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Sen. Paul Issues Final Letter to Brennan Questioning Government Drone Authority

February 21, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul today issued a third letter to John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Sen. Paul’s previous inquiries dispatched to Mr. Brennan (found HERE and HERE) have gone unanswered by Mr. Brennan and the Administration, and Sen. Paul has declared he will filibuster the nomination of Mr. Brennan until his concerns over the legality of using drone strikes inside the United States are answered.
In the letter, Sen. Paul states: ‘The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.’

Below is the full text of the letter, sent on Wednesday, Feb. 20, to Mr. Brennan.
February 20, 2013

John O. Brennan
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Brennan,
In consideration of your nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), I have repeatedly requested that you provide answers to several questions clarifying your role in the approval of lethal force against terrorism suspects, particularly those who are U.S. citizens. Your past actions in this regard, as well as your view of the limitations to which you are subject, are of critical importance in assessing your qualifications to lead the CIA. If it is not clear that you will honor the limits placed upon the Executive Branch by the Constitution, then the Senate should not confirm you to lead the CIA.
During your confirmation process in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), committee members have quite appropriately made requests similar to questions I raised in my previous letter to you-that you expound on your views on the limits of executive power in using lethal force against U.S. citizens, especially when operating on U.S. soil. In fact, the Chairman of the SSCI, Sen. Feinstein, specifically asked you in post-hearing questions for the record whether the Administration could carry out drone strikes inside the United States. In your response, you emphasized that the Administration ‘has not carried out’ such strikes and ‘has no intention of doing so.’ I do not find this response sufficient.
The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or …read more

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The Case against Increased North Korea Sanctions

February 21, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

North Korea’s latest nuclear test is causing the usualconsternation in the international community. The European Union has strengthened economic sanctions against Pyongyang, and the United States and its East Asian allies are calling for a similar response. That is both futile and potentially dangerous.

The futility of sanctions should be readily apparent by now. That approach has been tried for more than two decades without producing the desired results. Throughout that period, Pyongyang’s nuclear program has continued to develop at a slow but steady pace. Intelligence reports indicate that North Korea probably now has enough fissile material for several weapons. Last week’s test was the third test of a nuclear device, and this one indicated that scientists have made significant progress toward both reducing the size of the device and increasing its explosive capacity.

Both steps are necessary to create effective weapons that can be deployed aboard aircraft or missiles. North Korea’s successful launch of a satellite (actually the test of a multistage missile) in December indicates that the country is making progress on developing a weapons-delivery system to accompany its nuclear program. In short, North Korea is on course to become a credible nuclear-weapons power—probably in less than a decade.

The current U.S.-led policy is on a trajectory toward an unpleasant, dangerous destination.”

The current U.S.-led policy is on a trajectory toward an unpleasant, dangerous destination. Washington has repeatedly warned Pyongyang that it faces increasingly onerous international isolation unless it relinquishes its nuclear ambitions. But as much as the United States and other countries insist that North Korea’s choice is a binary one of giving up its nuclear aspirations in exchange for reduced sanctions or facing greater isolation and penalties, North Korea’s leaders appear to have concluded otherwise. Pyongyang’s conduct suggests that they see no need to give up the nuclear program to get the various benefits that negotiators in the sporadic Six-Party Talks have offered. Their assumption seems to be that North Korea can have its nuclear cake and eat it too.

It is not an irrational expectation. North Korean leaders have reason to wonder whether the United States and its allies would really continue trying to isolate an emerging nuclear weapons power. Indeed, U.S. and East Asian leaders need to reassess whether that policy’s risks outweigh any plausible benefits. The one scenario more dangerous than a North Korea with nuclear weapons …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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South Korea's Secret Weakness

February 21, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Call it the Korean conundrum, a question to baffle students of international relations. Why is the Republic of Korea—the ROK, or South Korea—so militarily weak?

Ever since the ROK was established in 1948, the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has posed a threat. DPRK dictator Kim Il-sung launched an invasion in 1950, which was rebuffed only after much bloodshed and with the aid of U.S. troops who remained in the South after an armistice was signed in 1953. They are still there.

In the early years the South was vulnerable. But the balance of power gradually shifted. During the 1960s the South liberalized its economy, triggering sustained growth and propelling it to become the world’s 13th or 14th largest.

As South Korea was taking off, the North was stagnating. By the late 1990s the DPRK was devastated by famine. A regime that celebrated Juche, or self-reliance, ended up dependent on handouts from Beijing.

Today there is no comparison between the two Koreas. The South is an important international player; the DPRK is a national wreck. South Korea has upwards of 40 times the North’s GDP. The ROK also has a vast technological lead, full access to global credit markets, and the political clout that comes from extensive trade and investment. The South’s population is twice as great as that of North Korea.

Our military aid to Seoul gives Pyongyang its only edge.”

In short, the conditions that left the South open to North Korean aggression no longer exist. Yet South Korea remains dependent on America. And U.S. policymakers assume that Washington must defend the ROK, apparently forever.

Only in military affairs is the South’s superiority in doubt—and the DPRK’s advantage lies in the quantity, not quality, of its arms. ”Military clashes between South and North Korea over the past years in West Sea have proven that the conventional weapons equipment performance of NK is inferior to that of ROK,” Dr. Sungpyo Hong of Ajou University reports. “Altogether, the ROK is superior to the North in conventional weapons and equipment in general.”

The DPRK has roughly twice the number of men under arms, nearly 50 percent more main battle tanks, and twice as many artillery pieces. Rolling that mass southward would do damage but would not conquer the South. Pyongyang’s greatest advantage is defensive. In any war the DPRK could wreck Seoul—which lies some 25 miles from the border—with artillery and SCUD missiles, a very high price for the ROK to pay even for victory.

But here is …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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American Assassination History for Dummies

February 21, 2013 in Blogs

By Mark Ames, Not Safe for Work Corporation

This article first appeared at Not Safe for Work Corporation.

It’s hard to have a serious conversation about America’s drone assassination policy when no one seems to have a basic grasp of recent history. This cultural amnesia epidemic is starting to get me down— which is partly my fault for paying more than two minutes’ attention to Twitter at a single go.

The problem starts with Reagan, as problems so often do. Most people on the left take for granted that Reagan’s executive order 12333 “banned assassinations” — which is not just a false interpretation, but really awful mangling of one of the dark turning points in modern American history.

That same ignorance of the history of assassination policy runs right through today, with the repetition of another myth: That President Obama’s extrajudicial drone-assassinations of American citizens is “unprecedented” and “radical” and that “not even George Bush targeted American citizens.”

The truth is a lot worse and a lot more depressing.

To understand the backstory to Reagan’s deceptive “assassination ban” in 1981, you have to know a bit about what was going on in the 70s, that brief period of American Glasnost, in the aftermath of Watergate and the military’s collapse after losing Vietnam.

All sorts of dirty Cold War secrets were pouring out in that brief period — in late 1974, Seymour Hersh broke the story that the CIA had been illegally spying on thousands of American antiwar dissidents inside of our borders, in violation of the law and the charter that brought the CIA into existence . Later, Vice President Rockefeller’s report said the CIA spied on 300,000 Americans.

Remember, the American public and most of the Establishment back then were very different from today’s. There’s some truth to the “Liberal Establishment” culture that ruled until Reagan took over — those people were serious about their do-gooder intentions and their civic duties and all that, whatever the results on the ground were — nothing at all like today’s armchair Machiavellis and backseat Nietzsches who dominate our political culture, a culture where everyone's jostling to scream “You can’t handle the truth!” at imaginary liberal do-gooders…

One of Hersh’s most incredible exposés focused on an undercover CIA spook …read more