Criminal Intent

Way back in 2001 — let’s pause here for everyone to consider their advancing age, and why UPS hasn’t yet delivered our jetpacks — one of the debates was whether to handle 9/11 as a crime, or an act of war. We won’t rehearse those arguments here, but suffice to say that we thought then, thought in the years that followed, and continue to think now that the FBI, and not the DoD, was the agency best equipped to respond.

Jumping ahead eight years, we were pleased that both the Fort Hood shooter and the Underwear Bomber were treated as the criminals they are, and not the martyrs they aspired to be. Both were terrorists by definition — motivated by ideology — but regarding them as soldiers would be, in a phrase now thankfully retro, to let the terrorists win.

Yet in the case of a man who links these two examples, we’re doing just that:

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.

For sake of discussion, we’ll take the government’s word that Awlaki is a Very Bad Person. And being all too human, we probably won’t feel bad if he meets an untimely end.

Which leaves open the question whether our government can order a hit on a U.S. citizen, however much we’re told he deserves it. Let’s say you trust President Obama to make the right call now: What about President Palin three years from now?

Or if you prefer history to hypothesis, there was a time in living memory when “CIA assassinations” (dry-witted sentient iPad suggests “assignations”) didn’t get the best press.

Questions of legality and unfortunate precedent we’ll leave to others. We’re just sorry President Obama isn’t following his own example and assigning Awlaki’s case to the G-men instead of the spooks. If he’s a criminal mastermind, shouldn’t we be treating him like a criminal?

U.S. Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric [NYT]

Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen [Greenwald]

American Extremist Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki Targeted for Killing by U.S. [American Prospect]


Either Barry’s got his Bond, James Bond going or he’s gone all wild west on us.

“Wanted Dead or Alive (especially Dead.)”

he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.

Was he referring to George Dubya, aka the Texecutioner?

This a seriously tough one, and another good post Nojo. That iPhad is doing you well. I in principle do not like state-sanctioned hits. I don’t even like war, at all. I get it, but don’t like it. And like you, I’m glad that the FBI was tasked to do their crime-based stuff against Ft.Hoodie and the Crotch Bomber (a great name for a jam band, by the way). But overseas? Well, okay, the FBI certainly has a mandate to investigate federal crimes and pursue criminals overseas, but is this Yemen-based dude now a combatant in a theater of war? I wonder if we’ve ever engaged our own troops in recent or not-so-recent wars that crossed to the other side and were declared traitors? Kill Johnny Reb, even if he used fight for the Maine 3rd regiment!

But ultimately you got me totally discombobulated with the “President Palin” thing. Can anyone be expected to govern properly with the nagging thought in his or her head of “WTF precedent am I setting if that cretin were to take over this chair?”

Or maybe that’s exactly how our leaders should conduct themselves…

Allegedly the US SF targeted US traitors in ‘Nam, but the same guy who claimed that also said they used nerve gas on the VC so I can’t be sure about the whole thing.

Actually, I wonder if this will stoke Teabagger grandiose paranoid fears that Barry will come after them. Enemy of the state and all that shit.

As for precedence. I remember Dick Cheney’s office supposedly ran a hit operation outside of congressional oversight with dark scary rumors of them being used for domestic “enemies” as well.

We all know where this ends.

That video we all went crocodile tears over? Only a matter of time, maybe years, when this kind of thing is happening daily in the US.

You start with summary execution of some notional bad guy. You end with Hueys strafing SFL’s neighborhood for harboring ideological enemies of the states.

It’s pretty much the plot of the godawful (but strangely compelling) Arnie Schwarzenegger film “Running Man.”

TWEP. Christ, it raised outrage when Carter announced that we would NOT use assassination.

I agree with you. its a soul searcher.
I think its interesting that they announced it. they didnt really have to do that. what was the point of that? perhaps they were hoping to deter more of his ilk by signaling they were taking the gloves off.
I certainly dont like the idea of our government targeting people for assassination. but I also dont what the guy to finally succeed and kill a few thousand people.

@Capt Howdy: They are also probably fucking with his mind, and making others afraid to go near him.

@FlyingChainSaw: You end with Hueys strafing SFL’s neighborhood for harboring ideological enemies of the states.

