JFP 3/12: CPCers demand drone answers; Cruz, Paul intro ban of drone strikes in US

Just Foreign Policy News, March 12, 2013
CPCers demand drone answers; Cruz, Paul intro ban of US drone strikes

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Senate: No Backdoor to Iran War
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Here Comes AIPAC, Lobbying for War
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What Rand Paul & Ted Cruz Exposed About the Drone Strikes
Rand Paul and Ted Cruz's questioning about what the Administration claims would be legal in the U.S. brings public attention to the extraordinary claims of the Administration about what it is legal to do in other people's countries.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/what-rand-paul-ted-cruz-e_b_2828517.html

Rachel Corrie Foundation: Rachel, 10 Years Later
Use the March 16th ten-year anniversary of Rachel in Gaza to make some noise.
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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Co-Chairs Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison and Caucus members Barbara Lee, John Conyers, Donna Edwards, Mike Honda, Rush Holt, and Jim McGovern, sent President Obama a letter requesting the full, unclassified release of information surrounding the Obama administration's drone strike policy, the CPC says. The letter requests a formal report to Congress explaining the scope and legal justification for the drone program, and asks the Administration to release in unclassified form the full legal basis of executive branch claims of justification for the drone strike policy.

The letter cites several problems with current drone policy, including its "unbounded geographic scope; unidentified high-level officials with authority to approve kill-lists; a vaguely defined definition of whether a capture is 'feasible,' [and] an overly broad definition of the phrase 'imminent threat,' which re-defines the word in a way that strays significantly from its traditional and legal meaning."

2) Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul introduced legislation to prohibit drone killings of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if they do not represent an imminent threat, Sen. Cruz office reports. [The bill is S.505; the text is not in Thomas yet, but is available at the link in #2 below - JFP.]

3) Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul plan to try to attach a prohibition on drone strikes against American citizens on U.S. soil to the continuing resolution funding the government through September, Politico reports. If Paul and Cruz are allowed to offer the drone amendment, "it could cause trouble with Democrats and the White House," Politico says.

4) Defense Secretary Hagel has ordered the military to stop production of a controversial new medal pending a 30-day study of whether the award for drone pilots and cyberwarriors should outrank medals given for battlefield bravery, the Washington Post reports.

5) President Obama should reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, argues the New York Times in an editorial. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.

6) Senators rebuffed a request by the Obama administration to approve a permanent increase in U.S. funding to the International Monetary Fund, Reuters reports. Authors of the bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected the request as too politically sensitive in the tense budget environment in Washington, where the sweeping government spending cuts triggered on March 1 are starting to be felt. [The article suggests that an increase in US funding for the IMF is necessary for reform of the IMF voting system to give developing countries more weight, but it's not obvious why this should be the case - JFP.]

7) Human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic, argue Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Ruth Dreifuss of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in an op-ed in the New York Times. But drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement. It is time for the human rights movement to take a leading role in calling for an end to the war on drugs and the development of drug policies that advance rather than degrade human rights, they argue.

8) State lawmakers in Maryland are pushing for a tax break for Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense manufacturer, that would lead to lower funding for other programs in Montgomery County, the Huffington Post reports. Under the legislation, Montgomery County would have to reimburse Lockheed some $1.4 million in previously paid taxes, some of which Lockheed Martin has already been reimbursed for by the federal government.

Iran
9) With the expulsion of a senior al-Qaeda official, Iran appears to be signaling a crackdown, the Washington Post reports. Iran's ouster of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, led to his arrest by U.S. officials in Jordan; he awaits trial in New York on terrorism-related charges.

The manner in which Abu Ghaith was expelled seemed calculated to result in his capture, suggesting that Iran was signaling a shift in the relationship, said Dan Byman, a counterterrorism expert at the Brooking Institution. "It was a big move to send him not to Pakistan, but in the opposite direction," Byman said.

