Drone Club

The first rule of Fight Club?

You don’t talk about Fight Club.

Obama isn’t a member of Fight Club; he’s a member of Drone Club — which targets individuals in foreign lands, including American citizens and their families, for extrajudicial assassination by drone. And the first rule of Drone Club?

You don’t talk about it.

Via Reprieve:

Apple has for the third time this month rejected an iPhone app which alerts the user to a drone attack and to the number of people killed.  Drones+ enables those concerned to track the strikes to their handset. 

This is no doubt an uncomfortable prospect for the US authorities, whose use of drones extends to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where no war has been declared.  Such drone strikes have killed more than 3,300 people in Pakistan alone since 2004, according to reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  

Now we don’t know who made this decision, whether Apple thinks that citizens knowing of drone strikes is a national security risk, or whether Apple were leaned on by the CIA, NSA or Pentagon — though given that Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other Presidents combined, the latter wouldn’t be entirely unsurprising. Nonetheless, whatever the truth this is a very disturbing development — after all, how can we rightly judge the administration’s foreign and national security policy without having up to date facts?

Obama claims that the drone strikes are conducted on a very rigorous basis:

1 “It has to be a target that is authorised by our laws.”

2 “It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative.”

3 “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”

4 “We’ve got to make sure that in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties.”

5 “That while there is a legal justification for us to try and stop [American citizens] from carrying out plots … they are subject to the protections of the Constitution and due process.”

Yet as Wired notes:

At least two of those five points appear to be half-truths at best. In both Yemen and Pakistan, the CIA is allowed to launch a strike based on the target’s “signature” — that is, whether he appears to look and act like a terrorist. As senior U.S. officials have repeatedly confirmed, intelligence analysts don’t even have to know the target’s name, let alone whether he’s planning to attack the U.S. In some cases, merely being a military-aged male at the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to justify your death.

Micah Zenko adds:

What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a ‘threat that is serious and not speculative,’ and engaged in ‘some operational plot against the United States. The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years.

Of course, just as worrying as the actual policy is the fact that the public widely approves of it.

The Washington Post notes:

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig in Cuba and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He pledged during his first week in office to close the prison within a year, but he has not done so.

Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.

83%? It was George Lucas’ Princess Amidala who noted that freedom usually dies to thunderous applause.

Wikipedia:

Extrajudicial punishments are by their nature unlawful, since they bypass the due process of the legal jurisdiction in which they occur. Extrajudicial killings often target leading political, trade union, dissident, religious, and social figures and may be carried out by the state government or other state authorities like the armed forces and police.

I’d like to see Obama answering as to whether his sanctioning of extrajudicial killing resides within the rule of law.

Ben Swann wanted to know the same thing, but Obama wasn’t answering:

You don’t talk about Drone Club.

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This is How Liberty Dies

Although America’s nuclear-armed frenemies don’t like it, it appears Obama’s drone warfare, his civil authoritarianism, and his broken campaign promises are quite popular with Americans.

From the Washington Post:

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig in Cuba and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He pledged during his first week in office to close the prison within a year, but he has not done so.

Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.

Obama is expanding drone warfare and surveillance further still — into the United States. Current Federal Aviation Authority estimates suggest that drones deployed over the United States will grow from just over 300 today to over 30,000 by 2020.

I wonder if the American public will be so supportive after 8 years of expanding drone warfare and surveillance in their own skies?

It is surprising to me — given America already amassed the biggest debt in history during this latest imperial binge — that Americans are still cheering. But, I suppose, selling expensive military interventionism and the curtailment of civil liberties to a gung-ho, juiced-up public has many historical antecedents. It also happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

Is Greece About to Default?

Answer: Most Probably

From Bloomberg:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing plans to shore up German banks in the event that Greece fails to meet the terms of its aid package and defaults, three coalition officials said.

The emergency plan involves measures to help banks and insurers that face a possible 50 percent loss on their Greek bonds if the next tranche of Greece’s bailout is withheld, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are being held in private. The successor to the German government’s bank-rescue fund introduced in 2008 might be enrolled to help recapitalize the banks, one of the people said.

The existence of a “Plan B” underscores German concerns that Greece’s failure to stick to budget-cutting targets threatens European efforts to tame the debt crisis rattling the euro. German lawmakers stepped up their criticism of Greece this week, threatening to withhold aid unless it meets the terms of its austerity package, after an international mission to Athens suspended its report on the country’s progress.”

Meanwhile, global monetary players step up their calls for more global monetary easing. First, the Federal Reserve’s John Williams:

The global financial system is experiencing great stress as it adapts to the new, post-crisis rules of the game.  Those new rules are both explicit and implicit.  They call for more capital, reduced leverage, lower risk appetites, more thorough supervision, and stronger regulation, at both the systemic and individual institution levels.  In this environment, open dialog is all the more important as we collectively reach a common understanding of how the new rules should work in practice.

Post-crisis? Really? With Europe on the edge, America slipping back into recession, this is what the “post-crisis” is supposed to look like?

Next up, Josef Ackermann of Deutsche Bank:

Investors are not only asking themselves whether those responsible can summon the necessary willpower to overcome this crisis, but increasingly also whether enough time remains and whether they have the needed resources available.

And finally the Federal Reserve’s Charlie Evans:

Imagine that inflation was running at 5 percent against our inflation objective of 2 percent. Is there a doubt that any central banker worth their salt would be reacting strongly to fight this high inflation rate? No, there isn’t any doubt. They would be acting as if their hair was on fire. We should be similarly energized about improving conditions in the labor market.

And as we speak, the DJIA has slumped 2.5% on fears of Greek contagion. Undoubtedly, policy makers will be looking to stabilise the market. This is absolutely the most anti-capitalist thing imaginable: for capitalism to work, good ideas must be rewarded, and bad ideas, risky and fragile systems must break. For far too long bad decisions, bad management and dangerous corporate behaviour has been rewarded with taxpayer bailouts, crony capitalism, and subsidies. And quite simply, until those practices are rewarded with utter abject failure we are totally fucked. Which brings us to one of the very few sane things I have read today, from Nassim Taleb:

The triplet. Three bankruptcies that would save the world from fragility: 1) Goldman Sachs, 2) Harvard University, 3) the New York Times.