Attorney General Eric Holder this week held out the possibility that the President could kill an American citizens with a drone attack on U.S. soil without any criminal charge or trial. After Holder announced President Obama’s kill list policy, many apologists for the Administration insisted that the policy was limited to targets outside of the United States and was subject to a form of due process of the President’s own making. At the time, I wrote that these arguments were nothing but spin by the Administration and its supporters since the underlying claim of authority would have no such limitations. Holder now appears to have confirmed that even they do not believe in such limitations. This follows the release of a memo showing that Holder’s description of the policy at Northwestern University Law School was narrower than the actual policy described within the Administration.
Holder was responding to a letter from Sen. Rand Paul concerning the nomination of CIA director John Brennan on the use of lethal force. Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”
It will be difficult for people to find someway, as in the past, to blame this policy on Republicans. The kill list policy of Obama belongs to him. As I discussed in earlier columns (here and here and here), it is astonishing how citizens, including so many liberals and civil libertarians, have remained relatively silent in the face of a classic claim of authoritarian power. The relative silence over this latest development shows just how passive the country, and particularly liberals, have become in challenging Obama on his aggregation of executive power. It also is the latest evidence showing Obama’s evisceration of the civil liberties movement in this country. There is little observable movement left after it was divided over loyalty to Obama in the first term. A president has previously said that he can kill U.S. citizens on his own authority. It was then revealed that the citizen does not actually have to be involved in an imminent terrorism attack. Now he claims the right to use that authority in the U.S. The response at every stage has been a collective and prolonged yawn from a people growing comfortable with a burgeoning security state and an imperial president.