The legal case for drone strikes on Americans
“A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.”
Read the full article here.
On the face of it that doesn’t sound too bad. They’re al-Qaida after all and we know what they did to us. And there not “real” Americans if they’re over there in the Middle East running around with those guys, right? But the more you look into this the murkier and more ominous it gets.
These are after all American citizens being killed by the direct order of the President of the United States. The bases for this is a “white paper” issued by President Obama’s own lawyers; not even a formal legal brief. This was only released grudgingly after strong pressure from Congress. The wording is broad and flexible. So far as we know it is only being applied outside the US. For now. But what protects us from a “re-interpretation” later? Not much apparently.
US Judge Coleen McMahon is overseeing a lawsuit on this matter. "McMahon, describing herself as being caught in a “veritable Catch-22,” said she was unable to order the release of the documents given “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 while keeping the reasons for the conclusion a secret.”
"In her ruling, McMahon noted that administration officials “had engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens.” But, she wrote, they have done so “in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing … any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.”
While it may be possible to make a valid legal case for killing American citizens by the President of the United States in certain circumstances – that process must be open to public debate, agreement, and Congressional sanction. Otherwise we are back to the King saying, “off with his head”. This was founded as a nation of laws, not of men. That was one of our fundamental distinctions. Without it, no one is safe.
Read the white paper here.
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