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National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
Email mobuszewski at Verizon.net
John Brennan, Director
The Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20500
xxxx xx, 2013
Dear Mr. Brennan:
We followed with great interest the progress of your nomination by President Obama to be head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Now that the United States Senate has confirmed you as CIA director and you were sworn into office, we must write to you about our deep concerns regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, by the CIA in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places.
CIA-operated drones have been used to kill people who have not been convicted of any crime, including US citizens. As you know, in 2011 in Yemen CIA drone attacks were used to kill, first, Anwar Al-Awlaki and weeks later his son. They were U.S. citizens, who were never charged, brought to trial, or convicted of any crime.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a lawsuit in US federal court against the Obama Administration regarding the assassination of Al-Awlaki. The suit was lost on procedural grounds, however, the judge in the case stated "Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization?"
We find this case to be alarming as it goes directly to important constitutional issues, due process, and international law. We concur with Michael Ratner, recent president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who stated “The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us. There appears to be no limit to the president's power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it's in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States.”
In addition, the CIA drone program has been used to kill political opponents of foreign governments the US supports. This happened in 2010 in Yemen, when a state governor who opposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh was labeled as a leader of Al Qaeda and killed by CIA drones. We do not see actions like this as promoting peace or stability in this troubled region. In fact, violent actions like this on the part of the US military and the CIA in sovereign countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen will only promote more terrorism directed at the US.
We are also disturbed by the lack of transparency and oversight by our congress. In spite of positive statements about you and the drone program by members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, there appears to be lack of oversight and understanding of the CIA drone program. For example, committee chair Senator Diane Fienstein recently said, on the first day of your nomination hearing, that she didn’t know that all combat age males were considered targets by the US drone program. This particular fact of targeting of combat age males had been reported over a year ago by The New York Times and other news organizations. If facts like this are public knowledge and members of congress are still unaware, then how much more ignorant can they be of the CIA drone program if they aren’t informed by your agency?
In spite of assurances from President Obama that the victims of drone strikes are surgical targets, it has been reported that hundreds of victims who are innocent of crimes against the US have been killed including civilian men, women, and children. These people have names and families who love them. Furthermore, people attending funerals in Pakistan have been killed by drone strikes. Reporters with the United Kingdom based Bureau of Investigative Journalism have reported that “…between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.”
We hope that you will take our concerns seriously as it is our position that the use of these drones to kill alleged criminals or terrorists without trial and conviction of any crime is illegal and immoral and increases the ill will directed toward the United States.
We have written to President Obama and the Secretary of Defense several times in the past with our concerns. We must state again in this letter to you what we said to President Obama: “As members of peace and justice organizations opposed to your continuation of the Bush administration’s failed wars, we are writing to condemn your use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) to kill citizens in at least seven countries. Besides opposing your war policies, we have great concern for people caught up in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen. The use of drones is wrong on many levels: the illegality and immorality of assassinations, the violation of international law and the Constitutional protection of due process, the targeting of civilian populations, and the disregard of sovereignty. We are especially troubled by your refusal to release the flawed document which purportedly gives you legal cover to determine who is on the kill list…We believe U.S. wars and drone attacks have been demonstrable failures. Now is the time to take the risks of peace. Imagine leading a country which has denounced the madness of war, and instead wants to assist and make friendship with the people of the Middle East and Central Asia.”
We believe the US killer drone program by the CIA and the use of drones to kill by the U.S. military must be brought to an end immediately.
Because we take seriously our Nuremberg obligations, we ask that you respond and meet with us to discuss the termination of the use of drones by the CIA and the U.S. military. We would be prepared to meet with relevant policy-makers from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the Obama Administration to discuss our proposal to immediately end killer drone strikes and to start a process of healing with the victims of U.S. wars. Please give serious consideration to our proposal of reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes.
We look forward to your response. Rejecting our proposal will mean more death and destruction abroad. We will then continue to protest, risk arrest, and denounce the CIA and U.S. military use of killer drones and a foreign policy of endless wars.
Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
(Signatures to follow in alphabetical order by last name, along with affiliation)
Local Peace Group Welcomes Pakistan Peace Delegates for Air Force anti-Drone Demonstrations This Week
CONTACTS: Jim Haber, 415-828-2506 Nevada Desert Experience Coordinator Toby Blome, 510-541-6874 Ann Wright, Ret., 818-741-1141 March 18, 2013As Nevada Desert Experience makes final preparations for its annual desert sojourn known as the "Sacred Peace Walk," a group of demonstrators are converging on the gates of Creech Air Force Base to hold constant vigil against the rising tide of robotic hunter-killer air systems like the Predator and Reaper "drones" controlled by crews at the Indian Springs installation.
by Debra Sweet, Drector, World Can't Wait Two recent stories powerfully capture the illegitimacy of the US "global war on terror." 1. The former Obama press secretary says he was told to deny US drone program existed. For four years, the President has been expanding U.S. use of drones, while developing the execution and legal justification for the targeted killing policy. A military drone program has finally been admitted, and there is fierce struggle over the CIA drone program, delaying the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Secretary.
By Ron Ridenour
Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!
We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.
Congress has directed the Secretary of Defense to report on the handling of surveillance data collected by military unmanned aerial systems operating in domestic airspace. A provision in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill approved by the House yesterday explained:
"The conferees are aware of concerns that have been raised regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their sensors in domestic airspace. The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement. However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense. This report shall be submitted not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act."
The referenced Air Force policy on incidental collection of U.S. person data by its drones was reported in USAF Drones May Conduct 'Incidental' Domestic Surveillance, Secrecy News, May 8, 2012.
SATURDAY, MARCH 9, 2013
900 block of Dolley Madison Blvd., Langley, Virginia
The US CIA drone program is the worst and bloodiest kept secret. Officially it’s functioning is covert and hidden from scrutiny. Around the world those concerned with international law are opposing the deadly extrajudicial program as thousands have now been killed by CIA and US Military drone strikes and left many others maimed and suffering the loss of loved ones. According the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from 2004 to the present up to 3573 were killed by the CIA drones in Pakistan alone. Other countries where the CIA and US Military attack with drones include Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Stand with us opposing CIA & US Military drones used in extrajudicial killings.
US killer drone strikes are illegal, immoral, and must stop now!
Supported by Pax Christi Metro DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Episcopal Peace Fellowship (DC), Dorothy Day Catholic Worker of DC, Code Pink, Nova Catholic Community, Langley Hill Friends (Quaker), Washington Peace Center, Peace Action Montgomery County, MD, Little Friends for Peace, Maryland United for Peace & Justice, Veterans For Peace
For more information contact Jack McHale: 703-772-0635
By Dan DeWalt
‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’
-- Richard M. Nixon
This coming Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on "Drones and the War On Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?"
This is odd for a number of reasons.
1. Congressional committees usually don't do anything at all on such matters.
2. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed have not been targeted.
3. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed or targeted have not been Americans.
4. The president's nominee to direct the CIA refuses to deny that the president claims the power to kill Americans when they are not overseas, not to mention non-Americans within the United States and anyone at all overseas.
5. The three Americans we know the president has targeted and killed by drone strike in no way match up with the justifications for theoretical strikes found in the "white paper."
6. The president is targeting and killing people with a variety of technologies, not just drones.
7. The only remotely legal or moral answer to the question asked by the hearing is "never."
All such concerns will, of course, be brushed aside. Congress ought to question the administration on its program of drone killing, regardless of what title the hearing is given, right? But this is where things get really odd. The witness list doesn't include the president or a single person who works for him, no one from the CIA, no one from the White House, no one from the Pentagon, nobody from the Office of Legal Counsel. As far as we know, and it seems extremely likely to be the case, the committee has not subpoenaed any documents. If it invited any government witnesses, it has not subpoenaed them or made any plans to figuratively or literally hold them in contempt. Instead, all the witnesses are outside "experts" who won't know any more about what's going on than the rest of us.
A defender of this approach explained it to me thus: Senators and Representatives are often remarkably ignorant. Senator Dianne Feinstein doesn't even know that all military aged males killed by drone strikes are being declared militants. Congress Members don't even read newspapers. If some smart experts testify at a public hearing, then elected officials can't deny as many facts. Plus, inviting government witnesses would just produce stonewalling or lying.
In my view, stonewalling and lying are reasons for subpoenas and contempt, not a complete abdication of the power of oversight. It's not that I think glorified public newspaper reading is worse than nothing. I just think more is called for.
