Obama Gives Himself Permission To Kill

After stonewalling for more than a year federal judges and
ordinary citizens who sought the revelation of its secret legal
research justifying the presidential use of drones to kill persons
overseas—even Americans—claiming the research was so sensitive and
so secret that it could not be revealed without serious
consequences, the government sent a summary of its legal memos to
an NBC newsroom earlier this week.This revelation will come as a great surprise, and not a little
annoyance, to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, who heard
many hours of oral argument during which the government predicted
gloom and doom if its legal research were subjected to public
scrutiny. She very reluctantly agreed with the feds, but told them
she felt caught in “a veritable Catch-22,” because the feds have
created “a 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 their
conclusion a secret.”She was writing about President Obama killing Americans and
refusing to divulge the legal basis for claiming the right to do
so. Now we know that basis.The undated and unsigned 16-page document leaked to NBC refers
to itself as a Department of Justice white paper. Its logic is
flawed, its premises are bereft of any appreciation for the values
of the Declaration of Independence and the supremacy of the
Constitution, and its rationale could be used to justify any
breaking of any law by any “informed, high-level official of the
U.S. government.”The quoted phrase is extracted from the memo, which claims that
the law reposes into the hands of any unnamed “high-level
official,” not necessarily the president, the lawful power to
decide when to suspend constitutional protections guaranteed to all
persons and kill them without any due process whatsoever. This is
the power claimed by kings and tyrants. It is the power most
repugnant to American values. It is the power we have arguably
fought countless wars to prevent from arriving here. Now, under
Obama, it is here.This came to a boiling point when Obama dispatched CIA drones to
kill New Mexico-born and al-Qaida-affiliated Anwar al-Awlaki while
he was riding in a car in a desert in Yemen in September 2011. A
follow-up drone, also dispatched by Obama, killed Awlaki’s
16-year-old Colorado-born son and his American friend. Awlaki’s
American father sued the president in federal court in Washington,
D.C., trying to prevent the killing. Justice Department lawyers
persuaded a judge that the president always follows the law, and
besides, without any evidence of presidential law breaking, the
elder Awlaki had no case against the president. Within three months
of that ruling, the president dispatched his drones and the Awlakis
were dead. This spawned follow-up lawsuits, in one of which McMahon
gave her reluctant ruling.Then the white paper appeared. It claims that if an American is
likely to trigger the use of force 10,000 miles from here, and he
can’t easily be arrested, he can be murdered with impunity. This
notwithstanding state and federal laws that expressly prohibit
non-judicial killing, an executive order signed by every president
from Gerald Ford to Obama prohibiting American officials from
participating in assassinations, the absence of a declaration of
war against Yemen, treaties expressly prohibiting this type of
killing, and the language of the Declaration, which guarantees the
right to live, and the Constitution, which requires a jury trial
before the government can deny that right.The president cannot lawfully order the killing of anyone,
except according to the Constitution and federal law. Under the
Constitution, he can only order killing using the military when the
U.S. has been attacked or when an attack is so imminent that delay
would cost innocent lives. He can also order killing using the
military in pursuit of a declaration of war enacted by
Congress.Unless Obama knows that an attack from Yemen on our shores is
imminent, he’d be hard-pressed to argue that a guy in a car in the
desert 10,000 miles from here—no matter his intentions—poses a
threat so imminent to the U.S. that he needs to be killed on the
spot in order to save the lives of Americans who would surely die
during the time it would take to declare war on the country that
harbors him, or during the time it would take to arrest him. Under
no lawful circumstances may he use CIA agents for killing. Surely,
CIA agents can use deadly force defensively to protect themselves
and their assets, but they may not use it offensively. Federal laws
against murder apply to the president and to all federal agents and
personnel in their official capacities, wherever they go on the
planet.Obama has argued that he can kill Americans whose deaths he
believes will keep us all safer, without any due process
whatsoever. No law authorizes that. His attorney general has argued
that the president’s careful consideration of each target and the
narrow use of deadly force are an adequate and constitutional
substitute for due process. No court has ever approved that. And
his national security adviser has argued that the use of drones is
humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. We
know that is incorrect, as the folks who monitor all this say that
11 percent to 17 percent of the 2,300 drone-caused deaths have been
those of innocent bystanders.Did you consent to a government that can kill whom it wishes?
How about one that plays tricks on federal judges? How long will it
be before the presidential killing comes home?


Obama Gives Himself Permission To Kill

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