Obama’s Kill Policy

Below is today’s column in Foreign Policy magazine on Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University Law School. UPDATE: FBI Director declines to answer whether the new doctrine allows the killing of citizens in the United States.

On Monday, March 5, Northwestern University School of Law was the location of an extraordinary scene for a free nation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented President Barack Obama’s claim that he has the authority to kill any U.S. citizen he considers a threat. It served as a retroactive justification for the slaying of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last September by a drone strike in northeastern Yemen, as well as the targeted killings of at least two other Americans during Obama’s term.

What’s even more extraordinary is that this claim, which would be viewed by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution as the very definition of authoritarian power, was met not with outcry but muted applause. Where due process once resided, Holder offered only an assurance that the president would kill citizens with care. While that certainly relieved any concern that Obama would hunt citizens for sport, Holder offered no assurances on how this power would be used in the future beyond the now all-too-familiar “trust us” approach to civil liberties of this administration.

In his speech, Holder was clear and unambiguous on only one point: “The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.” The use of the word “abroad” is interesting because senior administration officials have previously suggested that the president may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including within the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority, but stressed that “our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.” He might as well have stopped at “limited” because the administration has refused to accept any practical limitations on this claimed inherent power.

Holder became highly cryptic in his assurance that caution would be used in exercising this power — suggesting some limitation that is both indefinable and unreviewable. He promised that the administration would kill Americans only with “the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.” He did not explain how the nation in question would consent or how a determination would be made that it is “unable or unwilling to deal” with the threat.

Of course, the citizens of the United States once consented on a relevant principle when they ratified the Constitution and later the Bill of Rights. They consented to a government of limited powers where citizens are entitled to the full protections of due process against allegations by their government. That is clearly not the type of consent that Holder wants to revisit or discuss. Indeed, he insisted that “a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.'”

Holder’s new definition of “due process” was perfectly Orwellian. While the Framers wanted an objective basis for due process, Holder was offering little more than “we will give the process that we consider due to a target.” And even the vaguely described “due process” claimed by Holder was not stated as required, but rather granted, by the president. Three citizens have been given their due during the Obama administration and vaporized by presidential order. Frankly, few of us mourn their passing. However, due process appears to have been vaporized in the same moment — something many U.S. citizens may come to miss.

What Holder is describing is a model of an imperial presidency that would have made Richard Nixon blush. If the president can kill a citizen, there are a host of other powers that fall short of killing that the president might claim, including indefinite detention of citizens — another recent controversy. Thus, by asserting the right to kill citizens without charge or judicial review, Holder has effectively made all of the Constitution’s individual protections of accused persons matters of presidential discretion. These rights will be faithfully observed up to the point that the president concludes that they interfere with his view of how best to protect the country — or his willingness to wait for “justice” to be done. And if Awlaki’s fate is any indication, there will be no opportunity for much objection.

Already, the administration has successfully blocked efforts of citizens to gain review of such national security powers or orders. Not only is the list of citizens targeted with death kept secret, but the administration has insisted that courts do not play a role in the creation of or basis for such a list. Even when Awlaki’s family tried to challenge Obama’s kill order, the federal court declared that the cleric would have to file for himself — a difficult task when you are on a presidential hit list. Moreover, any attorney working with Awlaki would have risked being charged with aiding a terrorist.

When the applause died down after Holder’s speech, we were left with a bizarre notion of government. We have this elaborate system of courts and rights governing the prosecution and punishment of citizens. However, that entire system can be circumvented at the whim or will of the president. The president then becomes effectively the lawgiver or lifetaker for all citizens. The rest becomes a mere pretense of the rule of law.

Holder was describing the very model of government the Framers denounced in crafting both the Constitution and Bill of Rights. James Madison in particular warned that citizens should not rely on the good graces and good intentions of their leaders. He noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” The administration appears to have taken the quote literally as an invitation for unlimited authority for angels.

Of course, even those who hold an angelic view of Obama today may come to find the next president less divine. In the end, those guardian angels will continue to claim to be acting in the best interests of every citizen — with the exception, of course, of those citizens killed by them.

Jonathan Turley

Foreign Policy Magazine, March 6, 2012

140 thoughts on “Obama’s Kill Policy

  1. Questions heard or read around the world…. What about the law of the country they are shot in….. They may not deem the person so shot a terrorists…… Just pondering….

  2. Good point AY. Who gets to review the almighty Executive decision to kill an Evil citizen? Noone of course. That would take too much time and be so constutional in an unconstitutional world. Has al-Qaeda finally won?

  3. Holder’s declaration of imperial Presidential powers is the first step to the nightmare that I just had.
    An America where the all individuals (seen) were reduced to collis in status, where the possibility of unrest could not be assume bred out of the group, and thus required control forms preventing assembly of groups over 20 persons, single line passage of persons with control gate at 10-20 yard intervals.
    Coffee breaks cafeterias were arrange fo max four at a table, mostly one on one seating, and twenty to the room.

    Those without on-line aural inplants, ie foreign visitors, were equipped with radio host type earphone/microphone combos. etc etc

    Perhaps this was in reaction to seeing Holder’s speech yesterday her at Turley’s linked in by a commenter. That and the NDAA and all the other shit thats happened.

    More when I can make it cogent and concise.

  4. To those who offered “muted applause” to Holder:

    “If ye love wealth better than liberty,
    the tranquility of servitude
    better than the animating contest of freedom,
    go home from us in peace.
    We ask not your counsels or your arms.
    Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
    May your chains set lightly upon you,
    and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” — Sam Adams

  5. AY, l
    ike in Roman dominated Jesus-land they make keep their religions, torture each other with quaint local practices, etc—-but the right of crucifying remains with Rome—–as does taxation.

    no Al Quaeda has not won, it was we who recognized them as unwitting allies in reaching our ultimate goal—–the conquest and totalitarianazation of America. Unwitting allies are best, you don’t have to pay them.

