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Two-thirds of Central Coast, Southern CA beaches could be destroyed by 2100, report warns

Charlie Guese

Original story here

A new state report says rising ocean waters as a result of climate change will destroy two-thirds of the Central Coast's beaches by the end of the century, among many other alarming predictions.

The California Natural Resources Agency released its Fourth Climate Change Assessment on Monday, drawing evidence-based predictions on the growing climate problems the state faces between now and the year 2100. The report compiled the findings of 44 different technical reports from the state's top researchers. The last Climate Change Assessment was released in 2012.

The report estimated that up to 67% of beaches on the Central Coast and in Southern California could completely erode by 2100 without human intervention, resulting in $17.9 billion in coastal property damage. By 2100, flooding could displace 12,000 people in Santa Barbara County alone and damage $2.4 billion in property.

The assessment said coastal communities on the Central Coast aren't at the highest risk compared to Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, but many low-lying coastal areas are still at risk of destruction caused by sea level rise, including the Santa Barbara coast, the Five Cities, Los Osos and Morro Bay.

"In response to climate forcing, many sandy beaches in the region are expected to become narrower, steeper, and coarser, and once continuous stretches of sandy beach will be interrupted by submerged coast or drowned beaches," according to the report.

The report also identified problems with California wildfires that are growing larger. The Natural Resources Agency said if greenhouse gases continue to rise, one study estimated that future wildfires could increase in size by 77%. Extreme wildfires burning 25,000 acres or more could become 50% more likely to happen. The cost of wildfire insurance in fire-prone areas could increase by 18% by 2055. 

The report singled out the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides in a case study as a possible sign of even worse fires and disasters that are yet to come.

"(T)here remains a high likelihood that large, high severity fires will continue to occur for the next decades throughout this region," the report stated.

The Fourth Climate Change Assessment also addressed potential problems the Central Coast will face with water resources. Researchers predicted that demand for agricultural water use will increase as rainfall patterns change.

The report did not only outline climate problems. Authors found broad, wide-ranging policy recommendations that could mitigate some of these problems, including more water recycling, elevating streets and bridges, and moving critical energy and transportation infrastructure away from flood-prone and fire-prone areas. More specific solutions are expected to be found in another report scheduled for release in September.

Protest takes place following release of video showing inmate's death

Charlie Guese

Original story here

Release of a video purportedly showing the death of an inmate at the San Luis Obispo County Jail has triggered calls for a new sheriff and district attorney. The video has also reopened wounds for inmate Andrew Holland's family.

"As we've watched this go forward, the chair is an instrument, the tool that killed our son," said Carty Holland, the father of Andrew Holland. "You can have the chair, I suppose, I don't see the need for the chair with the staff, but one thing that you have to change is the mentality of how you treat people."

The parents of Andrew Holland spoke on camera for the first time since the video's release on Friday. The video, obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, appears to show the final hours of Holland's life. The Atascadero man, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in jail in January 2017 after being tied to a chair for 46 hours. The coroner declared his death a result of natural causes because of an intrapulmonary embolism, or more commonly known as a blood clot. Blood clots can happen from prolonged period of sitting.

Holland was initially booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail in September 2015. The Sheriff's Office said Holland was charged with resisting arrest with force, battery on a police officer, battery and violating probation, among other charges.

KSBY News has not obtained the video of Holland's death nor has the county officially released it despite a public records request in July.

The Holland family settled with the county in July, accepting a $5 million settlement. The county also announced changes in jail protocol in order to try to prevent situations similar to Holland's from happening again.

"We'd like to put it all behind us," said Sharon Holland, Andrew's mother, "but we don't want to put behind the change and what could come out of his death."

The Holland family has become vocal supporters of Mike Cummins, who is hoping to unseat District Attorney Dan Dow. The family is also backing Gregory Clayton, who is contesting Ian Parkinson in the sheriff's race in June.

The Holland family is calling on District Attorney Dan Dow to start an investigation. As of Friday, the FBI's investigation into the death of Andrew Holland remains open. The FBI will decide whether criminal or civil rights charges should be filed against the jail.

Protesters gathered outside the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Saturday, calling for Dow and Parkinson's resignations.

"You can see them (sheriff's deputies at the jail) laughing on the footage, which is despicable," said Tarrah Graves, the co-chair for the San Luis Obispo County Progressives Club. "The fact that those are the people who are in charge of caretaking people's lives while they're at their most vulnerable as prisoners is unacceptable."

