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Putting the name, “Due Process” on a Drone Missle

[UPDATE] VastLeft’s Open Letter to John Cusack in response to this conversation.

I don’t know how I found this page, probably from Twitter which has been leading me in some interesting directions lately but, I really don’t know.  It begins with the actor,  John Cusack, sharing some thoughts about “what it would mean to vote for Obama” — not bad, lots of nodding – I’m sure you’ve read stuff like it yourself.

But those thoughts are followed by the transcript of a telephone conversation between him and “Jon Turley, one of the smartest and intellectually honest authorities on the Constitution” (in quotes because that’s what it says on the page and I don’t have enough/any experience in judging authorities on the Constitution to form my own description of him)

This is just a tiny bit of what must have been a thrilling conversation:

John Cusack & Jonathan Turley on Obama’s Constitution

Turley: Indeed. I heard from people in the administration after I wrote a column a couple weeks ago about the assassination policy. And they basically said, “Look, you’re not giving us our due. Holder said in the speech that we are following a constitutional analysis. And we have standards that we apply.” It is an incredibly seductive argument, but there is an incredible intellectual disconnect. Whatever they are doing, it can’t be called a constitutional process.
Obama has asserted the right to kill any citizen that he believes is a terrorist. He is not bound by this panel that only exists as an extension of his claimed inherent absolute authority. He can ignore them. He can circumvent them. In the end, with or without a panel, a president is unilaterally killing a U.S. citizen. This is exactly what the framers of the Constitution told us not to do.

Cusack: The framers didn’t say, “In special cases, do what you like. When there are things the public cannot know for their own good, when it’s extra-specially a dangerous world… do whatever you want.” The framers of the Constitution always knew there would be extraordinary circumstances, and they were accounted for in the Constitution. The Constitution does not allow for the executive to redefine the Constitution when it will be politically easier for him to get things done.

Turley: No. And it’s preposterous to argue that.

Cusack: When does it become — criminal?

Turley: Well, the framers knew what it was like to have sovereigns kill citizens without due process. They did it all the time back in the 18th century. They wrote a constitution specifically to bar unilateral authority.
James Madison is often quoted for his observation that if all men were angels, no government would be necessary. And what he was saying is that you have to create a system of law that has checks and balances so that even imperfect human beings are restrained from doing much harm. Madison and other framers did not want to rely on the promises of good motivations or good intents from the government. They created a system where no branch had enough authority to govern alone — a system of shared and balanced powers.
So what Obama’s doing is to rewrite the most fundamental principle of the U.S. Constitution. The whole point of the Holder speech was that we’re really good guys who take this seriously, and you can trust us. That’s exactly the argument the framers rejected, the “trust me” principle of government. You’ll notice when Romney was asked about this, he said, “I would’ve signed the same law, because I trust Obama to do the right thing.” They’re both using the very argument that the framers warned citizens never to accept from their government.

Cusack: So basically, it comes down to, again, just political expediency and aesthetics. So as long as we have friendly aesthetics and likable people, we can do whatever we want. Who cares what the policy is or the implications for the future.

Turley: The greatest problem is what it has done to us and what our relative silence signifies. Liberals and civil libertarians have lost their own credibility, their own moral standing, with the support of President Obama. For many civil libertarians it is impossible to vote for someone who has blocked the prosecution of war crimes. That’s where you cross the Rubicon for most civil libertarians. That was a turning point for many who simply cannot to vote for someone who is accused of that type of violation.
Under international law, shielding people from war-crime prosecutions is itself a form of war crime. They’re both violations of international law. Notably, when the Spanish moved to investigate our torture program, we now know that the Obama administration threatened the Spanish courts and the Spanish government that they better not enforce the treaty against the U.S. This was a real threat to the Administration because these treaties allow other nations to step forward when another nation refuses to uphold the treaty. If a government does not investigate and prosecute its own accused war criminals, then other countries have the right to do so. That rule was, again, of our own creation. With other leading national we have long asserted the right to prosecute people in other countries who are shielded or protected by their own countries.

Cusack: Didn’t Spain pull somebody out of Chile under that?

Turley: Yeah, Pinochet.

