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Last night Rachel Maddow had her first segment discuss a white paper that discusses the administration's legal justification for killing people, including Americans, without trial, by executive fiat, if you will.  For while President Obama ended the use of torture on his first day in office, for years the administration hid the legal grounds for suing our military to kill suspected terrorists primarily using automated drones.

Last year, Secretary Holder, finally addressed the issue, claiming the President employed a three part test before issuing an order to the military or CIA to "kill a U.S. citizen who poses a terrorist threat."

Holder outlined a three-part test for determining when a targeted killing against a U.S. citizen is legal. He said the government must determine after careful review that the citizen poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S., capture is not feasible and the killing would be consistent with laws of war. [...]

 Holder rejected the suggestion that the Constitution's due-process protections require permission from a federal court before taking lethal action.

"The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that at times originate with our own citizens," Holder said. "When such individuals take up arms, ... plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans, there may be only one realistic and appropriate response."

The administration has never released the alleged memorandum that stands behind the claim the these actions are not illegal under existing law.  However, NBC reporter, Michael Isikoff, has obtained a 15 page "white paper" that discusses the administration's legal basis for these killings (the document can be found online here.  The implications it reveals, not only for the current use of drones and other military operations to kill Americans, is very troubling, the moreso when one realizes that future administrations may consider it as precedent for expanding the power of the executive branch's use of the military to act as the proverbial "judge, jury and executioner" despite the provisions in our constitution (primarily Article III and the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments) that require due process and prohibit one branch of the government from acting unilaterally to deprive "persons" of their right to life.

How so? Consider that the term "imminent threat" the first prong of the administration's test stands the term imminent on its head.

“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

The use of language such as this leaves the door wide open for interpretation.  What activities are included?  Does writing a manifesto calling for violent action meet the standard?  And what is the meaning of "recent" under this test>  We simply don't know.  As for the claim that "no evidence" exists that said person has renounced or abandoned these activities, well, how easy is it to for an "informed, high level official" (and how many people fall within that category?) to claim he or she have no evidence of any renunciation by the proposed "target?"  That is no burden at all, in my view.

The problem with re-defining the words "imminent threat" and "activities posing a threat of a violent attack" so vaguely is that it opens the door to future Presidents expanding this power to include anyone they determine poses a threat, not just Islamist terrorists.  Even those of us here who frequently document and warn of the threat of domestic terrorism from the right do not extend to the government the right to unilaterally kill such individuals without providing them with a trial and appeals through access to our justice system.  Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph all received fair trials at which they were represented by counsel.  We certainly hope that the Obama administration is exercising its power to kill Americans without arresting them first by employing the most exacting, restrictive definition of these terms but we have no way of knowing that.  For the administration has kept the process under which these decisions are made secret and only gave members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees this white paper summary of its legal justification for last summer.

[T]he white paper was represented by administration  officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s  Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly -- or even publicly confirm their existence.
This is essentially the claim of power by the executive branch under a Democratic President that was made by the Bush administration to employ torture, i.e., the power of a unitary executive to act in certain matters without any review by the courts of its actions.  The white paper does not list the laws or legal theories on which the Obama administration has relied and presumably continues to rely upon to justify these killings, though it hints at some of them by referring to "conducting operations in a manner consistent with applicable principles of war."   Now that's a finely tuned phrase if I ever read one, as well.

The white paper refers to the armed conflict with "Al Quaida," a stateless enemy' but it does not restrict its interpretation of its power based on that alleged conflict.  It specifically says that it has the power to override a US Citizen's right to due process under the Constitution and kill him or her without arrest or trial if it determines, under its sole discretion, that the need to protect the country is great enough.  I quote the paper directly here:

Were the target of a lethal operation a US citizen who may have rights under the Due Process Clause and the Fourth Amendment, that individual's citizenship would not immunize him from a lethal operation. ... That interest must be balanced against the United States' interest in forestalling the threat of violence or death ... by one who is engaged in plotting against the United States.

That is a broad and bold claim, particularly when one considers that what the administration defines as an imminent threat is so open to interpretation as to be essentially meaningless.  President Bush justified his wars against Afghanistan and Iraq on the same claim of an imminent threat.  One can argue the legitimacy of that case with respect to Afghanistan, but with Iraq?  Imminence as defined by the "principles of war" referred to in this paper has always previous meant the threat of an impending, immediate attack on the sovereign territory or citizens of a nation state.  Now it appears imminence is whatever the current occupant of the White House and his advisers and the military leadership claim it to be.  These are dangerous waters to be sailing into.

We already know that thousands of individuals, many of them innocent civilians,  were tortured and abused by the Bush administration under its determination of what constituted an imminent threat.  Likewise, thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in US drone strikes because of faulty intelligence on simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  All of these atrocities have been justified as the unfortunate consequences of war, in this case the war on terror, or as the Obama administration has framed it, the threat of terrorism.

The ultimate issue at stake isn't whether "terrorist threats" originating overseas justifies the actions taken by the last two President of the United States.  The ultimate issue is one that we may face in the future: the use of force unilaterally by one branch of the government against anyone, anywhere, US citizen or not, which it determines poses a threat to the United States.  In essence, it is the danger of the Executive Branch becoming the sole arbiter of who lives or dies based on a unilateral decision that is not reviewable by the Courts, nor expressly authorized by Congress.  We may believe we can trust President Obama and his administration to make those decisions wisely. However, the overriding question that President Obama's policy reveals is whether we should allow any President and any administration, now or in the future, to claim, much less exercise such unrestrained and broad power, i.e., the power to determine when Constitutional prohibitions against the use of executive authority, and/or the rejection of individual rights guaranteed by that same Constitution, as amended, do not apply when it comes to the taking of human lives.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Executive killing by drone? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm frankly surprised that we haven't seen any bank executives or the like killed by a DIY drone yet actually. It's not particularly hard to do (I get a commission request for something like that once a year, on average, and politely refuse - had a lady from the FBI show up at my door once to follow up on my forwarding them to the police, even).

    I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

    by spiritplumber on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:24:19 AM PST

  •  It is quite obvious that the US government (10+ / 0-)

    is totally above, beyond, or simply outside of the law.

    And since that stance has complete 100% bipartisan support, not sure that anything can be done about it.

    •  I hate to sound all right wingy here (13+ / 0-)

      but we really are just a few years of facial recognition software away from 1984 esque` thought crimes.  If the government has justification for killing their own citizens without trial because of plotting violence, then the average american would be justified to be killed for every ill conceived thought they might have at any given moment, from "thinking" about running down your neighbor when his dog took a crap on your lawn, to "joking" about Mittens being tied to the roof of his car.

      I am very quickly becoming disenfranchised with the democratic party.  First agreeing to the patriot act, then Obama signs NDAA, and now this.  

      Maybe some of those loonies on the right talking about taking away our rights are on to something after all (albeit they express themselves so eloquently)

      95% of all life forms that once existed on earth are now extinct. It is only a matter of time until the Republicans follow suit.

      by PRRedlin on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:48:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The thing is that the RW loonies don't (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Steven D, TracieLynn, 3goldens

        care one iota about the taking away of rights as a concept.

        They only care when it (mostly just imaginarily, but whatever) impinges on something they care about.  And that something is almost always guns.  

        When if comes to the 1st, 3rd, 4th (etc) amendments, they seriously don't give a flying fuck.

      •  When we're told to vote D or we'll lose the SC (6+ / 0-)

        you have to wonder why it matters when Democratic Presidents don't even believe in the rule of law.

        •  But but but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens

          Mitt Romney.

          He'd be even worse. His drones would be evil.

          The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

          by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:13:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well, to me the SC nominees ARE one (0+ / 0-)

          area where Obama has been way better than his GOP doppelganger . .. .   (perhaps the ONLY area of significance, but whatever, it's something I suppose).

          The bigger issue here is if "The Law" actually meant anything, the political ideology of the justices interpreting it wouldn't matter - instead, in a huge number of cases it is possible to predict how a judge/justice will vote in advance simply based on politics.

          Just saying, I'm glad they don't design airliners that way (or when they do, the 787 comes to mind - the idiocy is most always quickly exposed and sometimes even dealt with rationally . .. . ).

        •  I am curious to those (0+ / 0-)

          believing this violates the rule of law, which law or laws does it violate?

          •  Fifth Amendment. nt (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            3goldens

            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

            by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:13:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  right so what you're saying is (0+ / 0-)

              that the US government should some how magically find and obtain all the terrorists plotting against the US and then risk lives of troops to take them alive (which is an additional risk on top of the normal ones)

              all for people that can not even claim the protections of the consitution

              I really just don't understand that but at least now I now I know. Thank you

              •  Why can US citizens (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                3goldens

                who have not been convicted of any crime not claim the protections of the Constitution?

                What, precisely, did Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (as just one example) do to lose that claim?

