About the White Paper

 Posted by at 4:52 am  Politics
Feb 062013

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.

WhiteHouseOn 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.


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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.


  28 Responses to “About the White Paper”

  1. I trust President Obama to not abuse this power. But, like you said, he won't be Pres. forever and how do we know what will happen in the future.

  2. “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.”

    The most important paragraph in your critique TC— There are a lot of dick Cheneys out there– take a good look at the current GOP lineup in Congress , then tell me there isn’t at least 1/2 doz who would not issue such an order without a blink of their eye and sleep good after !

  3. BEWARE: The right wing propaganda machine will use this issue to get Pacifists to vote for them…single issue voting~ Police kill American citizens EVERY DAY without trial right here in America…there is NOTHING…NADA…different about waging war, finding criminals, and killing treasonous citizens actively plotting against us overseas~ THIS is NOT an issue for Liberals~ NOT~

    • Zada, this is an issue of transparency in my view.  I think it important that responsible liberals address the issue, so the only voice from the left is not the extreme wing nuts.

  4. We're better than this – or at least we should be.

    When it takes the order of a judge to detain a terrorist suspect – but only an executive "OK" to kill one – then  something is seriously wrong.

    Oversight is mandatory for any government action this draconian.

  5. It's absurd, it's illegal, it's completely antithetical to democratic values, and it's morally repugnant.

    Tell President Obama: Assassinating Americans without due process is wrong. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:


    At times like this, outspoken dissent is an important political act.


  6. There are Americans that hate us, too.  I believe that at times this power will be necessary and I believe that our President won't give the "kill" order unless he is absolutely certain that the person is a threat to this country.

    Just because we might have Republican in office next time around without this power——–do you not think that they might take this power anyway. 

    • I think they would, Gypsy, but unless we try couple the policy with reasonable oversight now, we will have nothing on which to base an objection to future Reoublican abuses.

  7. I don't believe that President Obama would abuse this policy however, Republicans are another matter… 🙂

  8. I wish I trusted Obama as much as all of you do!  He has kept "extraordinary rendition" open as an option, which only means that while we ourselves would not "torture" yet again, but send prisoners to Egypt, Syria, Lybia etc – and we know very well what will befall those prisoners! Secondly his use of drones, while more effective for the military budget and saving our military from more harm and/or death, it has proven to be far less accurate, causing civilian causaulties in the extreme in countries where we have not declared war. Finally, as everyone has mentioned – all we need is a "Ryan or a Bachman" on the throne to abuse this power at their whim – who knows who they might consider an "enemy of the state" – so long gays, liberals, you name it!

    • Lee, I agree with you.  This is a violation of our constitution and bill of rights, they can call anyone a terrorist under this provison, even someone who simply disagrees with them.

    • Lee, I disagree on the drones.  They are more accurate and cause less collateral damage than either conventional airstrikes or attacks using ground forces.  We would be killing more innocents were we to employ any other means.

  9. I am appalled that Obama is the one now being guilty of constitutional overreach. After a steady diet of Bush/Cheney abuse of power, I had hoped Obama would be different. While I trust Obama far more than his predecessor, I am angered that he has not restored our fundamental civil liberties, and now claims he has the legal authority to kill us without charge or trial first. There is NO WAY the Constitution permits this in any manner, shape, or form!

    The Founding Fathers – ALL of them – are spinning in their graves in utter shock, disbelief, and horror!

  10. I am totally against this, whether it is Obama or anyone else. This is usurping powers not granted in the constitution or bill of rights. I have signed three petitions to the White House and will sign any more that are sent to me.

  11. While I have far more trust in Mr Obama, as others have also said, what about the next guy in the Oval Office?  One person, no matter who it is, should have that level of authority.  The checks and balances of government have a real purpose.

    If the US aspires to be the leader of the free world, then it must act like it. One of the things about the Romney/Ryan ticket that sent shivers up my timbers was the idea of "taking want we want from whomever we want, when we want", an extension of Manifest Destiny.  The US actions and authority levels must be such that that cannot happen, be it foreign or domestic.  That kind of power cannot be concentrated in one person.

  12. I've given this a lot of thought, and have reached the conclusion that U.S. Citizens should not expect to be treated any differently that any other terrorist, if they are engaged in such activity.  War is a terrible thing, but it's worse when it's happening to you.  The use of drones has saved more lives than it has taken, and Americans who enter the war on the side of the enemy become traitors, and forfeit their rights as citizens.   I know this puts me at odds with most here, but we cannot make such distinctions in the fog of war.  If you promise to kill us, whether you are American or otherwise, you pose a threat to our loyal citizens and our homeland.  Such behavior cannot, and must not be tolerated.

    • Mike, I agree.  This is today's equivalent of someone putting on a German uniform and opposing the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

      I want transparency on what it takes for an American to become a target.  Where ihis policy draws that line appears to be unnecessarily vague.

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