointing Brennan to head the CIA, one can assume it is)?

Nothing.

(Photo: Wikipedia)