“A writer is someone who is interested in all the arts, in politics, and of course the psychology of people. Someone passionate about everything.”
– Susan Sontag, Radio France Interview (“Regarding Susan Sontag,” from HBO)
An excerpt from the latest book by Taylor Marsh:
…This is the heart of infidelity – physical lust and longing that are separate from love. Having the ability to live in the eye of passion blocking all else out, not allowing the complications of feelings and emotions to enter the arena of desire. Nothing exists but two human animals finding their way to erotic release. Carnality can catch you up in its vortex where you find yourself doing things you never dreamed of before. Sexual acts of unbounded moral lethality or unlimited imagination can take you over a pleasure cliff you never knew existed, and over which you feel you have no control. When an affair is moored in the physical alone, no earthly responsibilities attached, the escape works like a narcotic. It becomes an obsession, and is equally as deadly as any drug. […]
“While the speech is a gesture towards additional transparency, it is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact. Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.” – ACLU Comment on Eric Holder Speech on Targeted Killing Program
Holder’s speech is below, in its entirety.
Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at Northwestern University School of Law
Chicago ~ Monday, March 5, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Dean [Daniel] Rodriguez, for your kind words, and for the outstanding leadership that you provide “” not only for this academic campus, but also for our nation’s legal community. It is a privilege to be with you today “” and to be among the distinguished faculty members, staff, alumni, and students who make Northwestern such an extraordinary place.
For more than 150 years, this law school has served as a training ground for future leaders; as a forum for critical, thoughtful debate; and as a meeting place to consider issues of national concern and global consequence. This afternoon, I am honored to be part of this tradition. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to join with you in discussing a defining issue of our time “” and a most critical responsibility that we share: how we will stay true to America’s founding “” and enduring “” promises of security, justice and liberty.
Since this country’s earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge “” and all that it demands. But, as we have seen “” and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best “” “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”
Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment. It is clear that, once again, we have reached an “hour of danger.”
We are a nation at war. And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated.
Like President Obama “” and my fellow members of his national security team “” I begin each day with a briefing on the latest and most urgent threats made against us in the preceding 24 hours. And, like scores of attorneys and agents at the Justice Department, I go to sleep each night thinking of how best to keep our people safe.
I know that “” more than a decade after the September 11th attacks; and despite our recent national security successes, including the operation that brought to justice Osama bin Laden last year “” there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders. Disrupting and preventing these plots “” and using every available and appropriate tool to keep the American people safe “” has been, and will remain, this Administration’s top priority.
But just as surely as we are a nation at war, we also are a nation of laws and values. Even when under attack, our actions must always be grounded on the bedrock of the Constitution “” and must always be consistent with statutes, court precedent, the rule of law and our founding ideals. Not only is this the right thing to do “” history has shown that it is also the most effective approach we can take in combating those who seek to do us harm.
This is not just my view. My judgment is shared by senior national security officials across the government. As the President reminded us in 2009, at the National Archives where our founding documents are housed, “[w]e uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset.” Our history proves this. We do not have to choose between security and liberty “” and we will not.
Today, I want to tell you about the collaboration across the government that defines and distinguishes this Administration’s national security efforts. I also want to discuss some of the legal principles that guide “” and strengthen “” this work, as well as the special role of the Department of Justice in protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.
Before 9/11, today’s level of interagency cooperation was not commonplace. In many ways, government lacked the infrastructure “” as well as the imperative “” to share national security information quickly and effectively. Domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence operated in largely independent spheres. But those who attacked us on September 11th chose both military and civilian targets. They crossed borders and jurisdictional lines. And it immediately became clear that no single agency could address these threats, because no single agency has all of the necessary tools.
To counter this enemy aggressively and intelligently, the government had to draw on all of its resources “” and radically update its operations. As a result, today, government agencies are better postured to work together to address a range of emerging national security threats. Now, the lawyers, agents and analysts at the Department of Justice work closely with our colleagues across the national security community to detect and disrupt terrorist plots, to prosecute suspected terrorists, and to identify and implement the legal tools necessary to keep the American people safe. Unfortunately, the fact and extent of this cooperation are often overlooked in the public debate “” but it’s something that this Administration, and the previous one, can be proud of.
As part of this coordinated effort, the Justice Department plays a key role in conducting oversight to ensure that the intelligence community’s activities remain in compliance with the law, and, together with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in authorizing surveillance to investigate suspected terrorists. We must “” and will continue to “” use the intelligence-gathering capabilities that Congress has provided to collect information that can save and protect American lives. At the same time, these tools must be subject to appropriate checks and balances “” including oversight by Congress and the courts, as well as within the Executive Branch “” to protect the privacy and civil rights of innocent individuals. This Administration is committed to making sure that our surveillance programs appropriately reflect all of these interests.
Let me give you an example. Under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize annually, with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, collection directed at identified categories of foreign intelligence targets, without the need for a court order for each individual subject. This ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security. But the government may not use this authority intentionally to target a U.S. person, here or abroad, or anyone known to be in the United States.
The law requires special procedures, reviewed and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to make sure that these restrictions are followed, and to protect the privacy of any U.S. persons whose nonpublic information may be incidentally acquired through this program. The Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence conduct extensive oversight reviews of section 702 activities at least once every sixty days, and we report to Congress on implementation and compliance twice a year. This law therefore establishes a comprehensive regime of oversight by all three branches of government. Reauthorizing this authority before it expires at the end of this year is the top legislative priority of the Intelligence Community.
But surveillance is only the first of many complex issues we must navigate. Once a suspected terrorist is captured, a decision must be made as to how to proceed with that individual in order to identify the disposition that best serves the interests of the American people and the security of this nation.
Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions. The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice “” and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.
Our criminal justice system is renowned not only for its fair process; it is respected for its results. We are not the first Administration to rely on federal courts to prosecute terrorists, nor will we be the last. Although far too many choose to ignore this fact, the previous Administration consistently relied on criminal prosecutions in federal court to bring terrorists to justice. John Walker Lindh, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were among the hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism-related offenses “” without political controversy “” during the last administration.
Over the past three years, we’ve built a remarkable record of success in terror prosecutions. For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI. He described in detail how he became inspired to carry out an act of jihad, and how he traveled to Yemen and made contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Abdulmutallab also detailed the training he received, as well as Aulaqi’s specific instructions to wait until the airplane was over the United States before detonating his bomb.
In addition to Abdulmutallab, Faizal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, Ahmed Ghailani, a conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and three individuals who plotted an attack against John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007, have also recently begun serving life sentences. And convictions have been obtained in the cases of several homegrown extremists, as well. For example, last year, United States citizen and North Carolina resident Daniel Boyd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad; and U.S. citizen and Illinois resident Michael Finton pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his efforts to detonate a truck bomb outside of a federal courthouse.
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