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

'SNL' remakes Schoolhouse Rock
“Saturday Night Live” hit today’s political process right on the nose during the show’s cold open. Spoofing Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” Kenan Thompson as the bill tried to explain how he becomes a law. But before he can make his way  to President Obama’s desk to be officially signed into law, Obama beats him […]
Foxx talks dancing with Christie, McCain
Who could possibly forget this epic photo? Late night host Jimmy Kimmel certainly hadn’t, so when he had the chance to interview actor Jamie Foxx Wednesday night, he simply had to get the back story. Foxx has been the host of this annual charity event for several years. “What’s interesting is that every year that […]
Jon Stewart on Christie's 'pig problem'

Jon Stewart got into Chris Christie’s “pig problem”—which wasn’t quite what Stewart thought it was at first.

Rogen: 'Amazing' to smoke in White House

Seth Rogen told The Hill in a recent interview that he believes he is now on a "list" of individuals banned on from President Obama's residence because of his recent tweet expressing his desire to smoke marijuana in the White House.

Kimmel's insightful e-card rant

Kimmel's broadside against e-cards raises an interesting point about the way Democrats have encouraged their followers to pass along birthday well-wishes to their party's elected officials and leaders.

White House

Obama defends his flip-flop on immigration executive action
President Obama may have denounced the very executive action on immigration he ended up taking  more than 20 times in his presidency, but that’s not stopping him from ardently defending his actions. Obama appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and host George Stephanopoulos grilled the president about his the contradictions in his words and actions. “You […]
Obama: Voters want ‘new car smell’ in 2016, Hillary would be ‘great president’
President Obama still has two years left in office, but with the GOP overhaul in the midterms and his waning popularity, most people are already looking to 2016. Including, it seems, Obama himself. He said the best part of running for president after a two-term president is that “you can stake out your own positions” […]
Obama spurns GOP with expansive immigration orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurning furious Republicans, President Barack Obama unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts on "felons, not families."

After multiple hacks, the federal government’s cybersecurity plan remains on hold

The federal government is not having the best time with cybersecurity of late.

Obama to announce executive action on immigration Thursday

President Obama announced Wednesday afternoon that he will unveil his unilateral plan for immigration reform to the nation in a primetime address Thursday.

Congress

Sen. Graham: Benghazi report 'full of crap'
Despite a new House Intelligence Committee report clearing the Obama administration of wrongdoing in its response to the Benghazi attack, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not backing down. “I think the report is full of crap,” Graham said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said that the report did not take into account the members […]
Cruz proposes new way to fight 'Obama's amnesty'
Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) talked with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and outlined his new plan to push back on President Obama against his executive order on immigration. Cruz referenced Saturday Night Live’s sketch about the executive order and said no one has put it better. He feels Obama’s action has effectively […]
Missing Lois Lerner emails may have been recovered
Some 30,000 of former Internal Revenue Service director Lois Lerner’s missing emails have been recovered, according to senators leading the investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) told reporters Friday that the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration is working […]
Rep. Bachmann finds the smoke-filled rooms of DC
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann may be on her way out of Washington, but that didn’t stop her from finally finding her way to the often criticized smoke-filled rooms of DC. On Wednesday, the Congresswoman seemed to be enjoying her a last bit of recess down time with a cigar and a perfectly appropriate tweet. After […]
Rand suggests a wardrobe change for 'King' Obama
Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky.) took to Facebook to suggest an Obama wardrobe change following the president’s comments that he will use the executive branch to push his immigration agenda. Post by Rand Paul. “This isn’t about immigration reform. This is about his usurping of power that the Constitution didn’t give him,” Paul said in an interview […]