                “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:59:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  if you plot against your nation you (0+ / 0-)

                  have comitted treason and as such you have no claim to that nation's protections

                  •  Do you even know the definition of treason? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    3goldens, Roadbed Guy

                    It's quite clearly defined in the Constitution.  Specifically with a requirement of two eye-witnesses to the treasonous act testifying in court.

                    And even if you were right (which you are not) please explain what plot you think Abdulrahman al-Awlaki participated in because I have never seen even an allegation that he did anything of the sort.

                    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                    by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:04:33 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  oh I know the definition (0+ / 0-)

                      and as I said else where my apologies as I did confuse father and son in my head (how I don't know but I did)

                      And as I said while ideal there's no way the US can reasonably apprehend and then put to trial every terrorist. Personally I'd rather the government use all availible means  whether then limit itself.

                      If the government has actionable intelligence it should act

        •  "If the president does it, it's not illegal" (5+ / 0-)

          I'm old enough to recall when Dems like Ervin, Rodino, and Cox drove a president from office b/c that was his governing philosophy.

          Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

          by RFK Lives on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:42:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Rule of law, schmule of law. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Steven D

      Thus spake the Unitary Executive/

      The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:12:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  “informed high level officials” (13+ / 0-)

    Judges, juries and due process has become so quaint.  This is NOT what I voted for.

    -approaching Curmudgeonry with pleasure

    by Calfacon on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:26:34 AM PST

  •  What a brave new world we live in (6+ / 0-)

    Seriously, we need to put brakes on this now. If this develops any further, there may be no way for us to seal of this expansion of power without a constitutional amendment.

  •  The Next Republican President will inherit this (10+ / 0-)

    I said the same thing to Republicans when GW Bush was abusing executive power:

    The next president gets to do that, too.

    Show of hands if anyone wants the next Dubya to have the power to kill citizens without charge, trial or oversight (aka judge, jury and executioner).

    Anyone?

    •  No, but that might be what it takes. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, 3goldens

      We might need a crazy right-winger who goes nuts with that power to wake people up.
      Or the majority will buy into the fear and propaganda, and continue to believe that it's being done in their best interest...

      "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

      by Hayate Yagami on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:52:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action

      ... many on the right regret getting caught up in the post 9/11 fervor. (on the left, too, for that matter ... the Patriot act has overwhelming support from both parties).

      It is not even a stretch to imagine Americans on American soil who pose an "imminent threat" being summarily executed via hellfire missile.

      Any time someone in congress gets mouthy about the powers of the Federal agencies (read that as 'budget cuts'), the heads of those agencies proceed to shout "9/11, 9/11, 9/11!!!"

  •  unitary exec theory isn't implicated here (0+ / 0-)

    UE is, at root, a separation of powers issue; its about the power of a President to contravene or violate a statute passed by Congress. Here, Obama is acting in accordance with statute (the AUMF), so there's no UE issue at all.

    •  Actually (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, Jim P, jrooth, 3goldens

      if you read the language of the white paper it says that the AUMF is a basis for combating Al Qaida, but the administration is not solely relying on the AUMF foe its assertion of these powers, nor are they strictly limiting the right to assert these powers to individuals who are or claim to be associated with "Al Qaida" which as we all know by now is nothing more than a convenient brand name for a variety of groups, many of which pose little or no threat to America.

      "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

      by Steven D on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:20:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep. Obama isn't refusing congressional (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action

      oversight and ultimate control.  Congress just doesn't care that much.

      That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

      by Inland on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:01:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No he's not. (0+ / 0-)

        He's not refusing any statutory oversight.  Letters from senators?  That's not statutory oversight.

      •  If that's the case (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Steven D, 3goldens

        why haven't the members of the intelligence and judiciary committees seen the memos they've been demanding for over two years?  How is refusing that demand not refusing congressional oversight?

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:05:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Checks and balances anyone? (8+ / 0-)

    Those in power can just say the magic words "Imminent Threat-"
     and the blood can flow.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:16:25 AM PST

  •  The real villain is Kucinich! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth

    He works for Fox. Plus he's funny looking.

    The cave, the Matrix, America.

    by Grassee on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:50:31 AM PST

  •  If the decision to use lethal force (5+ / 0-)

    had the immediacy of a police officer trying to arrest a bank robber who has a gun,  I might see the legality.

    But somehow I remain unconvinced that we are only targeting people who have that loaded gun pointed at people.    We are targeting people that we are pretty sure will point a loaded gun at people in the near future, in my opinion, and that isn't enough under our criminal law system.

