Privacy SOS

Terror Tuesday: Fighting for the world we want

A week before the confirmation of ‘targeted killing’ mastermind John Brennan as head of the CIA, there was a confirmation of impunity within the secretive Agency. An unnamed undercover veteran was promoted to be acting head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, the first woman ever to serve in that post.

Where’s the impunity in that?

It turns out that her resume includes responsibility for a CIA ‘black site’ and helping develop the Agency’s detention and interrogation program.

But there’s more. She was reportedly the person who assembled a ‘legal’ rationale for the destruction of 92 CIA videotapes of coercive interrogations, and making sure that her boss, then Clandestine Service head Jose Rodriguez Jr., got the job done in 2005.

The tapes had been withheld from the 9/11 Commission and from the ACLU in defiance of a court order. Late in 2007, the CIA admitted in a court filing that they had existed, but had been destroyed.

Why were the tapes destroyed?

In the words of Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics adviser to the Justice Department, whistleblower and current defender of whistleblowers,

…the real reason–the truth–is that it would make the CIA look bad. That fact speaks for itself. The destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice was about saving face, not about protecting national security or CIA operations and methods. The ACLU's Ben Wizner hit the nail on the head: Senior CIA officials are willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture.

Needless to say, the Obama Administration’s Justice Department decided no one should be prosecuted. It has shunned holding anyone accountable for anything, other than whistleblowing.

So now we have a woman complicit in both torture and the obstruction of justice, who reportedly is mentioned several times in the highly critical 6,000-page Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations, poised to become one of Brennan’s chief lieutenants. Unless, that is, he decides to choose someone else.

If Brennan decides to confirm her as director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, it seems highly unlikely that he will agree to release even a heavily redacted and abbreviated version of the Intelligence Committee report. Any move toward any level of transparency is likely to end up in a black site deep in the bowels of Langley.

At the same time there are reports that the CIA is poised to expand its killer drone war, and that it is creating “targeting packages” on “extremists” fighting in Syria.

We’ve got to turn up the heat and force a public reckoning with secret lawless practices if we have any hope of bringing our nation back from the dark side. That is exactly what solidarity fasters outraged at the ongoing national disgrace that is Guantanamo attempted to do last week. The Guantanamo hunger strike is now in its third month and involves more than 30 detainees.

It is also what opponents of the killer drone program will strive to do throughout the month of April.

A call has gone out from the rapidly expanding Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare for people across the country to participate in ‘April Days of Action 2013.’ Creative protests are being organized at drone manufacturing sites, military bases, research facilities and places that maximize public visibility. Predictably, the US press has shown little interest in the planned actions, but they have been featured in the UK Guardian and online media.

In Massachusetts the following actions are being organized:

Sat., April 6, 1 -2:00 PM – DRONE "DEATH MARCH" AND VIGIL.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedon (WILPF) will lead a silent, single-file death march from Community Church, 565 Boylston Street, Copley Square to Park Street. Wear black and bring a white mask.


Massachusetts opponents of killer drones are planning to participate in the regional Anti-Drone Conference in Syracuse, NY as well as the mass protest at the nearby Hancock Air Base during April 25 -28.

Late in 2011 most of the ‘Hancock 38’ were convicted of ‘disorderly conduct’ for staging a die in at the main gate of the Hancock Air Field where MQ-9 Reaper Drones are based. For more information on the upcoming protest there, click here

Sunlight on the killing?

And also during the month of April, the Senate Judiciary Committee will finally make an effort to expose the entire ‘targeted killing’ program to the light of day, not just the drone strikes aimed at US citizens.

On April 16, its Constitution subcommittee, chaired by Dick Durbin (D-Ill), will hold a hearing entitled "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing." It will examine the "constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings, the scope of the battlefield and who can be targeted as a combatant." Depending on who is chosen to testify, this could send a powerful message to the Obama Administration that it can no longer hide behind the lip service it gives to transparency and the rule of law.

With the swarms of drones headed for US airspace increasingly perceived as a fearful danger to privacy rights, we now have a unique opportunity to raise public consciousness about the current ‘targeted killing’ program and the rapidly approaching day when algorithms will be in the pilot seat of killer drones.

Is this the world we want? If not, we should be on the streets this April, and prepare for the long haul of reclaiming our democracy in the many months to come.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.