JFP 2/11: Brennan hearing; Feinstein "unaware" on "military-age males"; LAT on 5 Broken Cameras
Just Foreign Policy News, February 11, 2013
Brennan/drone hearing; LAT interview with 5 Broken Cameras director
Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Pressure Works: Urge the Senate to Press Brennan on Drone Strike Policy
A bipartisan group of eleven Senators demanded a memo from the Administration that the New York Times and the ACLU have been seeking in court for more than two years. A few days later, the Administration released the memo. This proves Senators can pry information loose if they want to. Urge your Senators to demand information on civilian casualties.
Just Foreign Policy Drone Strike Policy Reform Tour
So far: Los Angeles, Chicago, Durham, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Flagstaff. Upcoming: Milwaukee, Madison, Carbondale, West Lafayette. To add your city to the tour, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council for a Livable World: White House Petition: Bring all troops home from Afghanistan by December 31, 2013
"Dear Mr. President: You face critical decisions on Afghanistan:
1. How rapidly the remaining American troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan
2. How many U.S. troops remain in that country after 2014
We believe the answer is clear: The troops should be removed as quickly as safely possible and no troops should remain after December 31, 2013….We urge you to bring all American troops home from Afghanistan as expeditiously as possible."
Robin Kelly: Cut the Pentagon to Fund Mass Transit
[Kelly is a candidate in the special election to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. - IL-2.]
"Q: It's going to take $1 billion to extend the Red Line to 130th Street. Where are you going to get the money?"
"A: Well, I would support a transportation bill, and we need to look at funding, let's say the Pentagon. The Pentagon says they don't need as much money as Congress is trying to give them, and that money can certainly go to other places."
Video: Saturday Night Live on Hagel confirmation hearing: 'Would you do THAT for Israel?'
Some people may find the "sexual humor" offensive. On the other hand, the underlying reality being lampooned is arguably much more offensive.
Bill Moyers: When We Kill Without Caring
Bill Moyers gives examples of how indiscriminate killing by our military forces not only cuts down innocent bystanders, but drives "their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we're trying to eradicate."
NYT cartoon slams drone strike policy: "a message from the dronemaster general"
Suggests mis-delivery of mail will be eliminated by re-defining "recipient" as "anyone in the vicinity of a mailbox."
5 Broken Cameras is on Netflix
Five Broken Cameras, the Academy Award-nominated Palestinian-Israeli documentary about nonviolent resistance to land confiscation in Bilin, is on Netflix. Even if you don't have direct access to Netflix, you probably know someone who does. Why not organize a little viewing party? It's an incredibly powerful documentary. Encourage all your friends to see it. If you know anyone who gets to vote in the Academy Awards, encourage them to vote for 5 Broken Cameras as Best Foreign Documentary. If it wins, many millions of people around the world will see the film who will not see it otherwise.
Get the Facts: Land Confiscation and the Palestinian Protest Villages
Read and share our fact sheet.
Sunday, February 17th: rally and march in Washington, DC for action on climate
In his second inaugural, President Obama promised action on climate change. First step: stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Sierra Club, 350.org, and others are organizing a major action in DC on Feb 17.
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1) President Obama's nominee to be CIA director faced a grilling at his Senate confirmation hearing, the Los Angeles Times reports. The highly unusual public hearing cast a rare spotlight on a spy agency that operates in the shadows. Senators from both parties took turns pushing John Brennan for his views of covert programs that have garnered headlines, including the administration's expanded use of targeted killings by drone aircraft, a highly classified effort he helped design and oversee as White House counter-terrorism chief.
The hearing came a day after Obama reversed course and agreed to let House and Senate intelligence committees review secret Justice Department memos and opinions used to justify the targeting of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, the LAT says. Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein complained to Brennan that senators could not bring staff experts and lawyers to examine the documents, and said the White House had withheld eight opinions that the committee had requested. Feinstein said her requests to publicly release information about civilian casualties had been rejected because the information was "classified," the program was "covert," and for the public, "it didn't exist." Feinstein said that rationale was "long gone," and that "I think this has gone about as far as it can go as a covert activity."