    This area is one in which Obama has been a grave disappointment, has extended executive power, and quite frankly, comes closest to one of the wingnuts pet theories, that the government will be coming for them.

    •  Plus, the police officer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfromga, Steven D, 3goldens

      already has the right if the gun is aimed at someone or the perp runs and, after saying something like "stop or I'll shoot", the perp keeps running.

      The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:23:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Legality isn't the issue. Never was. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrAnon

    Once operations in general are permitted by congress, it is not a matter for courts.

    What I would want is for congress to be looking over the president's shoulder as part of oversight:  it has the responsibility to control any excesses

    That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

    by Inland on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:56:28 AM PST

    •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3goldens

      There's no line whatsoever?

      Could the president have the entire Republican congressional delegation executed and not face judicial review merely by claiming he knew them to be terrorists planning to harm the US?

      If your answer is no, then you are admitting there is some line he cannot cross even given "operations in general" permitted by congress.  And then we're back to arguing where that line is, not whether it exists.

      “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

      by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:09:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, we're not arguing where it is. (0+ / 0-)

        The closest anyone comes is trying to make a legal distinction between killing American citizens and others. Which is the most troubling thing I've heard today.

        That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

        by Inland on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:30:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  let's be clear though (0+ / 0-)

    if if you have committed treason  you  no longer have the right to US citizenship and in fact face a death sentence

    That includes becoming a member of an opposing military force. That's been the law of the land for a long long time. I'm not sure how much I support the Obama administration but let's stop pretending it is killing US citizens because to date they have not been.

    The last 10 years have seen a troubling change in how the American presidency functions. How much this is a broad over reach and how much this is an evolution of the times I am not really sure yet.  There are times I rather wish we'd adopt a more parliamentarian  system but that doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of happening (not in any way that wouldn't result in chaos)

    (note I'm sure that's not going to be popular so if you're going to insult me, I'm just going to ignore the response)

    •  After Occupy, I doubt if you would have to be (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenbell, jrooth, 3goldens

      part of military force. I think it would simply be a matter of how effective you were being in stirring up public outrage directed to the government and/or plutocracy. Too much and you're an imminent threat, I would guess.

      The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:25:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  seriously? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster

        when you have proof of that you'll have a point till then that's about as bad as any CT theory I've ever heard

        •  CT & drone opposition tend to walk hand (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          in hand for some reason.

        •  You obviously missed the police state actions (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens

          toward Occupy during the last round. And you've obviously not heard of the dramatic para-militarization of the police during that time and since. You obviously didn't hear about agents infiltrating Occupy camps. If the resistance doubles down, the state will as well. They will hardly be above taking out any key leaders they identify.

          The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

          by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:22:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  so drones attacked occupy? (0+ / 0-)

            because the government sending in undercovers to spy on potentially violent groups is nothing new

            not that I agree with it either really but at the same time your outrage is out of date

    •  What is the evidence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3goldens

      that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was a member of an opposing military force?

      For that matter, what is the evidence that Anwar al-Awlaki was anything more than a propagandist?

      We haven't seen any of it and we're simply told we must trust the executive.

      “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

      by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:19:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  let's just say for the sake of your point (0+ / 0-)

        that Abdulrahman was 'just' a propagandist

        That still is a treasonable offense as he is still giving aid to the enemies of the US. Like it or not there's a legal precedent there. Now whether that rises to the level of targeting him over that is a different can of worms.

        However we both know that the target of that drone strike was allegedly  Ibrahim al-Banna a senior AQ leader. Thus Abdulrahman was not even the target of the strike.

        •  No - Abdulrahman wasn't even a propagandist (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens

          He was a 16 year old kid not involved with any terrorist organization whatsoever as far as any of us know.

          Assuming you meant Anwar - you are simply wrong as a matter of law.  See Brandenburg v. Ohio.

          “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

          by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:57:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  as I said (0+ / 0-)

            in the end it doesn't matter as Abdulrahman wasn't even the one targeted

            and my apologies as I did confuse the names

            •  Wait - how do you know he wasn't targeted? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              3goldens

              Because some anonymous official told some reporter so?

              And as far as that's concerned, how do we know Anwar al-Aulaqi was "operational" beyond what the Supreme Court called First Amendment protected speech in Brandenburg v. Ohio?  Again some anonymous official making a self-serving statement to a reporter?

              Is that really the standard we want for the taking of life without due process of law?

