As we begin to get some posts and discussion on Shadow Warfare, I’m sure I’ll be wading into some controversial areas and no doubt on occasion be forced to state my own opinions – something we really tried not to do in the book, in a quest for balance.  The book does cover a number of contemporary and controversial subjects including “targeted” killing – which SW shows to be a practice of long standing associated with covert action – and for that matter the issue of targeting American citizens considered to be terror threats for capture, or killing in the event that is not possible.

Targeting American citizens in foreign countries and more particularly in locations with virtually non-existent central government and legal systems (such as Somali and Yemen) remains a subject of ongoing debate and media coverage – coming up in headlines and articles again this week:

The author of the article in this link is nationally known and someone with far more knowledge and experience than I would ever claim, however two things jumped out at me when reading the article.  First in discussing Anwar al Awlaki, his characterization lacks a few details – including the fact that in a public broadcast Awlaki described himself as a “traitor to America”, that he openly praised terror attacks on Americans and called for volunteers for jihad attacks on America and Americans. I’m not going into the pro and con arguments about Awlaki’s history, mistreatment etc, that’s covered at length in other sources but Bergan’s description seemed a bit limited and also made no historical reference to the treatment of Americans who broadcast propaganda for the Germans and Japanese during WWII.

Bergan also leaves out a bit of historical context, including the fact that one of the first actions following the attacks of 9/11 was for President G.W. Bush to issue covert action Executive Finding which declared that the CIA had blanket approval to conduct covert action against Al Qaeda leadership and associates – that direction allowed for the hunting, capture and killing (if capture was not feasible).   That finding remains in effect until overturned by a new finding or preempted by Congressional legislation.  One of the fundamental points relating to findings is that they exist and are required in order to inform Congress of covert acting. That gives them various opportunities to respond to actions which they feel should not be supported – although as we detail in SW Congress virtually never does that.

Of course the whole question of enemy combatants and the treatment of American citizens who either give aid and comfort to the “enemy” or support attacks against America or Americans could easily be resolved if Congress had or would yet declare war on radical jihadi terrorists (yes I know the wording might be a bit complex but I have to believe that we do have an adequate supply of lawyers for such tasks).

Barring that, Congress could rise up and revisit the Authorization for Use of Military Force that it provided President Bush at his request immediately following 9/11. That AUMF continues in force to the present  – and at this point is beginning to look rather like the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, legislation passed in response to a very specific incident and never intended to be just to support military action for over a decade.  Its rather ironic in that Congress was requested to pass the AUMF legislation and that the move was endorsed by comparing it to the Tonkin Gulf resolution was came to be viewed as a presidential “blank check”.

Depending on how you look at the dates, the AUMF is actually on the verge of passing the time span of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which was eventually repealed.  To this point I’ve seen no sign that Congress even remembers it, much less has considered new legislation to replace it.

— obviously the overall issue is far more complex than this and as one of the publishing industry reviews about to come out on SW points out, our coverage of constitutional and legal issues should be sufficient to “sate” readers interested in those areas….     Larry








About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. Jim Stubbs says:

    It’s an interesting legal problem. An American born citizen (i.e., not a naturalized citizen) can only lose American citizenship by an act of renunciation. As such acts now stand, service in a foreign revolutionary or militant group isn’t a renunciation of citizenship. In addition, inasmuch as violent Islamic extremists are transnational, congress is going to have to consider modifying acts of renunciation, to include active service in a foreign militant and/or revolutionary group that is not nation based. It’ll be interesting to see if they have the guts to deal with it, and what they decide on if they do.

    • Well given that they haven’t had the guts to declare war in some 70 years while fighting what clearly were a number of full scale military actions, my hopes are slim. One of the points of a declared war is that it establishes a set of legal standards which are of a separate class than peacetime civil code. To some extent that protects citizens but of course it also draws lines for treasonous and traitorous behavior including giving aid and comfort to declared enemies. There are a number of issues working in all this, which we try to present in SW. One is the fact that regardless of the common view, there are a host of legal restrictions on presidential action which are still in effect based on various pieces of legislation passed during the 1970’s. President Bush simply determined to bypass a good number of those in response to the 9/11 attack and there was little public or other interest in opposing his decisions. Actually the Obama administration has changed a number of the Bush practices – although that also gets little coverage. For those really interested in the issue I would recommend the 2012 book Power and Constraint : The Accountable Presidency after 9/11. The author does a great job of covering all the issues in considerable detail, its a book I surely wish more would read including a few Congressmen and a lot of media.

      However in the interest of full disclosure on the subject, after spending years studying radical religious terror in the research and writing of The Awful Grace of God, I’m afraid folks who equate religious warfare with political warfare or view terror attacks as being identical to criminal actions don’t fully appreciate the reality of the situation – and the difference in the threat.

      — Larry

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