Does The President Have the Power to Execute Americans Without Any Charges or Due Process?

Somebody has leaked a 16-page “white paper” (PDF) to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff. Prepared by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, it tries to justify President Obama’s claim that he has the power to target even Americans for assassination without due process. This is not the primary Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo justifying Obama’s kill list – that is still classified – but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

Glenn Greenwald:

This new memo is entitled: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”. It claims its conclusion is “reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen”. Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

According to the “white paper,” if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death. The paper states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US.”

What is “an imminent threat”? The paper expressly states that it is inventing “a broader concept of imminence” than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president’s assassination power “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack… will take place in the immediate future.”

Basically, the Obama administration has asserted the power to kill anyone (including American citizens) anywhere, for any reason (or no reason – how do we know, because the decision is secret?), anytime they want to. And they are claiming that this is constitutional and legal.

I’m encouraged that not all Americans are buying this outrageous claim. A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found 48 percent of Americans think it is illegal to “target US citizens living in other countries with drones,” while 24 percent think it is legal. But the same poll found majority approval for the use of drone attacks against “people and other targets deemed to be a threat to the US” whether carried out by the CIA or the military, as long as those targets are not American citizens.

Ever since George W. Bush took power as a “unitary executive,” it seems that federal law, our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been all been subject to repeal via secret OLC memos. Illegal government actions became routine, mostly carried out in secret but sometimes we find out about them. The Obama administration hasn’t done much if anything to restore the rule of law, and they have instituted an unprecedented crackdown on whistle-blowers.

The trend is toward more illegality and less transparency.

  1. #1 by brewski on February 10, 2013 - 5:11 pm

    Richard, apparently you didn’t get the memo from Cliff, Glendon, Shane, Becky, etc. You are not permitted to criticize Obama at all for any thing. If you do it only proves you are a racist. If you do not think that you are a racist then that is only more proof that you are since racists never see it in themselves. Cliff is going to delete your comments, edit your comments, or move them to the Troll Bucket if you keep this up. Also, the same memo you didn’t get also told you not to use facts, logic and consistency when criticizing any Democrat, and whenever possible, mention Fox News and Sarah Palin especially when they have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  2. #2 by cav on February 10, 2013 - 7:47 pm

    But, he’s our memo-rationalized, morally unhinged, death-dealing radical f*ck-head.

    Voters should read the job description a little more carefully. We’re not voting for the Pope here. Commander in Chief. This is Uh’merka! free and brave. Ride em.

  3. #3 by cav on February 11, 2013 - 9:40 am

    Drone-smoke a few American bankster baddies. Secs ‘O’ Def.

    That white paper’ll be drafted before you can say Occupy Wall Street.

  4. #4 by Richard Warnick on February 11, 2013 - 3:14 pm

    Somehow we fought every war in American history up to now without the President/CinC claiming the power to execute Americans without a shred of due process, just on his say-so or that of “an informed, high-level official.”

  5. #5 by brewski on February 11, 2013 - 3:31 pm

    In the Civil War there were a few hundred thousand US Citizens who were killed without due process. You might want to retake 7th grade history again.

    Where was their due process?
    http://jatticus.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/confederate_dead_at_alsop_farm-2300.jpg

  6. #6 by brewski on February 11, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    Marcus Wendel’s excellent Axis History Factbook notes that in 1940 there were five US citizens in the Waffen SS in May 1940 and at least eight Americans died in its service during the war.
    http://thepoormouth.blogspot.com/2006/06/americans-in-ss.html
    Think they got due process?

  7. #7 by brewski on February 11, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    Certainly there would have been many American-born Japanese who fought for Japan. Did they get due process?
    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900902&slug=1090957

  8. #8 by Larry Bergan on February 11, 2013 - 7:05 pm

    I have to say I’m disappointed in Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who wants to re-ban assault weapons, but has no problem with drones.

    In the completely staged hearings with John Brennen, Diane only had to allow American citizens with legitimate concerns to have a microphone. I’m positive they would have preferred not to shout:

    It always makes for a, seemingly, chaotic setting, when an otherwise comfortable and controlled atmosphere gets interrupted by people who are stifled in, “the greatest democracy on the face of the earth”, but I’m pretty sure it’s happened here before.

    Of course we all know that’s not the way things run in this country. The powerful get to do what they want without any input from the people with pink boots on the ground, on American soil.

    • #9 by Rondog on February 12, 2013 - 10:06 am

      Dude it’s cool, let her ban assault weapons so we cannot buy them here anymore. You have to look at the big picture…… Husain Obama is giving them away for free across the Mexican border and you can shoot border patrol agents with them and he won’t come after you for it. Husain Obama is a joke! He was a community organizer and became president, hell I was an Eagle Scout so I am at least 10x more qualified than that coward!

      • #10 by Cliff Lyon on February 12, 2013 - 11:09 am

        Ron,

        The President’s middle named is spelled Hussein I believe.