On the other hand, the notion that Congress needs more information before it should act is ludicrous. What sort of memo could legalize murder? What sort of due process could be applied to murder to make it not be murder? As long as Congress is bringing in experts to talk about what's already public knowledge, I'd like to propose a different type of witness. If witnesses from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen are not deemed relevant, newspaper interpreters are not going to make them so. I'd like to propose, then, as one of many actually useful witnesses a gentleman by the name of Leo Tolstoy, who had this to say well over a century ago:
"People are astonished that every year there are sixty thousand cases of suicide in Europe, and those only the recognized and recorded cases—and excluding Russia and Turkey; but one ought rather to be surprised that there are so few. Every man of the present day, if we go deep enough into the contradiction between his conscience and his life, is in a state of despair.
"Not to speak of all the other contradictions between modern life and the conscience, the permanently armed condition of Europe together with its profession of Christianity is alone enough to drive any man to despair, to doubt of the sanity of mankind, and to terminate an existence in this senseless and brutal world. This contradiction, which is a quintessence of all the other contradictions, is so terrible that to live and to take part in it is only possible if one does not think of it—if one is able to forget it.
"What! all of us, Christians, not only profess to love one another, but do actually live one common life; we whose social existence beats with one common pulse—we aid one another, learn from one another, draw ever closer to one another to our mutual happiness, and find in this closeness the whole meaning of life!—and to-morrow some crazy ruler will say some stupidity, and another will answer in the same spirit, and then I must go expose myself to being murdered, and murder men—who have done me no harm—and more than that, whom I love. And this is not a remote contingency, but the very thing we are all preparing for, which is not only probable, but an inevitable certainty.
"To recognize this clearly is enough to drive a man out of his senses or to make him shoot himself. And this is just what does happen, and especially often among military men. A man need only come to himself for an instant to be impelled inevitably to such an end.
"And this is the only explanation of the dreadful intensity with which men of modern times strive to stupefy themselves, with spirits, tobacco, opium, cards, reading newspapers, traveling, and all kinds of spectacles and amusements. These pursuits are followed up as an important, serious business. And indeed they are a serious business. If there were no external means of dulling their sensibilities, half of mankind would shoot themselves without delay, for to live in opposition to one's reason is the most intolerable condition. And that is the condition of all men of the present day. All men of the modern world exist in a state of continual and flagrant antagonism between their conscience and their way of life. This antagonism is apparent in economic as well as political life. But most striking of all is the contradiction between the Christian law of the brotherhood of men existing in the conscience and the necessity under which all men are placed by compulsory military service of being prepared for hatred and murder—of being at the same time a Christian and a gladiator."
It seems to me that the occasion of publicly discussing the U.S. government's targeting and killing U.S. citizens presents an opportunity for opening up even the narrowest of bigots to the contradiction between killing and protecting (whether or not one puts the latter in the religious terms of Tolstoy's day -- as I do not but most Congress Members sometimes pretend to). Tolstoy may not be the ideal witness, as he's dead. But he does have the advantage of having already posed to himself better questions than anyone would ask him if he were alive. (You know they'd be asking about the latest film adaptation of Anna Karenina.)
"'How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment: "Thou shalt not kill"?' I have often inquired of different soldiers. And I always drove them to embarrassment and confusion by reminding them of what they did not want to think about. They knew they were bound by the law of God, 'Thou shalt not kill,' and knew too that they were bound by their duty as soldiers, but had never reflected on the contradiction between these duties. The drift of the timid answers I received to this question was always approximately this: that killing in war and executing criminals by command of the government are not included in the general prohibition of murder. But when I said this distinction was not made in the law of God, and reminded them of the Christian duty of fraternity, forgiveness of injuries, and love, which could not be reconciled with murder, the peasants usually agreed, but in their turn began to ask me questions. 'How does it happen,' they inquired, 'that the government [which according to their ideas cannot do wrong] sends the army to war and orders criminals to be executed.' When I answered that the government does wrong in giving such orders, the peasants fell into still greater confusion, and either broke off the conversation or else got angry with me.
"'They must have found a law for it. The archbishops know as much about it as we do, I should hope,' a Russian soldier once observed to me. And in saying this the soldier obviously set his mind at rest, in the full conviction that his spiritual guides had found a law which authorized his ancestors, and the tzars and their descendants, and millions of men, to serve as he was doing himself, and that the question I had put him was a kind of hoax or conundrum on my part.
"Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by revelation or by the voice of conscience, that murder is one of the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us, and that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons, that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and not a sin for others. Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin, whoever are the victims murdered, just like the sin of adultery, theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up men see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the blessing of those whom they are accustomed to regard as their divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders with calm assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous arms, and demanding of others in the name of the laws of the country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder. Men see that there is some inconsistency here, but not being able to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very grossness and obviousness of the inconsistency confirms them in this conviction."
Congress would hear something worth hearing from this witness, I believe. But so might twenty-first century U.S. peasants as well.
By Daniel Garrett
I wonder if in the end
there will be something of us
left in them:
that the great circling metal wings
might find themselves wanting
to circle with another span
of metal wings
so attracted to the glint
and gorgon eyes
that in the blue-arched rhapsody
of their fling
they might at last begin to sing
songs of desperate desire
and of earth
I do know that the
poor fucks we scorched
were scorched by us
we sent from our
that the air sucked out of daughters’ lungs
by high explosive hits
was sucked out by us
that the dismembered children
what is left of them that can be
and those later
from all the depleted
by Debra Sweet With the kind of "kabuki theater" questioning the Senate gave John Brennan last week during a public hearing, it's certain they will confirm him as Director of the C.I.A. This should not be any surprise. Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't met a national security "concern" yet that didn't trump the rights of the people; we know she was one of the select few briefed by the Bush regime when they began torture, or excuse me, "enhanced interrogations."
Greetings from the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota! As of this writing, I am two months into a six month sentence imposed due to my protest of war crimes committed by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri against the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Betsy accompanied me here to Yankton on November 29, and that evening the Emmaus House Catholic Worker community, Beth Preheim, Michael Sprong and Dagmar Hoxie, hosted an evening of music, good food and good company to see me off. Activists from around the Midwest attended, including some sisters from the Benedictine monastery here.
In the morning after a great breakfast and Gospel prayer, Betsy and Dagmar and Michael, along with Renee Espeland and Elton Davis, Catholic Workers from Des Moines, and Jerry Ebner, a Catholic Worker from Omaha, walked a “last mile” with me to the gate of the prison where I expect to remain until the end of May.
Say NO to DRONES
Tell the Alameda County Board of Supervisors you do not want a spy drone flying over your home.
By Dr Hakim ( Dr Teck Young, Wee )
It’s hard for me, an ordinary citizen of Singapore, a medical doctor engaged in social enterprise work in Afghanistan and a human being wishing for a better world, to write this from Kabul.
But people are dying.
And children and women are feeling hopeless.
“What’s the point in telling you our stories?” asked Freba, one of the seamstresses working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers to set up a tailoring co-operative for Afghan women. “Does anyone hear? Does anyone believe us?”
Silently within, I answered Freba with shame,” You’re right. No one is listening.”
So, I write this in protest against my government’s presence in the humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan, as a way to lend my voice to Freba and all my Afghan friends.
I do so in dissent, against the global security of imprisoned minds.
I thought, “If no one listens as humans should, we should at least speak like free men and women.”
The national religion of the United States of America is nationalism. Its god is the flag. Its prayer is the pledge of allegiance.
The flag's powers include those of life and death, powers formerly possessed by traditional religions. Its myths are built around the sacrifice of lives to protect against the evils outside the nation. Its heroes are soldiers who make such sacrifices based on unquestioning faith. A "Dream Act" that would give citizenship to those immigrants who kill or die for the flag embodies the deepest dreams of flag worship. Its high priest is the Commander in Chief. Its slaughter of infidels is not protection of a nation otherwise engaged, but an act that in itself completely constitutes the nation as it is understood by its devotees. If the nation stopped killing it would cease to be.
What happens to myths like these when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do? Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill U.S. citizens? Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains?
Some 85% of U.S.ians, and shrinking rapidly, are theists. Flag worship may be on the decline as well, but its numbers are still high. A majority supports a ban on flag burning. A majority supports the power of the president to kill non-U.S.ians with drones, while a significantly smaller percentage supports the president's power to kill U.S. citizens with drones abroad. That is to say, if the high priest declares someone an enemy of god, many people believe he should have the power to kill that enemy . . . unless that enemy is a U.S. citizen. In secular terms, which make this reality seem all the crazier, many of us support acts of murder based on the citizenship of the victim.
Of course, the Commander in Chief kills U.S. citizens all the time by sending them into wars. Drones don't change that. Drone pilots have committed suicide. Drone pilots have been targeted and killed by retaliatory suicide bombings. Drones have killed U.S. citizens through accidental "friendly" fire. The hostility that drones are generating abroad has motivated terrorist attacks and attempted attacks abroad and within the national borders of the United States.
