To Drone Or Not To Drone? Justifying Extra-Judicial Killings

Scott Horton talks about the drone white paper with Sam Seder. Can I say for the record that I hate the US reliance of drone strikes, especially on US citizens. The fact that we went in with Seal Team Six to get Bin Laden makes it clear that we

[oldembed src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yRqi_UPpM1Q" width="425" height="239" resize="1" fid="21"]
Scott Horton talks about the drone white paper with Sam Seder.

Can I say for the record that I hate the US reliance of drone strikes, especially on US citizens. The fact that we went in with Seal Team Six to get Bin Laden makes it clear that we don't have to rely on this technology to capture or if you will kill---very bad people. It will only fuel more hatred of Americans. Didn't we learn that with the coup of Iran and many of our other CIA led foreign invasions?

And it's very telling that only Democrats will question John Brennan over their use at all. Congress better not support the use of drones on US soil---ever!!!!


NY Times:

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.

That document still has not been provided to Congress, despite repeated demands from lawmakers. The white paper was sent to Capitol Hill seven months after the military carried out President Obama’s orders to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who moved to Yemen and became an advocate of jihad against the United States.
--

According to the white paper, the Constitution and the Congressional authorization for the use of force after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave Mr. Obama the right to kill any American citizen that an “informed, high-level official” decides is a “senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or an associated force” and presents an “imminent threat of violent attack.”

It never tries to define what an “informed, high-level official” might be, and the authors of the memo seem to have redefined the word “imminent” in a way that diverges sharply from its customary meaning. It talks about “due process” and the need to balance a person’s life “against the United States’ interest in forestalling the threat of violence and death to other Americans.”

But it takes the position that the only “oversight” needed for such a decision resides within the executive branch, and there is no need to explain the judgment to Congress, the courts or the public — or, indeed, to even acknowledge that the killing took place.

Scott Lemieux writes: License to Kill

Much of the coverage of the memo, including Isikoff's story, focuses on the justifications offered by the Obama administration for killing American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (two alleged Al Qaeda operatives killed by a 2011 airstrike in Yemen.) In some respects, this focus is misplaced. If military action is truly justified, then it can be exercised against American citizens (an American fighting for the Nazis on the battlefield would not have been entitled to due process.) Conversely, if military action is not justified, extrajudicial killings of non-Americans should hardly be less disturbing than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. The crucial question is whether the safeguards that determine when military action is justified are adequate.

On this crucial point, the framework laid out by the memo is very much inadequate. Several of the key terms laying out the conditions—what counts as an "informed" official? What levels of evidence are necessary?—are frustratingly vague. Particularly crucial is the question of what constitutes an "imminent threat." If a threat is genuinely "imminent," military action is more justifiable. If it isn't, however, it becomes less plausible to argue that capture is "infeasible," and treating a suspected terrorist as a police operation would be more important. It is damning, then, that the definition of what constitutes an "imminent threat" has very little bite.

About John Amato

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.