  6. Thanks for laying it out Professor. Perhaps it’ll make it into Obama’s in-box. Or maybe he’s not on the distribution list for “inconvenient reminders”.

  7. Yes, very well argued.

    I do not know what has become of the citizens of this nation. This populations willing acceptance and cheerleading for a dictatorship is my greatest concern. I sat in horror as large group of faculty and students of the U. of Michigan “law” school applauded with a standing ovation to these very claims by Harold Koh. There was probably five of us not participating in the ovation. It feels very surrealistic to see people applauding the wanton killing of others, to include their fellow citizens. This action simply cannot be erased by saying the Republican guy will do it too. I want to quote from a poster on another site because this person puts into perspective what Obama supporters are doing when they applaud, fund raise, excuse, attack others who point out what he is actually doing:

    “Posted by satyrich

    …Imagine for one second how a Pakistani or Libyan or Iraqi looking at this picture of Americans holding up pro-Obama posters must look, after four years of what we would consider war crimes and terrorism if they were carried out by anyone but a Western power…”

    It is important to imagine how that feels and what that means, both to people overseas and to fellow citizens who will be targeted because the US is full of people who acquiesce and even cheer for totalitarianism.

  8. Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Legality of Targeted Killings of U.S. Citizens Overseas
    Democracy Now

    Using armed drones, President Obama has overseen the targeted killing of at least three U.S. civilians overseas — more than President Bush did in office. Are the killings legal? Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, says Attorney General Eric Holder’s defense on Monday of the Obama administration’s policy authorizing the assassination of U.S. citizens abroad “left open more questions than it answered.” She says Holder’s speech amounted to a broad defense of the administration’s claimed expansive authority to kill its own citizens, far from any battlefield and without judicial review or oversight of legal standards. “While Holder acknowledges that the Constitution requires ‘due process’ before the government takes the life of one of its own citizens,” Shamsi argues, “he says it is up to the Executive Branch alone, without judicial review, to determine what process is due and to make that decision without any oversight — and that’s simply not the case in our constitutional system of checks and balances.” The ACLU is suing the White House to disclose its legal memos that justify targeted killings.

    Guest: Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.

  9. Yes. Thank you, Jonathan Turley.

    We’re in a world of trouble…

    (Thomas Drake, speaking at Sam Adams Awards ceremony:


    “What country do we want to keep?

    We increasingly no longer govern ourselves, as in of, for, and by the people. Consider the nonstop number of U.S. military actions around the world these days. And when did Congress last issue a formal declaration of war, the only branch of government, the only body in the United States federal government system that can actually declare war? When was that? Consider the ramming through—is absolutely up-to-date, right now, in this moment, what’s going on. Consider the ramming through of the Patriot Act a bare month after 9/11, an act, I would add, that NSA was already violating with even more secret programs when it was obvious that not a single member of Congress read it through thoroughly. Does any single member of Congress read their bills through thoroughly? And have you wondered what is really the secret interpretation by the executive branch of section 215 in the Patriot Act? And what about Section 1031, 1031, the current National Defense Authorization Act bill that would authorize the indefinite detention, I repeat, the indefinite detention of American citizens.

    I used to monitor East Germany when I flew in RC-135s during the latter part of the Cold War—an absolutely fascist state. Given what I have experienced over the past number of years, I have a lot of bad memories.

    What else are we willing to give up? I gave up a lot. I have a lot to deal with in facing what I faced with the government for the past four years.

    Are we becoming the national security state under surveillance always, the N.S.S.U.S.A.? Is secret government the new fig leaf for a quaint and outmoded Constitution? Orwell’s 1984 is real, and now already, I repeat, already screamingly relevant. Only the government can create a police state. No one else can. And our technology can now make that happen. There is a long list, a long list of both private industry and government actions that are ripping away our privacy and our Fourth Amendment rights as we speak and our ability to speak freely about it. I challenge you, I challenge you all to demand accountability, to update our protections in the internet age, to insist upon adherence to the Constitution, conservative and liberal and independent like. Even in the open press we know enough about what both the industry and government are doing.

    Do you care? What will you do about it? What country do we want to keep?

    Do we want to continue to have a burgeoning military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-surveillance-cybersecurity-media complex? For whom does it benefit? Do we want to concede the eroding of basic human rights? Why? Because we fear enemies and that creates a need for security, and are then persuaded that human rights are ignored because of the primacy of the national security state beyond legitimate protections and identifying those who would actually do us harm, both abroad and domestically, as a unifying cause for obsessing over national security and the use of fear by the government to control the public and private agenda? What country do we really want to keep?

    So I leave you with this as I channel Frederick Douglass. On August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a West India Emancipation speech. At Canandaigua, New York, on the 23rd anniversary of the event, he said, quote (please listen very carefully): “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” Let me translate into today’s language. Power and those in control concede nothing, I repeat, concede nothing without a demand. They never have and they never will. Every one of us, every one of us in this room and beyond this room, each and every one of us must keep demanding, must keep fighting, must keep thundering, must keep plowing, must keep on keeping things struggling, must speak out, and must speak up until justice is served, because where there is no justice there can be no peace.

    What country do we want to truly keep? Consider what actions you will take when you leave this evening. After all, it is our country. So take the necessary action to conserve the very best of who we are and can be for this generation, as well as future generations to come.”

    End of speech

  10. One has to wonder just how many are being radicalized by our policies.

    Jonathan Turley’s March 6th article in The Guardian:

    “So, Eric Holder, we should just trust that the president won’t assassinate us?”

    “That, in effect, is the pledge the Obama administration’s attorney general says has replaced our constitutional protections”

    by Jonathan Turley
    March 6, 2012


    (The comments are interesting…)

  11. Sorry I am not an attorney so some of the legal subtleties escape me here. But could someone please again distinguish, in principle, this policy of due process from the policy of death squads recently used so effectively in several South American countries?

    I think I get the main point. Due process is carried out by highly motivated patriots, usually military men, who only want to defend the state against enemies who would destroy it. Where as, death squads are carried out by highly motivated patriots, usually military men, who only want to defend the state against enemies who would destroy it. But aside from those differences, are there any legal principles that distinguish due process from death squads?

    Please, I am not questioning the motivation or patriotism of those who carry out due process. I am just wondering, how can we tell when it is due process, acting where judicial process is impossible, and when it is some kind of death squad?

    It has been a while since I finished high school civics so I am a bit rusty on this. But were do we get that due process lies solely in the executive branch by way of an unknown procedure carried out by unnamed government officials? Doesn’t due process sort of imply public scrutiny?

    Doesn’t due process imply some notice to the accused, a clear statement of the accusation, with an opportunity deny the supposed facts?

    Doesn’t due process imply some sort of procedure with checks and balances?

    What next, rounding up everyone who disagrees? Oh! Silly me. We don’t have to round up those who give aid and comfort to the enemy by disagreeing. We can just shoot them, right?

  12. An editorial post in a state newspaper pointed out that state’s increased problem with rural production and consumption of methamphetamine. Wikipedia confirms it is a spreading problem in the Midwest and the West, even excluding California—–in RURAL population segments.

    What does that tell me?

    It says that while Obama’s imperial powers are a dagger aimed at our liberties, it is nothing compared to the rural population joining the ghettos in assenting to the uselessness of their fates, and the preferability of a replacement to the traditional “moonshine”—–even that homemade.
    Even crack and cocaine are surpassed as uppers of choice.

    So America is rotting from within, due to the cumulative one-percenters pressures, overwhelming those traditional practitioners of the American way of life—–which has been long a chimera when agrobusiness has replaced the small farmer; resource exhaustion has made W.Va: etc., jobless, futureless areas..

    Meanwhile, Obama warns those who would resist that he will take them out in his own “due process” at his pleasure.

    How many Americans are brave enough to protest? Their numbers will be thinning soon. How many are not dependent on food stamps for their food?
    Do they have the energy or time to protest? Where are their Guthries, etc.?

    Where is our hope? Or do we just get our kicks at the Jon Stewart show and go back to our usual stance morally in life.

    Where is JC when we need him? Or does the apocalyptic have to get worse first?

    Pray brothers, pray. The one-percenters are counting their money in loud tones and can’t hear you. Neither do our leaders nor our priests.

  13. anon nurse,
    Those comments were interesting. I especially liked the one suggesting that the AUMF needs to be terminated. That is the get our of jail card that Bush and now Obama have been relying on to skirt our Constitution. Maybe we can order a drone attack on the AUMF. We obviously don’t need any dued process first.

  14. “Three citizens have been given their due during the Obama administration and vaporized by presidential order. Frankly, few of us mourn their passing.”

    One of the three was a 16 year old teenager!? I find it disgusting that our government is “vaporizing” children and I for one do mourn his passing in such an unjust manner.

  15. E. Slovik, thank, and asking for a link. Thirst not quenched.

    And some understnding of the students is expressed here in the email I’ve sent to those not here. Do it your way, but do spread the word—-even at the risk of an unpopular label.

    Announcing the Imperial Presidency and a rebuke to the applauders

    Sam Adams was one of the Founders of our country, and a President.
    Holder is the Sec’y of the Dept of Justice, and recent presenter of a policy speech where he declared that achievement of “due process”, as required by the Constitution for justice to be done, can now be done by the executive branch alone, in secret, with no oversight, review or appeal, nor with providing the accused the right to be advised of what he is accused of, the right to confront his accusers, the right of attorney—–nor all the other things we associate with our system of justice through the courts.

    After he ended, his listeners, law school undergraduates, were of course overjoyed at having Moses come down the mountain reciting the tablets which re-interprets our Constitution. And pointing the way to the promised land of an imperial Presidency which would alone decide our fate—–here or abroad.
    They responded with “muted applause”, being aware that there were cameras recording them just as in the old Soviet state or today’s China’s yearly meetings.
    Perhaps some were even hoping for employment with the DoJ.

    Here is Sam Adam’s reply from some 230 years ago.

    To those who offered “muted applause” to Holder: (Slovik)

    “If ye love wealth better than liberty,
    the tranquility of servitude
    better than the animating contest of freedom,
    go home from us in peace.
    We ask not your counsels or your arms.
    Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
    May your chains set lightly upon you,
    and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” — Sam Adams

    An awfully long preamble so do do it better.

  16. Dick Cheney comes to mind…


    Report: Cheney Ordered Concealment of Secret Program From Congress
    Published 1, July 12, 2009

    It goes without saying that, where there is a story of constitutional or human rights abuse, Dick Cheney cannot be far behind. It is therefore little surprise to learn this week that, according to sources in the recent disclosure of a hidden counterterrorism program, the prior concealment from Congress was allegedly ordered by Cheney.

    The Central Intelligence Agency reportedly withheld information about program for eight years on orders from Cheney, who continually fought any disclosures on a host of subjects to either Congress or the courts.

    As I discussed on this segment of MSNBC Countdown, it is a crime to withhold such information from Congress — yet another crime that is not being investigated by the Obama Administration.

    While covert operations can be limited to disclosures to the Gang of Eight, the National Security Act of 1947 requires such disclosure.

    It was previously known that Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, (another dark character in these scandals) was involved in this matter as well.

    From the above story:

    http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/no-geographical-limitations-on-cia-assassination-program-2398/ ( The Raw Story link supplied by Lottakatz is a dead one… as is the one about Dr. David Kelly.)

  17. After all, we are all “mukely applaudng” even by our silence, or unheard boos.
    Think if ALL, including alumni etc had booed. What a message that would have been to Obama and his controllers. And a signal from the church tower, the revolution might have started. The media would have feasted for at least a week.

  18. Further on the results of booing Holder and starting a revolution:

    Do you think that we, as we buried our near ones, would be consoled by the news that the world was celebrating the new “American Spring”?