But feeding corpses to our holy flag looks different when we're feeding them directly to the president's flying robots without a foreign intermediary. And yet to approximately a quarter of the U.S. public it doesn't look different after all. The president, in their own view, should have the power to kill them, or at least the power to kill anyone (including U.S. citizens) so contaminated as to be standing outside the United States of America -- a frightening and primitive realm that many U.S.ians have never visited and feel no need to ever visit.
Popular support for murder-by-president drops off significantly if "innocent civilians may also be killed." But a religious belief system perpetuates itself not through the positions it takes on existing facts so much as through its ability to select which facts one becomes aware of and which facts remain unknown.
Many U.S.ians have avoided knowing that U.S. citizens, including minors, have been targeted and killed, that women and children are on the list of those to be killed, that hundreds of civilian deaths have been documented by serious journalists including victims' names and identities, that U.S. peace activists went to Pakistan and met with victims' families, that the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan said there was a U.S. government count of how many civilians had been killed but he wouldn't say what it was, that the vast majority of those killed are not important leaders in any organization, that people are targeted and killed without knowing their name, that people are targeted and killed merely for the act of trying to rescue victims of previous strikes, that the wounded outnumber the dead, that the traumatized outnumber the wounded, that the refugees who have fled the drone strikes are over a million, that the drone wars did not replace ground wars but began war making in new nations so destabilized now by the drone strikes that ground wars may develop, that some top U.S. military officials have said the drones are creating more new enemies than they kill, or that what drones are doing to our reputation abroad makes Abu Ghraib look like the fun and games our media pundits said it was.
If our courts killed without trials there would be by definition a risk of killing the innocent. The same should be understood when a president and his flying robots, or missiles, or night raids, kill without trial.
If we were being bombed we would not deem it any more acceptable to kill those who resisted than those who did not. Therefore, the category of "innocent civilian" (as distinct from guilty non-civilian) is suspect at best.
The vast majority of the "worst of the worst" locked away in Guantanamo have been exonerated and freed, something that cannot be done with drone victims. Yet John Brennan, once deemed unacceptable for his role in detention and torture, is now deemed acceptable. The goodness of his murdering evil beings outweighs the badness of his detaining and torturing people who were sometimes misidentified. The dead cannot be misidentified. The president has declared that any unidentified dead male of fighting age was, by definition, a militant. After all, he was killed.
Yet, this we know for certain: He was someone's child. He was someone's loved one. He was someone's friend.
We have a responsibility right now to grow up very, very quickly. Our government is breaking down the rule of law and stripping away our rights in the name of protecting us from an enemy it generates through the same process. Drones are not inevitable. Drones are not in charge of us. We don't have to fill our local skies with "surveillance" drones and "crowd control" drones. That's a choice that is up to us to make. We don't have to transfer to mindless hunks of metal the heroism heretofore bestowed just as nonsensically on soldiers. There is no excuse for supporting the murder of foreigners in cases in which we would not support the murder of U.S. citizens. There is no excuse for supporting a policy of murdering anyone at all.
There is no excuse for allowing your government to take your son or daughter and give you back a flag. There is no excuse for allowing your government to take someone else's son or daughter. Ever. Anywhere. No matter how scared you are. No matter what oath of loyalty you've robotically pledged to a colored piece of fabric since Kindergarten. Actual robots can perform the pledge of allegiance as well as any human. They do not, however, have any heart to place their hand over. We should reserve our hearts for actions robots cannot do.
By Dave Lindorff
The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.
When CIA nominee John Brennan faced the Senate Select Committee on So-Called Intelligence on Thursday, countless critical and cutting questions had been prepared by bloggers and journalists. None of them were asked.
Brennan might have been asked why he'd lied about the killing of bin Laden or about the murder by drone program. He had claimed that every target was known, even though he was fully aware that people were being targeted without identifying them (using so-called signature strikes). He had claimed that there were zero collateral deaths, even though independent reports have produced hundreds of names, identities, and photographs, and even though the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan told a delegation of peace activists that there was a U.S. government count of civilian deaths and he wouldn't reveal what it was.