Several human rights groups and other activists organized the demonstration. The activists claim that the video contradicts statements from the Sheriff's Office immediately following Holland's death.

In a demonstration of solitude, volunteers are sitting in a chair outside the courthouse and will continue until 46 hours have passed - the same amount of time Holland spent in a restraint chair.

"The video is important because without the video, we could just be a family that is upset that a loved one died," said Corban Holland, the older brother of Andrew Holland, who spoke to the crowd of protesters on Saturday.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon also attended Saturday's rally, calling on Sheriff Ian Parkinson to step aside in his reelection bid.

Saturday afternoon, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office released a statement seemingly placing the blame for what happened to Holland on the Mental Health Department.

"The Sheriff’s Office contacted County Mental Health multiple times requesting that Mr. Holland be transferred to the Mental Health facility for treatment.  The Mental Health Department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at “capacity.” It was later determined that their claim was untrue and Mental Health could have taken custody of Mr. Holland for treatment," the statement said. "The Sheriff's Office had no alternative other than to place Mr. Holland in restraints."

In November, records obtained by KSBY News from County Mental Health showed that the Psychiatric Health Facility was full. The records show only 16 beds to treat patients coming from hospitals and the jail.

"Many people had different pieces of information, and we didn't all collectively have the same information," said Behavioral Health Administrator Anne Robin in an interview that aired on November 20. "That's where some communication broke down to really facilitate what might have been a different process that weekend."

Robin also said that since Holland's death, the process to transfer inmates into the mental health facility has been expedited.

Ways to get around the Highway 101 closure

Charlie Guese

Original story here

Caltrans says that Highway 101 will be closed between Santa Barbara and Ventura indefinitely, making travel difficult for many people. Approximately 95,000 cars pass through this section of the busy freeway on a normal day, so the closure is forcing people to look for other ways to get around. Here are some ways to get around the closure by car, train, ferry or plane.

It is an important reminder that drivers cannot currently get around the closure by taking Highway 192 or other side streets through Montecito. The area is not only still under a mandatory evacuation warning, but more than 2,000 personnel are also still searching for survivors and victims while the cleanup efforts could take months.


  • Highway 46 to Interstate 5: Drivers can take Highway 46 east from Paso Robles to meet up with Interstate 5 southbound in the Central Valley. While Highway 46 is a two-lane road for most of this route, it follows a mostly straight path and is an easier drive than other alternatives.
    • Drive time from downtown Santa Barbara to downtown Los Angeles in light traffic: approximately 5 hours 9 minutes, according to Google Maps.
  • Highway 166 to Interstate 5: Caltrans initially recommended using Highway 166 from Santa Maria east to meet up with Interstate 5 north of the Grapevine, and many drivers may still be tempted to use the relatively shorter detour. However, the influx of traffic and drivers who are unfamiliar with the territory has made this route much more precarious. Highway 166 slows as it winds through the Sierra Madre Mountains and is even slower with more drivers. At least one driver had to be taken to the hospital by helicopter following a crash involving a semi truck on Thursday night.
    • Drive time from downtown Santa Barbara to downtown Los Angeles in light traffic: approximately 4 hours 15 minutes, according to Google Maps.
  • Highway 58 to Interstate 5: This route is possible, though it has not been one that Caltrans has suggested. Highway 58 from Santa Margarita to the Carrizo Plain is also a precipitous drive. Much of it is closed to truck traffic.
    • Drive time from downtown Santa Barbara to downtown Los Angeles in light traffic: approximately 5 hours 35 minutes, according to Google Maps.
  • Check Caltrans' website for new information.


  • Amtrak: Amtrak was able to clear tracks and resume service somewhat quickly. Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains are back to normal schedules as of Thursday. Trains are running at reduced speeds in some areas, so minor delays can happen. Check the Pacific Surfliner Twitter for updates. Amtrak is reporting much higher passenger loads on trains and is planning to add more train cars when possible.
    • Train travel time from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles Union Station: 2 hours 46 minutes.
    • Cost: one-way value adult tickets for next-day travel cost $31, according to Amtrak's website
  • Amtrak bus service is suspended between Santa Barbara and Oxnard.


  • Island Packers and Condor Express: The two ferry companies are cooperating to offer additional service between Santa Barbara Harbor and Ventura Harbor during the Highway 101 closure.
    • Ferry travel time: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. The boats make 3-4 roundtrips everyday through at least Monday.
    • Cost: $32 one way. Tickets can be booked both ways from the Island Packers and Condor Express websites.