El Salvador
10) Rival Salvadoran street gangs on Saturday added a sixth city to a truce signed a year ago, AFP reports. Since the truce was agreed a year ago, the gang-related homicide rate in El Salvador has dropped from 14 a day to five.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Progressive Caucus Leaders Demand Administration's Full Response on Drones
Congressional Progressive Caucus, March 11, 2013
http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/press-releases/progressive-caucus-leaders-demand-administrations-full-response-on-drones/
Full text of letter:
http://lee.house.gov/sites/lee.house.gov/files/President%20Obama%20Drones%20Letter%203.11.2013.pdf

Washington, D.C.- Today Rep. Barbara Lee, the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force, with CPC Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison and Caucus members John Conyers, Donna Edwards, Mike Honda, Rush Holt, and Jim McGovern, sent a letter requesting the full, unclassified release of information surrounding the Obama administration's drone policy. Rep. Conyers is the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The letter requests a formal report to Congress explaining the scope and legal justification for the drone program. "Authorizing the killing of American citizens and others has profound implications for our Constitution, the core values of our nation, our national security and future international practice," the authors write. "The executive branch's claim of authority to deprive citizens of life, and to do so without explaining the legal bases for doing so, sets a dangerous precedent and is a model of behavior that the United States would not want other nations to emulate."

The letter cites several problems with current drone policy, including its "unbounded geographic scope; unidentified high-level officials with authority to approve kill-lists; a vaguely defined definition of whether a capture is 'feasible,' [and] an overly broad definition of the phrase 'imminent threat,' which re-defines the word in a way that strays significantly from its traditional and legal meaning."

2) Cruz, Paul Introduce Bill to Prohibit Drone Killings of U.S. Citizens
Press Release of Senator Cruz, Thursday, March 7, 2013
http://www.cruz.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=339952
Full text of bill:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/129159090/A-Bill-to-Prohibit-the-Use-of-Drones-to-Kill-Citizens-of-the-United-States-Within-the-United-States

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) today introduced legislation to prohibit drone killings of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if they do not represent an imminent threat.

"Our Constitution restrains government power," Cruz said. "The federal government may not use drones to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if they do not represent an imminent threat. The Commander in Chief does, of course, have the power to protect Americans from imminent attack, and nothing in this legislation interferes with that power."

Key bill text:
The Federal Government may not use a drone to kill a citizen of the United States who is located in the United States. The prohibition under this subsection shall not apply to an individual who poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to another individual. Nothing in this section shall be construed to suggest that the Constitution would otherwise allow the killing of a citizen of the United States in the United States without due process of law.

3) Ted Cruz, Rand Paul want drone language in CR
Jonathan Allen, Politico, March 8, 2013 01:04 PM EDT
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/ted-cruz-rand-paul-want-drone-language-in-cr-88634.html

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) plan to try to attach a prohibition on drone strikes against American citizens on U.S. soil to the government-wide spending bill due up on the Senate floor next week, according to sources familiar with their legislation.

The Cruz-Paul bill would serve as the framework for an amendment to the continuing resolution, which would fund federal agencies, including the Pentagon, through Sept. 30.

The amendment would build on Paul's nearly 13-hour filibuster against new CIA director John Brennan over the program of aerial strikes from unmanned planes known as drones. The language would prohibit the federal government from using drones to target U.S. citizens in America unless the individual in question was about to kill or cause "serious bodily injury" to another person.

The deadline for passage of the government funding bill is March 27 - if Congress and the president can't reach agreement on the spending resolution, the government would shut down. If Paul and Cruz are allowed to offer the drone amendment, it could cause trouble with Democrats and the White House.
[...]
In a letter sent to Paul on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president does not have the authority to order drone strikes on American citizens in the U.S.

That led Paul to green light moving forward on the Brennan nomination - though he was a "no" on Brennan's confirmation. But Paul and his allies, including Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, want more than just a letter. They want to codify the limitation on the president's power.
[...]

4) Hagel orders halt to production of drone pilot, cyberwarrior medal
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 12, 11:52 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/hagel-orders-halt-to-production-of-drone-cyber-medal/2013/03/12/e0e84e0c-8b30-11e2-b63f-f53fb9f2fcb4_story.html

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to stop production of a controversial new medal pending a 30-day study of whether the award for drone pilots and cyberwarriors should outrank medals given for battlefield bravery.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved by former secretary Leon E. Panetta during his final days in office last month, was criticized by members of Congress and veterans groups because it was ranked above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the military's order of precedence.

A letter from the Senate's top two leaders on military affairs asking Hagel to reconsider was waiting on his desk when he returned Monday from a trip to Afghanistan. He made the decision Monday evening, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity before an official announcement planned for Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican, wrote that they were "supportive of the new medal" but were concerned "that it is given precedence above awards earned by service members for actions on the battlefield."

They said Hagel, who received two Purple Hearts as an enlisted combat soldier in Vietnam, should appreciate the morale problem the ranking would probably cause.
[...]

