Obama admin to US court: The drone kill program is so secret, it may not even exist

You read that headline right. Ari Melber at Politico has this story (Melber often publishes at The Nation and is excellent, in my opinion).

Some background — You may recall all the stories about Obama’s drone war, the tale with the many layers. (Our post on that is here.)

Obama, the candidate with Osama bin Ladin’s head on the point of his spear, is swaggering it about that he’s got him a kill list and he uses drones to do the manly deed. His Kill List Minder, John Brennan, seems to have been leaking that (a) he, Brennan, is in charge of the list; but (b) he’s only serving Obama, king of the kill itself.

That burnishes Brennan’s cred internally (he’s first among subordinates, a valued position) while burnishing his boss’s big stick in an election season (“I’m just doing what the big guy wants, so shine that light his way please”). Clever; very clever.

Our write-up of that complex dance credits Marcy Wheeler for first catching the double game Brennan is playing with the press. Wheels within wheels, as it were, in the Executive branch.

By the way, if the prose in this description sounds lurid, it’s done deliberately, to reflect the very broad lizard-strokes by which this manliest game is played in the primitive centers of testosterone voters in an election season.

There really are, in other words, real echoes of Conan the Barbarian swirling through everyone’s brain:

Mongol General: This is good, but what is best in life?

Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?

Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

We are in the Conan era of American Exceptionalism, and the Drone War is the point of that spear. (See the end of this post for further proof.)

Back to Ari Melber and his story. Obama’s drone kill program (no that’s not hot prose; it’s sober description) is being challenged in court. What’s Obama doing? He’s saying the drone war is so secret, it may not even exist.

Melber (my emphases):

Washington has many “secrets,” but few secrets. The Obama administration will face a test on the difference this month, in a case probing a major national security program.

The administration is defending a federal court challenge to one of its most significant operations in the war against Al Qaeda: the drone program of targeted killings. President Barack Obama’s lawyers insist the entire program is a “secret” — so it can’t even be hauled into court in the first place.

We know the program exists, however — thanks to the president’s own statements. …

Definitely Kafka land. We read on:

Washington insiders are focused on who is leaking. … To win its case under current law, however, the White House must do more than say it didn’t authorize the recent leaks. It must prove that no one in the administration has “officially acknowledged” the program.

In their court filings, Obama’s lawyers made two big claims that will surprise anyone who clicks through the day’s headlines.

Not only do they say no government officials have acknowledged the drones — they double down and declare that there may not even be a drone program.

This is what Team Transparancy has come to. As a reminder, this was issued by the White House some time back (emphasis his):

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent.

Tangled webs. Kafka.

Please click through to Melber’s piece; there’s more and it’s interesting. Melber has a good eye for this stuff, and a good mind.

I want to close with a joke by one of my favorite stand-up comics. He’s new to the stage but very good, very polished. Best “Obama” I’ve seen (I’m serious).

This comment is especially close to the manly theme of this post. You may have seen it, but it’s worth rewatching:

Can you feel the Conan? Sends a thrill.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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