CIA

House Republicans move forward on Benghazi, analyzing testimony for contradictions

A group of House Republicans are reviewing testimony provided by witnesses who have testified in front of congressional committees looking into the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi which claimed the lives of four Americans.

In an interview with United Liberty on Thursday afternoon, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, explained that he and several other House Republicans have been reviewing testimony from congressional witnesses to look for contradictory statements.

Westmoreland said that he went to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) approximately six weeks ago to get his blessing to form a group consisting of members of three key House committees — Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs. He wanted members with prosecutorial experience to build a potential case.

“We would look at the testimony, we would look at a list of witnesses that have testified in front of Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs,” Westmoreland told United Liberty. “And we would look at them, and we would look at their testimony and see if there [were] any contradictions in testimonies that may have been presented by somebody else at another committee.”

Boehner’s staff contacted Westmoreland two weeks later, offering staff support to assist the group as it reviews some 50,000 pages of testimony and interviews.

“[I]t’s a small group,” said Westmoreland. “We don’t want any big committee chairs, we wanted the average run-of-the-mill kind of guy that could look at this and not be on TV every night, or be doing interviews and trying to make a lot of gain out of it, because the American people, they want to know the truth, and that’s what we’re doing our best.”

BOOK REVIEW: The United States of Paranoia

 A Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories are only believed by people on the fringe of American politics? Not so says Reason’s Jesse Walker in his latest book: The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. Walker argues quite the opposite in his opening chapter: “The Paranoid Style is American Politics”:

By the time this book is over, I should hope it will be clear that when I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. (p. 24)

For those who are hoping that this is another book in which the author’s goal is to prove or disprove any particular conspiracy theory, Walker makes is clear that this is not what this book is about (for the most part). He also makes a point to acknowledge that some conspiracies have been proven true (ex: Watergate among these, see Chapter 7 for more examples), “At the very moment you are reading this, someone somewhere is probably trying to bribe a politician. The world is filled with plots both petty and grand…” (p.21).  Instead telling the reader what to believe, Walker tells a history about what people have believed on this continent from colonial times to now and how these beliefs have shaped the political debate and very the culture itself.

UPDATE: Rand Paul is Filibustering Obama’s CIA Nominee

Rand Paul's filibusters John Brennan

This post has been updated. Scroll down to view the latest.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has become the fiercest of President Obama’s drone program, is currently in the middle of a traditional filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan. He been at it for a just over two hours, having started at 11:47am.

You can watch it live here.

Brennan, who was nominated by President Obama to serve as director of the CIA, was asked some very direct questions by Sen. Paul over the drones program. Sen. Paul wanted to know whether or not the White House could perhaps target American citizens who are merely suspected terrorist activities inside the borders of the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the questions raised by Sen. Paul about the drone program. “The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote. “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

Sen. Paul recognizes that he won’t be able to keep going for a prolonged period of time, but he is using the time to highlight the various issues problems with the use of drones against American citizens, thus denying them due process.

The Inexcusable Brennan Hearing

In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious.  It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.

As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens.  The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director.  All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.

The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel.  The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization.  When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.

BREAKING: Osama bin Laden is dead

According to just about every major news network, Osama bin Laden is dead and the United States is in possession of his body. President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation in a few minutes to give details and warn of possible retaliation against the United States.

This a developing story, please check back for live updates below.

[11:34pm] Obama: “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden””

[11:40pm] Bin Laden was apparently killed in a firefight. Some of the reports this evening claimed that Bin Laden was shot in the head.

[11:42pm] Obama: “Justice has been done.”

[11:45pm] Crowds have been gathering in front of the White House celebrating since the news of Bin Laden’s death broke.

[11:46pm] As was reported by news networks, Bin Laden was killed deep inside Pakistan.

[11:50pm] DNA testing was used to confirm that the body was that of Osama bin Laden.

[11:55pm] Here is the statement from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):

“Nearly a decade ago, in the days after 9/11, President Bush said, ‘Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.’ Tonight, we’ve learned that justice has been done. The man with the blood of more than 3,000 Americans on his hands, the man who forced us to begin to think the unthinkable - is now dead.

Torturous Terms of Art

The matter of torture has been discussed over the past several years in connection with its use as a “tool” in the “Global War on Terror” or the “Overseas Contingency Operation” as it has now been called. Dick Cheney has been recently making rounds in an attempt to salvage some credibility and to fuel the partisan fire.

Scott McClellan Claims that Bush Authorized Outing of CIA Agent Valeri Plame

See Video

This is not highly surprising, but it’s good to hear the truth confirmed.

You can support torture or the Constitution — not both.

Detainees

What is torture, if not punishment? The legal definition of torture is (basically) “severe mental pain or suffering.” When torture is used as an interrogation tactic, many people seem to forget the basis of our justice system: The principle that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent one. This idea dates back to our founding and can even be found in the Bible.

The U.S. Constitution cites rights for the accused and for the convicted, and torture is not on the menu. That is, for American citizens.

Since torture has been used as a form of “enhanced” interrogation on non-Americans, however, the discussion is more than the rule of law. Our very morality is in question.

We must ask ourselves if it is moral to set aside the Bill of Rights in certain situations. These amendments to the Constitution were ratified in order to document the most basic of all human rights that shall not be infringed under any circumstances. The law doesn’t explicitly say “under any circumstances” because it doesn’t have to. People who were born somewhere else are no less deserving of humane treatment, even if, and especially if they have been accused of a crime. Too many government actions are taken with the good intention of saving lives, and rarely are the unintended consequences considered.

Senate Torture Report Gives Ammunition to Enemies

Senator Dianne Feinstein

In a fascinating op-ed in USA Today, Senator Bob Kerrey took the recent Senate Torture Report to task, citing problems with partisanship and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to interview no one in compiling its damning report. The following paragraph is particularly concise:

I do not need to read the report to know that the Democratic staff alone wrote it. The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.

While Kerrey largely concerns himself with the breakdown of how our committees are supposed to work and the political machinations that prevent them functioning in a healthy manner, the release of the report may actually have an even darker consequence should enemies of our state decide they want to use its contents as propaganda in today’s social media environment of “it appeared online, so it must be true”:

“The FBI, DHS, and [National Counterterrorism Center] assess the most likely impact of the report will be attempts by foreign terrorist organizations … and their online supporters to exploit the report’s findings by claiming they confirm the U.S. government’s perceived hypocrisy and oppression of Muslims,” the FBI and DHS said in a joint intelligence bulletin distributed within hours of the report’s release.


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