CBS News‘ Scott Pelley appears to be one of the very few American journalists bothered by, or even interested in, the fact that President Obama has asserted and exercised the power to target U.S. citizens for execution-by-CIA without a shred of due process and far from any battlefield. It was Pelley who deftly interrogated the GOP presidential candidates at a November debate about the propriety of due-process-free assassinations, prompting Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann to applaud President Obama for assassinating U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki (just as Rick Perry, Dick and Liz Cheney, and Bill Kristol had done). Last night, Pelley did the same when he interviewed Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Leon Panetta on 60 Minutes. It’s well worth watching this three-minute clip because, although Panetta doesn’t say much that is new (he simply asserts the standard slogans and unproven assertions that Obama defenders on this topic always assert), watching a top Obama official, under decent questioning, defend the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination viscerally conveys the rigidly authoritarian mindset driving all of this:
Panetta’s answers are suffused with dubious and even factually false claims. It is, for instance, false that the U.S. provides due process to everyone apprehended for Terrorism. To the contrary, the Obama administration has been holding dozens of Terrorism suspects without any charges for years, and President Obama just signed into law a bill codifying the power of indefinite detention for accused Terrorists. But even if it were true that all Terrorism suspects who are detained were entitled to receive due process, that merely underscores how warped it is to assert the power to target them for execution without due process. After all, how can it be that the Government must prove guilt merely to imprison Terrorists but not to execute them?
But this is one of the towering, unanswerable hypocrisies of Democratic Party politics. The very same faction that pretended for years to be so distraught by Bush’s mere eavesdropping on and detention of accused Terrorists without due process is now perfectly content to have their own President kill accused Terrorists without due process, even when those targeted are their fellow citizens: obviously a far more Draconian and permanent abuse than eavesdropping or detention (identically, the very same faction that objected to Bush’s radical whole-world-is-a-Battlefield theory now must embrace exactly that theory to justify how someone riding in a car, or sitting at home, or sleeping in his bed, in a country where no war is declared, is “on a battlefield” at the time the CIA ends his life).
Last updated at 8:51 AM on 5th December 2011
A young woman sits cross-legged on the ground laughing playfully as she is fed a lychee. Another plays cards in pair of baggy pink pyjamas.
The moving images could show any group of young women as they go about their daily lives in prison.
But just hours – and in some cases minutes – after the pictures were taken, each of the four women were led into a concrete yard and executed.
Facing death with a smile: Dai Donggui tries on an outfit for her to wear before her execution. Right, a female police officer feeds a lychee to condemned drug dealer Dai Donggu the evening before the execution
The previously unseen photographs have emerged for the first time in nearly a decade – and give an incredibly rare glimpse into final moments of Chinese prisoners on death row.
Communist officials are notoriously guarded about the death penalty, in a country that carries out more executions than any other.
But in an unprecedented move, an unnamed civilian photographer was allowed inside No 1 Detention Centre for women in the industrial city of Wuhan, in central China. The man took a series of pictures on June 24, 2003.
But so sensitive were the photographs, that the authorities banned them from being published. The Government feared they would evoke sympathy for the female prisoners.
Lively: He Xiuling, the youngest of the female death row inmates, is excited and exaggerated. Right, another female prisoner feeds Ms Xiuling dumplings for a late-night snack
Until now they had remained unseen. However, last week the pictures were published for the first time on Phoenix TV, a broadcaster in Hong Kong.
The photographer was granted access to Ma Qingxiu, Li Juhua, Dai Donggui and He Xiuling from 9pm until 7.21 am the next morning. The women had all been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death.
Ms Donggui is shown carefully folding her red prison clothes on the floor. She smiles as she displays off a red top to the photographer, choosing what her last outfit will be.
Crouching on her mattress, with her hands and feet shackled, she holds a bowl of green bean soup. In the corner of a room is a red bowl used for washing and a McDonald’s meal given to prisoners.
Moments later a guard appears and feeds her a lychee before she’s escorted the next morning to the execution grounds. As she prepares to be taken away, Ms Donggui applies red nail polish with the help of prison guards.
In another scene, Ms Juhua sits in her cell as a fellow convict records her last will and testament.
Just yards away Ms Xiuling and Ms Qingxiu laugh as they play cards with inmates. The cameraman remembers Ms Xiuling as being ‘excited and exaggerated’ during the evening.
The chubby 25-year-old prisoner, who had been caught carrying 7,000 grams illegal drugs, was the liveliest of the inmates, gently resting her head on another women’s leg as she smiles.
She was worried about appearing ‘too fat’ in her pyjamas, and one of the inmates found her a black top to change into. Another image shows her squeezing into a new pair of shoes.
But throughout the evening she was restless, and began praying to the heavens to be allowed another chance at life.
At 6am, Ms Qingxiu, 49, hands over her old clothes to another inmate who will need them. She moves to a temporary cell and joins Ms Xiuling, who is dabbing tears from her eyes.
The final few photographs show the inmates walking into the execution ground. Some of them have their legs shackled as they join 16 other death row inmates.
Ms Xiuling is held by a guard, but she can’t stop herself from crying as her life draws to a close. The women are taken away by guards and minutes later shot in the back of the head.