Holder Promises To Kill Citizens With Care

Attorney General Eric Holder was at Northwestern University Law School yesterday explaining President Barack Obama’s claimed authority to kill any American if he unilaterally determines them to be a threat to the nation. The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers. Obama has replaced the constitutional protections afforded to citizens with a “trust me” pledge that Holder repeated yesterday at Northwestern. The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport.

Holder proclaimed that “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 since senior Administration officials have asserted that the President may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.”

The Obama Administration continues to stonewall efforts to get it to acknowledge the existence of a memo authorizing the killing of Awlaki. Democrats previously demanded the “torture memos” of the Bush Administration that revealed both poor legal analysis by Judge Jay Bybee and Professor John Yoo to justify torture. Now, however, Democrats are largely silent in the face of a president claiming the right to unilaterally kill citizens.

Holder became particularly cryptic in his assurance of caution in the use of this power, insisting that they will kill citizens 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.” What on earth does that mean?

He was more clear in establishing that due process itself is now defined differently than it has been defined by courts since the start of this Republic. He declared that “a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.’” Of course, from any objective standpoint, that statement is absurd and Orwellian. It is basically saying that “we will give the process that we consider due to a target.” His main point was that “due process” will now longer mean “judicial process.”

That last statement goes to the heart of the controversy. Many reporters have bought into the spin of the Administration that there are real limits to this power because they perform their own constitutional analysis for each killing. This starts with the presumption that the Constitution does not require these determinations to be made by a court or that they be subject to court review. They then redefine the protections of due process as a balancing test within the administration. This Administration has consistently maintained that courts do not have a say in such matters. Instead, they simply define the matter as covered by the Law Of Armed Conflicts (LOAC), even when the conflict is a war on terror. That war, they have stressed, is to be fought all around the world, including the United States. It is a battlefield without borders as strikes in other countries have vividly demonstrated.

The result is that they are claiming that they are following self-imposed “limits” which are meaningless — particularly in a system that is premised on the availability of judicial review. The Administration has never said that the LOAC does not allow the same powers to be used in the United States. It would be an easy thing to state. Holder can affirmatively state that the President’s inherent power to kill citizens exists only outside of the country. He can then explain where those limits are found in the Constitution and why they do not apply equally to a citizen in London or Berlin.

All the Administration has said is that they closely and faithfully follow their own guidelines — even if their decision are not subject to judicial review. The fact that they say those guidelines are based on notions of due process is meaningless. They are not a constitutional process of review. They are a dressed claim of process for a unilateral power. Presumably, the President can override the panel or disregard the panel. The panel is an extension of his claim of inherent unilateral authority.

If the “limit” is the internal review described by the administration, we are speaking a different language. Any authoritarian measure can be dressed up as carefully executed according to balancing tests, but that does not constitute “fifth amendment analysis,” “fourth amendment analysis,” or any constitutional analysis that I know of. It is at best a loose analogy to constitutional analysis.

This is precisely why the Framers rejected the “trust me” approach to government, as discussed in this column.

Since last year, U.S. drones have killed three Americans overseas.

Source: LA Times

213 thoughts on “Holder Promises To Kill Citizens With Care

  1. Johnathon Hughes, in reading your diatribes I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to accomplish. The article is about the AG killing people…unjustly. You’ve gone into some left turn about Christians not killing, yet the flavor of the article is that it’s the Christians that will be killed when labeled as terrorists.

    You claim something about anointing and not killing but if you refer back to I Kings 18 you’ll note that Elijah had all the prophets of Baal rounded up and he slaughtered them at the Kishon Valley. And I do believe that Elijah was quite anointed…….

    • 1 Kings 18;

      The Prophets of Baal, and Baalim were cutting themselves anyway. 28And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. War is sadomasochistic too. Can you guess who has engaged in it?

      The Humans that war cannot call on God, and have God do what God did to the object on the altewr. All the water, and even the rocks were consumed. That was not fire that fell on that sacrifice.That was the light of God focused on one spot.

      As it turns out the humans that have warred over history have been the equivalent of Baal, and Baalim worshipers. Never no not ever being able to do what Elijah did. How then do they even have the right to do what Elijah did? Therefore deserve the same end as the worshiper of Baal, and Baalim? It seems that the world needs to repent.

  2. 1 Kings 18;

    The Prophets of Baal, and Baalim were cutting themselves anyway. 28And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. War is sadomasochistic too. Can you guess who has engaged in it?

    The Humans that war cannot call on God, and have God do what God did to the object on the alter. All the water, and even the rocks were consumed. That was not fire that fell on that sacrifice.That was the light of God focused on one spot.

    As it turns out the humans that have warred over history have been the equivalent of Baal, and Baalim worshipers that could never do what Elijah did no not ever. How then do they even have the right to do what Elijah did? Therefore deserve the same end as the worshiper of Baal, and Baalim? It seems that the world needs to repent.

  3. Wow, Johnathon. I have no idea where you’re coming from or where you’re going but it’s clear you’ve been drinking that rainbow church koolaid. There are substantial accounts of God directing the Israelite s to kill and slaughter and blessing their obedience. If fact it was Saul’s disobedience in not annihilating the Amalekites that caused God to reject him. Your constant reference to “humans” is disconcerting, perhaps you’re a PETA protege’ ……..