        I think it is important to note that community organizing in Chicago’s south side is hardly something for which Eagle Scout prepares one.

        Based on your assessment of the President as a “joke,” Im going to go way out on a limb and suggest that an ivy league education dont count for much in your world.

  9. #11 by Richard Warnick on February 11, 2013 - 7:42 pm

    brewski–

    Your attempted analogies with drone strikes on alleged al-Qaeda members (and their relatives and innocent bystanders) miss the mark, as I’m sure you know already. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this ground before.

    If you have a point you want to make, state it please.

  10. #12 by brewski on February 11, 2013 - 8:05 pm

    “Your attempted analogies with drone strikes on alleged al-Qaeda members (and their relatives and innocent bystanders) miss the mark,”

    Explain how.

  11. #13 by Richard Warnick on February 12, 2013 - 10:19 am

    Um, shooting combatants on a battlefield in a war zone is not the same as executing alleged members of an organization and non-combatant civilians in their homes, in a country with which we are not at war.

    And you have yet to explain the point you were trying to make, if any.

  12. #14 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 10:21 am

    Show me where is the “battlefield” of al Qaeda.

    My point is that your facts are wrong so your point was wrong, as always.

  13. #15 by cav on February 12, 2013 - 10:52 am

    It’s a death rattle Richard. Pay it no mind.

  14. #16 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 12:21 pm

    “an ivy league education dont count for much in your world.”

    Dont count for much? Really? Ever heard of subject-verb agreement?

    I have worked with enough Ivy leaguers to know for a fact that that in itself should not count for much in this world or any world. What counts is what you have done afterwards. You know, legislative accomplishments, management accomplishments, anything. I have not heard of any Obama Bill which solved any problem and he certainly has never managed anything.

    So if an Ivy League degree is all that it takes to earn your admiration, then you must love George W Bush.

    Score!

  15. #17 by Richard Warnick on February 12, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    I reject the Dick Cheney concept that the entire world is a battlefield for our endless war. It can’t be justified under any known legal system. It’s indistinguishable from terrorism, in fact. If you expand the concept to include other nations, then why can’t al-Qaeda fly armed drones in U.S. airspace and kill Americans?

  16. #18 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    How about downtown Manhattan?
    How about inside a US consular post?
    How about in an airplane?

  17. #19 by Richard Warnick on February 12, 2013 - 1:00 pm

    Nobody here has offered the progressive Touré defense of drone warfare. It can be summarized as follows: “I am not pro-drone. But I am pro killing those who are working to kill us.” It’s a position worthy of consideration, like the “bin Laden exception.”

    However, I like Chris Hayes’ answer to Touré (emphasis added):

    [W]ould you rather, I am often asked by supporters of the kill list, that we have boots on the ground, big expensive, destructive deadly disastrous land invasions of countries like the Iraq war? Isn’t the move from wars like Iraq to “surgical strikes” in Yemen precisely the kind of change we were promised?

    This narrow choice between big violence and smaller violence shows, I think, just how fully we have all implicitly adopted the conceptual framework of the War on Terror, how much George W. Bush’s advisers continue to set the terms of our thinking years after they’d been dispatched from office. Because that argument presupposes that we are at war and must continue to be at war until an ill-defined enemy is vanquished.

    What, people ask, is the alternative to small war, if not big war? And the answer no one ever seems to even consider is: no war. If the existence of people out in the world who are actively working to kill Americans means we are still at war, then it seems to me we will be at war forever, and will surrender control over whether that is the state we do in fact want to be in. There’s another alternative: we can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks.

  18. #20 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    “we can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks.”

    Apparently you missed this. It was in the news:

  19. #21 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 2:24 pm

    And this:

  20. #22 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    And this:

  21. #23 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 2:28 pm

    And this:

  22. #24 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 2:33 pm

    Yeah, Chris “I don’t shave” Hayes and Chris “I’ve never actually had a real job” Hayes, and Chris “Isn’t it great being 33 and getting to spout opinions on things I know nothing about” Hayes. He is Exhibit A on the sad joke that is MSNBC.

  23. #25 by Richard Warnick on February 12, 2013 - 2:47 pm

    brewski–

    We can tell you feel strongly about the so-called Global War on Terror. But what are your actual thoughts?

  24. #26 by brewski on February 12, 2013 - 4:47 pm

    My thoughts are that I feel strongly about facts and logic. To say that killing someone who by accident of birth and a total misreading of the constitution happens to be incorrectly technically considered an American citizen and has joined al qaeda and wants to kill you is any different than killing a member of the SS who was born in Milwaukee, is purely partisan. My thoughts are also that Chris Hayes doesn’t know shit about anything.

