Leaked Obama drone memos are civil libertarians’ worst nightmare

DroneLate Monday night, NBC news revealed a leaked Department of Justice (DOJ) memo describing the Obama administration’s legal case for killing Americans with targeted drone strikes. On Tuesday afternoon White House Press Secretary Jay Carney awkwardly attempted to calm skeptics of the program by further clarifying that the strikes “are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.”

In short, the memo concludes that the extrajudicial killing of American terrorist leaders is constitutional if 1) an informed, high-level official determines that the individual poses an imminent threat of attack (yep, just one guy); 2) capture of that individual is infeasible (it almost always is); and 3) the killing would be permitted under the traditional laws of war (meaning mostly that you can’t kill too many innocent civilians in addition to the target).

The DOJ’s explanation of these factors has civil libertarian groups like the ACLU enraged.  For example, using some circular logic, the memo explains that the government can determine that an individual poses an “imminent threat” by simply concluding that they had been previously involved in terrorist planning activity and that there is no evidence they have abandoned those activities.

Put another way, if the government makes a secret determination that you belong on a secret “kill list” of active terrorist leaders, you are automatically considered an imminent threat and subject to extrajudicial killing (which is usually also kept secret).

One controversial drone strike involving the killing of a 16-year-old boy from Denver illustrates the potential problems with the policy.  The outraged family of the teenager, who was killed while eating at an outdoor restaurant, claimed the boy was unjustly targeted by U.S. forces only because the boy’s father happened to be a well-known terrorist.  Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t help matters when he sloppily justified the killing by explaining to reporters that, “you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children . . . I don’t think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”

Although it’s possible (and even probable) that the family’s outrage was just al-Qaeda propaganda, when American intelligence agencies can’t correctly determine whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction prior to an invasion, why should Americans trust those same officials to draw reliable conclusions about a single individual’s terrorist activity?

Whether right or wrong, it’s clear now just how far President Obama has come from his naïve 2009 promise to do away with the “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Recall that waterboarding suspected terrorists to gain intelligence was “torture” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment, shutting down Guantanamo Bay was necessary to “restore the standards of due process and [our] core constitutional values,” and civilian trials for accused terrorists were required in the “interests of justice.” Now, the targeted killing of an American citizen based on the classified opinion of a single Government official is legal, wise and ethical.

As President Bush learned quickly after Sept. 11, the only easy choices in the War on Terror are made in campaign speeches.

Comments

Comments

  1. Janet says:

    Barrack Obama has violated the U.S constitution and has trampled over american rights he has murdered a boy and without due process . What are the good americans doing about it . I don’t have too much sympathy for the father being a terroist but have much concern about the president of the united states being one . I want my constitutional rights upheld and want my elected officials to get some guts and do something about an out of control dictator in the white house.

Polititainment

Michael Bay might direct Benghazi movie

Bay, who has spent the last several years gaining popularity for his "Transformers" films, is reportedly in talks to direct the Benghazi film "13 Hours," according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Holder wants Denzel to play him in movie

Holder spoke to The Hill about Hollywood and politics while at an event at the Washington Ideas Forum Wednesday that was hosted by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.

'Rival Survival' premiering Wednesday

Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are getting ready to show America their bipartisan fire-starting skills on "Rival Survival," a reality show starring tho lawmakers that premiers Wednesday night on the Discovery Channel.

Lovitz has a field day with Hillary

Before Hillary Clinton's jobs comment is swept aside as a minor whoopsie, a few words from Jon Lovitz.

John Oliver has some ideas for the FDA

Some people want more nutrition information on food labels--but who really understands those labels anyway?

White House

Russian hackers broke into the White House network

Hackers with suspected ties to the Russian government recently broke into the White House’s unclassified computer network, the Washington Post reported Tuesday night.

Obama is withholding over 15,000 Fast and Furious documents

President Obama claimed executive privilege to withhold over 15,000 documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, including nearly 20 emails sent between Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife.

White House fence jumper charged with assault
WASHINGTON (AP) — The 23-year-old Maryland man who climbed over the White House fence Wednesday night has been charged with felonies for assaulting two police dogs and making threats, the Secret Service said Thursday. Dominic Adesanya of Bel Air, Maryland, is in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for previous outstanding warrants, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. […]
President Obama, unpaid bills and the curious editing of the White House transcript
President Obama, some unpaid bills and a curiously “inaudible” section of the White House recording of a speech — that’s how all good stories start, right? While at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Chicago, Obama cracked a joke about the “unpaid bills” at his home. The joke was reported by the White House Press […]
Secrecy shrouds how the Obamas cook their chicken wings

Now it seems the Obamas are tight-lipped even about their eating habits.

Congress

Justin Amash envisions a libertarian Congress

Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian congressman from Michigan, knows that Congress is far from libertarian. But someday, he thinks that might change.

Rand Paul: The GOP's image ‘sucks’

Rand Paul didn’t mince words about the GOP.

Small college's students thrown into 2014 election

Young people tend not to engage much in the humdrum local politics that go into midterm elections. But what if it’s happening literally in their own backyard?

GOP senator: 'Sorry the government's so f***ed'

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made some self-deprecating jokes and colorful remarks about the state of the government during a recent private gathering, per a recording provided to CNN by South Carolina Democrats.

Top lawmaker's Ebola claim

A leading House Republican says he is aware of information that points to the United States eventually receiving non-U.S. Ebola patients for treatment.