Cusack: Yeah, also our guy…

Turley: The great irony of all this is that we’re the architect of that international process. We’re the one that always pushed for the position that no government could block war crimes prosecution.
But that’s not all. The Obama administration has also outdone the Bush administration in other areas. For example, one of the most important international principles to come out of World War II was the rejection of the “just following orders” defense. We were the country that led the world in saying that defendants brought before Nuremberg could not base their defense on the fact that they were just following orders. After Nuremberg, there were decades of development of this principle. It’s a very important point, because that defense, if it is allowed, would shield most people accused of torture and war crime. So when the Obama administration –

Cusack: That also parallels into the idea that the National Defense Authorization Act is using its powers to actually not only put a chilling effect on whistleblowers, but actually make it illegal for whistleblowers to bring the truth out. Am I right on that, or is that an overstatement?

Turley: Well, the biggest problem is that when the administration was fishing around for some way to justify not doing the right thing and not prosecuting torture, they finally released a document that said that CIA personnel and even some DOJ lawyers were “just following orders,” but particularly CIA personnel.
The reason Obama promised them that none of them would be prosecuted is he said that they were just following the orders of higher authority in the government. That position gutted Nuremberg. Many lawyers around the world are upset because the U.S. under the Obama administration has torn the heart out of Nuremberg. Just think of the implications: other countries that are accused of torture can shield their people and say, “Yeah, this guy was a torturer. This guy ordered a war crime. But they were all just following orders. And the guy that gave them the order, he’s dead.” It is the classic defense of war criminals. Now it is a viable defense again because of the Obama administration.

Cusack: Yeah.

(snip)

Cusack: So would you say this assassination issue, or the speech and the clause in the NDAA and this signing statement that was attached, was equivalent to John Yoo’s torture document?

Turley: Oh, I think it’s amazing. It is astonishing the dishonesty that preceded and followed its passage. Before passage, the administration told the public that the president was upset about the lack of an exception for citizens and that he was ready to veto the bill if there was a lack of such an exception. Then, in an unguarded moment, Senator Levin was speaking to another Democratic senator who was objecting to the fact that citizens could be assassinated under this provision, and Levin said, “I don’t know if my colleague is aware that the exception language was removed at the request of the White House.” Many of us just fell out of our chairs. It was a relatively rare moment on the Senate floor, unguarded and unscripted.

Cusack: And finally simple.

The temptation to swipe the whole thing is killing me — Please, go read it yourself!!!

26 Responses

  1. Thanks, Katiebird. This is a terrific article. I am bookmarking it so that I return and remind myself of it – often.

  2. You repeat the same paragraph three times.

    All this is moot, do you really think the O-bots will take exception to Obama’s hit squads?

    • Fixed, thanks!

      Will they care? We know that answer, they don’t.

      Doesn’t sound like Cusack is (still) an Obama supporter though.

    • Obama got votes from other people besides just Obots. Those “other voters for Obama the last time” may well be reconsidering. They may well feel betrayed. They may well feel that Obama is too bad to vote for, even if Ryomney is even worse.

      For them, the choice will be to either leave the “president” line blank or write something in or find a third party to vote for.

      A few weeks ago an Obama volunteer called me on the phone. I decided to engage him and keep him on the line. I asked a few questions and mounted a few challenges and he semi-swiftly said “I have a lot of calls I have to make, but I promise I will get back to you.”
      So far he hasn’t. If it happens again maybe I will mount even better challenges and questions on the phone. For those who have the time, the longer you can keep an Ovolunteer on the phone, the less time he/she has to call other people.

  3. Yay! My wiring and kitchen plumbing skills pass inspection! {{snoopy dance}}

  4. EXCELLENT post, btw. Thanks for catching this, Katiebird.

  5. I just read the whole interview and now am more depressed than ever. Thanks.

  6. Great interview. Gets to the root of the matter. Professor Turley lays it out pretty plainly, you’d have to be delusional to deny it.
    1. The President, despite his constitutional law background, has nothing but contempt for it. He is, and will continue to be, a proponent of the imperial presidency.
    2. Eric Holder is a stooge. He will do whatever the President requires him to do and nothing else. He has not one shred of independence in him. Holder is exactly what the Democratic Party WANTS in its leadership; an order-taker with an exalted title.
    3. The “left ” that continues to support the false dichotomy in national poilitics is sealing its own doom. Unless there is protest and resistance, the Democratic Party will continue to drift further and further right until it becomes indistinguishable from its GOP counterpart.

  7. I can’t say there’s anything I didn’t know here, but it’s still boggling to see it all laid out in one place by an authority of such magnitude.

    Like I said once in a post, there are worse things than an unpopular dictator. You can have a popular one.

  8. Did you see this article about Prop 37 in California (the exposing of allegedly organic foods that may be using Monsanto based GMO’s? Very discouraging.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-robbins/prop-37_b_1821633.html

    • Um, I’m not anti GMO and I won’t be until there is definitive proof in peer reviewed journals that they’re harmful. If you’re going to talk about GMO stuff here, you’d better have cold hard facts to back it up and you’d better understand it from a biological point of view.
      I don’t like truthiness or belief in things just because the rest of the tribe believes in them. Those are my guidelines.
      AFAIK, *all* organic farmers use GMO crops. Human beings have been breeding selectively for desirable traits forever.
      Yes, everything you have ever eaten has been GMOed, and everything you eat from now until you die is GMOed. The only thing that is different now is that we can do it in a lab and shortcut the process.
      It’s time the left stopped hyperventilating over it.

      • Hey RD,
        I wanted to return to our discussion of the job the FDA is doing; I’ll consider this an opening. This Monday an article brought more insight into what I see as dysfunction at the agency:

        Cardiologist Warns About Safety of St. Jude Heart Device Component – NYTimes.com

        Dr. Hauser noted that the study was limited because the F.D.A. database he used to collect the data is problematic. Information is often missing or incomplete, and the agency relies on physicians or hospitals to voluntarily report problems with medical devices. “Therefore, the number of lead failures in this study likely underestimates the actual number that has occurred,” he wrote in the study.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/business/cardiologist-warns-about-safety-of-st-jude-heart-device-component.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

        Recap:
        It’s gradually emerged in recent months that the Food and Drug Administration not only spied on its employees, but did so on a massive scale — collecting tens of thousands of employee emails to one another, as well as to journalists, members of Congress and congressional staff workers. The FDA also intercepted draft statements to the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates complaints of whistleblower harassment and reprisal. This monitoring, authorized by the agency’s chief counsel, was clearly a deliberate policy of the highest levels of FDA leadership.

        So what problem was all the surveillance directed against? Embezzling? Sexual harassment? No. The FDA was out to punish whistleblowers for talking out of school about dangerous radiation levels in medical imaging devices approved by FDA for mammograms and colonoscopies.

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/25/the-predictable-scandal-at-the-fda/

        And the rot is not just affecting the review of devices:

        Intimidation, retaliation and marginalizing of safety at the FDA

        Rosenberg: You were an FDA drug reviewer from 1998 to 2008, working on well-known drugs like Cymbalta, Zyprexa, Concerta, Invega, Provigil and Saphris, and encountered the same kind of coercive working environment as the device reviewers.

        Kavanagh: That’s correct. In the Center for Drugs [Center for Drug Evaluation and Research or CDER] as in the Center for Devices the honest employee fears the dishonest employee. There is also irrefutable evidence that managers at CDER have placed the nation at risk by corrupting the evaluation of drugs and by interfering with our ability to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs. While I was at FDA, drug reviewers were clearly told not to question drug companies and that our job was to approve drugs. We were prevented, except in rare instances, from presenting findings at advisory committees. In 2007, formal policies were instituted so that speaking in any way that could reflect poorly on the agency could result in termination. If we asked questions that could delay or prevent a drug’s approval, which of course was our job as drug reviewers, management would reprimand us, reassign us, hold secret meetings about us, and worse. Obviously in such an environment, people will self-censor.

        http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00651

      • I fusee some of os are just “fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature.”
        From the article:
        Industry Attacks on Dissent: From Rachel Carson to Oprah | Dollars & Sense

        The new Yorker which first serialized Silent Spring quoted the president of the Montrose Chemical Corporation—a major manufacturer of DDT, a pesticide that Carson discussed at length—as saying that Carson wrote not “as a scientist but rather as a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature.”

        http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2002/0302orlando.html

      • So in light of all this, this charge by fanatical defenders of the balance of nature” gains credibility, non?

        FDA coverup on GMO Salmon 

        Officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intentionally withheld a damning report from the public that provided conclusive evidence that GMO salmon pose a serious threat to endangered Atlantic salmon if accidentally released into the wild. It is appalling that a federal agency would knowingly hide information from the American public on something as important as our food safety.