2) Sen. Wyden said the Intelligence Committee needed to see eight more legal memos related to drone strikes before voting on Brennan, the Politico reports. Feinstein told journalists she was unaware of reports that in some instances U.S. officials assumed any male of fighting age killed in a strike was a combatant - a method that could undercount the number of civilian deaths. [Given that Feinstein is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which is supposed to be overseeing the CIA, that the claim about "military age males" is a central point of dispute in the argument about civilian casualties, and that the claim was a key feature of a major New York Times expose on the drone strike policy many months ago that was widely noted, this is a spectacular statement - JFP.]
Brennan said he favored the U.S. making a public statement when it made a mistake in a drone strike, but he never explained how one could do that and keep such strikes officially classified, Politico notes.
3) James Walsh, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, conducted a study which indicates that the likelihood of civilian casualties would have the same effect as the likelihood of U.S. military casualties in depressing U.S. public support for military action against Al Qaeda militants in Yemen, the Huffington Post reports.
4) Ben Emmerson, the head of the UN inquiry into drone strikes, says he's giving his qualified backing to John Brennan to become CIA director, Spencer Ackerman reports for Wired. "Warts and all" conversations with current and former Obama administration officials convince Emmerson that Brennan tried to steer the drone program from a "technology-driven process" to one that attempted to balance the interests of the law, counterterrorism, and the agencies involved in implementing it. "There are significant elements within the CIA who are unhappy about Brennan's appointment," Emmerson says. "These are the hawkish elements inside the CIA who would rather have as a director someone who reflected their agenda, rather than someone who is there to impose the president's agenda."
Brennan's potential move to the CIA makes it show-and-prove time for Obama, Ackerman writes. With his man as head of the CIA, there will be no question of his ability to end "perpetual war," as he promised in his Second Inaugural.
5) Brennan believes that moving drones to the Defense Department will allow greater congressional and public scrutiny, Michael Hirsh reports for National Journal. But there is some dispute about whether the CIA or Defense operates under tighter rules for disclosure and congressional notification, Hirsh notes. On one hand, the military does conduct itself under rules of engagement that are more spelled out and governed by clear codes, such as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On the other hand, covert war by the military has in some ways been conducted under even less scrutiny in recent years, particularly when it comes to special operations.
Some critics, such as former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, have worried that special ops now has generic authority to deploy where it wants without case-by-case orders, Hirsh notes. According to a senior CIA lawyer, the statutes reining in the CIA, which date from the famous Church Committee hearings of the 1970s, have set up effective procedures under Title 50 of the National Security Act. "Now, almost 40 years later, we're in a situation where the CIA has to go through this bureaucracy, and at the same time you have the [special-operations] military doing all sorts of things that present worse types of concerns with much less congressional notification," he said.
6) Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, called the president's move to release a legal memo about drone strikes to the intelligence committees "a small step in the right direction," the New York Times reports. But he noted that the legal memo or memos were not being shared with the Armed Services Committees, which have jurisdiction over Pentagon strikes, or the Judiciary Committees, which oversee the Justice Department. The public should be permitted to see at least a redacted version of the relevant material, Anders said.
7) The Wall Street Journal reports that "senior U.S. officials" are pushing to expand the "capture or kill" lists into northwestern Africa, notes Daniel Politi for Slate.
8) Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times interviews Emad Burnat, nominated for an Oscar for 5 Broken Cameras, a documentary about nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The Oscars will be awarded Feb. 24.
9) In an editorial defending free speech at Brooklyn College, the New York Times compared the attack on the college for hosting a BDS event with Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense. J Street has argued for vibrant debate and said "criticism of Israeli policy does not threaten the health of the state of Israel," the Times notes. In fact, it is essential, the paper says.
1) CIA controversies scrutinized at Brennan confirmation hearing
Senators, including many Democrats, seek answers from Obama's nominee for CIA director about harsh interrogations and targeted killings by drones.
Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
Washington - President Obama's nominee to be CIA director faced a grilling at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday about a decade of CIA mistakes and misdeeds, from abuse of detainees to leaks of classified information.
The highly unusual public hearing cast a rare spotlight on a spy agency that operates in the shadows. Senators from both parties took turns pushing John Brennan for his views of covert programs that have garnered headlines, including the administration's expanded use of targeted killings by drone aircraft, a highly classified effort he helped design and oversee as White House counter-terrorism chief.
Brennan's confirmation is all but assured. But the sharp questions reflected deep frustration on the part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has battled the Obama administration over access to classified documents, and which has not held a single public hearing on CIA drone strikes that have killed an estimated 3,000 suspected militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in the last four years.
"Every American has the right to know when their government believes it's allowed to kill them," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told Brennan.
Brennan said any Al Qaeda operatives, including U.S. citizens, "have a right to surrender." The high-flying CIA drones offer no such opportunity, however.
The 3 1/2-hour hearing will be followed by a closed-door session Tuesday. It came a day after Obama abruptly reversed course and agreed to let the House and Senate intelligence committees review secret Justice Department memos and opinions used to justify the targeting of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and Al Qaeda member who was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.
The committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), complained to Brennan that senators could not bring staff experts and lawyers to examine the documents, and said the White House had withheld eight opinions that the committee had requested.
Feinstein led the Democrats' charge on lethal drone strikes. Even though the committee had confirmed that the number of civilians inadvertently killed each year "has typically been in the single digits," she said, she has not been permitted to discuss it.
"When I asked to give out the actual numbers, I'm told, 'You can't,'" she said. "And I say, 'Why not?' 'Because it's classified. It's a covert program. For the public, it doesn't exist.'"
That rationale, she added, "is long gone."
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) urged Brennan to consider asking an independent court to review drone-targeting decisions, just as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court reviews secret intelligence eavesdropping warrants.
"Having the executive be the judge, prosecutor and the jury all in one is very contrary to the laws of this country," King said.
Brennan said the idea was "worthy of discussion," but he wondered whether courts could evaluate decisions to stop terrorists before they acted.
After the hearing, Feinstein also lent support to the notion of allowing judicial review, even by a secret court, of the drone attacks. "I think this has gone about as far as it can go as a covert activity," she said.
2) 4 takeaways from John Brennan's grilling
Josh Gerstein, Politico, February 7, 2013 09:38 PM EST
Bipartisan agreement isn't common on Capitol Hill these days, but John Brennan brought senators together at his CIA director confirmation hearing - to express their anger at years of intelligence stonewalling from presidents of both parties.
Twelve years into the war on terror, a largely complacent Congress and its Senate Intelligence Committee finally seemed to have found its voice. Brennan had the misfortune of being the one on the other side of the table when they did.
If White House officials thought President Barack Obama's belated decision Wednesday to allow intelligence committees access to classified Justice Department legal memos that justified drone strikes against American terror suspects abroad would appease the committee, that was clearly a miscalculation.
Instead, it seemed to have provoked them. Senators opened the session with a flurry of complaints. They challenged Brennan about why senators' staff couldn't look at the documents.
"Our staff was banned from seeing it … this is upsetting to a number of members," an irritated Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) declared.
And the committee insisted that the two opinions they were shown were not enough: Eight additional opinions were demanded.
"We've got to see any and all of those legal opinions … before the vote," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.
For all the questions about safeguards, no one on the committee said they were opposed to the drone program - and some came to its defense.
However, after the hearing Feinstein told journalists she was unaware of reports that in some instances U.S. officials assumed any male of fighting age killed in a strike was a combatant - a method that could undercount the number of civilian deaths.
Brennan said he favored the U.S. making a public statement when it made a mistake in a drone strike, but he never explained how one could do that and keep such strikes officially classified.
Feinstein said the administration's insistence on secrecy was undermining its ability to defend the effort. "I think that rationale Mr. Brennan has long gone … I think it's very important that we share this data with people," she said.
