Saturday, January 7, 2012

Obama launches Bureau of Counterterrorism

Source: Press TV

President Obama's State Department has announced the creation of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, which will coordinate with United States entities such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and foreign governments to develop civilian counterterrorism strategies and operations.

"The mission of the new bureau will be to lead the [State] Department in the U.S. government's effort to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats," Ambassador Dan Benjamin told reporters.

"The bureau will lead in supporting U.S. counterterrorism diplomacy and seek to strengthen homeland security, countering violent extremism, and build the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism." Washington Examiner


The bureau is new only in nominal terms, and has essentially been operating as the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism for awhile now, with Benjamin at the head. Moving from an office to a bureau is generally seen as an upgrade. Antiwar

The bureau will focus on foreign terrorists, but their activities have some bearing on domestic security. It collaborates with "the Department of Homeland Security to work jointly to stop terrorist travel, to improve aviation security," for instance, but will focus more on "the bilateral kind of diplomacy that we do with others on a number of different issues, whether it has to do with how we reduce the space that terrorist groups have to fundraise, [or] to operate," Benjamin explained. Washington Examiner

As part of the State Department the bureau's specific purview would seem to be diplomatic, but when pressed over exactly what the bureau will do Benjamin provided a long but largely content-free description. Antiwar

“The establishment of the bureau in many ways is a confirmation or ratification of the things that we have been doing increasingly in recent years,” Benjamin insisted, adding that the bureau would “fund other agencies of the U.S. government to send their experts out to countries around the world.” Antiwar


The U.S. began jailing suspects in 2002, creating an interrogation program from scratch to deal with so-called "high value detainees" of the war on terror.

The CIA operated its detention system under a series of secret legal opinions by CIA and Justice Department lawyers. Those rules provided a legal basis for the harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. NY Times

Rendition began to be used regularly under President Bill Clinton and its use expanded rapidly under President Bush after the terrorist attacks in September 2001. NY Times

Human Rights Watch has stated that the principle of “command responsibility” could make high-ranking officials within the Bush administration guilty of war crimes.

Human Rights First has reported that the United States is holding suspects in more than two dozen detention centers around the world.

Some 27,000 detainees are suspected to have been held by the U.S in secret prisons around the world including in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Island of Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Jordan and aboard U.S. amphibious assault ships.

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