Sunday, October 23, 2011

Radio moment of the week

Law and Disorder Radio

On last week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights and co-author with Magaret Ratner Kunstler of the new book Hell No, Your Right To Dissent) -- the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki was addressed.

Michael Smith: Talk about al-Awlaki, speaking of rule of law. The America who's pledged to defend the Constitution which includes the Fifth Amednment, Due Process, you can't deprive somebody of their life without due process which we've always understood to mean you have to go to court. And nonetheless they've assassinated an American citizen in Yemen, a man named Anwar al-Awlaki. Talk about that.

Michael Ratner: Now, of course, if you were an American citizen fighting on behalf of the Nazis in the Second World War, you know they could just shoot you if you were in a uniform, sitting on the other side shooting. But the distinction which you're making, one because an American citizen is significance, but it also that he wasn't in a war. This guy was sitting in Yemen, in civilian clothes, just sitting there and they launch -- put him on an assassination list and launch a drone against the guy. And so, yes, the American citizen and the Fifth Amendment protects him but he's also protected by fundamental laws of humanitarian law, the Laws of War and human rights.

Michael S. Smith: He's also protected because there's a law against the president of the United States ordering an assassination. That's a recent law. There's also another law: murder is against the law.

Michael Ratner: So that's what you have. I know last time [at the start of the program last week] you
read the op-ed that I wrote on al-Awlaki which is in the Guardian, which people can go to our website and get. It was widely read about my opposition and the Center for Constitutional Rights which brought a lawsuit to try and stop the assassination. And now it's again all over the news. And what's interesting, it's getting more attention in a somewhat favorable way than I expected. People are upset by the fact that the administration hasn't really given its reasons for killing him. They've come out with some broad b.s. and there was a press conference the other day with the president's press guy, went four minutes and there was one reporting pressing him, 'What's the evidence? What's you have on him?' And the guy just -- he was befuddled, he didn't know what to say. And they still didn't come out with the evidence. Recently the [New York] Times published part of the memo that the US says would justify his killing from a legal point of view, but only part, so we don't know the whole thing. And low and behold, Michael Smith was about to address this issue, the Times prints an editorial about his murder, al-Awlaki's murder.

Michael S. Smith: If you need further evidence of the hypocrisy of the liberal New York Times, all you gotta do is
read the editorial in the October 12th issue of the Times. Office of Legal Counsel, you'll remember, Michael, is the outfit that wrote the famous torture memos. They were asked to justify torture and they wrote these twisted memos concluding what Bush and the others wanted them to conclude: That it's legal to torture people. Well this time, the Times is very happy because again the Office of Legal Counsel which advises the president took three months and wrote a "detailed and cautious memorandum" to justify the decision to assassinate al-Awlaki. So the Times thinks it's good because at least they wrote a detailed memorandum before they killed the man! And they say, here's the conclusion, "Mr. Awlaki was not entitled to full protections [. . .] but as an American, he was entitled to some." Is that the defintion of a liberal trimmer or what?

Michael Ratner: Which ones? The right to a decent burieal? The right to have somebody scrape up his body parts? What are the ones they're talking about? How about the right to life? The one protection that everyone is entitled to.

Michael S. Smith: The Fifth Amendment.

Michael Ratner: Michael, I -- The Fifth Amendment is there. Yes, you need Due Process. But I want to emphasize, I think al-Awlaki should have been protected even if he wasn't a US citizen. I don't like naorrowing the law to a US citizen.

Michael S. Smith: I totally agree with you.

Michael Ratner: For litigation in the US court, yes, I have to use the Constitution to protect al-Awlaki but in fact the only time you're allowed to kill people is in a shooting war and then you have the right to shoot people on the other side who are shooting at you or in a war against you. But, short of that, unless someone is about to toss a bomb at you on the street and you have to use force to stop that, you don't have the right to just shoot people.

Michael S. Smith: Well the United States justifies this based on the Declaration of War in 2001, after 9-11.

Michael Ratner: So the question for you and I is if we sat here spouting the stuff that al-Awlaki spouted and, you know, had some meetings and some stuff like that -- if he did -- would they have the right to drone attack kill me in New York? And the answer?

Michael S. Smith: Well that's exactly the question.

Michael Ratner: The answer, under their theory, is yes.

Michael S. Smith: Yes. That the country where the person had his feet planted when he was blown sky high is irrelevant. The fact is there's a Declaration of War, after 9-11, ten years ago they made a Declaration of War against terrorism -- whatever that means -- they can go out and kill people. That's what they're basing it on. I'd like to see this legal memorandum.

Michael Ratner: So if people are interested in the fact that the US can drop drones on almost anyone -- on anyone -- citizen, non-citizen, where ever they are, Yemen, United States, we want you to go to where you can purchase a drone detector [starts laughing]. Michael and I, we just made that up. But anyway, get your drone detector now.

Michael S. Smith: Well, if you want to learn more about it, go to the Center's website which is, Michael?

Michael Ratner:, We brought a case with the ACLU to try and stop the killing of al-Awlaki . We were thrown out of court. The judge considered it serious -- but, of course, that's again typical -- serious but no relief. It's an executive [branch] decision and, of course, the executive made the decision, Obama, basically pushed the big red button, drone, drone, drone.

Michael S. Smith: And this is the guy that was supposed to be an improvement, the pendulum was going to swing back, Obama's going to get elected and Civil Liberties are going to get better. So, instead of torturing people, he's now assassinating them. This is the liberal definition of "better."
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