A leaked Department of Justice “white paper” makes the case for the legal killing of US citizens abroad who the government defines as imminent threats to national security, and it states that actual evidence or intelligence showing that the target is actually involved in a plot or a plan to attack the US isn’t necessary.
A target can be an imminent threat just because the President deems it so. And, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney, that’s “legal, ethical and wise.”
“We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing, actual threats – to stop plots, prevent future attacks and again, save American lives,” said Carney in a press briefing today. “These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al-Qaeda terrorist, to insure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life.”
Meanwhile, Carney also couldn’t come up with anything in the US Constitution that might prohibit a US citizen in America from being assassinated:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney could not identify a constitutional principle that would prevent President Obama from carrying out a drone strike on an American citizen in the United States.
“I am not a lawyer and these are the kinds of things that are probably best expressed and explained by lawyers,” Carney said during the press briefing. “There are issues here about . . . feasibility of capture that I think are pertinent to that question.”
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, says that “no person shall . . .be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
A Justice Department white paper emphasized the importance of believing that an American citizen overseas, such as terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki, is an imminent threat to Americans when debating a drone strike.
“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 white paper, obtained by NBC News, said.
So the Obama administration is claiming the legal authority to kill people, even US citizens inside of America, if they’re deemed a threat to national security. And the president gets to decide who is and is not a threat.
Not only is that an affront to due process rights enshrined in the 5th amendment, but it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents. Because while some of you might trust President Obama to wield these powers (I don’t), would you have said the same thing about George W. Bush? Would you feel that way about a President Romney?
Congress needs to rein President Obama in, and step would should be rescinding the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force in the “war on terror.”