Brian Ouellette was born on February 12, 1967, in Brighton, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 7, 1990, and completed basic training at NTC Orlando, Florida, in April 1990. Ouellette attended Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (Parachute Rigger) A School at NATTC Lakehurst, New Jersey, from April to July 1990, and then attended Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at NAB Coronado, California, from July 1990 to March 1991. He next attended Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in April and May 1991, followed by service with SEAL Team FOUR at NAB Little Creek, Virginia, from June 1991 to July 1995. During this time he deployed with Naval Special Warfare Unit EIGHT to the Panama Canal from January to June 1995. Petty Officer Ouellette attended language training at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, from July 1995 to February 1996, and then served with SEAL Team FOUR at NAB Little Creek from February 1996 to February 2003. His final assignment was with Naval Special Warfare Group TWO at NAB Little Creek from February 2003 until he was killed in action after his vehicle hit a land mine in Afghanistan on May 29, 2004. Brian Ouellette was buried at Saint Patricks Cemetery in Watertown, Massachusetts.
His Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Citation reads:
For meritorious service while serving as Special Activities Leading Petty Officer at Naval Special Warfare Group TWO from February 2003 to May 2004. Petty Officer Ouellette displayed exceptional leadership and tactical expertise in support of operational preparation of the Battlespace Activities. He provided highly valuable and time-sensitive intelligence while serving as a Special Operations Forces resident expert, coordinator and facilitator of Joint and Interagency Operations for the United States Ambassador of a critical country in the Global War on Terrorism. Petty Officer Ouellette’s professionalism and devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
The Obama Administration has fought for years to hide its legal rationale for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, after putting him on a secret kill list. Citizens have an interest in knowing whether the White House follows the law, especially when the stakes are as high as ending a life without due process. President Obama has fought to ensure his legal reasoning would never be revealed, a precedent that would help future presidents to kill without accountability.
His shortsightedness is breathtaking.
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration that, according to her legal analysis, the Freedom of Information Act couldn’t force a disclosure. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws,” she wrote, “while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”
The ongoing debate about the national-security state’s conduct drills down, for many participants, to this question: How much do you trust the people in charge? Do you believe they’ll reliably uphold the laws and norms of a free society? Or do you think that, permitted enough secrecy, they’ll break U.S. laws and violate rights?
For me, it isn’t a close call.
The United States needs protection from the people protecting it, always has, and always will. The character of the president isn’t the issue. Neither are the individuals running the FBI, CIA, NSA, JSOC, or the Department of Homeland Security. It wouldn’t matter if the national-security state was staffed from top to bottom with people I could hand select based on my esteem for their character.
Letting them operate in secret would still be dangerous.
That conclusion isn’t something I’ve derived in the abstract from political philosophy. The best reason to mistrust the national-security state is its track record. Abuses at the FBI, CIA, and NSA go back a long way, as any student of the J. Edgar Hoover era or the Church Committee report can attest in shocking detail. There’s no reason to think that generation was more prone to misbehave than ours. But one needn’t look to past generations to find good reasons for mistrust.