The Lethal Presidency?

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

by, Caryn Freeman

An article By Tom Junod to be published in the August issue of Esquire magazine delves deep into the heart of the Obama Administrations use of predator drones and their policies surrounding the “War on Terror.” What has come to now be known as the Administrations “kill list” raises questions about the United States policy of targeted killing of Al Qaeda operatives. Junod asserts the over two thousand people who have been killed by predator drones since Obama took office have made the Obama presidency the most lethal of all presidencies. The body count certainly isn’t has high as wars past but the article contends that the overall cost of these policies may far exceed the residual cost of Americas wars past.

The centerpiece of the articles is the killing of two American’s, Anwar al-Awlaki, a known enemy combatant who at one time was working as a chaplain at George Washington University. Awlaki publically condemned the 9/11 attacks but later the FBI would discover that one of the 9/11 hijackers had a relationship with Awlaki and  had followed him from California to Virginia. In the following years Awlaki would emerge as a threat to the United States.  He would later develop ties Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who in 2009 boarded Northwest flight 253 headed for the U.S. with a bomb made by an Al Qaeda bomb maker sewn into his underwear and Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, who shot forty-three Americans at Fort Hood, killing thirteen. 

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s sixteen year-old-son,  also a American citizen on the other hand had  no reported or disclosed ties to terrorism. He would die by drone attack, as his father did on October 14, 2011 in Yemen along with six or seven other young men and his seventeen-year-old cousin.
Issues of due process and  illegal detainments rose from the increasing number of combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. After years of detainment six hundred combatants would  be released from Guantanamo and would never be charged. 

The Obama administration in a difficult position, managing three inherited wars had to develop new tactics. New technology of predator drones seemed to be a failsafe answer to combating global terrorism. No costly wars, and targeted killing would reduce civilian casualties. This new technology gave way to a war that is waged by targeting enemies one by one but in its inception brings the U.S dangerously close to what some would simply call assassination. 

Although the article is more than fair in painting a picture of an Administration that is keenly aware of the sensitive nature of these killings and that this new technology presents a new way of thinking about war. Junod closes with an almost cryptic question for President Obama and his Administration:

What if the next Lethal President is not as good and as honorable as you? What if he is actually cruel or bloodthirsty?

Read the full Esquire article here.

Will race divide African-Americans and Latinos at the polls?

by Caryn Freeman
When the dust settled after the 2010 census and states began to redraw their congressional districts, meanwhile, politicos and pundits hit the airwaves speculating on the impact the demographic shift would have on the 2012 elections. Last week, in the New York democratic primary, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Congressman Charles Rangel, the third most senior member in the House of Representatives, went toe to toe in an historic primary that could become a bellwether for other districts that have seen similar demographic shifts that favor Latinos.

In last Tuesday's primary Rangel was declared the winner. However, just one week later Rangel's lead has decreased significantly and Espaillat is now formally challenging the results. Some are calling for a re-vote after voters complained of being misled at the polls and the Espiallat campaign charges the Board of Elections mishandled ballots. NBC Latino has examined the racial implications of the Rangel v. Espiallat showdown and is asking if this race could be the first phase of a political rivalry gripping America's two largest minority groups.

Click here to read more on this story.

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Congress cuts DOJ budget in retaliation for "Fast and Furious”

Attorney General Eric Holder

The House appropriations committee cut millions of dollars from the Department of Justice budget this week. A move which has some Democrats alleging that these cuts are in retaliation to the DOJ’s refusal to release documents in connection with the Fast and Furious gunning walking scandal. Attorney General Eric Holder was called to Capitol Hill to submit testimony on his knowledge of the operation and to release internal documents to Congressional leaders, but the agency has continued to stall.

The Fast and Furious operation, headed by the Phoenix, AZ. office of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, allowed gun sales to Mexican drug cartels in order to track the sellers and purchasers. The gun walking operation resulted in the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry, who was shot and killed by a firearm that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels after firearms were allowed to “walk” and the firearms were not tracked. Only six of the two-thousand weapons used in the operations were tracked.
Republican members of Congress requested internal memos and documents related to the scandal and have been quite vocal about their frustrations that these documents have not been delivered to Congress. Chairman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) has outlined a case for contempt over Fast and Furious.

There were thirteen line items cuts passed by the appropriations committee. These cuts not only cut funds from the DOJ's budget but also prohibit the DOJ from using funds allocated for active projects. Some of the restrictions prohibit the use of funds by the Attorney General to originate or join in any lawsuit that seeks to overturn, enjoin, or invalidate immigration enforcement laws in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. These new cuts also prohibit the use of funds by the DOJ to bring any action against any state for implementation of a state law requiring voter identification.

Republican leaders are not denying that these cuts are related to the DOJ’s stalled efforts in turning over said documents to Congress. These cuts were approved in a vote after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) vented his frustration about the DOJ’s refusal to release these documents to Congress.  "This is not about politics to me," Gowdy said. "This is about respect for the rule of law, it's about answers, it's about accountability, and it’s about acceptance of responsibility.  I will not, I cannot, stand idly by while oversight of this body is ignored."

The only Democrat to protest the amendments was Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) "I think that anyone in our country knows that this is a political matter, and that what we need to do is do our actual work here and our work here is to deal with appropriations to figure out what the resources are that the Department of Justice needs to do its work."

Judge in Trayvon Martin Case Releases Shooter on $150K Bond

by, Caryn Freeman

At a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set a $150K bond for George Zimmerman the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager this past February. Several members of Zimmerman’s family testified by phone asking Judge Lester to release Zimmerman pending trial. Robert Zimmerman, the defendants father told the court he would put the family home up as collateral and pledged to insure that Zimmerman would appear at all court proceedings if the bond were granted.

Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman’s defense attorney also asked the judge to allow Zimmerman to leave the state, with the preclusion that Zimmerman be tracked by a GPS bracelet and that his location be kept confidential, citing concerns for his clients’ safety.
Zimmerman apologized to the court for killing Trayvon Martin, "I did not know how old he was," he said. "I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know whether he was armed or not," he explained.