California Senator Dianne Feinstein said something recently that's making our heads spin.
Following John Brennan's confirmation hearing last Thursday in which the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned him on US drone policy, Politico reported Sen. Feinstein as saying that
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. 
Apparently, Sen. Feinstein doesn't have a subscription to the New York Times. Last May, the Times ran a major expose on US drone policy that featured the revelation that the CIA was counting all “military-aged males in a strike zone” as “combatants” in their drone strike kill counts. 
What makes this situation even more outrageous is that Sen. Feinstein is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the CIA and US drone policy. How is it possible that she was unaware of a widely-noted New York Times article on a policy she is responsible for overseeing?
We think "oversight" of drone strike policy includes the responsibility to know what's being reported about it in the press and to ask government officials about these concerns. That means someone needs to get a subscription to the New York Times ASAP. Don't you agree?
Join us in telling Sen. Feinstein and her staff to get subscriptions to the New York Times and to read the articles related to drone strikes.
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy
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Early this morning, a group of Palestinian and international nonviolent activists made two attempts to establish a new village in the South Hebron Hills to protest the Netanyahu government's plans to confiscate Palestinian land in the area. "We are establishing Canaan on our land after our homes and water wells were demolished, and our people displaced," Yatta popular committee spokesman Ibrahim Rabee told Ma'an News Agency.
According to AFP, the activists gathered at the first site, near a road that serves the settlement of Carmel, were evicted before they could erect any structures. The activists then moved to a second site, near the Palestinian village of al-Tuwani, where they were able to erect at least one tent before Israeli forces arrived. "We began building the tents and were surprised when a large force of the Israeli army began attacking us and destroying tents and hitting us,” Younis Arar, coordinator of the popular committee in the southern West Bank, told Ma'an news. AFP reported the use of water cannon to disperse the activists. According to Haaretz, the water sprayed at the protesters was “foul water”, also known as “skunk water”, which has a putrid smell that can linger on clothing for years.
No one is reported to have been arrested at the first site, but Al Jazeera says six people were arrested at the second site, including two journalists, one of whom is with the AP. A Hebron human rights activist told Al Jazeera, "The Israeli army does not distinguish the journalists from activists, or from the people living there - they just attacked everyone. They were very aggressive today."
Canaan was the fifth attempt to establish a protest village in the West Bank in as many weeks, and the Israeli army's response has become more aggressive with each attempt. The world needs to know about these nonviolent acts of resistance, and now is the time to spread the word. Here's what you can do:
At long last, the Administration has released a "white paper" explaining its legal rationale for conducting drone strikes on Americans. Why did this happen? Because of pressure.
What might more pressure accomplish?
John Brennan is appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Urge your Senators to press John Brennan on US drone strike policy.
The New York Times reports that the Justice Department "white paper" closely tracks a classified memorandum in which the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in U.S. drone strike in September 2011.  Members of Congress, the press, and human rights groups have been pressing the Administration for disclosure of this memo (which still has not been disclosed).
In January, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter demanding to see the memo.  On February 4, a bipartisan group of Senators made the same demand. 
This shows that the Administration's policy can move under the pressure of Senators' questions. More questions will generate more movement.
There are many other questions Senators should ask Brennan:
- How many civilians do you believe have been killed by drone strikes?
- Is it true that the CIA counts all "military-aged males" as "militants" when they are killed by a drone strike?
- Do you agree with those who say that drone strikes should not be conducted by the CIA?
- Is it true that the CIA has conducted "secondary strikes" where they hit the same target twice, after rescuers have come to the scene of a strike?
- Is it true that the CIA has targeted funerals and weddings with drone strikes?
- Is it true that the CIA has targeted unknown persons with "signature strikes," simply on the basis that they were carrying weapons?
Earlier today, Palestinian nonviolent activists established a new tent village called al-Manatir in the West Bank village of Burin, near Nablus, to protest Israeli plans to confiscate village land for settlement development. Soon after, Israeli soldiers and settlers from two nearby settlements, Yitzhar and Bracha, entered the village. As the Associated Press reports, Burin has frequently been the target of settler violence from the nearby settlements. After the soldiers and settlers arrived at the scene, clashes subsequently broke out. The AFP reports that the Israeli soldiers “used tear gas and violence” to remove the protesters and settlers from the encampment. Haaretz reports that live ammunition was fired into the air, though the IDF denies this. In the end, five Palestinians and one settler were arrested.
The IDF has closed off the area and is preventing anyone from re-entering al-Manatir, but news is still coming in via Twitter. Now is the time to spread the word. Here's what you can do:
1. If you're on Twitter, retweet news coming in from #AlManatir
2. Share these articles:
- “Clashes in West Bank village after Palestinians erect protest camp,” Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen and the Associated Press, February 2, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/clashes-in-west-bank-villa...
- “Palestinians evicted from West Bank protest camp,” AFP, February 2, 2013, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hBA5zNgSOF1HeGVXbjgQW...
- “Israeli forces dismantle Palestinian encampment, clash with activists,” Associated Press, February 2, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israeli-forces-dismantle...
A key reason many in Congress haven't spoken up against the drone strike policy is that many believe the public overwhelmingly supports the policy. A key reason many believe the public overwhelmingly supports the drone strike policy is that the Washington Post said so in February 2012.
But the question the Washington Post asked in its February 2012 poll, and the way the Post reported it, were highly misleading. And in the last year, a lot of criticism of the drone strike policy has appeared in mainstream press that hadn't appeared before.
As the Senate considers the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, where he will oversee CIA drone strikes, urge the Washington Post to ask the public an unbiased question on drone strikes.
In February 2012, under the headline, "Poll finds broad support for Obama's counterterrorism policies," the Washington Post reported that "The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy."  This Post report had the effect of convincing many people that the drone strike policy was overwhelmingly popular. But here is the question that was actually asked: 
… thinking about the following decisions of the Obama administration, please tell me whether you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove ... c. The use of unmanned, "drone" aircraft against terrorist suspects overseas
The Post assumed there was no meaningful distinction between current policy and targeting "terrorist suspects." That was the "official story" the Administration had just put out.
France has undertaken a major military campaign in Mali. U.S. officials are talking about the possibility of supporting the French military campaign with U.S. drone strikes.
Congress hasn't authorized US military intervention in Mali. In particular, Congress hasn't authorized U.S. drone strikes in Mali.
Urge your Representative and Senators to publicly insist that the Administration obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting drone strikes in Mali.
The Washington Post reports: 
[A senior U.S.] official said contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated.
Without explicit Congressional authorization, the only U.S. legal authority the Administration could claim for conducting drone strikes in Mali is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the September 11 attacks. This is the legal authority the Administration has invoked for conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia is already very controversial. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Mali should be even more controversial.
Indeed, on November 1, the Washington Post editorial board, which supports the drone strike policy overall, and believes that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are legal overall, wrote: 
President Obama has announced his new national security team: Chuck Hagel at Defense, John Kerry at State, John Brennan at the CIA. Each of these officials will have a say in whether U.S. drone strike policy will be further entrenched than it is today, or whether U.S. drone strike policy will become more transparent and accountable, and be brought into full compliance with U.S. and international law.
Each of these nominees must face a confirmation hearing in the Senate. When the President's nominees appear before the Senate, they should answer questions from Senators about current drone strike policy, and that should happen in open session, so the questions and answers can be reported in the media, and the public can exercise its right to know.
Sign our petition to the President and the Senate here:
In an editorial, the Washington Post called for the CIA's removal from the drone strike program.  Human Rights Watch has been calling for the CIA to be removed from the drone strike program for a year, noting that the CIA is less transparent than the U.S. military and less accountable to U.S. and international law, and that there is no program to compensate civilian victims of CIA paramilitary actions. 
The Post has also reported that the Administration has made moves to institutionalize the current program, suggesting the program could be at its midpoint—in other words, the program could go on for another ten years. 
Diplomacy advocate and war skeptic Chuck Hagel is reported to be President Obama's first choice for Secretary of Defense. Hagel would work to end the war in Afghanistan, avoid war with Iran, and cut the Pentagon budget. Right-wing neocons are organizing a smear campaign to try to scuttle the nomination. Urge your Senators to speak up for Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense.
There is a petition at MoveOn here:
Back Obama in Tapping Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense
You can find phone numbers for your Senators here. If you can't get through to your Senator's DC office, try a local office in your state. All those numbers are given here:
A suggested message is:
"I urge you to publicly support Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense, and to speak out against the right-wing attacks on Senator Hagel."
You can report your calls to MoveOn here:
Thanks for taking action! We've never been this close to having someone like Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense! Let's keep up the pressure!
The Obama-hating Neocon Right is trying to "Swift Boat" the expected nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense by making up a fantasy scare story that Hagel—a former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, long-respected moderate and thoughtful voice on foreign policy, and decorated Vietnam combat veteran—is "anti-Israel."
The real reason the neocons hate Hagel is that he's a war-skeptic and a diplomacy advocate. As a Senator, he voted for the Iraq war. But then he became an early and harsh critic of the war and called for it to end. Hagel was an early advocate of diplomatic engagement with Iran, has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the U.S. or Israel against Iran, and has also backed efforts to bring Iran to the table for talks on future peace in Afghanistan. Hagel has described the Pentagon as "bloated" and has said "the Pentagon needs to be pared down."
We deserve a war-skeptic and diplomacy advocate as Defense Secretary. Americans voted against the foreign policy of the neocons in 2008 and 2012. But the neocons are still using their insider influence and slander tactics to try to dominate policy.
We cannot stand idly by as the neocons stage a coup of our foreign policy. All of us opposed to these tactics, including the President's support base of liberal Democrats, must make our voices heard. That's why we've set up a petition on MoveOn's community petition site, SignOn, against the Swift Boat campaign on Chuck Hagel. Will you help us move this petition forward, so more MoveOn members will see it? You can sign and share the petition here:
Just Foreign Policy's Policy Director Robert Naiman explained what's at stake in this fight in his blog on Huffington Post. You can read and share that here:
J Street Pushes Back on Neocon Bid to "Swift Boat" Chuck Hagel Nomination as Defense Secretary
In early December 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for a "Christmas Truce" in the First World War. Leaders on all sides were forced to respond to the Pope's call. No formal truce was agreed, but across the trenches of the Western Front many soldiers on all sides observed the Christmas truce the Pope had called for.
Today the war in Afghanistan continues killing Americans and Afghans for no reason. If Pope Benedict XVI - the current Pope - called on Western leaders to announce an offensive ceasefire in Afghanistan for the Christmas holiday, Western leaders would have to respond. If we could stop the war for one day, it would set an important precedent, making it easier to achieve a lasting ceasefire and an end to the war.
Pope Benedict XVI has just inaugurated the use of a Twitter account. The Pope already has a million followers on Twitter, and the fact that he is now on Twitter is in the news. Sign and tweet our petition, and people around the world will see your appeal for the Pope to call for a Christmas ceasefire:
We're making our appeal for a ceasefire to the Pope because he is the most prominent and influential Western religious leader, and because of the historical precedent of his predecessor's call for a ceasefire in 1914. If Pope Benedict calls for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, other Western leaders will join his call, and Western governments with troops in Afghanistan will have to respond. Upon becoming Pope in 2005, he said: