So the President’s secret memo that purports to explain the Constitutional basis for using drones to kill American citizens without due process has finally been released, thank to a FOIA request and a judge’s order.
When you think about this document, remember that it is not only about what has happened in the past. As late as February Michael Peroutka pointed out that the New York Times was reporting that the Obama Administration was discussing whether or not to kill an American citizen in Pakistan. He said:
The Crime committed by this person? Well, we really don’t know and, of course, if this person is killed by a drone strike authorized by Barak Obama we never will know, will we?
We’ll just have to put all our faith in Barack Obama and allow him to decide who lives and who dies.
Forgive me for putting this in such plain words, but what’s being “debated” is whether or not a human being, in this case a U.S. citizen, should be murdered in cold blood – no trial, no presentation of evidence, no conviction in a court of law – no nothing!
So whether or not Peroutka was right, that these killings are murder, is really important because they could resume any time. Indeed, they may have resumed without our knowledge. How can we be sure?
So is it cold-blooded murder? I found Peroutka’s argument quite convincing but now we have the memo.
The Daily Caller published an analysis by a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan who has worked in strategic planning. The title is rather straightforward: “Pentagon Official: The Obama Drone Kill Memo Is Out And Libertarians Were Right — It’s Murder.”
The problem is that the administration is making the accusations against a U.S. citizen, rendering a judgment of guilt or innocence outside of the court system, and then carrying out an extrajudicial killing of American citizens in complete and utter violation of the Constitution. The part of the memo that addresses the right to due process is redacted.
At no point in the extralegal process outlined in the memo is the U.S. citizen in question tried or convicted in a court of law for the crimes the administration alleges the individual is guilty of. The administration is making that determination, and exactly who within the administration is still unclear. This is a scary usurpation of power from the judicial branch — and an amazing power grab by the executive.
Finally, under the legal reasoning outlined in the memo, there is nothing to prevent the president from ordering a lethal operation against U.S. citizens inside the United States, as the memo does not stipulate that there is a geographic limitation to these operations — only a test of feasibility. Nor is there a single requirement for a federal court of judge to make the determination that a person is a member or leader of a terrorist organization.
When this country was created, the Founders may not have anticipated the dangers posed by a terrorist cell capable of killing thousands or more. But they knew well, and carefully guarded against, the dangers of a government gone wild. In this memo, finally made public, we have proof of a White House that considers itself judge, jury and executioner. And that, America, is a clear and present danger.
The possibility of killing people with drones on U.S. soil was the reason for Rand Paul’s epic filibuster. None of us had the memo then, but Rand Paul guessed correctly that the issue needed to be addressed.
The executive branch is not a double-0. It does not have license to kill without due process. That’s just murder.