  25. #27 by Richard Warnick on February 12, 2013 - 10:32 pm

    brewski–

    You are assuming facts not in evidence. Our government never charged al-Awlaki (or his teenage son) with any crimes. They also executed another American without due process or any charges whatsoever. If these Americans are so dangerous, why not charge them, try them in absentia and revoke their citizenship?

    What would you say if another country that we are not at war with did what we’re doing in Pakistan? For example, what would you say if China used drones to kill Chinese dissidents in America?

    What would you say if the U.S. government targeted your home for a drone strike, based on (let’s assume for the sake of argument) erroneous information?

  26. #28 by brewski on February 13, 2013 - 9:26 am

    “You are assuming facts not in evidence. Our government never charged al-Awlaki (or his teenage son) with any crimes. ”
    This is not a criminal matter. If an American born in Milwaukee is in the SS and a B-17 drops a bomb on his head, we don’t need a bunch of lawyers to do it nor do we need to read him his Miranda rights and supply him with defense counsel.

    You still have not defined that “battlefield” for me. Where is it?
    How about downtown Manhattan?
    How about inside a US consular post?
    How about in an airplane?

  27. #29 by brewski on February 13, 2013 - 9:37 am

    “What would you say if the U.S. government targeted your home for a drone strike,”

    I have not declared war against the US.

    He did.

    “I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”
    — Mar. 17, 2010

    jihad: noun, (among Muslims) A war or struggle against unbelievers.

  28. #30 by Richard Warnick on February 13, 2013 - 5:18 pm

    By your logic, our government might as well try to kill 23% of the world’s population. Not my idea of strategy.

    Remember, the supposed aim of national defense is to make our nation safer, not instigate a perpetual war to benefit Pentagon contractors at the expense of ordinary Americans.

  29. #31 by brewski on February 13, 2013 - 7:13 pm

    You have direct quotes from 23% of the world’s population declaring war against the US? I’d like to see your list. This will take you some time. I will wait.

  30. #32 by Richard Warnick on February 14, 2013 - 8:01 am

    You’re ignoring Dick Cheney’s “1 percent doctrine.” The Pentagon contractors will be unhappy with you.

    Let’s look at it another way. Suppose I said that American foreign policy was wrong, and it was the duty of every patriot to oppose it. Should the government have me killed without due process?

  31. #33 by brewski on February 14, 2013 - 8:23 am

    I don’t know why you keep referring to Dick Cheney and defense contractors when I am referring to you and what you said.

  32. #34 by Richard Warnick on February 14, 2013 - 12:44 pm

    You’re not familiar with Dick Cheney’s “1 percent doctrine”? Hint: it has nothing to do with wealth inequality.

  33. #35 by brewski on February 14, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Has nothing to do with anything other than deflecting attention from your numerous upisdownism statements.

  34. #36 by Richard Warnick on February 14, 2013 - 5:37 pm

    It’s free entertainment for me to watch you defend President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional policy. This is an apparent exception to the general right-wing rule that says “If Obama is for it we’re against it.”

  35. #37 by brewski on February 14, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    It’s free entertainment for me to watch you never answer a single question I have ever asked you. Too tough for you?

    You still have not defined that “battlefield” for me. Where is it?
    How about downtown Manhattan?
    How about inside a US consular post?
    How about in an airplane?

    You have direct quotes from 23% of the world’s population declaring war against the US? I’d like to see your list. This will take you some time. I will wait.

  36. #38 by Richard Warnick on February 14, 2013 - 9:18 pm

    brewski–

    Your questions, like your misplaced loyalty to President Obama, are nonsensical.

  37. #39 by brewski on February 15, 2013 - 7:13 am

    No. Since they directly follow up on your points then it can only follow that your points were nonsensical. It was your points of the 23% of the world’s population and your point about the definition of battlefield. If you can’t answer those questions then you have proven how your points were nonsensical. Thank you for defeating yourself. You make this so easy for me. All I have to do is sit back and watch the car crash of your rhetorical implosion.

  38. #40 by Richard Warnick on February 15, 2013 - 9:50 am

    brewski–

    I can’t believe you are really in favor of extra-judicial executions of U.S. citizens. Of course, I can’t believe we have a President who has adopted that policy either.

    What makes America a world leader is not our military or economic strength relative to other nations. In the most profound analysis, it’s our ideals. If we abandon our own Constitution, then enemies will say the global admiration of America was based on a lie. And we lose our greatest advantage.

  39. #41 by Richard Warnick on February 15, 2013 - 1:08 pm

    Tom Tomorrow explains the Obama administration’s drone policy.

  40. #42 by brewski on February 15, 2013 - 2:06 pm

    I can’t believe you think that FDR was a war criminal.

  41. #43 by Larry Bergan on February 16, 2013 - 1:26 am

    Brewski:

    Weren’t you born in 1980? What does FDR or John Burch mean to you, anyway?

    I’m being facetious.

    I was born in 1952.

  42. #44 by brewski on February 17, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    It’s Birch.

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