CD013: Surveillance, Stupidity, & Drones

The House passes a surveillance bill masked as pediatric research and then wastes our time. Also, highlights from the leaked legal justification for the Obama Administration’s “lawful” drone bombing of American citizens.

H.R. 225: National Pediatric Research Network Act of 2013

Introduced by Democrat Lois Capps of Northern California.

The bill says the Director of the National Institutes of Health (a gov’t agency) can create a network of up to 20 groups of public or private non-profits to work together to do pediatric research.

As a condition of accepting an award, the groups need to agree to help the Centers for Disease Control with the establishing patient registries and “other surveillance systems as appropriate and upon request by the Director of the Centers.”

The bill establishes a “Data Coordinating Center” to…

1. Distribute scientific findings
2. Help design and conduct research projects and to manage the resulting data
3. “To organize and conduct multi-site monitoring activities”

But the bill doesn’t give the NIH any money to do this.

Congressional Budget Office Analysis

NIH already supports many research networks that support research and training focused on pediatric health care needs and operates data coordinating centers for those networks.

Those networks perform essentially the same activities as the groups described in the bill.

The existing networks are not helping the CDC to establish surveillance systems.

…CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 225 would have “no effect on the number” of research groups or data coordinating centers that NIH would support.

CBO expects that CDC would request assistance from a few networks to establish surveillance systems.”

H.R. 444: The Require a Plan Act

The President generally begins working on a budget in Nov/Dec

The fiscal cliff deal wasn’t done until January 2 meaning we didn’t know how much revenue the United States would be collecting until then.

President Obama will be submitting his budget late.

Require a PLAN Act requires the President to give Congress another budget if the President’s budget for fiscal year 2014 is not balanced.

Not later than April 1, 2013, the President shall submit to Congress an addition to his budget that includes—

* An estimate of the earliest fiscal year in which the additional budget will eliminate the deficit (Ryan budget was around 2030)
* A detailed description of additional policies to be implemented in order to achieve such result (would have to be extreme measures)
* An evaluation of what agency functions can be eliminated or consolidated. (Fleming Amendment)
* An explanation of the differences between the President’s original budget for fiscal year 2014 and the extra budget referred to in this subsection.
* An estimate of the cost per taxpayer of the deficit for each year until the budget is balanced. (Messer Amendment)

Republicans seem to believe that creating a budget is an Executive Branch responsibility.

“It is astounding that the President has shirked his responsibility to submit a budget on time for 4 of the last 5 years.” – Rep. Roger Williams (TX)

It isn’t.

“The fact of the matter is it is our responsibility. Not a nickel can be spent in America unless the Congress authorizes it to be spent. The President can’t spend money on his own. Not a nickel can be raised in this country, of revenue, without the Congress acting on it. The President can’t do that. It is the Congress of the United States, under article I, that has this responsibility. We’re not taking that responsibility. We’re trying to shove it off on somebody else, in this case, the President of the United States.” – Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD)

What’s really happening is the House is wasting almost all of February and to let the sequester crisis come down to the last minute. A deal needs to be done by Friday, March 1.

Republicans are trying to re-write history and pretend President Obama created the sequester.

“To add to the uncertainty, the President’s proposed sequestration is set to take effect this March….” -Rep. Austin Scott (GA)

“President Obama’s sequester is an important issue.” -Rep. Tom Price (GA)

“What we should do is replace the President’s sequester with responsible reforms that will help balance the budget in 10 years.” -Rep John Boehner (OH), Speaker of the House

Reality: In 2011, the GOP was refusing to raise the debt ceiling. In order to pay our bills, the President and Senate had to promise the GOP House that they would get $2 trillion in government cuts. $1 trillion in cuts were in the Budget Control Act. The second trillion was supposed to be decided on by the SuperCommittee. The sequester was the painful-for-everyone-so-it’ll-never-happen penalty that was supposed to bring everyone to the bargaining table.

“We put sequester in place thinking it was so irrational and would have such a negative effect that clearly we would address the matter in the last 14 months. We didn’t…. It was a silly bill. The Senate passed it and the President signed it because it was the only way we could make sure that we did not put the creditworthiness of the United States at risk.” -Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD)

Now, Republicans are actually considering letting the sequester happen!

“I, for one, felt that the delay in the sequester on January 1 was not in the country’s best interest. These were the cuts that the Congress promised to the American people. When the debt limit was raised in August of 2011, this was the promise that was made, and it was a promise that was made by the President. It was pro-posed by people within the administration. The bill was signed into law by the President… Every line in every appropriations bill has a constituency somewhere that cares deeply about that language being retained. So, when all else fails, an across-the-board cut may be the only way that you can ever achieve that spending restraint.” Rep. Michael Burgess (TX)

The House will be in session for only 8 days before the sequester takes effect.

The Leaked “White Memo”: Authorizes Drone Strikes on American Citizens

Highlights (or lowlights, if you prefer)…

“Sets forth a legal framework for considering the circumstances in which the U.S. government could use lethal force in a foreign country outside the area of active hostilities against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida.”

“A targeted killing of a U.S. citizen who has joined al-Qa’ida or its associated forces would be lawful under U.S. and international law.”

Three conditions must be met:

# 1:

“An informed, high level official of the U.S. government has determine that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”

But…

“The condition that an operational leader preset an “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

“A decision maker determining whether an al-Qa’ida operational leader presents an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States must take into account that certain members of al-Qa’ida are continually plotting attacks…the U.S. government may not be aware of all al-Qa’ida plots as they are developing and thus cannot be confident that none is about to occur.”

#2: Capture must be “infeasible”.

“Capture would not be feasible if it could not be physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity or if the relevant country were to decline to consent to a capture operation.”

#3: The operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles. (Necessity, distinction proportionality, and humanity)

“There is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict- such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs- as long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war.”

What about due process guaranteed to Americans in the Constitution?

“In these circumstances, the “realities” of the conflict and the weight of the government’s interest in protecting its citizens from and imminent attack are such that the Constitution would not require the government to provide further process to such a U.S. citizen before using lethal force.”

How is this justified?

“Congress’s authorization of the use of all necessary and appropriate military force against this enemy, and the existence of an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida under international law.”

The memo specifically names the Authorization for Use of Military Force from 2001, signed in the days following 9/11.

Doesn’t targeting a certain person for death count as an assassination?

“It is a lawful act of self defense.”

“A lawful killing in self defense is not an assassination.”

But Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son (who was never considered associated with al-Qa’ida) were in Yemen when they were blown up by United States’ drone strikes. Wasn’t the Authorization for Military Force for hunting down the people responsible for 9/11 in Afghanistan?

“The United States is currently in a non-international armed conflict with al-Qa’ida and its associated forces… Any U.S. operation would be part of this non-international armed conflict, even if it were to take place away from the zone of active hostilities.”

“The AUMF itself does not set forth an express geographic limitation on the use of fore it authorizes.”

This sounds unconstitutional. Maybe the courts should decide this?

“The Department notes that under the circumstances described in this paper, there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutionals considerations.”