Home > civil liberties, foreign policy, politics > Government Secrecy and a Real Death Panel

Government Secrecy and a Real Death Panel

In light of the recent drone strike that killed alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, Reuters is reporting that a secret panel of senior government officials has the power to place individuals on a kill or capture list, the very same list on which al-Awlaki found himself. Apparently, once the panel determines someone list-worthy, they inform the president of their decision. Now, if that’s not enough to make you sick – government officials gathered in secret deciding who goes on an assassination list – consider the fact that, according to Reuters, there exists “no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel…. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.” Reacting to this report, Glenn Greenwald fumes:

 So a panel operating out of the White House — that meets in total secrecy, with no known law or rules governing what it can do or how it operates — is empowered to place American citizens on a list to be killed by the CIA, which (by some process nobody knows) eventually makes its way to the President, who is the final Decider.  It is difficult to describe the level of warped authoritarianism necessary to cause someone to lend their support to a twisted Star Chamber like that…. Seriously: if you’re willing to endorse having White House functionaries meet in secret — with no known guidelines, no oversight, no transparency — and compile lists of American citizens to be killed by the CIA without due process, what aren’t you willing to support?


What’s crucial to keep in mind is that nobody can see this “evidence” which these anonymous government officials are claiming exists.  It’s in their exclusive possession.  As a result, they’re able to characterize it however they want, to present it in the best possible light to support their pro-assassination position, and to prevent any detection of its flaws.  As any lawyer will tell you, anyone can make a case for anything when they’re in exclusive possession of all the relevant evidence and are the only side from whom one is hearing; all evidence becomes less compelling when it’s subjected to adversarial scrutiny.  Yet even given all those highly favorable pro-government conditions here, it’s obvious — even these officials admit — that the evidence is “partial,” “patchy,” based on “suspicions” rather than knowledge.

Greenwald’s emphasis

Image via BBC News 


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