White House to answer: When is killing Americans okay?



ANAHEIM, Calif. — Anaheim city officials have agreed to ask the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate recent police shootings.

Tuesday’s move comes amid raucous protests over two deadly police shootings over the weekend, including one of an unarmed man running from officers.

Police stepped up patrols and some donned riot gear outside the doors of City Hall’s council chamber as hundreds demonstrated on the street.

The shooting of Manuel Diaz has sparked four nights of protests. On Saturday, angry demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators, and police responded by firing bean bags and pepper balls at the crowd.

The city council wants federal investigators to also look into police response to the protests.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Dozens of protesters heckled police officers Tuesday as they denounced two deadly officer-involved shootings over the weekend, including one of an unarmed man who his family alleged was shot in the back of the head.

“Shame on you, you shot him nine times,” the raucous crowd shouted as motorcycle officers rode by.

Police stepped up patrols and some donned riot gear outside the doors of City Hall’s council chamber. The building was packed with people trying to get into the chamber, where the council was expected to discuss weekend shootings that have stoked anger over a spike in officer-involved shootings in the city.

Theresa Smith, whose son was killed on Dec. 11, 2009, by Anaheim police officers at a Walmart store, said she went by the scene of Saturday’s shooting of 25-year-old Manuel Diaz and was astounded by what she saw.

“There were pieces of brain on the God darn grass, in front of all these children, in front of all these people,” Smith said. “This traumatizes people and these people are angry.”

On Tuesday, Diaz’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages from the city of Anaheim and its police department, claiming he was wrongfully shot, said lawyer James Rumm.

The killing of Diaz and another man on Sunday have taken the tally of shootings by police officers to six so far this year in this Orange County city, up from four a year before, said police Sgt. Bob Dunn. Five of the incidents have been fatal.

Mayor Tom Tait said a description from court papers relayed to him by a reporter that Diaz had been shot in the leg and in the back of his head was “unsettling.”

The Anaheim police union on Tuesday issued a statement defending the officers involved in the shootings and said both men killed were gang members who had criminal records.

The union also said that just before Diaz turned toward officers during Saturday’s incident, he pulled an object from his waistband – a common place where gang members hide guns.

“I believe that the independent investigations by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office into both incidents will show no wrongdoing by these officers,” said Kerry Condon, the police association’s president.

Anaheim is a city of contrasts that ranges from upscale, hilltop homes to packed, gritty apartment complexes. The city 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles is known as home to the Angels baseball team, and above all, to world-famous Disneyland.

As California’s Hispanic population has grown, so has the city’s, hitting nearly 53 percent in 2010, census figures show.

Residents’ concerns about the use of police force in the Orange County city aren’t new. Last month, Anaheim decided to look into hiring an independent investigator to review shootings by police amid protests by relatives of those killed in officers’ gunfire.

But Latino activists say that isn’t enough and want federal officials to probe the Saturday shooting of an unarmed man in broad daylight who police say was a gang member.

Benny Diaz, state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in California, said he wants a citizen review commission to keep tabs on the police department, officers to undergo sensitivity training and federal officials to investigate.

“People are saying, `you know what? We have to stop this,'” said Diaz, adding that residents’ past requests for a probe of officer shootings have gone nowhere. “As an organization we are trying to find peace but there comes a point where you have to stand up strong.”

Tait, who has called for state and federal agencies to investigate the shooting, urged the community to remain calm and said he wanted to address any concerns in the Latino community.

“If the Latino community is saying there is a rift, then there is rift, and we need to address that,” he said.

Diaz’s death sparked three nights of protests. On Saturday, angry demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators, and police responded by firing bean bags and pepper balls at the crowd.

On Sunday, protesters swarmed police headquarters during a morning news conference and later set fire to a trash bin and pushed it into the street outside the apartment complex. On Monday night, Diaz’s mother was joined by the relatives of others killed in police shootings in a march near where her son was shot.

Police Chief John Welter said Saturday’s incident occurred after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alleyway before running away. One of the officers chased Diaz to the front of the apartment complex.

The chief would not say what exactly led the officer to shoot Diaz. But he failed to heed police orders to stop and threw something on the roof of the complex that contained what officers believe to be heroin, Welter said.

Both officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation.

The second shooting occurred Sunday when anti-gang officers spotted a suspected gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. A brief pursuit ended when three people jumped from the vehicle and ran. One suspect fired at an officer and the officer fired back, killing the gunman, who was identified as 21-year-old Joel Mathew Acevedo, authorities said.

Both incidents were under investigation by the county’s district attorney office, which asked witnesses to come forward with information or video footage of Saturday’s shooting.

The FBI is conducting a review to determine whether a civil rights investigation is warranted, said agency spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.Source


How exactly can the Obama administration get away with killing American citizens? The answer to that question and many more may be revealed Monday afternoon by United States Attorney General Eric Holder.

Attorney General Holder is expected to deliver a speech at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois on Monday, and an official close to the Obama-appointee say that the legal justification for the targeted killings of twp Americans will finally be addressed, months after the US assassinated two of its own overseas.

Two US-born citizens with alleged terrorist ties were executed in a “targeted kill” carried out by the CIA last year in Yemen. Despite never formally filing charges or bringing the men to court, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were struck dead by a planned drone strike in September. Since then, the White House has defended the assassinations but has done little to formally address how, when or why the federal government is given the power to single out and kill its own citizens. Holder is expected to finally footnote those killings with an explanation Monday afternoon.

A source close to Mr. Holder tells the media that the top-secret “targeted kill” program will be a matter of discussion at Monday’s address in Chicago, although only offered that confirmation on condition of anonymity because the contents of the speech have not officially been publicized ahead of time.

The source adds that Holder will say the extrajudicial killings are allowed under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a joint congressional resolution that was drafted only a week after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The same legislation has received added notoriety in recent months, as it is cited by Congress on the pages of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. In a provision approved within the pages of the NDAA, the Authorization for Use of Military Force is used as reasoning to justify the indefinite detention of Americans believed to be aligned with hostile forces. Holder is expected to say that the same post-9/11 legislation allows for the killing of those alleged enemies, such al al-Awlaki, as well. President Obama signed the NDAA into law on December 31, 2011, granting himself the power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge.

Last month, Defense Department lawyer Jeh Johnson told an audience at Yale Law School that that Authorization for Use of Military Force does indeed allow for the killing of Americans, but tried to downplay that nasty “a-word” in his reasoning.

“Under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an ‘assassination,’” said Johnson. Attorney General Holder is expected to extrapolate on that from the Windy City.

If the killings of al-Awlaki and Khan are not constituted as a by-the-books definition of “assassination,” it opens up an unusual question: What exactly did the US do to the two alleged al-Qaeda members if it wasn’t an assassination? President Barack Obama approved for al-Awlaki to be added to a “kill or capture” list maintained by the CIA in April 2010, and the agency carried out the execution a little over a year later. Critics have since become concerned over not necessarily why such a list exists, but what legal justification the US has for adding the name of any American to it.

Following the September killing, then-presidential candidate Gary Johnson offered a statement asking Americans to concern the consequences of the assassination. “[O]ur government targeted a US citizen for death, and carried out that sentence on foreign soil. To my knowledge, that is a first, and a precedent that raises serious questions,” said Johnson, who formerly served as Governor of New Mexico — al-Awlaki’s home state.

Currently Republican Party contender, Congressman Ron Paul, was similarly suspicious of Obama adding al-Awlaki to a list that would eventually lead to a plotted execution. “Nobody knows if he ever killed anybody,” Paul responded at the time. “If the American people accept this blindly and casually…I think that’s sad.”

Congressman Paul has repeatedly reintroduced what he says is a dangerous reality established under the kill-order during televised GOP debates. United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has remained mostly mum on the manner, but told CBS’ 60 Minutes program last year that “the President of the United States has to sign off, and he should,” for the killings of Americans.

At least three lawsuits have been lobbed at the Obama White House since the targeted killings in hopes of seeing the internal memos that discuss the details. The justification for the executions is believed to be contained in a secret Justice Department memo, reports the Associated Press, but despite repeated requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the Obama administration has not released the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memorandum that allegedly explains the legal grounds on which the al-Awlaki assassination was allowed.

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union added itself to the list of critics that was taking Obama to court over the matter. In a post on their site published early February, the ACLU wrote that “the Obama administration has released very little information about the practice — its official position is that the targeted killing program is a state secret — and some of the information it has released has been misleading.”

“The government’s self-serving attitude toward transparency and disclosure is unacceptable,” the ACLU added. “Officials cannot be allowed to release bits of information about the targeted killing program when they think it will bolster their position, but refuse even to confirm [its] existence” when asked for information “in the service of real transparency and accountability.”

“It has not explained whether Samir Khan and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki were killed ‘collaterally’ or were targeted themselves. It has not said what measures, if any, it took to minimize the possibility that individuals not targeted would be killed incidentally,” the group wrote in their complaint.

Federal investigators have linked al-Awlaki to US Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the serviceman who opened fire at Fort Hood in 2009, as well as at least two other planned terrorist attacks on American soil.

Samir Khan, a Pakistani born in North Carolina, was also suspected of links to al-Qaeda. He started an online magazine connected to the group and wrote in the first issue that he had relocated to Yemen to “wage jihad for the rest of our lives.”RT



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