5) When to Say No
Editorial, New York Times, March 10, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/11/opinion/when-to-say-no-to-the-keystone-xl.html

The State Department's latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity's most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that - even by the State Department's most cautious calculations - can only add to the problem.
[...]
To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States. But its dry language understates the environmental damage involved: the destruction of the forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon, and the streams that flow through them. And by focusing on the annual figure, it fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today's technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether.

It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.

Supporters of the pipeline have argued that this is oil from a friendly country and that Canada will sell it anyway. We hope Mr. Obama will see the flaw in this argument. Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself. And that will require Canadians to play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent. At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.

The State Department will release a fuller review in early summer, and at some point after that the White House will decide. That decision will say a lot about whether Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are willing to exert global leadership on the climate change issue. Speaking of global warming in his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama pledged that "if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will." Mr. Kerry has since spoken of the need to safeguard for coming generations a world that is not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts and other destructive forces created by a changing climate.

In itself, the Keystone pipeline will not push the world into a climate apocalypse. But it will continue to fuel our appetite for oil and add to the carbon load in the atmosphere. There is no need to accept it.

6) Senate rebuffs Obama request to shift funds for IMF
Lesley Wroughton and David Lawder, Reuters, 3/12/13
http://news.yahoo.com/senate-committee-rebuffs-obama-funding-request-imf-vote-030533188.html

Washington - U.S. lawmakers late on Monday rebuffed a request by the Obama administration to approve a permanent increase in U.S. funding to the International Monetary Fund in a setback for IMF reforms to boost the voting power of emerging economies. The reforms need congressional approval because they involve shifting and making permanent a $65 billion U.S. contribution to an IMF crisis fund.

The U.S. authority is necessary to finalize a historic deal agreed by IMF member countries in 2010, that would make China the IMF's third-largest voting member. It would also increase the say of other emerging economies such as Brazil and India, which have long argued that their growing clout in the world economy should be reflected in institutions like the IMF.

After putting off the request last year because of the U.S. presidential election, the U.S. Treasury sought to tuck the provision into pending legislation in Congress that aims to avoid a U.S. government shutdown at the end of March.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected the IMF funding request last week, but the administration hoped the Democratic-led Senate would include it in its version of the funding bill.

After days of negotiations, authors of the bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected the request as too politically sensitive in the tense budget environment in Washington, where the sweeping government spending cuts triggered on March 1 are starting to be felt.
[...]

7) An Ugly Truth in the War on Drugs
Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Ruth Dreifuss, New York Times, March 10, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/11/opinion/11iht-edcardoso11.html

[Cardoso, former president of Brazil, is chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland, is a member of the commission.]

This week, representatives from many nations will gather at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to determine the appropriate course of the international response to illicit drugs. Delegates will debate multiple resolutions while ignoring a truth that goes to the core of current drug policy: human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic.

Consider these numbers: Hundreds of thousands of people locked in detention centers and subject to violent punishments. Millions imprisoned. Hundreds hanged, shot or beheaded. Tens of thousands killed by government forces and non-state actors. Thousands beaten and abused to extract information, and abused in government or private "treatment" centers. Millions denied life-saving medicines. These are alarming figures, but campaigns to address them have been slow and drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement.

This is a perfect storm for people who use drugs, especially those experiencing dependency, and those involved in the drug trade, whether growers, couriers or sellers. When people are dehumanized we know from experience that abuses against them are more likely. We know also that those abuses are less likely to be addressed because fewer people care.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime recently described what it saw as the fallout of the war on drugs. A system seems to have been created, the agency said, in which people who use drugs are pushed to the margins of society. What the agency failed to note, and which is clear to those of us involved in harm reduction and drug law reform, is that these people's human rights have also been marginalized and are too easily ignored.

The U.N.'s International Narcotics Control Board has refused to condemn torture or "any atrocity" carried out in the name of drug control, claiming it was not its mandate to do so. This is both shocking and contradictory: oversight of international drug control treaties is the control board's very mission.
[...]
In a report last week to the Human Rights Council, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture condemned abuses against drug users in detention centers across Asia and called for them to be shut down. But far more attention is needed. Just as we now view the war on terror through a human rights lens, we need to see drug control as a human rights concern. We need to acknowledge that not only are human rights abuses in the war on drugs widespread, but that they are systemic. They are an inevitable result of what governments do when they set repressive and unrealistic goals to eliminate supply and demand for widely available commodities and exhibit zero tolerance for human behavior.