Brennan might have been asked how in the world it can be legal, according to a "white paper" leaked on Monday, for a "high official" to order the murder of a human being, American or non-American, without judicial or legislative or public or international oversight -- or even with such oversight. He might have been asked if he is one such high official. He might have been asked whether there was a memo to justify the murder of the three Americans thus far known to have been intentionally murdered, since none of them seem to fit the qualifications laid out in the "white paper." He might have been asked what the procedure would be if two "high officials" disagreed on the desirability of murdering a particular American. He might have been asked what authority would certify that a targeted victim could not be captured rather than killed. He might have been confronted with the rise in hostility toward the U.S. government being generated. He might have been asked about the United Nations investigation of the murder by drone program as criminal.
We Virginians were represented in the hearing room by Senator Mark Warner. He claimed what he called the "honor" of introducing the nominee, and expressed his pride that Brennan lives in Virginia along with much of the "intelligence community." Warner hyped his effort to create a U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day (which presumably we'll celebrate silently in our minds), praised Brennan in the vaguest of terms by reading through his resume, declared him ready to be confirmed pre-questioning, and outrageously asserted that Brennan backed "greater transparency" and "adherence to the rule of law." A major news story in the preceding 24 hours had been the White House's refusal to tell the public or even the legislature exactly what it was pretending that the law was.
The most informative and valuable portion of the hearing was produced by Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, who took turns interrupting the proceedings to ask what needed to be asked. The message that some Americans do not favor murdering children abroad was thus communicated to the world. Many others were prepared to add their voices in that room, but Chairwoman Feinstein kicked everyone out except for a handful of Good Americans, and the hearing proceeded with a mostly empty room. The "Intelligence" Committee is of course used to holding hearings in an entirely empty room with the door locked.
Senator Warner's chance to ask questions, despite having already declared his support, would come later in the hearing. By that point, Warner had to work with not only Brennan's pathetic written answers to a series of weak questions presented to him prior to the hearing, but all of his answers to other Senators during the hearing up to that point. Remarkably, during the hearing, on more than one occasion, Brennan claimed to have believed (despite voluminous public evidence) that torture was an effective tool. He did not claim to have believed that as a child, or to have believed it 10 years ago. He claimed to have believed it up until last week when he took the time to read part of the Senate committee's report, as he had been shamed and pressured into doing. He said he was shocked to learn that torture was not an effective tool. Also during the hearing, before Warner's turn came, Brennan repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture and claimed that only a lawyer could make that judgment. Note that he was asking to direct an agency involved in torturing people, identifying himself as a non-lawyer, and declaring that only a lawyer could determine what torture was. Brennan also, by the time Warner's turn came around, had refused to list the nations in which the United States is murdering people. He had also repeatedly confessed to having had "inside control" of the underwear bomber.
When Warner's 8 minutes began, one might think he would have had something important to ask about. Couldn't you have thought of SOMETHING if it was you? Even without prior experience on the committee (or law school) might you not have thought of something, ANYTHING, significant to ask about? Wouldn't you have asked specific detailed questions about past performance, about torture, rendition, warrantless spying, lying, or killing people? Aren't any of those topics worth touching on?
Warner framed his first question as a rambling, time-swallowing speech. His question was: how can we be sure the CIA director is well informed? The general vague answer he got to this line of questioning matched the generality and vagueness of the question. If Mark Warner is afraid a CIA director might be uninformed, why not ask Brennan if he knows significant facts? Why not ask him how many people have been killed and where? Why not ask him how many are on the list to be killed? Why not ask him what the criteria are for getting on the list? Why not ask how young the youngest person on the kill list is? Why not express any concern that an "informed high official" might be killing people with the same level of "intelligence" that put so many people into Guantanamo who have since been exonerated of any guilt?
Instead Mark Warner turned to vague questions about the federal budget. Brennan's response included hyping the extensive "intelligence" efforts within the "defense" department. Wow, what an opening! The Pentagon is not supposed to be doing the "intelligence" work. Everyone knows how disastrously the Pentagon violated that rule in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Surely Warner would jump at this bait.
Warner instead moved on to asking Brennan, as many of his colleagues had already, how exactly Brennan would conduct himself in answering questions from the committee if, after he was confirmed, they were to actually ask him any questions.
By the time Warner might have had a second turn to question the witness, Warner was nowhere to be seen.
He will however be seen at the University of Virginia on Monday and if you sign up you can attend. Maybe YOU can think of something to ask HIM. If you need ideas for what to ask and how, or just want to attend as a group, you should get together with a concerned citizen who's planning to attend by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org