Re: Imminent threat

1

I am pretty sad about the impending doom of Saturday mail delivery but the other thread didn't seem the place to mention it.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:24 PM
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That won't affect me, because here in the hinterlands, we walk to the PO and pick up our mail. (And, apparently, mail will still be put in boxes.) I did wonder if Netflix streaming would go up even more over weekends.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:26 PM
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I'll go ahead and complain here: Last summer I reserved a bunch of campsites for a camping trip that I'm wildly unexcited about chaperoning, for a bunch of students.

At the time they told me "Call at the beginning of February, and ask for contiguous sites."

So I just did and they said, "Oh, it's first come, first serve. Our hands are tied."

FUCK YOU. The parks here book up months and months in advance. There will be people who have been there all week. We cannot even get there early Friday morning; basically we're going to get four sites spread all over a gigantic state park.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:27 PM
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(And, apparently, mail will still be put in boxes.)

Just rural boxes, or also apartment boxes? I guess I could check.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:29 PM
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Oh, PO boxes.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:30 PM
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Is anyone else here affected by the "Sequester"? Everyone I know who was worried about the "Fiscal cliff" for personal reasons, was actually worried about it because of the effects of the "Sequester". Which unlike the "Fiscal cliff" is apparently still scheduled to happen, but the media doesn't mention it anymore.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:31 PM
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Felix Salmon's take on the post office is very interesting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:38 PM
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6: yes. Lots of other people in my lab are, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:38 PM
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The 'imminent threat' thing drives me nuts, because it's a judgment call that I think is systematically being made in bad faith.

Obviously, if a guy with dynamite strapped to him races through security at the airport, busts his way onto a plane, hurls the pilot out of his chair and hits the gas, any law-enforcement/military/anyone else present is perfectly justified in killing him to the extent necessary to keep him from completing his evil plan, regardless of his citizenship. The legitimacy of killing people who pose an imminent threat to the safety of others is why the police carry guns (I occasionally gripe about their screwing up, but in principle I'm fine with it).

But once you're talking about the kind of 'imminent threat' that Administration officials are thoughtfully analyzing before coming to the leisurely conclusion that Person X should be slaughtered, that doesn't seem like at all the same kind of 'imminent threat' to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:42 PM
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Oh hey, if we're talking about human rights violations, here's something more on Zero Dark Thirty.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:51 PM
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Just rural boxes, or also apartment boxes?

Little boxes. You know. On the hillside.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 12:55 PM
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I would compare it with the intentional obfuscation between preemption and prevention used in warmaking. Not compare and contrast, because it's basically the same deliberate muddling of response-to-harm-obviously-in-progress and everyone-knows-they're-bad-guys justifications.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:00 PM
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12: Exactly.

Or another way to put it is as an actually much more troublesome version of the ticking time bomb torture scenario. As Belle Waring said, obviously if you write up the ticking time bomb scenario right (aliens, destroy the world, seven billion people in unimaginable pain forever) everyone would agree that torturing one person as an alternative is fine. The ttb scenario is stupid because it's just not that much like anything that happens in real life, where you know who has the information, and you know torture will work, and you know nothing else will.

Here, though, the perfectly legitimate scenario where of course you're allowed to kill someone who poses an imminent threat to the safety of others is a genuine, real-world scenario, and there's not a bright line separating imminent from non imminent threats. But the current definitions of 'imminent' still seem to me to be very obviously in bad faith.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:06 PM
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So if I go see the too fast too furious movie THAT HAS A TANK, am I glorifying the military?

I was thinking that it would be great if drone activity inside the US were super-heavily regulated, like it were never permitted outside of a weapons-testing somewhere on a short list of permitted places.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:16 PM
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So American has decided it can do to its own citizens what it was always doing to non-citizens? What's the big deal here?


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:17 PM
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I'm pleased about it, if anything. If 95% of the world has to be an expendable non-person, the rest of you might as well be, too.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:21 PM
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Yeah, that was never a compelling distinction to me - the Bill of Rights and general human rights were never restricted to citizens. "It's beyond the pale to do to our own what we do to the Other," is how I see it.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:53 PM
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Yeah, that too. I keep on overarguing that point, there are some legal distinctions between how citizens and non-citizens are treated, but it's not like non-citizens outside the borders of the US are outlaws who can be shot at will -- law still governs how we're allowed to interact with them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 1:56 PM
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Right, I am actually wondering how to do something more effective than write my congressman about this. Personally, no drones anywhere sounds great, but I do not think that there's much if any popular support for desisting with drone strikes outside the US, since those killed are Muslim.

However, inside the US, events like this seem disturbing, possibly to enough voters to make regulation possible. Basically, Joe Arpaio should not IMO be allowed to buy one of these things, and actually the DOD shouldn't be flying them around either.

But I'm one schmo-- what can I do, maybe set up a webpage that scrapes google news for relevant headlines with a link to covering paragraphs and a form letter. More ambitious would be to start collecting email and possibly physical addresses, but for what purpose?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 2:08 PM
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Little boxes. You know. On the hillside.

I placed a box in Tennessee
And small it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly mail-carrier
Surround that hill.

The mail-carrier rose up to it,
And put in mail, no longer in transit.
The box was small upon the ground
And locked and with a flag in air.

It took dominion every where.
The box was gray and bare.
It did not give of UPS or FedEx,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 2:20 PM
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Basically, Joe Arpaio should not IMO be allowed to buy one of these things

Probably happening quietly in a lot of places.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 2:27 PM
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I feel like I have some kind of weird conservative gene on these issues. Or maybe I'm just a blindly partisan democrat. But honestly that white paper seemed mostly fine to me. The definition of "imminent" seems basically OK (as I read it, it basically says that someone who they know to be both (a) an Al Quaeda operational leader and (b) actively engaged in general planning for an attack on the United States. So you can kill someone because you know they're an operational leader of an organization for which there's Congressional authorization to be at war with, and who you know is involved in continually planning attacks on the United States; you don't need specific intelligence about an immediate attack in the extreme near term. That seems fine, broadly analagous to targeting officers of an enemy army even without specific knowledge of a specific battle plan for attack.

The bigger problems for me arose from the possibility that authorization for the killings could be done with little review by a lower level CIA officer, not the President itself. Also, the ongoing need to monitor of the possibility of capture, and only kill where capture is infeasible, while clearly stated in the White Paper, could have been better defined. But the ability to do such targeting seems pretty clearly to me to rest in the zone of executive discretion and, as the memo says, to comport with due process under the circumstances.

I do think Congress should pass a statute with some additional procedural protections; ideally, before targeted killings outside a war zone would be authorized, there would be a review panel that included both members of Congress and the judiciary, and some outside review of kill/capture decisions. But I doubt in practice even that would make much difference.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:07 PM
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"Outside" a war zone?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:11 PM
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Imprecise terminology from me, the memo goes to targeted killings of Al Quaeda leaders outside an active combat "battlefield." On an active battlefield the rules would be different. Also I need to stop commenting from my phone and work on the who/whom distinction.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:13 PM
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who they know to be both (a) an Al Quaeda operational leader and (b) actively engaged in general planning for an attack on the United States.

I do not intend, below, to make claims about the law of war in any lawyerly way, just to talk about what I understand to be the principles underlying them.

That said, my understanding of the functional reason for all the insistence on uniforms and all that in the law of war is that if someone's wearing a uniform, they are easily and unambiguously identifiable as someone who it's okay to kill (if you're at war with them, so on and so forth). So you don't need any process to avoid killing the wrong people -- any one of the guys in the matching pantsuits is a legit target, and you know they are because they voluntarily taped the bullseye to their own chests. (And as a partial compensation for wearing uniform, they're regarded as not criminals, and if captured are treated well and released at the end of the fighting.)

Someone who's not in a uniform (or the equivalent -- openly carrying weapons in a militia even if they can't afford uniforms, but not trying to blend in with the civilian population) may not be targeted without legal process, because you can't distinguish them from non-combatants. Fighting without a uniform is a war crime, because it's wrong to put opposing forces in a position where they're tempted to kill civilians indiscriminately in order to stop you. But just because it's a war crime that you can be criminally punished for doesn't mean that you're (or were historically, whether this is still the case is exactly the issue under discussion) not entitled to legal process, because despite the fact that you're a criminal, the army targeting you is still not allowed to take the risk of killing civilians indiscriminately to get you (barring the sort of immediate exigency I addressed in 9). And furthermore, they're not allowed to assume that they accurately know what wrongful acts you're responsible for without making a case before an impartial finder of fact.

Whether or not those are still the rules in any meaningful sense, I'm pretty sure that up until 2001, they would have been recognized as a roughly accurate statement of the law of war in the relevant regard. And I think they're good rules: if someone hasn't voluntarily identified themselves as part of a military at war with the US either by wearing uniform or other unmistakable overt display, I don't trust our executive to make behind-closed-doors decisions about whether they deserve to die.

This doesn't mean that you can never kill someone without prior legal process: there's the immediate exigency I addressed above, and "shot while resisting arrest" is not just a joke about what cops do to people they don't like, it's something that can legitimately happen. But I want the circumstances where it happens to be very restricted.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:33 PM
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to make claims about the law of war

Whoo me neither. There are people here who know enough to do that, but I'm not one of them.

But as to the broader point, I don't think these killings are being done in situations where there is a significant question as to the person's role within the Al Qaeda organization (the memo which I can't open now says something like they must be known to be operational leaders). And there is effectively Congressional authorization for a war against Al Qaeda. So I don't see the uniformed military point as particularly significant in this context -- these are people reasonably known to be "operational" leaders of an organization with which we're at war, not folks whose involvement is marginal or particularly covert.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:39 PM
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The thing is, it's a two-pronged standard (still not taking a position on the current law of war, but I'm pretty sure I'm right about what it was like up until 2001). If we're taking the position that these guys have identified themselves by overt display equivalent to wearing a uniform, so there's effectively no plausible doubt about who they are, then we're obliged to treat them as soldiers: we can target them, but if captured they're prisoners of war.

No one's proposing that, are they?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:44 PM
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But mostly I just don't believe the idea that there's no plausible doubt about who the targets are and what they're responsible for, given the factual circumstances. Which brings me back to thinking they should get legal process.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:45 PM
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The core of it is that this is Slippery Slope Discount Warehouse. If administration officials can direct the killing of people not part of a clearly-defined group, anywhere in the world, for as long as terrorism still exists, based purely on secret internal deliberations, then habeas is basically dead.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:55 PM
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Right. If I trusted this to reliably be the case:

I don't think these killings are being done in situations where there is a significant question as to the person's role within the Al Qaeda organization

I wouldn't be all that upset. But the whole point of having legal process at all is that you can never trust that sort of thing to reliably be the case.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 3:59 PM
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Well, there is a need for process (as the memo acknowledges); the question is simply what process is due. Is an executive branch determination that the citizen is an operational leader in a defined organization, and that capture is infeasible, sufficient? In the context of the use of military force involving an organization against which the use of force has been militarily authorized, I'd say the answer is probably yes, constitutionally, though I'd personally like to see a statute governing the review process. But the question of the review or the relevant process doesn't have much to do with the definition of "imminent threat" which as I say seems basically OK to me.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 4:03 PM
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"Congressionally authorized."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 4:04 PM
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There seems to me to be a brightline distinction between the sort of legal process that involves open factfinding in front of an impartial tribunal and any other process. Secret executive investigations might be conducted in good faith and produce reliable results, anything's possible. But that's not the way I'm comfortable betting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 4:07 PM
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That is, in a conventional war with another nation and uniforms and all that, if we were talking about targeting persons not openly members of the military, I'm quite sure that this:

In the context of the use of military force involving an organization against which the use of force has been militarily authorized, I'd say the answer is probably yes, constitutionally, though I'd personally like to see a statute governing the review process.

would be wrong. They'd be entitled to some kind of impartial tribunal. Calling secret executive factfinding a meaningful equivalent to that sort of process disturbs me a great deal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 4:10 PM
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20: Nice.

If we're taking the position that these guys have identified themselves by overt display equivalent to wearing a uniform, so there's effectively no plausible doubt about who they are, then we're obliged to treat them as soldiers: we can target them, but if captured they're prisoners of war.

In 2001-2003 there was a great deal of typing produced on the theme of terrorist-as-brigand, entitled to neither POW status nor declarations of this or that (including, inter alia, a discriminating examination of markers like uniforms, etc.). I guess that thinking survives.

OT: Does Chris Christie have a value proposition other than "fat asshole"? Because acting offended and oppressed when people point out that you are a fat asshole is really abusing the privilege.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 4:14 PM
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35

OT: Does Chris Christie have a value proposition other than "fat asshole"? Because acting offended and oppressed when people point out that you are a fat asshole is really abusing the privilege.

If he was gay would it be ok to call him a gay asshole?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 6:28 PM
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36 -- Fuck you.

I'm a bit disappointed that Bob hasn't shown up here to call me a fascist yet.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 7:32 PM
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35: in fact that is precisely what we called Christie's predecessor, former governor .


Posted by: Unimaginative | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 7:54 PM
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It is my understanding that the DOJ white paper did not restrict the people that the president can target to Al Quaeda operational leaders. They included people in associated organizations.

These days, I gather, Al Quaeda is not even a structured organization. We seem to be talking about ideological affinities.

The claimed powers, given the facts, seems troublesome to me. Are the claimed powers supposed to justify the targeting of both Anwar al-Aulaqi and his son, Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi?


Posted by: Robert | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 10:51 PM
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If I were accused of a heinous crime, and I was actually guilty of said crime, well I guess I'd want to hire a really good American lawyer.

But if I were accused of a heinous crime, and I was actually innocent of all wrongdoing, well, I'd take the English law lords, Alex,* for five hundred.

(*My mother once had a date with Alex Trebek. Yes, Canada, it really is that small a country).

Habeas corpus. It's not just for breakfast anymore: it's a principle that we assert, it's who we are (or who we are supposed to be/who we still claim to be). I am deeply suspicious of recent American innovations: they make me nervous, frankly, they sort of freak me out.

Imagine Dubya with a kill list, with "imminent threat" as the justification for his executive overreach.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02- 6-13 11:39 PM
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What really pisses me off about the white paper, beyond the whole secret assassinations thing, is that it relies heavily on reasoning and language from a judgment which imposed judicial review of the basis for the detention of alleged Al Qaida members to support a total absence of oversight, judicial or otherwise, of the assassination of alleged Al Qaida members. That's pretty effed up.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-13 1:47 AM
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It is my understanding that the DOJ white paper did not restrict the people that the president can target to Al Quaeda operational leaders. They included people in associated organizations.

It's also distinctly unclear at times as to whether they need to be "operational leaders" or footsoldiers. It basically says, if I remember, if the person has ever engaged in activities posing an imminent threat to the US (again, in the opinion of an informed senior official only) and has not renounced such activities, they can be killed whenever capture is not feasible. And the great thing about the imminent threat doctrine espoused in the paper is that the feasibility of capture is tied to the timing of the determination, regardless of the fact that "imminence" is so loosely defined. So basically the government can say: "Well, shit, we can't capture him in the next five minutes and we've got a drone above him, so kill him."


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-13 1:51 AM
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