  19. When the Democraps are as nazi as the RepubliCons then I have no place to go. Ron Paul perhaps. Sorry Barak, I will not be driving poor or crippled voters to the polls. Instead I will be trekking to the hills to work on my retreat for the time the revolution comes.

  20. As bad as this is I still have to vote for Obama to stop the GOP war on women. If the republicans take it all, we all be in for probing sonograms and the funding for Planned Parenthood will be gone. The whole country except California and a few states in the northeast will end up like Texas which has the lowest level of uninsured people in the nation. The state funds for planned parenthood have been cut off so poor women literally have no where to go in small towns and rural areas. I don’t think those that don’t live in red states could possibly understand how bad it will get if the republicans control everything. Obama will be endorsed by Planned Parenthood and all the progressive women’s organizations.

  21. SMom. That’s absurd. A vote of confidence to a congenitally degenerate murderer is not an option for working people. Abstention and let the dice fall where they may is the only principled choice for the class conscious. If ever there were a case for us progressives organizing a 3rd party with OWS activists as a starting point then this example cements the case.

    Check out our only hope for a future at TheNorthStar http://www.thenorthstar.info/ and let’s build a real viable movement that challenges this pathetic status quo.

    Remember, if you cast a vote for the murderer Obama you’re part of the problem — not the solution.

    The DNC & the DP are historically bankrupt insofaras any progressive significance and the sooner this is affirmed by all then the sooner we can truly start reclaiming our Nation’s progressive significance.

  22. SMom- just to clarify my Feminist credentials I should add that my 72 year old mother, who helped Gloria Steinem create MS. magazine and who was an editor of the “Feminist Voice” magazine in Chicago and who was also instrumental in the campaign to Repeal Illinois’ abortion law in 1972 and is a retired UAW organizer — wouldn’t touch Obama’s re-election campaign with a 12 inch male turd on a stick. We’re atheists but consider the closest thing to a working woman’s sin is a vote for Obama in 2012, the murdering bankster militarist whose betrayed the working people of Chicago consistently, starting with his very first vote in the Senate almost a decade ago siding with credit card companies in a vote to overthrow existing bankruptcy laws. The man is a lying coward and a cheat and clearly, from Turley’s article, a scourge to human progress, part of Harvard’s “Generation of Swine”.

  23. Karl Friedrich. Don’t want to be part of an abstention movement. It worked rather poorly in 2010 and women and minorities are feeling the affects of it. Abstain one more year and even more of the poor without picture ids will be disenfranchised. I don’t think encouraging low voter participation is the answer. I am trying to register more voters in low income areas of Dallas. It would be a shame to then tell them to stay home. Historically, it has never worked out very well. If you can talk others into it, feel free to do so.

  24. The fact is, when it comes to the grand bourgeoisie’s agenda Obama is the ultimate politician. He gets the Black vote plus carries out essentially Bush & Cheney’s 3rd term to a tee. To vote for him again is basically to carry out Bush & Cheney’s 4th term. To talk about the GOP’s assault on women while dismissing the arbitrary drone vaporization of Afghan women is something that history will view as absurdly “American Exceptionalism.”

  25. rafflaw, your contributions here have been considerable, courageous, and I agree with 90% of your views but until people like you & SMom come to grips with the fact that votes for Democrats, the party that originated from Slave Owners and has prosecuted every “shooting” war in the 20th Century, is a serious political sin and a provable obstacle to our progressive future, until you come to grips with those facts then you’ll be willy nilly pushed to the outskirts of the future of humanity which consists of a movement entirely at odds with your worldview.

  26. Even though I’m broke due to the genius of American finance capitalism I’ll bet my last stack of hundred dollar bills to donuts that based on Turley’s article in discussion that he’d rather kill his kids like “Kaiser Soze” than to cast a vote for the biggest authoritarian murderer of the US Constitution in history. Mark my words. Just ask the Professor or dare him to come out publically as saying he’ll vote for Obama. He won’t. He’ll abstain. Just as would any heroic progressive with an iota of class conscience. I defy anybody here to prove me wrong, that is, get Professor Jonathan Turley to admit he’ll be voting for Obama. He won’t be, rest assured, and you sorry saps that will be should find another blog to waste your time with. Think about it. In the highly unlikely event I’m wrong I’ll never post here again. If I’m rightt then you should promise to do the same. Gotcha! Res Ipsa Loquitor.

  27. Sorry Raff, as much as I admire your contributions here I predict with utmost confidence that you will never ever get the Professor host of this blog to agree with you on this crucial score and therefore — shame on you! If I’m right, and I know I will be as the silence will be deafening, then you should step down from your role here, think about the errors of your ways, and join the solution rather further contributing to the the problem insofaras anybody that casts a vote of confidence to Obama’s “killer policy” is somebody that will be politically trampled over in the coming years.

  28. SMom: You go ahead and continue to register Dallas women to vote for one the biggest killers of innocent Brown women in our lifetimes. Meanwhile the hero of your blog, J. Turley, will be discouraging that course of action based on principles.

  29. It would be appropriate to explore a remedy of suing U.S. officials and the government in the court in Den Hague. A survivor of one of the dead guys would have standing. Or someone locked up in some drone prone country by the CIA or some drone prone country at the bidding of the U.S. Or a Gitmo detainee. If folks on the blog have information to share about the international court it would be relevant to this discussion. Our own Supreme Court needs to chimne in on the issue but I would like to see the international court take a case.

  30. “Remember, if you cast a vote for the murderer Obama you’re part of the problem — not the solution.” (Karl Friedrich)

    “shame on you! If I’m right, and I know I will be as the silence will be deafening, then you should step down from your role here, think about the errors of your ways, and join the solution rather further contributing to the the problem insofaras anybody that casts a vote of confidence to Obama’s “killer policy” is somebody that will be politically trampled over in the coming years.” (Karl Friedrich)

    “and you sorry saps that will be should find another blog to waste your time with. Think about it. In the highly unlikely event I’m wrong I’ll never post here again. If I’m rightt then you should promise to do the same. Gotcha! Res Ipsa Loquitor.” (Karl Friedrich)

    Is it just me or does all this ranting sound familiar?