3) U.S. Drone Strikes Supported By American Public, To A Point: Survey
Saki Knafo, Huffington Post, Updated: 02/07/2013 5:11 pm EST
Say the government planned on launching an attack on al Qaeda militants in Yemen. The joint chiefs of staff predict that American soldiers will die. Would you support the mission?
What if the government used drones instead of troops? No Americans would die, but innocent foreigners would. Could you get behind that?
James Walsh, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, posed versions of these questions to people who participated in a recent internet survey.
Although participants generally said they'd support a drone attack in which no innocent lives were lost, they were much less likely to support either of the hypothetical scenarios described above -- a land attack with American military casualties or a drone attack with civilian ones.
In fact, the death of civilians was just as significant in causing support to plummet as the possibility of American military casualties.
"We know from a huge amount of research that U.S. military casualties are the most consistent factor that reduce support for use of force," he said. "But when the government uses drones, they're not going to kill American soldiers, so the question becomes, 'Who are they going to kill?' The salience of the discussion of civilian casualties might be greater."
As the media continues to shine light on the program, polls suggest that more and more Americans will take a similarly critical position. Because drones are so new, polling data on American public opinion is scarce, but the available research paints a complicated picture. It shows that Americans support the idea of drones, but only to a point.
When asked to consider factors like collateral damage or the possibility that drones could be used to kill Americans, respondents' support drops considerably.
In a HuffPost/YouGov survey launched last month, 59 percent said they approve of the Obama administration using drones to kill high-level terrorism suspects overseas. Eighteen percent disapprove, and 24 percent said they aren't sure.
Asked about the Obama administration's practice of using drones to kill high-level terrorism suspects who happened to be American citizens, only 44 percent of participants in the same survey said they approve, compared with 26 percent who disapprove. The "not sure" category grew to 30 percent.
A new survey by Farleigh Dickinson University seems also suggests that Americans widely condemn the use of drones against U.S. citizens.
By a 2-to-1 margin, according to a university press release, American voters said they think it's illegal for the government to deploy drones against its own citizens living abroad.
Just 24 percent say it is legal, agreeing with the position taken by the United States Attorney's Office and the Obama administration.
4) Exclusive: U.N.'s Drone Investigator Backs Brennan for Top CIA Job
Spencer Ackerman, Wired/Danger Room, 02.07.1310:30 AM
The head of the United Nations inquiry into drone strikes and targeted killings believes the chief architect of those efforts will rein them in at the CIA.
Ben Emmerson, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, tells Danger Room he's giving his qualified backing to John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser and nominee to become CIA director. The endorsement comes at a critical time for both men: Brennan faces Senate questioning on Thursday afternoon, and Emmerson is negotiating access with the U.S. government to its targeted-killing efforts for his recently announced international inquiry into their legality.
It's an unlikely endorsement. Emmerson, a British lawyer, has put the U.S. on notice that he won't hesitate to investigate U.S. "war crimes" if he uncovers evidence of them. While Emmerson's inquiry won't focus on individuals responsible for any uncovered abuses, Brennan, as a White House aide, presided over the bureaucratic process for ordering suspected terrorists killed. Yet at the White House, Emmerson says, Brennan "had the job of reining in the more extreme positions advanced by the CIA," which he thinks augurs well for Brennan's CIA tenure.
"By putting Brennan in direct control of the CIA's policy [of targeted killings], the president has placed this mediating legal presence in direct control of the positions that the CIA will adopt and advance, so as to bring the CIA much more closely under direct presidential and democratic control," Emmerson says. "It's right to view this as a recognition of the repository of trust that Obama places in Brennan to put him in control of the organization that poses the greatest threat to international legal consensus and recognition of the lawfulness of the drone program."
"Warts and all" conversations with current and former Obama administration officials convince Emmerson that Brennan tried to steer the drone program from a "technology-driven process" to one that attempted to balance the interests of the law, counterterrorism, and the agencies involved in implementing it. "There are significant elements within the CIA who are unhappy about Brennan's appointment," Emmerson says. "These are the hawkish elements inside the CIA who would rather have as a director someone who reflected their agenda, rather than someone who is there to impose the president's agenda."
