The has been much ado about the white paper in which the Obama administration has claimed the authority to kill US citizens abroad, without oversight or transparency. Regardless of my overall support for Obama, I must oppose this policy, based more on what I do not know about it than on what I do know.
On one level, there were not too many surprises in the newly disclosed “white paper” offering a legal reasoning behind the claim that President Obama has the power to order the killing of American citizens who are believed to be part of Al Qaeda. We knew Mr. Obama and his lawyers believed he has that power under the Constitution and federal law. We also knew that he utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review such a decision in advance, or even after the fact.
Still, it was disturbing to see the twisted logic of the administration’s lawyers laid out in black and white. It had the air of a legal justification written after the fact for a policy decision that had already been made, and it brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.
The document, obtained and made public by NBC News, was written by the Justice Department and coyly describes another, classified document (which has been described in The Times) that actually provided the legal justification for ordering the killing of American citizens…
Inserted from <NY Times>
I have to grant that America’s current enemies are not state based, do not wear uniforms, and do not fight using conventional means. Therefore I recognize that there are people who threaten our national security, who are at war with us, and who need to be stopped. I even recognize that some of those people could be US citizens, who have joined forces with our enemies.
If it can be indisputably proved that a US citizen is a clear and present danger to the US, because that individual is actively involved in unconventional warfare against the US, and if it can be demonstrated that capture is not a viable option, I do not object to taking that person out, as long as there is 100% transparency after the fact in which the American people are informed of the evidence on which the action was based. The problem is, I can’t see where the present policy has any of these features.
We don’t know who can make the decision to issue a kill order. We don’t know under what conditions a kill order may be issued. We have no guarantee of transparency at any point in the process.
Rachel Maddow provided some excellent coverage of this issue.
Rachel summed it up perfectly, when she asked how we will determine who is a bad guy. Wyden’s questions were also excellent.
Frankly, it would surprise me to see Obama use this policy abusively, but Obama will not be President forever. I feel terrified at the notion that another Dick Cheney may someday sit in an undisclosed location, secretly picking off everyone he considers his enemy.