    (BTW … Paul was trounced in Ohio yesterday.)

  31. Blouise, most of the Paulbots are pretty transparent. He had one good idea; i.e., get our troops out of the combat zone. The rest of his ideas……well, the medicine cart should be coming around pretty soon.

  32. KF,

    It is no secret either as to why or the fact that I’m not voting for Obama and in fact intend to abstain from the national election. I have made a principled argument of why I will not vote for Obama or any of the Hate Machine clowns currently running for office of the President. It is both rational and ethical. I stand by my decision. However, I have not tried to compel others to do as I am such as Mike S. or raff. Both of whom understand and respect my decision – I might be so brazen as to suggest they are even sympathetic for my reasoning – even though I am doing what is necessary to express myself and be true to myself. They are both men of good conscience and from previous conversation, I know they are both aware of the risks and of the failings of Obama. It cannot be said fairly that the conclusions they have reached are uninformed.

    I think your “challenge” to raff is a bit presumptuous.

    He is just as free to exercise his right to vote (or not) as you or I.

    That raff may not agree with either of our choices (and perhaps JT’s – as he has said nothing I’ll not go further than perhaps) does not invalidate his contributions here. Make no mistake about it.

    This is an instance where there is no argument to win. Their vote is their right. In the end, it’s a matter of conscience. They choose to opt for the lesser of two evils in this clearly Morton’s fork dilemma. I understand rationally why they came to this decision even if it is not the right decision for me personally. Just as reasonable men can disagree, people of conscience can disagree. Here the disagreement isn’t really over quality of candidates. I think it is fair to say all of us find Obama to be a perfectly revolting choice given his dismal track record on human and civil rights – exacerbating, continuing and excusing the very rights and Constitutional abuses of the previous criminal administration. The substantive difference is over methodology to minimize and mitigate damage.

    The reason there is no argument to win here is that both stands – to abstain or to choose the lesser evil – can be viewed as the correct choice. There is no single right choice. This isn’t a situation where you are arguing against the prime facie irrational or the unethical. The arguments for either abstention or the lesser evil are sound arguments. That is the very nature of a Morton’s fork problem. All the choices suck. You just have to pick the one you personally can live with.

  33. Ranting? Save those complaints for your Professor at large. No, it doesn’t sound “familiar” since the hero of your blog will be parting company with you Obama voters. You don’t really imagine a man of conscience would write an article like this and then enter a ballot box to cast a vote for such criminal turpitude do you? If you think Turley is voting for Obama this election then you people are truly delusional. It won’t happen because unlike you people he has inviolate principles and with all due respect to you regulars, shame on you all for not recognizing that and following him down the same righteous path.

  34. Karl,
    I don’t agree with Professor Turley on all issues and that is not the purpose of this blog. It would not be the great blog that it is if everyone had to agree with Prof. Turley. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me Karl. We all get to express our views and make our arguments. That is the beauty of this place.

  35. Gene’s points are well founded & he makes a cogent argument that’s beyond dispute. My point, however, is to expose how such loyal followers of the Professor can so easily betray the Host’s principles in the myopic thread-bare & tired arguments of “lesser-evilism.” Like an old friend who I just emailed this article to said: “If this guy is the Lesser Evil, I’d hate to come face-to-face with the Evil One himself.”

  36. True enough Raff, but let’s face it, about 1% of the regulars here disagree with the Professor’s legal & political prognoses. When it comes to something as fundamental as this, that is, the genius legal mind who you guest blog for regularly will prove to be fundamentally at odds over who you’re going to cast a vote for this November then that’s pretty embarrassing. Some might argue it’s shameful you don’t adopt his principled stance, which is zero quarter for abjectly authoritarian murderers of the US Constitution.

  37. Karl Friedrich,

    Why ever in the world would I care for whom JT does or does not cast his vote? I think you’ve confused this blog with one structured by an Authoritarian Parent.

  38. KF,

    “My point, however, is to expose how such loyal followers of the Professor can so easily betray the Host’s principles in the myopic thread-bare & tired arguments of ‘lesser-evilism.'”

    And apparently to demonize their decision. You say they are betraying the principles of our host? By the same token, they are also upholding the host’s principles by voting their conscience based upon informed decisions. I don’t think JT would find this disagreement a betrayal. If they were actively advocating extra-judicial killings? That would be a good argument for betrayal of principles. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, this is a good argument for reasonable disagreement, but not betrayal.

    Just because you (or I) don’t agree with the lesser evil argument in this situation doesn’t invalidate it as a rational choice.

  39. Blouise, Sin has already been mentioned by Karl. If I wanted to hear that I was sinning by voting for the wrong person I would go to a conservative catholic church not a blog.

  40. SwM,

    Between you and me … I doubt JT would want me as a “follower”. I take too much time stopping to smell the flowers. ;)

  41. Some could say the opposite, Karl. That it is unprincipled not to vote and let a self professed theocrat like Santorum become president by default.

  42. True enough Raff, you’re not betraying Professor Turley, rather your betraying the oath all law students have to make to uphold the United States Constitution when completing their Bar Exams. This oath Turley may have violated unwittingly in 2008 but make no mistake won’t violate in 2012. This is not just a question of principles but of “which side are you on” – a vote for one of two lawless political parties or abstention in the name of principled justice.

    Please everybody come to grips with this simple axiom so we may move forward: The USA is essentially a One Party State with 2 political factions bickering over how best to exploit working people & the environment. The more progressives & activists ignore this truism the more they become obstacles to progress.

  43. SwM,

    Like I said earlier … the rant sounds very, very familiar as does the authoritative tone. Bunch of dictatorial nonsense.

  44. Yep, Blouise, Been around this block more than a few times. I remember the tea party neighbor deal.

  45. The tea party neighbors now have republicans lawn signs along with crosses in their yards. Maybe they are for lent.

  46. “Please everybody come to grips with this simple axiom so we may move forward” (Karl Friedrich)

    I’m not following you anywhere dude/dudette ’cause you’re not going anywhere worthwhile.

  47. Sure. Accusing Karl in principled debate of “Sieg Heil” shows what wit & wisdom some of the Ozark women here can display. To bad they never read: “Pissing in the Snow” about the real wit & wisdom from the Ozarks.

    How about you people stick to the facts, like what asshats you’ll look like when your hero Professor declares he cannot in good conscience cast a vote of confidence for the unconstitutional criminality of the Obama administration in 2012 with the blood of thousands of innocents on his hands.

  48. SwM,

    My poor tea party neighbor didn’t even bother putting out his Ron Paul signs this year. I felt kind of sorry for him.

  49. Karl Friedrich,

    Put a sock in it Karl/Karley … you are boring, which is probably the biggest sin one can commit on this blog.

  50. Sure SMom. Fall back to your tired old diatribe that I’m some tea party fruitcake. Problem is they never say anything like this truism:

    “The USA is essentially a One Party State with 2 political factions bickering over how best to exploit working people & the environment. The more progressives & activists ignore this truism the more they become obstacles to progress.”

    If you people here simply Poo Poo the simple idea that that the 2 party system is a fraud run by corporate Party A and Corporate party B which rings true to most sentient beings then truly this blog will become moot, a bygone joke, as Turley himself will not likely be welcoming such juvenile nonsense but will rather be wondering how we can turn a lawless Nation into a lawful one?

  51. I had to go to the store earlier today. Someone – unsolicited and out of the blue – decided to tell me all the reasons I should vote for Rick Santorum. For some reason, I must look like I’m the kind of guy to strike up a political conversation with because it happens to me more often than you’d think of as statistically reasonable.

    The conversation did not go exactly as they had planned.

    I did find out – very loudly – that I was going to Hell for being a Godless soulless heathen and that this is a Christian country no matter what the Constitution says.

    So I got that going for me.

    Which is nice.

  52. SwM,

    Karl/Karley just crossed a very important line but doesn’t have a clue … like a kid in the middle of a temper tantrum he/she just spouts off and then looks around for someone else to blame. Kind of like those teabaggers who threw money at the crippled guy and then whined “I don’t know what got into me.”

  53. Blouise, I never had a conversation with Karl before and he referred to prior conversations so it must be the person you think it is.

  54. KF,

    False. I’m rather well known for criticizing the two party system and many of the regulars have agreed with those past criticisms. You paint with too broad a brush in an attempt to prove the superiority of your position on this issue. Again, there is no argument to win here. Both the decision to abstain and the decision to vote for the lesser evil are rationally and ethically defensible.

    You’ve made your point. Now you start to belabor it. Let it stand. If people are going to be persuaded by your argument, they will, if they won’t, they won’t, but further demonizing others who have taken a contrary but equally valid stand is only going to drive people away who might otherwise be attracted to your points. Remember, this isn’t a case of arguing against prime facie irrationality or unethical behavior.

    This is why I have not fought this battle.

    There is no winning in prolonged conflict over the matter.

  55. raff,

    There just must be something about my face. I get the damnedest unsolicited conversations in public. Always have. From people just wanting to tell me their life story to just about anything else you can imagine.

  56. The pathetic & sophmorish ad hominem retorts about Stalin and tea party absurdities only show how none of Turley’s die hards wish to confront the wretchedly painful topic at hand which is the fact that their intellectual hero will be distinctly at odds with them come 11/12. Crushing to be sure but time to grow up & join the movement of the future rather than fight it.

  57. Gene,

    The crazies are everywhere because God is everywhere. I really do wish they would all ascend and leave us to run amuck in our own little hell here on earth. They keep setting dates yet none of them actually go up into the clouds.

    I’m going to start the rumor that the next Ascension will take place in Arizona and Texas on Nov. 23, 2013 at 12:00, noon … sharp. All worldly goods can be forwarded to (the address of the warehouse I have rented). I plan to sell stock in the venture, if you are interested.

  58. KF,

    I’m starting to suspect the movement of the future needs a better recruiter. Unless you’re a comic with the skill level of a Bill Hicks? You can’t win over an audience by coming out and saying, “Fuck you all! Goodnight!”

    Seriously man. Work on your delivery.

  59. Swarthmore mom

    Blouise, I never had a conversation with Karl before and he referred to prior conversations so it must be the person you think it is.


    Of course it is. How else is he/she going to make the argument appear popular?

  60. “Crushing to be sure but time to grow up & join the movement of the future rather than fight it.” (Karl Friedrich)

    And that movement of the future entails not voting … oh yeah, like anyone with brains is going to follow that one. Nonsense

  61. Here’s the “left” summarized today. They’ll take a President who can kill anybody in the world “his” regime sees fit so long as they’re nominally for “Planned Parenthood.” Never mind throwing ACORN under the bus as well as 20 mi lion homeowners & taxpayers with bankster proscriptions & anti-people bankruptcy laws. He’s a real man that presides over not only the highest incarceration rate in human history but also the biggest military budget. Albeit history proves that foreign policy is derived from domestic policy — drones will solve all of our problems!

    What an incredible contribution to humanities!

  62. Blouise: I guess your hero Professor Turley by your definition has “no brains” then because he for goddamned sure won’t cast a vote for Obama after this article so please CC me your email to him entitled: “Brainless Twerp Professor of Contitutional Law” as I’ll be sure to blog post it everywhere. I’m waiting patiently for that CC.

    Hee hee.

  63. Sure you did Blouise. Ozark wit & wisdom is my Achilles heel. Especially when it directly confronts the points in a principled debate!

  64. Gene H. Re: “my delivery” which may need some work, fine, that may be true, but also true is my message, that Obamaism (that is, Democratic Party politics) is a blind alley or worse for working people, moreover, that the hero & founder of this blog most certainly won’t himself be casting a vote for Obama come 2012 — so why should anybody else here defy his sensibilities in that regard? Of course that’s their right but who wants to sanely waste their time on a blog with which you cannot even come to terms with the moderators political conclusions without some degree of embarassment?

  65. I have a few questions that might have been answered already and I overlooked it:

    How is it possible to simply redefine by fiat a core legal principle like “due process”?

    How does Holder get away with simply saying that due process is whatever we say it is?

    I feel like I’ve fallen through the rabbit hole, with absurdity heaped upon absurdity; can someone explain how such a power grab by executive branch, in violation of all legal principles in this country, can simply be declared as fact? It feels like some hellish quicksand is smothering all rationality and I am at a complete loss as to how to respond, or if there remains any point in responding.

    I strongly supported Obama’s first run, but this is so fundamental a betrayal (on the heels of other fundamental betrayals) that it will be difficult to even vote for him this time around. I’m not sure I can do it.

    Thank you, JT, for your voice of reason on this issue.

  66. Here’s what I posted about Holder’s speech on my Just askin’ – Just sayin’ blog on PatriotActionNetwork.com:

    The Obama Administration has often made a big deal about being so smart and nuanced and subtle in their thinking and policy positions that we “common folk” just can’t fully understand and appreciate how right they really are about things.

    Of course, that’s like saying, “Don’t argue with me, because I’m right,” therefore hopefully avoiding the absolutely boring d-r-u-d-g-e-r-y of having to prove that you are, in fact, right. Or Obama saying, as he recently did about Iran’s nuclear threat, “I don’t bluff.” Well, it’s been my limited experience in playing poker that when another player feels the need to SAY he doesn’t bluff, it’s because he IS bluffing. Or, to put it another way, a bully often yells loudest right before he backs down. Anyway, I digress.

    Finally, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder has broken the administration’s silence on the legal justifications for its decision to kill US citizen and al Qaida terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki by drone strike five months ago in Yemen. Our poseur president’s affirmative action Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest attempt at this nuance of nonsense, subtlety of subversion and subservience, and distinction without a difference is to say that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process doesn’t necessarily mean “judicial due process.”


    Well, that sort of flies in the face of the Constitution itself (not that this administration has worried too much about that) and 235 years of American jurisprudence, which hold that the JUDICIARY is responsible for the enforcement of our constitutional due process rights, NOT the EXECUTIVE BRANCH.

    So, if any, old due process will do in a pinch when the executive branch wants to kill somebody, and it can be therefore enforced, or IGNORED, by the executive branch, where does that leave us?

    Eric “Americans are cowards about race” Holder would have us believe that he is making the “distinction” that this new and novel “executive due process” applies only to US citizens who are terrorists and are OVERSEAS. Okay, I’m a US citizen but I’m not a terrorist and I’m not overseas, so I and my Constitutional rights are safe, right?

    But, wait, what if after getting by with THIS “nuanced interpretation,” the NEXT ONE applies to US citizens who are deemed by the executive branch to be DOMESTIC terrorists HERE AT HOME? Who’s watching out for my “due process under the law” then? Whoops! Seems like we skipped a couple of steps along the Constitutional separation of powers pathway, there, don’tcha think?

    I could say something at this juncture about slippery slopes, etc., but I think an old saying by a German author about the German people’s failure to challenge the Nazis’ rise to power captures it best:

    “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    You may not be a communist, a trade unionist or even a good and faithful, law-abiding Jew, but if you’re a US citizen, you should be worried about Obama’s sly, self-serving and slippery slope power grabs.

  67. This does show the problem with people blindly assuming that “THEIR” guy is a good guy and not thinking too much about what he’s actually doing.

    The same people who are quiet about this would be screaming to high heaven if Bush or Yoo were doing this. It shows that the rot infects both parties. The only way to even begin to fix this is to go back to limited government and get rid of this stupid partisanship that is crusted over everything. Because this is a “bipartisan” problem.

    Good point made above about the arrogance inherent in Holder’s argument “assume I’m right”..

  68. Karl Friedrich,
    What form of abstention has ever made it better for the unions or the labor movement they represent? Did anybody notice or were éffected among your opponents?
    Hope you see this. Start a movement trying to effect his platform. That seems to be your only chance. Make the Harvard Swine in Chief promise.
    Thanks for the label.

  69. Gene H.
    You and people in public: Do some hang onto your ankle as you try to go on, dragging them after you?

    Be careful. These nuts have guns too, doesn’t everybody there?
    How nice with the Swedish way: The persuaders wear clear identifying marks, are easily wifted away, and least of all annoy. (A sour face is a no vote, they are taught)
    And yet we are decidedly election enthusiasts—-87 percent voting.

    Coudl it depend on that Sweden has no chance in the big world fights?

  70. idealist: What I see as a UAW man is how the trade union bureacracy in the US, through both hubris & incompetence, has slowly but surely undermined the interests of working people by throwing away money and votes of confidence for the Democrats who have betrayed them over & over.

    Independence from the parties of bankers, bosses, landlords & war is where working people need to casts their votes.

    Here what Marx & Engels said in a speech to workers back in the day:

    “Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers
    must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to
    gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and
    party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the
    empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’
    candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of
    reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final
    analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the
    proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is
    infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the
    presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. If the
    forces of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the
    reaction from the very beginning, the reactionary influence in the
    election will already have been destroyed.”


  71. Well, are we not at the point that we don’t want to consider?

    That our votes won’t effect our future in a meaningful effective manner.

    Does any potential Obama voter feel that 4 more Obama years will be marked by a restoration of any civil liberties lost previously?
    Any fewer intrusions in our privacy, persons, homes, etc.?
    Will his being President lead to less surveillance, less chilling of speech, more freedom for demonstrators from attack by SWAT squads?