  • Commercial aviation: Santa Barbara Airport has been running under normal operations ever since the catastrophe. United Express flies between SBA and LAX each way three times a day on weekends and four times a day during the week. Book travel on the United website.
    • Flying travel time: 1 hour 5 minutes.
    • Cost: as of Saturday afternoon, tickets for Sunday nonstop travel cost $220 one way.

Thomas Fire now 155,000 acres, 15% contained

Charlie Guese

Thomas Fire.jpg

Link to original story

Thousands of firefighters face a tough battle as the Thomas Fire continues to burn in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

The Ventura County Fire Department said that the Thomas Fire has burned 155,000 acres as of 7 p.m. Saturday. 710 structures have been destroyed and 15,000 remain threatened. On Saturday, flames carried into Santa Barbara County, burning sections of the Los Padres National Forest. Public access to the forest has been closed off.

"The area that we had the most activity is in the northern part of the Los Padres National Forest, and we do continue to get a push on the north north west direction," said Public Information Officer Israel Pinzon.

Forecasts show 20-30 mph sustained winds Saturday night into Sunday morning in the fire zone with gusts up to 50 mph.

"This is a very cavernous area with different valleys and different, natural wind phenomena that occur during different times of the day," said Public Information Officer Brice Bennett. "It's anybody's bet which direction the fire is going."

Many residents are still evacuated from their homes. Click here for evacuation information from Cal Fire.

Santa Barbara City College will remain closed Sunday and Monday. Administrators plan to resume classes on Tuesday. At Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, where the fire reached the campus' perimeter, students will be able to collect personal belongings Sunday. Final exams have been canceled.

All schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District and the Goleta Union School District will be closed on Monday. The Carpinteria Unified School District is closed until Wednesday.

Amtrak said service will resume on the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains Sunday. Trains will not stop in Santa Barbara as the station remains closed. Amtrak will not provide alternate transportation for passengers to and from Santa Barbara.

Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties along with other counties for other wildfires.

"We're facing a new reality in the state where fires threaten people's lives, their property, their neighborhoods, and of course, billions of billions of dollars," Brown said as he toured destroyed neighborhoods in Ventura. "We have to have the resources to combat the fires, and we have to also invest in managing vegetation and forests."

The Thomas Fire is the largest single wildfire in the State of California this year in terms of total acreage.

Changing channels, crossing borders: national narratives and cosmopolitan identity in 24-hour English language international news channels from non-Anglophone countries

Charlie Guese

Communication Thesis Project

Saint Mary's College of California

May 2015

Thesis adviser: Ellen Rigsby PhD


This study analyzes the four largest 24-hour English language international news channels from non-Anglophone countries that broadcast to foreign audiences. 30-minute newscasts from each channel were quantitatively measured for the amount of airtime allotted to each story in the newscast, and the structure of each newscast was analyzed. Items of the newscast were then grouped into thematic collections of story topic and analyzed through qualitative content analysis. This process analyzed nine protocols, seven of which are used verbatim from a previous study (Gerhards & Schäfer 2014) with two additional protocols: whether the narrative of the news channel country of origin is represented or challenged and to what extent the topic is viewed with a transnational or universal frame of moral and political negotiations. The study finds that national narratives are present in the more nationally-focused broadcasters France 24 and RT International (formerly Russia Today), while pan-regional Qatar-based Al Jazeera English and European Union-funded Euronews downplay national narratives. All four channels of varying degrees synthesize world news from around the globe in order to construct a cosmopolitan understanding of international affairs for a global citizen viewer. 

Saint Mary’s wins appeal for intramural lights

Charlie Guese

Photo by Charlie Guese

Photo by Charlie Guese

Originally published in The Collegian

In another late marathon Moraga Town Council meeting on Wednesday, the five member council unanimously upheld the Saint Mary’s appeal requesting to operate the lights on the intramural field until 10 p.m. under certain conditions.

Under the appeal submitted by Saint Mary’s, the College will now retrofit the existing lights by building hood devices around them to reduce glare, as well as build three new light poles while disabling one tier of lights on the existing two-tiered poles. Saint Mary’s will be allowed to operate the field until 10 p.m. for a maximum of 305 days per year. The approved resolution also requires the College to address the use of profanity on the field, as well as provide open channels for residents to file any glare or noise complaints. Once Saint Mary’s has finished construction and starts operating the field until 10 p.m., the College will then engage in dialogue with Town Council evaluating the field framework on a yearly basis, according to Town Councilmembers during Wednesday’s meeting.