    But your constantly weird diatribes aside, I think folks would prefer you stay on topic, that being Holder promising to kill citizens with care………

  4. http://www.salon.com/2012/05/18/drone_filmmaker_denied_visa/singleton/

    Friday, May 18, 2012 10:29 AM EDT

    Drone filmmaker denied visa

    A Pakistani student is unable to accept his film festival award because he is denied the right to enter the U.S.
    By Glenn Greenwald

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    [Drone filmmaker denied visa] A still image from Muhammad Danish Qasim’s film, “The Other Side.”

    Muhammad Danish Qasim is a Pakistani student at Iqra University’s Media Science and is also a filmmaker. This year, Qasim released a short film entitled The Other Side, a 20-minute narrative that “revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan.” A two-minute video trailer of the film is embedded below. The Express Tribune provided this summary of the film, including an interview with Qasim:

    The Other Side revolves around a school-going child in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan. The child’s neighborhood gets bombed after the people of the region are suspected for some notorious activities. He ends up losing all of his loved ones during the bombing and later becomes part of an established terrorists group who exploit his loss and innocence for their own interests.

    On the reasons for picking such a sensitive topic, the film-maker said, “Most of the films being made right now are based on social issues, so we picked up an issue of international importance which is the abrogation of our national space by foreign countries.”

    When asked how this film on terrorism will be different from all the others that have been released since 9/11, he said, “The film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks. I have tried my best to connect all the dots that lead to a drone attack and have shot the prevailing aftermath of such attacks in a very realistic and raw manner.”

    In particular, “the film identifies the problems faced by families who have become victims of drone missiles, and it unearths the line of action which terrorist groups adopt to use victimised families for their vested interests.” In other words, it depicts the tragedy of civilian deaths, and documents how those deaths are then successfully exploited by actual Terrorists for recruitment purposes.

    We can’t have the U.S. public learning about any of that. In April, Qasim was selected as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. Qasim, however, along with his co-producers, were prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept their award and showcase their film because their request for a visa to travel to the U.S. was denied. The Tribune reported: “Despite being chosen for the award, the filmmakers were unable to attend the award ceremony as their visa applications were rejected twice. ’If we got the visa then it would have been easy for us to frame our point of view in front of the other selected youth filmmakers,’ Qasim said.” And:

    “I believe the most probable reason for the visa denial was the sensitive subject of my film,” says Qasim. He recalls that when the visa officer asked about the subject matter of the film, he suggested making changes in the letter issued by his University upon hearing that the film dealt with terrorism and drone attacks.

    “Although I made the changes to the letter according to the visa officer’s recommendation, they still rejected the visa and did not disclose the reason for it,” says a disappointed Qasim.

    According to Qasim, “NFFTY is considered to be the biggest event for young film-makers of the world. Film schools as well as potential Hollywood producers attend the event in order to interact with young, talented film-makers. I’m disappointed that my team, especially my crew members Atiqullah, Ali Raza Mukhtar Ali and Waqas Waheed Awan, who made the film possible with their hard work and support, missed out on a major opportunity to represent Pakistan on an international forum.”

    Although it’s not proven why the visa was denied — the U.S. government, needless to say, refuses to comment on visa denials — this case is similar to that of Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who had sued the CIA on behalf of civilian drone victims and was also denied a visa to travel to the U.S. to attend last month’s Drone Summit in Washington; the Obama administration relented and permitted him to travel to the U.S. only once a serious outcry arose. The Bush administration also routinely excluded Muslim critics of U.S. foreign policy from entering the U.S.

    Banning filmmakers, lawyers, political activists, and scholars from entering your country out of fear of their criticisms is the behavior of an insecure, oppressive nation. It’s also natural behavior for political leaders eager to maintain an impenetrable wall of secrecy around their conduct.

    Just to underscore how extreme is the Obama administration’s reflexive secrecy in such matters: yesterday, ABC News‘s Jake Tapper asked National Security Advisor Tom Donilon whether the U.S. Government compensates the innocent victims it kills outside of Afghanistan, and Donilon simply refused to answer (“I’m just not going to go there”). There’s no legitimate reason that this information should be concealed, but for a government that views disclosure as inherently unnecessary, that is enamored of its own secrecy power for its own sake, and that is desperate to prevent its citizens from knowing what it is doing, this sort of imperious decree of secrecy is the natural course (for an even more egregious case, see this amazing summary from the ACLU’s Ben Wizner on how Obama DOJ lawyers defend the U.S. government’s secret, definitively Kafkaesque, unappealable no-fly and Terrorist watch lists).

    That the U.S. is routinely killing innocent civilians in multiple Muslim countries is one of the great taboos in establishment media discourse. A film that documents the horrors and Terror brought by the U.S. to innocent people — and the way in which that behavior constantly strengthens the Terrorists, thus eternally perpetuating its own justification — threatens to subvert that taboo. So this filmmaker is simply kept out of the country, in Pakistan, where he can do little harm to U.S. propaganda (as usual, U.S. government claims of secrecy based on national security are primarily geared toward ensuring effective propagnada — of the American citizenry). Isn’t it time for another Hillary Clinton lecture to the world on the need for openness and transparency? “Those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind,” she so inspirationally intoned last month.

    (Video available via labove link)

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