              “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

              by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:24:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  how do you know he was targeted? (0+ / 0-)

                only because in that case do you even have a leg to stand on hence this is illogical

                sorry but you're doing this backwards, you have your answer and now you're just trying to justify it

                •  I disagree. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  3goldens

                  My position is that the President must answer to both congress and the courts to justify his actions with specifics.  That it is extremely dangerous to allow the executive the powers it has arrogated without such critical independent oversight and potentially criminal punishment.  That position is not undermined by the existence of some other target in the strike which killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.

                  “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                  by jrooth on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:35:18 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  He Missed the Other Part (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steven D, 3goldens

    Holder missed criterion number four: It has to take place on a battlefield. If you're going to invoke the laws of war then you need to show that the killing takes place on a battlefield. But Congress hasn't declared war, so he can't show that.

    This is like the little boy who has his hand in the cookie jar explaining to mom that actually he's putting the cookie back, so he isn't doing anything wrong.

  •  I see these drone strikes as military actions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    taken under the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief, rather than as any kind of criminal or judicial action. The decision to militarize the response to the attacks of 2001 was deeply immoral and ultimately impractical, in my opinion, but it was affirmed more than once by enormous majorities in Congress, and by the time Obama came into office seven years later, was already well established as the law of the land and the status quo: the nation was committed irrevocably to the military response to terrorism. It is difficult to undo a decision such as that of Bush and his advisors: wars have a great deal of momentum. The “unwarring” process has made large strides since 2009, but we are still on a military footing with respect to the response to terrorism and the decision to make these so-called targeted killings, as repellent as they are, is completely in the hands of the generals and, ultimately, of the Commander in Chief.

    Therefore, objections to specific actions in the war effort would need to be made under the laws of war, not under criminal/procedural law. It would be truly absurd if the war-time killing of an enemy or of an active collaborator with the enemy was given the same kinds of due process considerations as those used in prosecuting a murderer.

    Those are my opinions.

  •  Obama's decisions are logical (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell, Steven D

    Obama's decision to rely more on drones and covert action than his predecessors is logical if you acknowledge that his difference with Bush is only a matter of tactics, not objectives. And the more stealthy tactics favored by Obama have the advantage of being cheaper and less likely to meet opposition from American voters.

    Both presidents also need to cloak their objectives with malarky about protecting those same voters from terrorist threats. Of course, the 9-11 attacks make that propaganda very credible, even if the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and the various insurgents of Yemen, Mali etc have no link to 9-11.

    In the midst of a bitter partisan divide on domestic issues, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that both parties are in complete agreement as to the objectives of US foreign policy, and have been for generations.

    Since 1945, the US has taken upon itself the responsibility for maintaining global stability. The European balance of more of less equvalent military powers had proven to be a complete failure, as had the competing economic nationalisms and trade wars. A new stability was built on the basis of international organizations, such as the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, but more importantly on a system of free trade with the US dollar as the world's reserve currency.

    Since the collapse of the communist alternatives, that system has become truly global. With the Soviet military might only a memory, the US military is the only force able to function anywhere on the planet to deal with various sources of instability. Threats to the oil supply are of the highest importance and that's why Libya requiired intervention but  Syria does not. There are other resources too, like uranium in Mali and Niger, that require intervention and othe threats, like Yemen and Somalia, that are uncomfortably close to oil sources and tanker routes.

    Free trade is vital to world stability, even if it does cost US jobs. Free trade agreements with countries which might otherwise be a threat, such as China, are certainly preferable to the Korean and Viet Nam Wars fought to stem the advance of Chinese-style communism.

    Madeline Albright called the US "the indispensable nation" and all American politicians take that for granted. This is why almost no elected officials in Washington ever speak out against the need for both free trade and for maintaining the world's most overwhelming military - no matter how much those policies drain the "homeland."

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:55:18 AM PST

  •  IS THERE ANYTHING to do about this? (0+ / 0-)

    Very fucked up. Who is acting against this?

  •  UN guys: Droning is ILLEGAL, and STUPID TOO! (0+ / 0-)

    From the Guardian, June 2012:

    Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur

    US policy of using drone strikes to carry out targeted killings 'may encourage other states to flout international law'

    The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

    Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama's attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

    In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute "war crimes". His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

    Addressing the conference, which was organised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a second UN rapporteur, Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism, announced he would be prioritising inquiries into drone strikes.

    The London-based barrister said the issue was moving rapidly up the international agenda after China and Russia this week jointly issued a statement at the UN Human Rights Council, backed by other countries, condemning drone attacks.