The debate over one hour of field light operation has been years in the making, though this week’s decision is one that is likely a relief for Saint Mary’s administrators and one that signifies improving relations between the College and the town of Moraga. Speaking to the council on Wednesday, College President James Donahue offered his personal word that the College would be held accountable for its actions — a strong move that ultimately influenced the council.

“When I took over the presidency of Saint Mary’s College a year and a half ago, I made it really clear that one of my primary goals was fostering and developing positive and constructive relationships between Saint Mary’s College and the town of Moraga,” Donahue said. “It has been, continues to be, and will be one of my highest priorities. Part of that is making sure that we have the trust between us, our residents, and our neighbors to make the compromises necessary to achieve and find that mutual goals are possible.”

Residents’ reactions to Donahue’s appellant speech were mixed, with a smaller number of residents speaking during the following public comment period compared to two years ago, and Associated Students President Hope Blain was the only student speaking this time. Many residents expressed negative reactions to the lights, though several also showed optimism at the College being able to keep its word on its promises.

Town Council deliberated for an extended period of time while periodically calling up the College president for clarifications before ultimately upholding the appeal unanimously. During this process, Vice Mayor Michael Metcalf gave an impromptu 13-minute speech on town and College relations.

“Do you know how sad it is to listen to personal attacks from Moragans on the president of the College? It’s disgusting. I’m embarrassed,” said Metcalf. “If we don’t allow this appeal, what incentive does the College have to do anything with those lights that they have? What incentive? None.”

In 2011, anticipating less field space to prepare for the construction of the Alioto Recreation Center, Saint Mary’s sought and acquired the necessary permits to construct an intramural soccer field and light poles adjacent to the former football field at the edge of campus.

The field opened at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year with a 10 p.m. shutoff time, though once the lights turned on, residents living primarily in the subdivisions along Bollinger Canyon Road began complaining to both the College and the town. A Planning Commission meeting in October 2012 directed Saint Mary’s to reduce the operation hours of the field to 9 p.m., among other restrictions. In a 3-2 decision in a nearly four-hour-long debate among the town’s and the College’s most passionate voices, the Town Council denied Saint Mary’s appeal of the Planning Commission decision in March 2013, though the council left room for Saint Mary’s to appeal at a later date, which happened on Wednesday.

Charlie Hebdo editorial: Conflating the message that comes with free speech

Charlie Guese

Charlie Hebdo has developed a reputation in France for publishing eye-grabbing cartoons. (Charlie Hebdo)

Charlie Hebdo has developed a reputation in France for publishing eye-grabbing cartoons. (Charlie Hebdo)

Originally published in The Collegian

Millions in Paris and around the world this week are marching in solidarity with the victims of the Islamist extremist attacks in Paris surrounding the satirical Charlie Hebdo newsmagazine. The two gunmen killed 12 people on Wednesday, including several high profile Charlie Hebdo staff. The attacks are deplorable and tragic in painting a dark cloud over France.

Those marching have come to the defense of Charlie Hebdo, preaching the virtues of free speech in an open society. These people are absolutely right — supporting press freedom and others’ rights to express themselves are noble causes and essential to a healthy society. It’s also important to recognize the nuances between a message and the freedom that is used to communicate it. Through discussion of the Charlie Hebdo attack, many critics have conflated Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of speech with rather tasteless and anti-Islamic messages draped on its front pages, even celebrating the criticism of Islam.

This is problematic in that anti-Islamic rhetoric only continues to fuel the work of radicals, pushing all of us to greater and greater extremes. “Vengeance and hatred directed at Muslims as a whole serves Islamic fundamentalists well,” wrote Owen Jones in the Guardian. “They want Muslims to feel hated, targeted and discriminated against, because it increases the potential well of support for their cause.”

Muslims are an already oppressed and targeted minority in France, and it’s a troubling precedent to blend free speech championing while dismissing the many crass attacks against Muslims throughout Western media. As crowds are marching in support of the freedom of speech, thousands were also marching in Berlin at an anti-Muslim march on Monday. Would we as Americans march in solidarity of free speech if it were a cartoon of the Holocaust or the World Trade Center on 9/11? Is crude satire only acceptable if you’re not personally offended?

