- Update: so now there’s consternation on the interwebs that the biggest hype this February might not really consist of Afrikaner ghetto residents, but rather of art school dropouts. I agree with Videogum: who cares? The track in this interview is dirty, as are Wat Pomp and Rich Bitch.
A follow-up to the Presidential powers post, as I hadn’t fully realized what the concrete motivation was of Yglesias’ post. It is that the President of the United States has assumed the authority to kill American citizens that are suspected of having joined terrorist groups.
The existence of a secret ‘hit list’ program was first mentioned two weeks ago in The Washington Post. After the September 11 attacks, President Bush gave the CIA and later the military the authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that they were involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States. The Obama administration (despite candidate Obama’s high-minded, deceitful rhetoric during the campaign) has continued this policy, as they have continued so many once controversial but now bipartisan Bush-Cheney policies. One the targets of the Yemen missile strikes the Obama administration launched a few month ago was, in fact, a U.S. citizen (the islamic cleric Anwar Aulaqi).
Just think about this for a minute. Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests.” They’re entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations. Amazingly, the Bush administration’s policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges — based solely on the President’s claim that they were Terrorists — produced intense controversy for years. That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution. Shouldn’t Obama’s policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind — not imprisoned, but killed — produce at least as much controversy?
This Anwar Alauqi might well be a terrorist (he seems to have recruited the underpants bomber, and had e-mail contact with the Fort Hood shooter). Or maybe he’s not. You don’t know if you don’t give him a trial. But that is something that in the world of constitutional lawyer Barack Obama is a step too far.
His anguish apparent, the father of Anwar al-Awlaki told CNN that his son is not a member of al Qaeda and is not hiding out with terrorists in southern Yemen.
“I am now afraid of what they will do with my son, he’s not Osama Bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he’s not,” said Dr. Nasser al-Awlaki, the father of American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. . . .
“I will do my best to convince my son to do this (surrender), to come back but they are not giving me time, they want to kill my son. How can the American government kill one of their own citizens? This is a legal issue that needs to be answered,” he said.
More details on the program here. The fundamental fact is that when the government labels a person a “terrorist”, that is no proof that this person actually is a terrorist. However, being branded a “terrorist” by the Obama administration means that you deserve death. There is no trial, and there are no judicial checks. It is a unilateral decision by an imperial president.
Greenwald again, cited in this NYT overview of the online discussion on killing U.S. citizens:
“Even if you’re someone who does want the President to have the power to order American citizens killed without a trial by decreeing that they are Terrorists (and it’s worth remembering that if you advocate that power, it’s going to be vested in all Presidents, not just the ones who are as Nice, Good, Kind-Hearted and Trustworthy as Barack Obama), shouldn’t there at least be some judicial approval required? Do we really want the President to be able to make this decision unilaterally and without outside checks? Remember when many Democrats were horrified (or at least when they purported to be) at the idea that Bush was merely eavesdropping on American citizens without judicial approval? Shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about the President’s being able to assassinate Americans without judicial oversight?
George Packer from The New Yorker, whom this blog linked to earlier this week for his critical stance on Twitter, is taking a lot of heat from social media gurus who believe their medium is the best thing to happen to mankind since the invention of the printing press.
Packer’s main opponent Nick Bilton says:
“Twitter is transforming the nature of news, the industry from which Mr. Packer reaps his paycheck. The news media are going through their most robust transformation since the dawn of the printing press, in large part due to the Internet and services like Twitter. After this metamorphosis takes place, everyone will benefit from the information moving swiftly around the globe.”
Packer is not convinced, however, and neither am I. I don’t like Twitter. I think it had a valuable function, even revolutionary potential, in the Green almost-revolution in Iran; but for Western users, it’s plain decadence. Who the fuck cares whether you are sitting in a too-crowded train, watching tv, or have a broken mousewheel? Why would a grown-up man like Arend-Jan Boekestijn post 100-plus Tweets a day? I honestly don’t see the benefits. It’s crack: fleeting, passing, superficial.