    If the US or any other states responsible for attacks outside recognised war zones did not establish independent investigations into each killing, Emmerson emphasised, then "the UN itself should consider establishing an investigatory body".

    Also present was Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, who called for international legal action to halt the "totally counterproductive attacks" by the US in his country.

    Heyns, a South African law professor, told the meeting: "Are we to accept major changes to the international legal system which has been in existence since world war two and survived nuclear threats?"

    Some states, he added, "find targeted killings immensely attractive. Others may do so in future … Current targeting practices weaken the rule of law. Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict [such as Afghanistan] but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it's recognised as being an armed conflict."

    If it is true, he said, that "there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime".

    Heyns ridiculed the US suggestion that targeted UAV strikes on al-Qaida or allied groups were a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. "It's difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to [events] in 2001," he said. "Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.

    "The targeting is often operated by intelligence agencies which fall outside the scope of accountability. The term 'targeted killing' is wrong because it suggests little violence has occurred. The collateral damage may be less than aerial bombardment, but because they eliminate the risk to soldiers they can be used more often."

    Heyns told the Guardian later that his future inquiries are likely to include the question of whether other countries, such as the UK, share intelligence with the US that could be used for selecting individuals as targets. A legal case has already been lodged in London over the UK's alleged role in the deaths of British citizens and others as a consequence of US drone strikes in Pakistan.

    Emmerson said that protection of the right to life required countries to establish independent inquiries into each drone killing. "That needs to be applied in the context of targeted killings," he said. "It's possible for a state to establish an independent ombudsman to inquire into every attack and there needs to be a report to justify [the killing]."

    Alternatively, he said, it was "for the UN itself to consider establishing an investigatory body. Drones attacks by the US raise fundamental questions which are a direct consequence of my mandate… If they don't [investigate] themselves, we will do it for them."

    It is time, he added, to end the "conspiracy of silence" over drone attacks and "shine the light of independent investigation" into the process. The attacks, he noted, were not only on those who had been killed but on the system of "international law itself".

    The Pakistani ambassador declared that more than a thousand civilians had been killed in his country by US drone strikes. "We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them," he said.

    Claims made by the US about the accuracy of drone strikes were "totally incorrect", he added. Victims who had tried to bring compensation claims through the Pakistani courts had been blocked by US refusals to respond to legal actions.

    The US has defended drone attacks as self-defence against al-Qaida and has refused to allow judicial scrutiny of the UAV programme. On Wednesday, the Obama administration issued a fresh rebuff through the US courts to an ACLU request for information about targeting policies. Such details, it insisted, must remain "classified".

    Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's national security project, said: "Something that is being debated in UN hallways and committee rooms cannot apparently be talked about in US courtrooms, according to the government. Whether the CIA is involved in targeted lethal operation is now classified. It's an absurd fiction."

    The ACLU estimates that as many as 4,000 people have been killed in US drone strikes since 2002 in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Of those, a significant proportion were civilians. The numbers killed have escalated significantly since Obama became president.

    The USA is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or many other international legal forums where legal action might be started. It is, however, part of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where cases can be initiated by one state against another.

    Ian Seiderman, director of the International Commission of Jurists, told the conference that "immense damage was being done to the fabric of international law".

    One of the latest UAV developments that concerns human rights groups is the way in which attacks, they allege, have moved towards targeting groups based on perceived patterns of behaviour that look suspicious from aerial surveillance, rather than relying on intelligence about specific al-Qaida activists.

    In response to a report by Heyns to the UN Human Rights Council this week, the US put out a statement in Geneva saying there was "unequivocal US commitment to conducting such operations with extraordinary care and in accordance with all applicable law, including the law of war".

    It added that there was "continuing commitment to greater transparency and a sincere effort to address some of the important questions that have been raised".

    Interesting that the classic figure of speech for something wildly out of control is "rogue elephant." Looks like a lot of our equine "more and better democrats" are in the same state. And I defy any of you to state a method that will stop any of this, given the "investments," the "stakeholders," the "players" and their career interests.

    We. Are. Fucked. One might almost hope that folks like  johnny wurster and other apologists for the people who are doing this to the rest of us, end up learning what it is like to have a name on the target list or see a laser dot tracking them or hear a growing sssssssssSSSSSS... Just think of all the people who earned pretty good livings making artillery shells and bombs and tanks to play with in the war games past. The banality of evil...

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:21:29 PM PST

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