Lastly, ever since the First Republic in 1791, France has long held a tradition of valuing liberty and free speech, so it’s not so much of a surprise to see the French marching in record numbers on Sunday. Though I wonder about those who are championing press freedom today on this side of the Atlantic and where they were as the U.S. government was condemning whistleblower Edward Snowden and the journalists who published his documents, when Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. While the French public was rightfully critical of the revelation of the many NSA spying programs, the American public and U.S. media were not filled with the same bravado and fearlessness then as they are today.

As long as free societies continue to exist, the media and the public will never cease grappling over how far freedom of speech can go or what messages are or aren’t objectionable.

Where Saint Mary’s stands compared to White House sexual assault task force

Charlie Guese

Campus protests at Saint Mary’s led to a regular Out the Hate rally, including the one from 2013 pictured above (Andrew Nguyen/COLLEGIAN, file)

Campus protests at Saint Mary’s led to a regular Out the Hate rally, including the one from 2013 pictured above (Andrew Nguyen/COLLEGIAN, file)

Originally published in The Collegian

Sexual assault is not an easily approachable topic. It is oftentimes difficult to address sexual assault among peers or loved ones on an individual level, and it is so difficult of a topic for colleges that consultants have encouraged several of them, including Princeton, to ‘rebrand rape’ under the far less severe but more confusing term ‘nonconsensual sex.’

So when sexual assault reaches the attention of the national spotlight at the White House, it makes headlines. Following the Obama administration’s creation of a special task force responding to mounting concerns nationwide over campus safety, the Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault released a report on Apr. 29 providing guidelines for colleges and universities in effectively responding to sexual assault.

The 20-page report recommends that all colleges conduct campus climate surveys in order to determine campus safety, engaging men to help in preventing sexual assault, proper administrative response in handling a student who is sexually assaulted, and greater transparency and enforcement in sexual assault investigations. The U.S. Department of Education also publicly released on May 1 a list of 55 higher education institutions that are currently under investigation for possible Title IX violations in improperly responding to reports of sexual violence and harassment. University of California Berkeley, University of Southern California, Harvard, Amherst, and Catholic University are all currently under investigation. No Lasallian college, including Saint Mary’s, is on the same list.

After years of activist lobbying and grassroots movements, problems with sexual assault procedures on college campuses have reached the frontlines of national conversation. But how does Saint Mary’s College compare to other colleges?

Saint Mary’s faced public scrutiny of the mishandling of several reported rapes throughout the mid- to late-1990s. In early 2001, Saint Mary’s administration found a 24-year-old male student guilty of raping a 21-year-old female student and was expelled, only for the victim to find out that the perpetrator’s sanction had been reduced to only a suspension. This specific case reached a crescendo of student outrage with a hunger strike, resulting in across-the-board changes in internal Saint Mary’s procedures, hard-line sanctions for students found guilty of sexual assault, clarification of the College’s definition of sexual assault, and the permanent creation of a director of the Women’s Resource Center in July 2001, among other changes.

In an interview with Gillian Cutshaw, the coordinator of sexual assault awareness, outreach, and education at the Women’s Resource Center, Saint Mary’s appears to have adjusted its policies and attitudes far beyond what the White House is asking other colleges to only begin considering now. Not only are all official College documents in universal agreement with using the term ‘sexual assault’ and its definition, but strict sanctions of expulsion for any student found in violation of the sexual assault policies have also been implemented.

As a confidential resource, Cutshaw could not share specific details, but she did say that of the students who report sexual violence and ultimately choose to begin a formal hearing in front of the Disciplinary Hearing Board, most of them usually see a resolution within a few weeks. Cutshaw also said that Saint Mary’s is ahead of the Task Force’s report in that the College already conducts a campus climate report every two years, where students can anonymously report crimes that are not necessarily quantifiable in Clery crime statistics. The next Saint Mary’s campus climate survey is scheduled for 2016, though it is considering conducting another one next year in light of the Task Force’s recommendations, according to Cutshaw. She also cited Saint Mary’s robust confidentiality system, a feature that many other colleges lack, as a means of being more accessible to victims. A 24/7 support hotline at (925) 878-9207 is available for all students to report any potential cases of sexual violence.

“One of the things about Saint Mary’s that I think gives us this step-up is that we have an administration that is very committed to supporting survivors on campus and to being in compliance with Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Clery Act,” Cutshaw said. “We know our stuff, and we really care about making sure that we’re survivor-centered.”

Saint Mary’s sexual assault policies have undergone a transformation from where they were over a decade ago. The disturbing fact remains that sexual assault will continue to exist as long as the culture of rape remains, but the open, national dialogue gives hope that students can and have made a difference in how colleges consider handling sexual assault, including Saint Mary’s.