A systemic problem demands systemic change. Recently, a U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs was announced for 2016. It is a chance to look again at the drug control system. This time, human rights must be at the forefront. As we move toward 2016 and this important review, it is time for the human rights movement to take a leading role in calling for an end to the war on drugs and the development of drug policies that advance rather than degrade human rights.

8) Maryland Mulls Lockheed Martin Tax Break Despite Tight Budgets
Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post, 3/12/2013
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/maryland-lockheed-martin_n_2859932.html

Washington -- In an age of budget cuts and hard choices, state lawmakers in Annapolis, Md., are pushing a benefit for the world's largest defense manufacturer that would lead to lower funding for other programs in one Maryland county.

The state Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation pushed by leading state Senate Democrats that would retroactively exempt Lockheed Martin from paying approximately $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County for on-site lodging facilities at the company's Bethesda-based conference center. Because the exemption would be retroactive to 2010, the county would also have to reimburse Lockheed some $1.4 million in previously paid taxes, money that would come out of the county's already tight budget.

The bill moved out of committee rapidly on Friday, as reported by The Washington Post over the weekend. Since then, opposition has been mounting: Some Montgomery County officials have voiced their displeasure -- although others back the legislation -- and progressive groups are pressuring legislators to drop their support for a bill that the groups see as unnecessary corporate welfare.

Lockheed Martin racked up $12.1 billion in sales and $2.7 billion in net earnings in 2012.
[...]

Iran
9) Iran, al-Qaeda relationship is showing cracks, U.S. officials and analysts say
Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 12, 1:24 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-al-qaeda-relationship-is-showing-cracks-us-officials-and-analysts-say/2013/03/12/f1fdace2-8b39-11e2-9838-d62f083ba93f_story.html

With the expulsion of a senior al-Qaeda official, Iran appears to be signaling a crackdown on the terrorist group that has long sought refuge within its borders, even as Tehran allows al-Qaeda operatives safe transit to Afghanistan, U.S. officials say.

Iran's ouster of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, marked at least the third time in the past year that a prominent al-Qaeda figure has left the country after living for years in a limbo between house guest and home detention.

U.S. officials and terrorism experts say the tougher stance appears to reflect growing tensions between Iran's Shiite clerics and the Sunni Muslim terrorist group, particularly over the conflict in Syria, where the two are backing opposing sides.
[...]
Two senior al-Qaeda figures left Iran last year, although it was unclear whether they were asked to go or departed willingly. But Abu Ghaith appears to have been given no choice, according to a narrative provided by U.S. officials and supported by Web postings on jihadist Internet sites. The former al-Qaeda spokesman and Sunni cleric was told earlier this year to leave Iran for his native Kuwait.

Kuwaiti officials initially declined to accept him, so he flew to Turkey, where he was detained by police and then allowed to board a flight for Kuwait on Feb. 28. During a layover in Amman, Jordan, U.S. intelligence officers arrested Abu Ghaith, who now awaits trial in New York on a variety of terrorism-related charges.

The manner in which Abu Ghaith was expelled seemed calculated to result in his capture, suggesting that Iran was signaling a shift in the relationship, said Dan Byman, a counterterrorism expert at the Brooking Institution.

"It was a big move to send him not to Pakistan, but in the opposite direction. What we're seeing is a slightly more confrontational al-Qaeda policy, suggesting that Iran is becoming more uncomfortable in hosting these guys," Byman said.
[...]

El Salvador
10) Crime drops dramatically in El Salvador as gang truce expands
Agence France-Presse, Saturday, March 9, 2013 19:30 EDT
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/09/crime-drops-dramatically-in-el-salvador-as-gang-truce-expands/

Rival Salvadoran street gangs on Saturday added a sixth city to a truce signed a year ago, in a hopeful sign for a peace pact that has dramatically lowered deaths from gang-related homicide.

Members from the notorious Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs looked on as their leaders signed the pact in the town of Apopa, 12 kilometers (seven miles) north of the capital city, San Salvador.
[...]
Since the truce was first agreed exactly one year ago Saturday, the gang-related homicide rate in this Central American country has dropped from 14 a day to five.

At first the truce was between those two main gangs, but later five smaller ones joined in.

Political analyst Antonio Martinez said the truce has eased street violence that had long plagued impoverished El Salvador.

But he added that other issues need to be addressed, such as how to get gang members who abandon that lifestyle back into society as productive people.
[...]

--
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