The endorsement also makes tactical sense for Emmerson. His inquiry will focus on 25 drone strikes in which there are credible reports of civilian deaths. The vast majority of them were launched by either the U.S. military or the CIA, both of which are tight-lipped about the strikes. Emmerson needs U.S. cooperation if his inquiry is going to make an impact: Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations reminds that previous U.N. efforts to explore the drone efforts failed when Washington stonewalled them. Emmerson says he already has "very good reason to believe I will be receiving cooperation with the inquiry anyway. I have had communications both unofficial and official with the administration that give me cause for confidence."
The discrepancy between Obama's rhetoric about rejecting "perpetual war" and his proliferation of targeted killing has caused some of his supporters to believe that either he's not in control of the U.S. national-security apparatus or that the end of the war on terrorism is just around the corner. The evidence for either proposition is, to say the least, disputable. But Brennan's potential move to the CIA makes it show-and-prove time for Obama.
5) John Brennan's Love-Hate Relationship With Drones
The CIA nominee wants to dump the drones program on the Pentagon, but Defense nominee Chuck Hagel won't be happy about that.
Michael Hirsh, National Journal, February 7, 2013 | 1:03 p.m.
With President Obama's CIA nominee, John Brennan, in the spotlight this week, Washington is engaged in a big debate over the ethics of covert drone warfare. But like it or not, "targeted killing" will continue and perhaps even increase in years to come. The more realistic questions to ask about what some Obama administration officials call "the new normal" of warfare are these: Who's really going to run the drone program - the White House, the Pentagon, or the CIA? And how long is it likely to last?
And you can depend on this: As intense as the public debate over drones has been, the internal bureaucratic battle will be even more tumultuous.
Brennan had indicated that he wanted to see big changes in control of the drone program even before his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Under his watch as White House counterterrorism coordinator, Brennan's former employer, the CIA, has become much more of a "paramilitary" organization, and he wants to return the agency to its roots. "John thinks that the traditional role of the CIA is to be the biggest, baddest, most effective human-intelligence collection facility on the planet," says a senior administration official, who would discuss Brennan's views only on condition of anonymity. "That's the tradition of the CIA he grew up in, and that's what he thinks the CIA in its essence should be."
"A lot of what's driving Brennan, from what I've heard, is that he feels the [drone] program has run its course as a CIA operation," says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism official. "He feels that basically the collateral damage is causing more problems than any success coming out of the program." Meanwhile, the debate over the ethics - and, perhaps more significantly, the efficacy - of targeting rogue American citizens and others abroad is going to grow more intense, too. "My sense is there is a growing recognition that these strikes can hurt organizations but they are rarely the main reason for the end of the organization," says Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the Rand Corp.
According to other people who know Brennan's thinking well, he also believes that moving drones to the Defense Department will allow greater congressional and public scrutiny. He fears that if the United States does not lead in developing an ethical and legal policy framework on the use of drones, decades' worth of international law will be undermined and other countries that are close to developing their own drones, particularly China and Russia, will abuse them. The nominee to head the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., is nominally in support of targeted strikes, but he is also keenly aware of the possibly perilous precedent that's being set, and he is concerned about the backlash from "collateral damage" when innocents are killed, possibly creating even more jihadists than are being taken out.
Obama himself, while more than tripling the number of drone strikes from the previous administration, has given his bureaucrats' considerable ammunition for the battle over who runs the show and how. The president wants to put a "legal architecture in place … to make sure that not only am I reined in, but any president is reined in," as Obama said on Jon Stewart's show (of all places) last year. At the same time he's trying to avoid going down in history as the "drone president," emphasizing to his team economic development and diplomacy over "kinetic action" as ways of transforming places like Mali from terrorist havens into viable polities.
The bureaucratic fight is already under way. In his written answers to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan said that targets are picked "on a case-by-case basis through a coordinated interagency process" involving the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, and other agencies. But in fact, behind the scenes the CIA has not always cooperated in sharing the vetting process, especially in Pakistan, and Brennan is likely to change that. One major underlying issue is which agency—the CIA or Defense— operates under tighter rules for disclosure and congressional notification. On one hand, the military does conduct itself under rules of engagement that are more spelled out and governed by clear codes, such as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On the other hand, covert war by the military has in some ways been conducted under even less scrutiny in recent years, particularly when it comes to special operations.
Some critics, such as former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, have worried that special ops now has generic authority to deploy where it wants without case-by-case orders. Without proper civilian oversight, a bin Laden-style success can easily become a "Black Hawk Down." According to a senior CIA lawyer, the statutes reining in the CIA, which date from the famous Church Committee hearings of the 1970s, have set up effective procedures under Title 50 of the National Security Act. "Now, almost 40 years later, we're in a situation where the CIA has to go through this bureaucracy, and at the same time you have the [special-operations] military doing all sorts of things that present worse types of concerns with much less congressional notification," he said.
The only way to lay all the ethical and bureaucratic questions to rest is to declare, at some point, that the war against al-Qaida is over. But that too is the subject of debate. With new splinter groups rising in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, that's unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. And administration officials tend to contradict each other occasionally about how they see the end game. In a speech last November, Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, said that the "tipping point" for the end will come when "so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its affiliates have been killed or captured [that] the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States."
But the senior administration official told National Journal on Thursday that the new dangers emerging from groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb do not focus on the U.S. homeland. "What Americans need to understand over the long term is that there will likely be more attacks like we saw in Algeria and Benghazi. Al-Qaida has metastasized and now has affiliates in more places, but ones that unlike core al-Qaida don't necessarily have an interest in striking the U.S. homeland."
6) Congress to See Memo Backing Drone Attacks on Americans
Michael D. Shear and Scott Shane, February 6, 2013, New York Times,
Washington - The White House on Wednesday directed the Justice Department to release to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees classified documents discussing the legal justification for killing, by drone strikes and other means, American citizens abroad who are considered terrorists.
The White House announcement appears to refer to a long, detailed 2010 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in September 2011. Members of Congress have long demanded access to the legal memorandum.
The decision to release the legal memo to the Intelligence Committees came under pressure, two days after a bipartisan group of 11 senators joined a growing chorus asking for more information about the legal justification for targeted killings, especially of Americans.
The announcement also came on the eve of the confirmation hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon for John O. Brennan, President Obama's choice to be director of the C.I.A., who has been the chief architect of the drone program as Mr. Obama's counterterrorism adviser.
Until Wednesday, the administration had refused to even officially acknowledge the existence of the documents, which have been reported about in the press. This week, NBC News obtained an unclassified, shorter "white paper" that detailed some of the legal analysis about killing a citizen and was apparently derived from the classified Awlaki memorandum. The paper said the United States could target a citizen if he was a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda involved in plots against the country and if his capture was not feasible.
Administration officials said Mr. Obama had decided to take the action, which they described as extraordinary, out of a desire to involve Congress in the development of the legal framework for targeting specific people to be killed in the war against Al Qaeda. Aides noted that Mr. Obama had made a pledge to do that during an appearance on "The Daily Show" last year.
"Today, as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the Congressional Intelligence Committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice white paper," said an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the handling of classified material.
The official said members of the Intelligence Committees would now get "access" to the documents.
Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the president's move "a small step in the right direction." But he noted that the legal memo or memos were not being shared with the Armed Services Committees, which have jurisdiction over Pentagon strikes, or the Judiciary Committees, which oversee the Justice Department. It was not clear whether the release involved more than one memo.
The public should be permitted to see at least a redacted version of the relevant material, Mr. Anders said. "Everyone has a right to know when the government believes it can kill Americans and others," he said.
Mr. Wyden has repeatedly called on the administration to release its legal memorandums laying out what the executive branch believes it has the power to do in national security matters, including the targeted killing of a citizen. Earlier on Wednesday, at a Democratic retreat in Annapolis, Md., he had hinted at a potential filibuster of Mr. Brennan's nomination by vowing to "pull out all the stops to get the actual legal analysis, because without it, in effect, the administration is, in effect, practicing secret law."
Mr. Wyden said that committee members would have immediate access to the material, and that there would be a process for other senators to read it eventually. It was not clear whether lawmakers' legal aides would also be allowed to read it.
He said the administration's decision to allow lawmakers "to finally see the legal opinions" was an "encouraging first step, and what I want to see is a bipartisan effort to build on it, particularly right now, when the lines are blurring between intelligence agencies and the military."
The Congressional Intelligence Committees were created in the late 1970s to exercise oversight after a series of scandals at the spy agencies. The law requires that the committees be kept informed of intelligence activities. But most administrations withhold at least some legal opinions, treating them as confidential legal advice to the president and agency officials.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was pleased by the president's action. "It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations," she said.
The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed lawsuits to force the release of the classified legal opinions on targeted killing, including the one now going to the Intelligence Committees. A judge rejected the claims, and the decision is on appeal.
7) Is U.S. Considering Expansion of Targeted Kill List Into North Africa?
Daniel Politi, Slate, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at 1:53 PM ET
At a time when targeted killings have once again become subject of debate in Washington and across the country, some senior officials are pushing to expand the "capture or kill" lists into northwestern Africa. The Wall Street Journal reports that "senior U.S. officials" want to add Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attack and hostage-taking in the Algerian natural-gas plant, to the list. That would represent a marked expansion of the country's programs of drone strikes and lethal counterterrorism operations that has focused on Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan. So far, the United States has tried to keep some distance from northwest Africa operations because militants there aren't seen as posing a direct threat to the homeland but now some U.S. officials say militants like Belmokhtar have proven to pose a danger to Americans and other westerners in the region.
8) Palestinian farmer, activist, filmmaker - and Oscar nominee
Emad Burnat talks about how he progressed from filming his newborn to teaming with an Israeli to create '5 Broken Cameras,' a documentary about his village's fight against Israeli occupation.
Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2013, 5:20 p.m.
Bilin, West Bank - Like many Palestinians, West Bank farmer Emad Burnat punctuates his life story with events from the Israeli occupation of his village.
His first son was born amid the optimism that followed the 1993 Oslo peace accords, and another came just as the 2000 Palestinian uprising erupted.
His youngest, Gibreel, was born the same week that Israel began constructing a separation barrier through his hometown of Bilin. That's when Burnat got his first camera, initially to capture his newborn, but later to document his village's fight against the Israeli military and nearby settlers.
It was the first of five cameras he would use, all destroyed during filming by bullets, tear-gas canisters or angry settlers.
With the help of Israeli activist and filmmaker Guy Davidi, Burnat turned the footage into "5 Broken Cameras," a deeply personal glimpse of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nominated for an Oscar in the documentary feature category. The Oscars will be awarded Feb. 24.
Overlooking the snaking concrete barrier that separates Bilin from nearby Jewish settlements, Burnat, 41, spoke with The Times about the challenges in making the film, working with an Israeli to finish it and balancing roles as filmmaker and activist.
There's been some recent controversy around calling this an "Israeli" film since it was co-directed by an Israeli and got some Israeli funding. Is it Israeli or Palestinian?
This came from my mind, my heart and my soul. It's a Palestinian film, and that was the idea from the beginning. The collaboration between me and Guy is not between two states. It's between two human beings because I knew him as a friend. It was never supposed to be about making an Israeli-Palestinian film or about Israeli-Palestinian collaboration.
Why did you turn to an Israeli to help shape and complete the film? Were there trust issues that arose or a backlash from Palestinians?
I had 90% of the footage when I proposed Guy join me. What was missing was the funding and the editing. It could have come from a German or a Palestinian or anyone. But I trusted Guy. He was someone who came to support us in the village in the demonstrations against the wall and the settlements. I knew how he thought about Palestinian rights and the occupation. He was a strong supporter. ... But after the Oscar nomination, the Israeli media started calling it an Israeli film because of Guy's role. And that has brought some pressure on me from some Palestinian politicians and journalists. Some people didn't respect the film because of that.