“I think that we can really look back and thank student activists for [these changes],” Cutshaw said. “Sometimes, I think that’s what it takes on these universities. It takes a lot of people pointing out that something is wrong before action gets done. I think for us, we happen to just be in that boat ten years earlier than all these other colleges that we’re seeing. We’ve had a lot of time to really focus our efforts and move forward in a way that I think has been very positive.”

Editorial: Leon Panetta’s undergraduate speech poses questions

Charlie Guese

Leon Panetta served as Secretary of Defense when a U.S. citizen was killed by a drone attack and was denied due process. (Courtesy of AP, file).

Leon Panetta served as Secretary of Defense when a U.S. citizen was killed by a drone attack and was denied due process. (Courtesy of AP, file).

Originally published in The Collegian

Imagine the excitement of Saint Mary’s administrators at securing former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta to speak at the undergraduate commencement next month. Saint Mary’s should, in fact, see this as a coup, for they have now joined many other colleges and universities in seeking speakers with a big name and a high profile to give the one final lesson at commencement. Panetta is perhaps one of the biggest names to have delivered the commencement address in Moraga in recent history. With that said, as much of a success it is in getting a former Cabinet member to speak at commencement, the selection of Panetta raises some serious questions about what sort of message administrators think Panetta will give to graduating seniors.

The Saint Mary’s press release, which presents a kind, Botox-level puffed-up version of Panetta’s background, says that Panetta’s career “reflects a lifetime commitment to the highest ideals of the nation.” I suppose this might be true if the Obama administration’s comprehensive targeted killing drone policies, of which Panetta was an architect and defendant, are included in one’s definition of American ideals.

In September 2011, purported Islamist militant Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a CIA-led drone attack in northern Yemen. al-Awlaki had extremist views, andquestionable evidence suggested that al-Awlaki posed a threat to the United States, though he was a U.S. citizen who was denied due process and was not allowed to face any of the charges against him, partly because the Obama administration never filed charges or presented any formal evidence against him that he was a national threat.

Even worse is that al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Denver-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also killed in a drone attack two weeks later. No evidence supports that al-Awlaki’s son had any ties to terrorism whatsoever, and anonymous senior Obama officials have been quoted as saying that Abdulrahman’s killing was a “mistake.” The Obama administration has never made any public comment about Abdulrahman’s killing, nor has Panetta. However, when asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett about the legal justification for killing Anwar al-Awklaki, Panetta gave an answer that would make Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld proud:

“This individual was clearly a terrorist. And yes, he was a citizen, but if you’re a terrorist, you’re a terrorist. And that means that we have the ability to go after those who would threaten to attack the United States and kill Americans. There’s no question that the authority and the ability to go after a terrorist is there,” Panetta said.

Throughout Panetta’s career at the CIA and Department of Defense, he has provided dubious legal justification for authorized executive killings in which President Obama is the judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who is labeled a “terrorist” by the U.S. government. In other words, a U.S. citizen has no constitutional rights once his or her government declares him or her a “terrorist”—whatever that may signify. Journalist Glenn Greenwald provides an analysis even sharper than I ever could:

“Here we have the U.S. Defense Secretary, life-long Democrat Leon Panetta, telling you as clearly as he can that this is exactly the operating premise of the administration in which he serves: once the President accuses you of being a Terrorist, a decision made in secret and with no checks or due process, we can do anything we want to you, including executing you wherever we find you.”

I should iterate that I firmly believe almost anyone has a right to speak on this campus. Many controversial speakers have spoken at Saint Mary’s, including Bill Ayers of Weather Underground fame (ironically an organization that has often been called a terrorist group), and on a different scale, after the Starting Six cancellation last year, this newspaper even raised the question of what precedent is set when individuals or groups are invited or uninvited to campus. With that said, I am curious to hear what sort of message Mr. Panetta will offer to the graduating class next month, as well as what sort of message Saint Mary’s hopes its students will get out of him. Panetta’s career has included a signature doctrine of draconian and authoritarian drone policies that prioritize killing targeted individuals and the innocent civilians around them over due justice. It seems to me that such policies are unharmonious with the Catholic mission of Saint Mary’s, which claims to place its priorities on human life and social justice. Does Saint Mary’s selection of Panetta mean that Panetta embodies the mission of Saint Mary’s and is a good selection for the final lesson to its students at commencement? Or is the selection of Panetta merely another way to promote the perpetually image-conscious College as being able to attract a high profile name for its commencement?