Many years ago, a young ‘bisco was a day or two short on my time in La Repubica del Banano. Rumors of a golpe de estado were rife, we were ordered to buy food and beer, hole up and lay low. I gathered two friends, a bottle of local hootch and ran towards the scene. I saw my first Huey, crowd control from the air, as demonstrators squared off against stormtroopers in riot gear running point for APCs. I got a face full of tear gas, and loved it.

The next day all was fine. Problem? Local bus fare had gone from a dime to fifteen cents, so they put it back to ten and all was well. Good times.

this is great.

Taiwanese Boy nails Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”

Whitney Houston without the drama or the looks. the kid has pipes but I dare you to watch this without laughing.

I’m not all that concerned about this case, to be perfectly honest. Sometimes it’s impractical to arrest a criminal and you have to take him out to protect innocent lives. A hostage situation where negotiations have broken down and the SWAT sharpshooters are ordered to kill the hostage taker is a prime example.

But these sorts of actions have to be a last resort when there is a real threat to innocent lives and no practical means to take the criminal in. The situation gets a bit muddy when there is no immediate threat to life and limb, that’s true, but I’m not automatically sold on “slippery slope” arguments. I think almost any act could be criticized from a “slippery slope” angle.

In short, I’m having a hard time getting too bent out of shape about this.

@Serolf Divad:
do they still do “wanted: dead or alive”?

@ChainSaw: I guess that what I get for living in the same ‘hood filled with the gheyz and Mayor McDreamy.

TJ: I just stayed at the most horrific hotel. Woke up with my legs covered in bug bites, listened to train horns and neighborhood gang bangers partying all night, discovered that the much touted “fitness center” was closed, and as I climbed into the shower several very large cucarachas jumped out at me. Went to go check out and manager wasn’t there and clerk said she didn’t have authority or ability to comp me the night. Luckily I used my firmest and most projecting outdoor Shakespeare in the Park voice so that several tables of people eating breakfast turned shades of green and white. So now I sit grumpy, itchy, and unshowered outside a Starbucks waiting to go to a day of meetings and work. And I just noticed the parfait I ate had an expiration date of April 5. This morning sums up all that annoys me about the idiocy of people and corporations.

Makes me doubly glad that my now former employer cut all bidniz travel for low level dumbasses like myself.

BTW, Bates Motel?

@SanFranLefty: Don’t bring your clothes from this trip into your house. A colleague at an eastern university who travels a few weeks a year just finished clearing out her house of bed bugs. And she went to branded hotels that gave zero indication of infestation. Still, she has no idea which hotel invested her and/or her stuff.

Really, lose your bag and clothes, shower savagely and drop all your laundry before crossing the threshold into your own house. Let spousal trash those and run to the shower to shower savagely again. Colleague had three beds in the house that had to be cashiered and replaced. Fumigation service wasn’t catastrophically expensive but it wasn’t cheap either.

Where is this fleabag, by the way?

@Manchu: where I am there’s a Marriott that wanted $199 for the night and a bunch of $69 a night places. I picked the wrong one. I’ll bitch about this so much when I get back to work so next time I’m here I can spend the big bucks.

Let’s just say I’m not a fan of bizness travel, though I try to remind myself that all the FF miles will become a free ticket to Europe or Hawaii.

@FCS: I plan to leave the bag in the trunk of my car. I’m trying to figure out what to do with my work bag (dry clean, I guess). I’m in a not so lovely part of SoCal.


A boss who sent me there (for training) put me up a fleabag (to save money) while everyone else stayed at a very nice Quality Inn. My back hurt and I was bored to tears at the place, but only consolation was the nearby Mex restaurant was pretty good.

@SanFranLefty: Welcome to Norwalk. Next time, stay in my spare room in Santa Monica, get your butt up early and drive to Norwalk. You’ll come out way ahead.

Of all of the blatantly unconstitutional, illegal actions our “leaders” have taken over the last decade, which have dragged us into a seemingly bottomless amoral cesspool, ordering the murders of American citizens without charges or trials must rank right up there in the top 10 probably.


Who’d have thought that The Running Man would turn out to be the most accurate of the “80s totalitarian dystopia” genre.