        Join us in telling the FDA to reject GMO salmon and demand that all transgenic food animals are labeled. Act today, there’s no telling what else AquaBounty and the FDA are also hiding!

        http://fdn.actionkit.com/cms/sign/urgent_gmo_salmon/

      • Since DailyPUMA opened this door, I have decide to walk through it after a couple days of thought. “The only thing that is different now is that we can do it in a lab and shortcut the process.” Oh? That assertion would appear to contradict an examply you yourself gave me many threads ago of some of the unique benefits which genetic engineering can let us achieve and which the classical and neoclassical legacy breeding methods just can’t. And your example was . . . . inserting the daffodil’s deer-repellency gene(s) into the green bean genome so that we could get deer-repellent green bean plants. (You may remember that I said that seemed intriguing and potentiallly useful IF it were properly tested for long-term safety beFORE release. That’s what regulators should be for.) But the point is that . . . no . . . getting daffodil genes into the green bean by lab methods is not a shortcut. It is a new possibility which did not exist before the recent advent of genetic engineering methods. The Species Barrier ( which is not my invention or overthinking but rather a name which scientists gave to a real feature of plants and animals which existed before the first scientist named it) would prevent it. We could try pollinating daffodils and green beans with eachother’s pollen millions and billions of times and they won’t cross pollinate. Curse that Species Barrier! But genetic engineering allows us to smuggle genes from utterly unrelated species right around it.
        I gather that the concept of Species Barrier may seem like silly nonsense to a bacteriologist, given how wildly unrelated bacteria exchange plasmids and other gene-bits like herpes at a swingers’ convention. But higher plants ( pteridophytes, gymnosperms,angiosperms) don’t do that. I realise that someone can fling at me the seeming-counterexample of “hybrid swarms” like Crataegus or that bunch of southeastern oak species which I dimly remember Professor Wagner studied about. I would say in return that
        no member of the Crataegus hybrid swarm will ever cross-pollinate with a member of the southeastern oak hybrid swarm. ( Quixote can slap me around if I am wrong about that, but I feel confident that I am not).

        Discussion is difficult if we don’t all share the same definition of the words we use. To me (and most people) , genetically-modified refers to the gene exertion-tranfer-insertion between unrelated or wildly unrelated species of plants and animals which never did, never could, and never will take place (virally-mediated gene-shuttlebusing excepted) before the age of in-the-lab genetic engineering. When I and most people say “GMO” we are referring the the lab-achieved genetic engineering gene-transfers never before achieved. So to me and most people, NONE of our crop plants and animals from before the age of genetic engineering are GMOs. Now that GMOs exist, we are starting to call the pre-GMO legacy breeds “traditional” or “conventional. Until I saw the claim here that everything we ever gred for better growing or eating was GMO, I only saw that claim in
        Genetic Engineering lobby-group sales literature and releases. I regarded that misuse of language on their part as being Luntzianly designed to foster confusion and abort useful discussion. I regard it that way today. Science-backgrounded people can use language with better precision and definitional factuality, and really should.

        I may have more to say after work on other aspects of all this or I may be so worn out that I have nothing to say at all.

  9. Thank you for this important post, KatieBird.

    djmm

  10. …and you thought Jason Bourne was a fictional character.

  11. Great post katiebird. Opened my eyes.

  12. Reagan an actor may have had the look of a President but little enough of the substance. At least he was mostly a true believer. Obama is merely a sell out acting for his own personal benefit and Holder is the same. O was NOT a constitutional law professor. He taught affirmative action law, hardly the same thing. Obama and Holder both seem to have a poor grip on the Constitution or US history.

    What we need is someone with heart and substance. An FDR or a Lincoln or a Queen Elizabeth I, “I know that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.” Obama and Holder lack both the heart and the stomach to do what is needed. Hillary, for one, is made of better stuff.

    • You are too generous to HolderBama. What they do they do on purpose, with malice aforethought, as a perfect expression of everything they stand for.

      Their self-defined job is to preVENT the doing of the things which need to be done. Since openly boasting of that would never fly, they lie and pose to the contrary. The fact that Ryomney would be “worse” does not make HolderBama “better”.

      What will be worstest is that Ryomney will build upon the HolderBama Administration’s consolidation and normalization of BushCo lawlessness and lawflouting . . . . just as Reid and Nancy ” Impeachment is off the table” Pelosi intended.

  13. I have a comment still trapped in moderation.

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