Did you set out to make such a personal film?
I started documenting the village's story. The daily life. And also some of my personal daily life, like my son growing up. The idea was always to make a personal film because many people were making films about the same subject, but most were by outsiders. So in 2005 a friend suggested making the film about my friends, my family and my son. At first I didn't want to include footage of myself. I didn't want people to say, "Oh, he's making a film about himself." But Guy said that was normal and encouraged me to make it more about myself.
You narrate the footage in very personal terms, but the script was something Guy wrote. Was that strange?
He knows about words and is a good writer. But the narrative came from inside me, after discussions with me. If you didn't live here, you couldn't understand those feelings. I never really cared about who got credit. My goal was to finish the film and spread the word.
Was there any friction in working with Guy? Any arguments about the film's message?
I'd by lying if I said there was never any problem, but that happens even between brothers. After the film became famous, we decided to distribute it and there were some problems over that. To me the main purpose was to show the footage as much as possible to as many people [as possible]. So I'm always fighting for free screenings. But the business partners are sometimes focusing more on business and money.
Do Palestinians care about the Oscars?
No, they don't care. Sometimes I would see them on TV, but as a child we didn't have a TV. My wife grew up in Brazil, and she followed them every year. She's excited about going to the ceremony. She has a dress. My son Gibreel will go with us.
If you win, what will you say to the millions of people watching worldwide?
I have to prepare something. It would be a very special moment to say something about the Palestinian issue. It would be the first Palestinian to win an Oscar. So it would be a chance to inform people around the world about our situation, and give Palestinians some hope.
Will you do another film?
I'm thinking about another project, but I have to find a good story to tell. I'm so busy with the current film that I don't have a clear mind. And I think after the Oscars it will probably be even busier.
Do you see yourself now as a filmmaker?
To me it's not just about making films. I put my life at risk. I was shot at. I was arrested twice. I was seriously injured in a car accident. But that was not to make a film or to make money. The film was a way to reach my goal, and that is to tell people the truth about our lives, to tell the story of Palestine.
9) Litmus Tests
Editorial, New York Times, February 4, 2013
One dispiriting lesson from Chuck Hagel's nomination for defense secretary is the extent to which the political space for discussing Israel forthrightly is shrinking. Republicans focused on Israel more than anything during his confirmation hearing, but they weren't seeking to understand his views. All they cared about was bullying him into a rigid position on Israel policy. Enforcing that kind of orthodoxy is not in either America's or Israel's interest.
Brooklyn College is facing a similar trial for scheduling an event on Thursday night with two speakers who support an international boycott to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. While this page has criticized Israeli settlements, we do not advocate a boycott. We do, however, strongly defend the decision by the college's president, Karen Gould, to proceed with the event, despite withering criticism by opponents and threats by at least 10 City Council members to cut financing for the college. Such intimidation chills debate and makes a mockery of the ideals of academic freedom.
Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator, has repeatedly declared support for Israel and cited 12 years of pro-Israel votes in the Senate. But that didn't matter to his opponents, who attacked him as insufficiently pro-Israel and refused to accept any deviation on any vote. Mr. Hagel was even forced to defend past expressions of concern for Palestinian victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the Brooklyn College case, critics have used heated language to denigrate the speakers, Omar Barghouti, a leader of a movement called B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, that espouses "nonviolent punitive measures" to pressure Israel, and Judith Butler, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a member of the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports divestment and boycotts. Alan Dershowitz, a Brooklyn College graduate and Harvard law professor, has complained that the event is unbalanced and should not be co-sponsored by the college's political science department. On Monday, Ms. Gould said other events offering alternative views are planned.
The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests. J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group that was formed as a counterpoint to conservative groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has argued for vibrant debate and said "criticism of Israeli policy does not threaten the health of the state of Israel." In fact, it is essential.
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just 'Foreign Policy News is here: