By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM–Israel radio announced that The Times of London was accusing Israel of “waging covert war across the Middle East.” The worry was that this would be the start of another campaign to condemn and delegitimize Israel, recruit support for boycotts of its exports and its academics, and arrange arrest warrants for officials and military personnel.
The headline resembles what we heard on the radio, but the article is more descriptive than prescriptive. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7025821.ece
It speculates about a series of killings that could be ascribed to Israel, and notes the lack of response from Israeli authorities. While it is impossible to predict how Israel-bashers will respond, the article itself contains neither condemnation nor overt criticism.
Another article in the Washington Post may serve to limit a renewed focus on Israel. “Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/13/AR2010021303748.html?hpid=topnews
The Post article is also descriptive, but may contain more ammunition for critics than the Times article about Israel. The Post details the choices faced by the administration between capture and killing, and indicates that the easier task of killing has the downside of wiping out a possible source of intelligence. It also notes the problems caused by American human rights advocates and the president’s pledge–so far not honored–of closing Guantanamo, and the closing of US military prisons in other countries. Without opportunities to hold suspects under American control but outside the United States, the choice of capture is less attractive. Holding suspects within the United States would subject the process to a range of legal constraints, which was the reason for using Guantanamo and those military and CIA facilities in countries willing to accommodate America’s security needs.
Israel as well as the United States has its opponents to killing the bad guys. Military personnel have said on numerous occasions that they would prefer capture, and getting what they can from the prisoners to help them go after others who are intent on violence, or to locate their stores of munitions. Israel holds some 12,000 Palestinian security prisoners in several facilities. It does not kill lightly. Operational realities often dictate killing rather than capture. On several occasion it has suspended the policy of assassinations, and it has stopped ongoing missions that would endanger numerous civilians. Other missions have killed enough civilians to produce considerable outrage, both locally and overseas.
The Washington Post article, along with reports over the years from Israel, suggest that both countries operate by similar norms. Ranking officers must approve each attack, and may operate under the close control of the highest civilian officials.
A highly critical article of US practice written in response to the Washington Post article indicates that some of the people targeted by the United States are American citizens. Three of them are said to be currently on the list for extermination. According to one official, if ”we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.” http://www.faxts.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=275:rights-legal-experts-slam-targeted-killings-of-us-citizens&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=121
Similarities between these features of American and Israeli counter-terrorism campaigns raise the question of who learned from who.
Both countries have a long record of assassination. John F. Kennedy is said to have approved the killing of Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem, and Richard Nixon is given ultimate responsibility for the death of Chilean president Salvador Allende.
The Washington Post credits George W. Bush with beginning the use of targeted killings as part of his war against terror after 9-11, and says that Barack Obama has increased their use.
To my knowledge, no American president has actually pulled a trigger or pressed a button to produce a targeted killing. Some assign a direct role in the assassination of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte to the young Yitzhak Shamir, who became prime minister 35 years later.
The questions invited by this discussion are:
* Will the United Nations send Richard Goldstone against the United States of America? and
*Will Benyamin Netanyahu receive the Nobel Prize for Peace?
Do not accuse me of naivete. Cynicism maybe.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)– District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis announced Monday that a San Diego man has been sentenced to eight months in state prison for pointing a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter known as ABLE (Airborne Law Enforcement).
Timothy Allen, 39, pleaded guilty to the charge in January and was sentenced in San Diego County Superior Court Monday afternoon. “Laser strikes may seem harmless, but pilots take them very seriously,” said DA Dumanis. “I hope this case will educate the public about the law and the very real dangers associated with this kind of activity.”
In November of 2009, SDPD’s helicopter, ABLE 3, suffered a series of bright green laser strikes coming from a residence in southeast San Diego. The ABLE pilots tried repeatedly to pinpoint the source of the laser, but were unable to. During the same time period, the control tower at Lindbergh Field confirmed several commercial jets also reported green laser strikes in their cockpits while approaching San Diego International Airport to land. On November 26, 2009 ABLE pilots returned to the area where they once again experienced laser strikes and were successful in determining the source of the laser.
Allen was arrested and subsequently charged with two counts of Discharging a Laser at an Occupied Aircraft in violation of Penal Code section 247.5, a felony. The defendant pleaded guilty to one of the counts on Jan. 12. Allen was also sentenced to an additional two years, eight months in prison for two other unrelated cases involving receiving stolen property, possession of a deadly weapon and vehicle theft.
Laser strikes have become an increasing problem for pilots. Depending on the strength of the laser and the altitude of the aircraft, even low-power lasers can distract and even temporarily blind pilots who are flying at low levels or attempting to land. The glare from a laser can make it impossible for a pilot landing an airplane to see the runway. Pointing a laser at an aircraft carries a penalty of up to three years in state prison. In an effort to educate the public, the International Laser Display Association has sponsored a website that describes the risks in more detail and shows a video of a real life laser strike on an aircraft.
Preceding provided by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – Criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to charge accused Christmas Day attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal court system, members of Congress are calling for legislation requiring intelligence officials to be consulted about how to handle terrorism suspects after their capture, arguing that options other than the criminal justice system should be considered. The Washington Post, in an editorial on January 23, supported this approach.
The members of Congress calling for the legislation are Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Robert Bennett (R-UT) and John Ensign (R-NV).
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
“It is extremely disturbing that members of the U.S. Congress are essentially calling for Obama administration officials to discard the Constitution when a terrorist suspect is apprehended – as if the Constitution should be applied on a case by case basis. The whole idea of having constitutional protections is that they be applied across the board for all those accused of a crime. That is the only way for us to rely on our justice system and its results. Obeying the Constitution is not optional.
“The FBI was right to place Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal justice system. Terrorism is a crime, and to treat terrorism that takes place far from any battlefield as an act of war is to propose that the entire world is a battlefield, to give criminals the elevated status of warriors and to invest whoever the current president may be with the authority to imprison a broad category of people potentially forever, without ever being afforded an opportunity to defend themselves. To abandon due process in terrorism cases turns the rule of law on its head and flies in the face of the values that we are fighting to protect in the first place. Our criminal justice system is fully capable of accommodating the government’s legitimate security interests while at the same time providing fundamental rights to defendants.
“If we have learned nothing else over the last decade, we’ve learned that disregarding the rule of law leads to tragic consequences. This country is still trying to deal with the repercussions of the previous administration’s illegal torture and detention policies, which did immeasurable damage to America’s standing in the world.
“We hope that Congress will heed these lessons and show faith in our justice system, which has successfully prosecuted over 200 terrorism suspects. We must not abandon our most fundamental values to the threat of terrorism.”
Preceding provided by American Civil Liberties Union
WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release)– U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), chairman of the Judiciary Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, on Friday called for a careful examination of the Administration’s plans for the indefinite detention of Guantánamo detainees. He released the following statement:
“One year ago today, President Obama ordered the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. I commended the President because Guantánamo Bay clearly represents a failed system of justice. The decision to close Guantánamo Bay made us stronger as a nation and it strengthened our relationships with our allies. We told the world that the rule of law was once again paramount in the U.S. and that we, as a nation, will abide by our international obligations. Moreover, it will deprive our enemies of a key recruiting tool.”
“Today, the Administration has taken a major step toward the ultimate closure of the Guantánamo Bay facility by completing a review of all pending cases. Early media reports indicate that the Presidential Task Force handling the reviews will recommend upwards of 50 detainees should be held indefinitely, while nearly three dozen should be prosecuted in either civilian or military courts and another 110 should be released overseas. Congress has a responsibility to carefully review the legal framework used to make these determinations. I look forward to working with the Administration as we explore these issues together in such a way that can expedite the closure of the Guantánamo Bay facility. Further delays would not be helpful to our national security or our worldwide efforts to combat terrorists like al-Qaeda.”
In July 2009, Senator Cardin chaired a hearing entitled Prosecuting Terrorists: Civilian and Military Trials for GTMO and Beyond”with representatives of the Departments of Justice and Defense, along with other legal experts, to examine how terrorists currently being held by the United States and those captured in the future might be prosecuted, what type of legal protections may be needed in both civilian and military courts, and how both civilian and military courts are prepared to handle.
Preceding provided by Senator Cardin
TOLEDO, Spain (Press Release)—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday traveled to Toledo, Spain, at the invitation of her Spanish colleague, Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba, to meet with her European counterparts regarding ways to bolster international aviation security measures and standards.
“The attempted terrorist attack on Dec. 25 threatened the lives of individuals from 17 foreign countries, including more than 100 citizens of European nations,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The international dimensions of this incident—and the international threat posed by radical extremism—require an international response to strengthen global aviation security measures.”
In Toledo, Secretary Napolitano stressed the need for collaborative international action to prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft during meetings with ministers from more than 30 countries—the first in a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on enhancing international aviation security standards and procedures.
Secretary Napolitano also emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthening information sharing about terrorists and other dangerous people with international partners. In 2009, DHS, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State worked together to forge agreements to prevent and combat crime with Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. These agreements allow for the exchange of biometric and biographic data to bolster counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts while ensuring privacy protections.
Secretary Napolitano later traveled to Geneva to meet with members of the International Air Transport Association—which represents approximately 230 airlines and more than 90 percent of the world’s air traffic—as part of the Department’s efforts to work with the airline industry to ensure all flights to the U.S. meet both international and U.S. Transportation Security Administration security standards now and in the future. She will met with officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization in Geneva on these issues.
Earlier this month, Secretary Napolitano dispatched Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and other senior Department officials to meet with government leaders and major international airport executives in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and South America to review airport security procedures and work on ways to collectively bolster our tactics for defeating terrorists.
Preceding provided by Department of Homeland Security