There’s no way for readers to be online, surfing, e-mailing, posting, tweeting, reading tweets, and soon enough doing the thing that will come after Twitter, without paying a high price in available time, attention span, reading comprehension, and experience of the immediately surrounding world.
Bilton’s post did prompt me to seek out a Tweeter, which provided half an hour of enlightenment, diversion, and early-onset boredom, at the end of which I couldn’t bring myself to rue all the Twitter links and restaurant specials and coupon offers I’ll continue to miss. It’s true that Bilton will have news updates within seconds that reach me after minutes or hours or even days. It’s a trade-off I can live with.
The President of the United States actually has little formal authority. Congress is the one legislative body, and the role of the president is mainly that of agenda-setting. Of course, in the past two centuries, the power of the president has informally grown and grown, for example through the expansion of the executive and the bureaucracy, structural cooperation with political parties, and the use of rule interpretation and implementation. Nevertheless, the only real formal powers that the president has is in the area of foreign affairs and national security.
And this is rather weird if you think about it. Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post on the matter:
But the story reflects a pretty odd feature of our political system, namely that the president seems most empowered in precisely those areas of governance that ought to give you the most concern about tyrannical abuses.
If the President wants to do something like implement a domestic policy proposal he campaigned on—charge polluters for global warming emissions, for example—he faces a lot of hurdles. He needs majority support on a House committee or three. He also needs majority support on a Senate committee or three. Then he needs to get a majority in the full House of Representatives. And then he needs to de facto needs a 60 percent supermajority in the Senate. And then it’s all subject to judicial review.
But if Scooter Libby obstructs justice, the president has an un-reviewable, un-checkable power to offer him a pardon or clemency. If Bill Clinton wants to bomb Serbia, then Serbia gets bombed. If George W Bush wants to hold people in secret prisons and torture them, then tortured they shall be. And if Barack Obama wants to issue a kill order on someone or other, then the order goes out. And if Congress actually wants to remove a president from office, it faces extremely high barriers to doing so.
Whether or not you approve of this sort of executive power in the security domain, it’s a bit of a weird mismatch. You would think that it’s in the field of inflicting violence that we would want the most institutional restraint. Instead, the president faces almost no de facto constraints on his deployment of surveillance, military, and intelligence authority but extremely tight constraint on his ability to implement the main elements of the his domestic policy agenda.
De digitale burgerrechtenorganisatie Bits of Freedom (BoF) kent de ‘prijs’ toe aan instellingen en personen die inbreuk op de privacy bevorderen.
Volgens de jury spreidt Ter Horst een „gevaarlijk gebrek aan nuance” tentoon in het privacydebat. De jury gaf als voorbeeld de nieuwe Paspoortwet. Ook werd Ter Horsts wetsvoorstel genoemd om gescande autokentekens enige tijd te bewaren, „ook als mensen nergens van worden verdacht”.
Sinds 1995 zijn er in de EU bijna 350.000 paspoorten, identiteitskaarten, visumstickers en rijbewijzen gestolen, uit overheidsgebouwen. Zie NRC.
En wat fijn nou dat we sinds enige tijd biometrische paspoorten hebben! Daarmee zijn we een stuk veiliger.
De omvang van de documentendiefstal is niet eerder publiek gemaakt. De documenten bieden toegang tot het Schengengebied, de paspoortvrije zone in Europa, en kunnen worden gebruikt voor identiteitsfraude.
Op de zwarte markt wordt voor de blanco documenten, afhankelijk van soort en land, 500 tot 11.000 euro betaald.
Fox News is building a TV studio in the home of Sarah Palin in Wasilla, Alaska. My god.
Check this interesting article in the NYTimes on the Palin phenomenon:
Her growing cast of advisers and support system could be working in the service of any number of goals: a presidential run, a de facto role as the leader of the Tea Party movement, a lucrative career as a roving media entity — or all of the above. Ms. Palin represents a new breed of unelected public figure operating in an environment in which politics, news media and celebrity are fused as never before. Whether she ever runs for anything else, Ms. Palin has already achieved a status that has become an end in itself: access to an electronic bully pulpit, a staff to guide her, an enormous income and none of the bother or accountability of having to govern or campaign for office.