“Get me the President’s agent!”

@FlyingChainSaw: But, it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing. Yeah, that’s all the reassurance I need.

@Serolf Divad: Sometimes it’s impractical to arrest a criminal and you have to take him out to protect innocent lives. We’re not talking about a hostage situation. The target isn’t even in one of our many theaters of war, unless you’re ready to declare all the world our stage.

The guy’s family vehemently denies that he is engaged in any kind of violent activity, and the justifications given for this by the government are things like, “he’s recruiting for Al Qaeda”. Sometimes justice and the rule of law are inconvenient, but this is completely unacceptable. So how do you feel about extraordinary rendition? “Enhanced” interrogation techniques?

@SanFranLefty: Consider that these are durable pests and could jump on something else left in the trunk and brought inside. Consider the costs of infestation.

@Serolf Divad:

Do you have a problem with the fact that the man totally denies the charges and has absolutely no way to dispute his anonymous accusers since he’s been ordered to be killed on sight?

It’s incredible in this day and age how many people automatically believe someone is guilty just because an authority figure says so.

The fact that the Bush Administration psychopaths are all “holy shit, even we didn’t do this!” should give any sane person reasonable doubt.

@Original Andrew: Apparently it makes a huge difference which authority figure is ordering the heinous actions, and whether you voted for him.

If anybody thinks that this shit doesn’t happen all the time black-ops style that person has another think coming.

Obama is sending a message here…that’s all. Otherwise, business as usual.

@Dodgerblue: I Google-mapped those two cities, to get some sense of the distance involved, and for one suggested route the “in traffic” driving time was four times as long as the regular driving time. Yeesh.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: And what kind of message is Obama sending? You approve of that message?

My head explodes.


Shoot, Lefty, come stay on the futon in our office next time! No fleas, only a very affectionate doggeh.

@NaBEEsko: In the states, health insurance premiums double week to week, employers demand give backs and announce to their stock holders in press releases how they’re pissing on their employees’ faces and the sheeple tremble, whimper and ask to be beaten harder. Overseas, away from the land of the free and home of the brave? People riot over 5 cent changes in bus fares. No kidding, in another life, when I was living in New Zealand, the BIG controversy of the day was that the downtown creche in Auckland was going to start charging – like a buck or something – to drop off a kid, up from free. People were going nuts going into Christmastime. God, what is to become of us, they’re charging for the creche!

Imagine even suggesting that today, anywhere in the states. On the evening news Hannity would announce, “Dirty fucking commies hiding behind jesus to turn us into mao-hugging fucking marxists. Who will shoot these motherfuckers and save America? Not saying anyone should but asking who will.”


I didn’t say I approved, but this is what realpolitik looks like sometimes.

He’s telling the middle of the political spectrum that he’s tough on terrorism by telling potential american islamoterrorists (and yes, I am rolling my eyes as I type those three words) that he will shoot them where they fucking stand if they go too far.

It sucks, and I expected more from Hopey, but I get it. Kinda.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: Yeah, I get it too, and I’m thoroughly pissed off about it. Fuck realpolitik, I am not voting for this monster again.

@NaBEEsko: I don’t necessarily like doing warmed-over Greenwald, but with the StinquePad (or to use its formal name, Voot Cruiser) it’s easier to research and write, and so harder to ignore.

The problem is that the subjects get complicated with Obama. With Bush, it was easy to see ideology and demagoguery behind every move — he was flat-out untrustworthy. (And the consequences of his decisions proved the point.) It’s easier for us (well, some of us) to extend Obama more slack, because it’s easier to imagine the decisions he faces, and acknowledge that they’re not easy calls.

But they need to be noted — something I’ve been slack about, because, well, they’re hard to write up. (And really, I’m not entirely satisfied with this one.) That was literally one of many reasons I blew a wad on the gadget: I had a strong hunch it would make it easier to deal with issues I’ve been avoiding.

We might as well add extra-judicial executions to our nation’s list of favorite past-times. At this point, why not?

ADD: Executing Americans without charges or trial is now the political center? Holy shit.

@nojo: Did that 5.5 a few minutes ago crash the StinquePad?

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: He’s telling the middle of the political spectrum that he’s tough on terrorism

I’m reminded of Saint Jimmy desperately sending choppers into the Iran desert. And then I’m reminded of Saint Jimmy bringing back Draft registration (which didn’t affect me, being in the demographic donut hole) to prove his cojones to the Right. Far more than anything else he did, that pointless symbolic move really disappointed me.

@Pedonator: Let’s have a look

Wow. Didn’t notice that at all. I think there was a 4.5 last night that I felt as a subtle couch-jiggler (ahem), but nothing’s really caught my attention since Monday morning.

@nojo: I dunno. One makes me laugh and one makes me cringe.

@nojo: Ah, so you bought your super cool toy which does not make me jealous serious work tool so you could finally get up to date on the issues? Now I understand.

@Benedick: No, so I could watch tons of porn write about issues. Which, in turn, takes more research than just riffing on a single event. Browsing is a sheer pleasure on that gadget.

@FlyingChainSaw: This, your 12:21 post, this is why I love you, man.

@nojo: Darling, I’m not your accountant. Nor am I the IRS. You don’t need to justify lavish expenditures on trendy gadgets convince me of the absolute need you have for a research tool that can browse. I hear you, my brother.

On related front, my accountant is withdrawing from completing my return because she’s expecting a baby. The due date is April 15th. I suggested she named it Rebate.

@nojo: I think there is a personal, rather than political or ideological element, when it comes to national security. I think when that time comes when they take the dudes who win the election into the basement and show them the fucking scary secret shit, it changes them. Bush and Cheney changed, they were, I really believe, personally afraid a lot of the time, Obama, he seems more grim.

@Prommie: they take the dudes who win the election into the basement and show them the fucking scary secret shit

You mean Lloyd Blankfein’s anal warts?

@Prommie: I wish the geeks were as comprehensive with Firesign Theatre catalogs as Monty Python, because there’s a great faux commercial for “Trust in the System” that I’d love to quote.

@Benedick: Deductible lavish expenditures. One the joys of freelance, to contrast with the taxes and lack of health insurance.

But really, I thought this would be something like the Air, which has its devoted fans but isn’t broadly popular. But even allowing for first-week hysteria, the iPad is looking like a major hit.

@nojo: The Air is too girly and Eurotrash to be popular with the hoi polloi which is why it suits me down to the ground. It reeks of ABBA. You want to put on a pair of disco pants just to open it up.

But of course, the beloved ‘business expense’. Dog-sitting expenses were not allowed by my accountant. BTW, you do know that there are several business collectives that provide cheaper health care than you can get going to the companies yourself?

@mellbell: Indeed. But from my house to where SFL is going today is against rush-hour traffic. I’ve made that drive a few times to get to the courthouse there by 8:30. No biggie.

@Benedick: It’s not dog sitting. It’s therapy. Just tell the IRS give the guy gives the dog a hand job and burns incense for him or something when he comes over.

@Original Andrew:

I’m just calling it how I see it. But if you think that American citizens haven’t been targeted by our government for execution in the past then ask yourself how all that friendly fire concentrated itself in Pat Tillman’s forehead. Shit, for that matter, repeat “The Magic Bullet Theory is Completely Reasonable and Possible” 1000 times until you believe it.

The choice here, IMHO, was not to target an American Citizen. The choice was letting people know about it.

And yeah, sucks. Not really going to change, I don’t imagine.

Did I earn my tinfoil hat yet?


So how do you feel about extraordinary rendition? “Enhanced” interrogation techniques?

I am opposed. We shouldn’t be torturing people nor should we be shipping them off to be tortured by proxies. Once a man is under our control he should be accorded all the benefits of U.S. law and the Geneva conventions. But that’s very different from ordering the assassination of a criminal/terrorist who cannot be brought to justice by any other means.

That’s not to say we should be assassinating criminals willy nilly, but if they are organizing terror operations, in my view its fair game to order an assassination if an arrest is impossible/impractical.

And, BTW, I never criticized Bush for ordering the assassination of terrorists.

Also, I don’t really care much that the guy is a U.S. citizen. I don’t see why he should be accorded rights that we don’t accord to all persons of all nationalities. Something that really bugs me is hemming and hawing about the treatment of U.S. citizens, as if the way we treat foreign born criminal suspects is not such a big deal. Human rights should not depend upon your nationality.

The problem with the situation is that non-state sponsored terrorism exists in a shadowy middle ground. It is not true that we are at “war” with Al Quaeda… personally I find the term “war” is sloppy and tends to legitimize the terrorists. But it’s also not true that we are simply pursuing a criminal enterprise when we fire cruise missiles at Al Quaeda training camps.

When fighting a war your goal is to maximize casualties among your enemy’s army. When pursuing a criminal, killing the criminal before he can stand trial is always a very, very rare last resort. But when pursuing a terrorist organization that trains and operates from safe havens in third countries, I give the government much more leeway in how it chooses to proceed.

@nojo: I’m not saying that its not a snow-job put on by the military-spying industrial complex dudes, but it is something, I bet.


Santa Monica Boulevard: The Bladder-Buster

@Serolf Divad:

And how, exactly, do you know the guy is a terrahist?

Because the CIA–who’ve been proven to be wrong and grossly incompetent over and over and over again–sez he is?

@Original Andrew: That’s why they have all those fast food restaurants.

While we’re at, why don’t we just start blowing up apartment buildings filled with people, including children, here in the Homeland because some guy who may or may not be a terrahist might happen to be there, and then let’s start screaming that they hate us for our Freedumbs® when people complain that their friends and families are dead. That’s bound to work out well, and we sorta already do that with the 1,000,000% successful War on Poors Drugs anyways.

Beats the hell outta police work and waiting on those sham courts to do anything.

(Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that governments summarily executing their own citizens is such a hawt idea).

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: I don’t have any illusions that it hasn’t been done before. It’s the fact that Unicorn the Good and True Defender of Constitutional Law is openly making this a matter of policy that makes me want to vomit. I guess at least it’s a moment of Transparency.

@Serolf Divad: I just don’t agree that non-state-sponsored terrorists are anything but criminals. They may be organized criminals, but would you give the same leeway in pursuing accused and suspected Mafia crimebosses?


I know we’re coming from the same place on this, but I should mention that I think calling it “transparency” is going too far, even. “Cynical Manipulation of the Truth” is closer to the mark.

@Serolf Divad: Something that really bugs me is hemming and hawing about the treatment of U.S. citizens, as if the way we treat foreign born criminal suspects is not such a big deal. Human rights should not depend upon your nationality.

Thank you! This is the part of the story that drives me crazy. It’s ridiculous that people who wouldn’t bat an eye about the government openly acknowledging its desire to take out a foreign individual think that we have somehow crossed a moral threshold if the target is an American. And for the record, all of the variables in this story (the government secretly/openly targeting foreign/American individuals) make me queasy as hell.

@Serolf Divad, @flippin eck: I totally agree that citizenship status / nationality doesn’t affect the wrongness of this.


And ultimately that is my point: we have not as a nation, nor as a species, gotten to a place where the wrongness of this is at issue. I mean, it may be at issue here, among us, but if you sat down with the president- hell, any world leader since the beginning of recorded history- and they would tell you that wrongness isn’t the issue. Effectiveness is.

Now, the question becomes, therefore, is this effective in accomplishing a goal- any goal? And, if one determines that it is effective, is the cost worth the prize?

I hope that when all is said and done that thought at least crossed Mr. Obama’s mind. Sometimes I have my doubts, though.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head:

We won’t be doin’ a lotta faincy debatin’ when Preznalent Palin orders the Apaches to open fire on the future Iran War protesters (newly christened “enemies of the state” circa 2015).

Levi Johnston can kiss his sweet, luscious bubble-butt goodbye, btw.

Much more important than targeted murderin’ – diatomaceaous earth totally kills bedbugs to death. We managed to get the start of an infestation – don’t know for sure where they came from – and I sprinkled some diatomaceous earth between the mattress and the box and also sprinkled some on the floor under the bed. No more waking up with itchy bites. If I recall correctly, you will want to try to keep your pets away from the stuff, although minor contact will not hurt them.
I don’t know if it works as well on people who are merely crazy as bedbugs, so Beck Palin Hannity Bachman etc. may be safe for now.

Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment