JSOC: Secret laws. Secret lists. Secret death squads.

February 9th, 2013

Naomi Wolf has, as usual, scared the crap out of me. This time in her recent article in the Guardian, “JSOC: Obama’s secret assassins.” What takes the form of a review of the film “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” doubles as some shocking analysis of this little known death squad known as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which to me sounds like IngSoc (You either get that or you don’t).

What really shocked me was realizing how this piece fits together with the Drone Memo we talked about earlier this week. I imagined, erroneously, that the Drone Memo outlined a legal justification for ordering a drone strike on an American citizen, and I took some comfort in knowing that ordering such a strike would be incredibly politically unpopular, and incredibly difficult to deny. But that’s not what the Drone Memo does. It outlines a legal justification for ordering the assassination of an American citizen, with no reference as to how, which means when drones aren’t the right weapon for the job, a team of highly-trained, completely unaccountable assassins like JSOC just might be… and until now, I’d never heard of them.

In the film the writers Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley interview former JSOC assassins about the ever-expanding ”kill lists” they are expected to execute. They describe operations now being conducted in 70 countries.  And the assassins self describe as “shell-shocked” by the number of people being killed in secret based on these secret lists.

JSOC enjoys the firepower and intelligence of a conventional military with the lack of accountability of a mercenary force. JSOC operates outside the military chain of command, reporting only to the president himself.

What this means is that the imperial president has his own private kill team which can assassinate anyone anywhere in the world as discretely or bombastically as they see fit. Their budget is secret. Even the laws which govern their conduct are secret. Senator Ron Wyden warns that there is now a secret system of law whereby the letter of the law may be public record, but the official interpretation of those arcane scribblings is secret. He says:

“It is impossible for Congress to hold an informed public debate when there is a significant gap between what most Americans believe the law says and what the government is using the law to do. Even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law. Any time there is a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the government secretly thinks the law says, I believe you have a serious problem.”

Wolf writes:

The US executive now has a network of secret laws, secret budgets, secret kill lists, and a well-funded, globally deployed army of secret teams of assassins. Is fascism really too strong a word to describe it?

Even if you aren’t willing to admit that what we’re seeing is fascism in America, can America’s boot on the necks of foreigners be said to anything else? For the common civilian in Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Yemen, or anywhere else where the US government imposes it’s will, America is not an elected government. It doesn’t represent their interests, or protect their civil liberties. It doesn’t even offer them bread and circuses. To them it is identical in every way to a totalitarian police state. Extrajudicial prisons, constant surveillance, military check points and now roaming death squads authorized to assassinate anyone the executive points at.

While Americans here at home are arguing about gun control and screaming that the privilege of possessing a registered firearm is our last line of defense against tyranny, do they ever consider that the very government they’re registering their firearms with is terrorizing the rest of the world? They’re doing just fine slaughtering insurgents armed with sterner stuff, and they don’t seem to mind taking out a school or a wedding party in the process.

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About the Author: Davi Barker

In grade school Davi refused to recite the pledge of allegiance because he didn't understand what it meant. He was ordered to do as he was told. In college he spent hours scouring through the congressional record trying to understand this strange machine. That's where he discovered Dr. Ron Paul. In 2007 he joined the End The Fed movement and found a political home with the libertarians. The Declaration of Independence claims that the government derives its power “from the consent of the governed." He does not consent.