The administration’s legal justification for drone strikes, outlined in a Justice Department paper that became public Monday night, states that an “informed, high-level official” can approve a strike against an Al Qaeda official, including an American citizen, even without evidence that the targeted person is planning a specific operation.”
“An ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require … clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” says the policy paper [...] [T]he paper says a capture operation can be ruled out by a determination that the risk to American troops is too great. In almost every case, such operations have in fact been ruled out, U.S. officials say. [...]
But the broad authority asserted in the paper to kill Al Qaeda figures even when they have not been tied to an impending attack contrasts with the narrow way the drone strike program has been described by administration officials. [...] The policy paper makes it clear, however, that the U.S. doesn’t need evidence tying a militant to a specific plot to mark him for death. [...]
The decision to order a lethal strike falls either to the president or his designee, an “informed, high-level official,” in the words of the paper. No court or third party has a right to review it, the paper says.
“The administration’s concept of ‘imminent threat’ appears to require neither imminence nor a specific threat,” said C. Dixon Osburn, director of Human Rights First, a Washington activist group. “Accepted principles of international law require both.”
After I posted Mark Karlin’s The U.S. is “now a nation where a handful of people decide who shall live and who shall die” along with a video from the Rachel Maddow Show in which she reacts to the newly revealed “white paper” memo from the Obama administration, I experienced a Moment of “Here we go again.” I was immediately labeled an “emo-prog“:
A tag dreamt up by self-proclaimed liberals to preemptively blunt any criticism of Obama, even when the same standards were applied to actions undertaken by the previous President.
Apparently questioning the authority of a president– no matter who he is– when it comes to secrecy and using drones to kill Americans is very emo-proggy. And apparently, the people who use that infantile term don’t like to answer questions like, “What if a President Paul Ryan were to have these same powers? Whose to say the powers wouldn’t be abused?” or, “Consider how you’d feel if you were to substitute the name Bush for Obama.”
Instead they insist that we should trust President Obama because he means well and is intelligent and caring– which he is, but that’s irrelevant. Under his watch, these drone attacks are still occurring, so no matter how great a guy he is, there are legal and moral issues to consider.
There are also really, really bad precedents to consider.
These same Obama supporters also refuse to respond to my link to this: AUDIO: President Obama literally asked us to “hold him accountable.”
My point: It is okay, mandatory in fact, to question authority, especially when that authority invites you to hold him accountable. Especially when deliberately killing Americans is involved. Especially when Congress isn’t. Again, the Times:
… an “informed, high-level official” can approve a strike against an Al Qaeda official, including an American citizen, even without evidence that the targeted person is planning a specific operation…
…The decision to order a lethal strike falls either to the president or his designee, an “informed, high-level official,” in the words of the paper. No court or third party has a right to review it…
Here is more analysis and a lot of questions from Rachel, including questions about the president’s choice of John Brennan to be the next CIA director:
“These things are based on facts. Facts that I cannot tell you. So I cannot reference them because I cannot tell you them, but they are facts.”
“Right. Exactly. They go into how you conduct your offensive operations. That’s the thing we want to know about.”
“Now a bipartisan group of 11 U.S. Senators has written to President Obama asking him to release what is still secret about why the administration and the president think that it is legal to kill Americans this way. Quote: ‘It is vitally for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined and whether the president’s power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards.‘”
The issue here is who’s a bad guy and how do you figure it out? If this is the means by which we’re going to decide not that you’re going to be arrested and tried, but the means by which we will decide whether the president can order you dead, then on what basis is the president making that decision? How do they determine who is a bad guy? Or as Oregon Senator Ron Wyden put it in a question, a written question to the president’s CIA nominee John Brennan, ‘How much evidence does the president need to determine that a particular American can be lawfully killed?‘”
“Following naturally on from that, and this is the one that keeps me up at night, does the president have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender before killing them?”
“If you’re an American citizen and the president is going to kill you, do you have the right to give yourself up instead so you don’t get killed? And how do you know you should do that if the president’s decision that he is going to kill you is a secret decision that nobody ever tells you? And are we right also in only imagining this kind of thing happening in places like Yemen or Pakistan”
Quoting again from Senator Wyden here, ‘Are there any geographic limitations on the intelligence community’s authority to use lethal force against Americans? Do any intelligence agencies have the authority to carry out lethal operations inside the United States?’ Good question.”