    His expressed interpretation of the restrictions on NDAA seems to give hope. But it simply comes down to he won’t use the armed forces to do this work, but has in no way said he will not use those used previously by other agencies. CIA torrure, renderings, denial of habeas corpus, no attorney representation, no presentment of accusations, no faceoff against accusers, etc.

    The sealed indictments are enough to reasonably label this a totalitarian state. Ridiculous that that can be called due process, abd with court involvement..

    And now this “this our interpretation, trust us”

    See you in four years.

    Oh, yeah. Do I have a solution?
    Let’s all leave the country. All of us. Let’s see how they stop that?
    Too radical? Too hard to do?
    Well save it for four years or less and then do it.
    It is safer than a revolution. And more effective than voting for two fractions of the same hypocrixy.

    But do vote. I’ve already given money to Obama (ex-pats can), and want to see if my money wins.
    But hopes, no. Have none. Too old and distrustful and too often outraged by Obama.

    Other suggestions????.

  72. KF,
    You see above in part my agreement that voting is a meaningless exercise.
    But still I encourage the vote for Obama, as it will lead to more disappointment and closer to a decisive action by citizens. Where that will lead is up to them and many factors. I have no faith in your undefined non-existent movement.
    You still have not identified the alternative Presidential candidater you support.
    If there is a movement, where is its candidate?
    If there is a movement, where is its program—-point by point?

    You seem like a voice in the wilderness with no listeners.
    Like one of those fabled figures clad in a biblical costume, carrying a sign pronouncing the return of or the coming of or some such—-but nobody listens.
    Are there folks who follow you. Point to their site,, if you will.

  73. You must not have been paying attention, idealist, as I already linked to a site and pointed to a movement that’s documented in real time in an earlier post above. The 99% are building events in every state for this spring & summer and it will change American politics forever. Indeed, It already has but yet it’s only barely begun, proof that you don’t necessarily need a “point by point platform” to change the headlines from certain austerity measures to unease with growing income inequality virtually overnight.

  74. KF
    In other words you admit it is a movement without a defined program,
    without a presidential candidate, etc.
    Fine, that’s all we need to know to ignore your offering.

    And without voting you don’t have a voice. With the new law re. events of national interest, you won”t be accorded demonstrations that will be noticed.

    Preach on. Useless. I like you, wish it were enough, but it isn’t. The world does not change that way.

  75. Karl, I come to this blog to learn more about law and the constitution from the professor not to be lectured about “sin”.

  76. SwM,

    Just another one of those suppress the vote operatives using buzz words like UAW, old time women’s lib stuff, etc. For some reason Karl and Pierre (from another thread) seem to think there’s some kind of insult in the reference to Ozarks. I guess one has to be from around there to get it.

  77. Karl,

    You seem like the type of person that could benefit all of these sinners. Please show the way, I have been lost and I think you are showing me the light.

  78. Blouise, I don’t know, but I think it is meant to demean us. I no longer think the person we are speaking about is a woman.

  79. Blouise and SwM,
    If you want to find a moving story from the Ozarks, look up Disfarmer on Wiki. He photographed the common man there for 30 years.
    His originals go for fantasy prices for their affective value today.

  80. Thanks Blouise.
    Excellent repros on first page. Bought a book a year or so ago.
    Really should use Google more and Wiki less, or both. It’s so easy to turn your beak towards Wiki and say peep, and it gets filled. no mental effort at all. And there I am being self-depracatory—- again. Whew.

    The story behind the town is amazing in itself. A summer resort for the rich. surrounded by common farmers. Amazing Americana.
    Shades of Steinbeck. Grapes…..!

  81. The government orchestrated 9/11’s purpose was multi-faceted…

    1) Create a “War on Terror” which brought about billions of dollars
    for the coporporate elitists to profit and bring down “terrorist dictators”
    ACTUALLY-daddy and sonny bush, the murdering clintons, kissinger,
    rockerfellers, rothchilds, bill gates, george soros (schwartz), maurice
    strong, and all the power elite of the cfr, tlc, bildebergs, illuminati…
    2) ILLEGALLY begin stripping American citizens of their rights under the
    Constitution and ther Bill of Rights under the guise of this NONSENSICAL
    “war on terror”. This will make the above 2 documents that we hold so
    dear as non-effect…thus VOID.

    WHY…to usher in the NEW WORLD ORDER.
    The HAVES want to remain HAVES in the ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT
    While we, the HAVE NOTS will become as FEUDAL SERFS—SLAVES—
    or DEAD, there is no place in the NWO for WORTHLESS, USELESS EATERS. All to cull the world population to BELOW 500 MILLION, that’s 6.5 BILLION people DEAD…see GEORGIA GUIDESTONE.

    The ultimate in conntrol of the NWO have had world control for vast periods in man’s history. NOW…with a network in place, they feel confident THEY WILL NEVER HAVE TO RELINQUISH CONTROL AGAIN.


  82. Hey… the police kill American citizens all the time. The police are government agents sent out by Obama to execute every United States citizen one by one. The next time those flashing lights come on behind you, say your prayers and be ready to die!

  83. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/opinion/too-much-power-for-a-president.html?_r=1&hp


    Too Much Power for a President
    Published: May 30, 2012

    “It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling.

    Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

    How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

    It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

    Mr. Obama, who campaigned against some of those abuses in 2008, should remember. But the Times article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, depicts him as personally choosing every target, approving every major drone strike in Yemen and Somalia and the riskiest ones in Pakistan, assisted only by his own aides and a group of national security operatives. Mr. Obama relies primarily on his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

    To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

    The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.

    In a recent speech, Mr. Brennan said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, not simply because they are members of Al Qaeda, and prefers to capture suspects alive. Those assurances are hardly binding, and even under Mr. Obama, scores of suspects have been killed but only one taken into American custody. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have far lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted.

    A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.”

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