“We Were All Told to Do This”: US Border Officer Uses Nuremberg Defense to Explain Involvement in Separating Families
“Ah, so he was just doing his job? Where have we heard that defense before?”
by Julia Conley
In a new Frontline documentary, a Border Patrol agent describes taking part in a pilot program to separate families nearly a year before the Trump administration officially unveiled the policy—saying that while he was unhappy about separating children from their parents, he and other agents were following orders.
Journalist Martin Smith interviews agent Wesley Farris in “Targeting El Paso” about the program Farris worked on in the summer of 2017 in El Paso, Texas. Agents were instructed to separate families as the administration tested the theory that doing so would deter people from trying to enter the U.S. at the border city.
“That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever done,” Farris tells Smith in an excerpt released ahead of the documentary. “You can’t help but see your own kids.”
Farris describes one experience in particular which caused him to ask his supervisor to take him out of the pilot program.
“It was a young boy. I think he was about two. The world was upside down to that kid,” Farris says. “So when the contractor tried to take him away, he reached for me and he climbed up on me again, and he was holding on to me. So that that one got me a little bit.”
“I said at that one, ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I won’t do it,'” he tells Smith. “I went back to the supervisor and I told him, ‘Don’t assign me to do that anymore.'”
Farris “wanted to” take his complaint up the chain of command, he says, but the Border Patrol agents who were separating families were required to do as they were told.
“I mean, none of us were happy about it,” Farris says. “We were all told to do this.”
Journalist Brooke Binkowski suggested in a tweet that Farris’s defense mirrored that of numerous war criminals who have invoked the “Nuremberg defense,” infamously used by Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
“So he was just doing his job? Where have we heard that defense before?” tweeted Binkowski.
"“I mean, none of us were happy about it,” Farris says. “But everybody around me was just doing exactly what… We were all told to do this.”"
Ah, so he was just doing his job? Where have we heard that defense before?
— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) January 7, 2020
The Trump administration announced six months after the pilot program ended that it would begin separating families on a much larger scale, eventually separating more than 5,000 children from their parents or guardians at the border.
As the program rapidly drew international outrage in the summer of 2018, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen scoffed at the suggestion that the administration was separating families as a deterrent to asylum-seekers and migrants—but “Targeting El Paso” presents new evidence that it was doing just that.
“It aligned with my experience, in the times where we applied a consequence to people who cross the border illegally, we got less of them crossing the border illegally,” Ronald Vitiello, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), tells Frontline. “And so when zero tolerance is discussed as a way forward, we knew that it was going to be a benefit to us.”
“Targeting El Paso” will premiere on PBS stations on Tuesday evening.licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
“You’re Not a Dictator”: Lawmakers and Experts Inform Trump He Can’t Declare War via Tweet
“The Constitution doesn’t allow presidents to declare war over social media.”
By Eoin Higgins
Democratic lawmakers, anti-war advocates, and legal experts rebuked President Donald Trump after he announced on Twitter that he would be using the social media platform as the medium by which he would inform Congress of hypothetical, future military strikes against Iran.
“The Constitution doesn’t allow presidents to declare war over social media,” tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Caif.).
No. The Constitution doesn't allow presidents to declare war over social media.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 6, 2020
Khanna, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate, introduced a bill Friday to block funding for the president’s effort to continue the conflict with Iran which exploded on January 2 when Trump ordered a drone strike in Baghdad which killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.
“Congress must reassert its constitutional responsibility over war,” said Sanders. “The Senate and House must vote to immediately defund unauthorized military action against Iran.”
Trump announced Sunday that he would be making wartime declarations to Capitol Hill through Twitter.
“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” the president tweeted. “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who left the Republican Party last year over the president’s conduct, referred Trump to the constitutional limits of the presidency’s powers.
“Such legal notice was provided in 1789 but is given here again nevertheless,” tweeted Amash.
This Constitution of the United States of America will serve as notification to the president that should he order nondefensive strikes without congressional approval, he will be in violation of the law. Such legal notice was provided in 1789 but is given here again nevertheless. pic.twitter.com/ZzTDRbuDqf
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 6, 2020
The House Foreign Affairs Committee also hit back against the president Sunday afternoon. “This Media Post will serve as a reminder that war powers reside in the Congress under the United States Constitution,” the committee’s official account tweeted. “And that you should read the War Powers Act. And that you’re not a dictator.”Yale Law School professor Oona Hathaway pointed out that Trump’s declaration “threatens to break several laws” by not notifying Congress in a correct way, refusing to consult with lawmakers before taking military action, and claiming there is no requirement for notification. “That any of this has to be said suggests just how insane this situation has become,” said Hathaway.
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Iraqi Parliament Votes to Expel All American Troops and Submit UN Complaint Against US for Violation of Sovereignty
“What happened was a political assassination. Iraq cannot accept this.”
By Jake Johnson
Iraq’s parliament voted in an extraordinary session Sunday to expel all American troops from the country and file a United Nations complaint against the U.S. for violating Iraq’s sovereignty with its assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Ahead of the vote, chants of “No, no, America” rang out inside the hall.
“Iraq called on the U.N. Security Council to condemn the bombing and assassinations,” Iraq’s foreign ministry said in a statement following the vote.
Breaking: #Iraqi parliament votes for the withdrawal of all U.S forces and the "Global Coalition" from the country, & submit a complaint to the United Nations against the U.S for violating the sovereignty of Iraq. pic.twitter.com/Sb4oq4Zr81
— Mustafa Habib (@Mustafa_Habib33) January 5, 2020
As The National reported, the Iraqi parliament approved “a five-point action plan that would require the Iraqi government to end the presence of foreign troops in the country, and withdraw its request for assistance from the anti-ISIS global coalition.”
“Parliament also called on the government to ban the use of Iraqi airspace by any foreign power,” according to The National. The resolution still requires the approval of the Iraqi government.
The U.S. currently has around 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq.
Speaking before an extraordinary session of parliament Sunday, Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi recommended that the nation’s lawmakers approve a measure to end U.S. troop presence in “immediately” following the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
The prime minister’s remarks came before Iraqi lawmakers are set to vote on a resolution to end permission for American troops to remain in Iraq.
Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim summarized Mahdi’s recommendations:
“But I want the decision to be agreed by all therefore I put to the parliament two options. 1.ending the existence of these forces immediately and start the immediate arrangements for this” 2. Set a timeline for the departure of these forces” said Iraqi PM
— Mustafa Salim (@Mustafa_salimb) January 5, 2020
“I recommend the first option and keep the friendship between US and Iraq. It’s the interests of Iraq and US to Reorganize the relationship between both sides in a way keeps the sovereignty of Iraq” Iraqi PM said.
— Mustafa Salim (@Mustafa_salimb) January 5, 2020
The U.S. assassination Soleimani on Iraqi soil was met with fierce condemnation from Iraq’s foreign ministry and the prime minister, who called the drone strike a violation of the nation’s sovereignty.
“What happened was a political assassination,” Mahdi said. “Iraq cannot accept this.”
In a previously undisclosed detail one observer described as “stunning,” Mahdi said Soleimani was in Baghdad to meet with him about a Saudi request for dialogue to relieve tensions in the region—not, as the U.S. has claimed, to plan attacks against American forces.licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License