DOJ Memo: Obama Administration Claims Broader Authority To Kill Americans

PresObamaWe have previously discussed the President’s “kill list” policy under which Obama claims the right to be able to kill any American based on his sole judgment and discretion. A confidential Justice Department memo now sheds more light on that policy and states a broader basis for such killings than previously suggested by the Administration. It is also not clear why this memo was kept secret by the Administration since it deals only with legal interpretations — not classified operational information.

Last March, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared at the Northwestern University Law School to present the new policy, claiming that the President did not need any conviction or even a charge to kill an American citizen. While he stressed that this was based on a rationale that the citizen posed “an imminent threat of violent attack,” I noted at the time that any such limitation was purely discretionary under the theory of executive power being advanced by the Obama Administration.

It now appears that the Administration lawyers reached the same conclusion. The memo notes that there does not need to be an imminent attack in terms of an unfolding plan or operation: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

In plain language, that means that the President considers the citizens to be a threat in the future. Moreover, the memo allows killings when an attempt to capture the person would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel. That undue risk is left undefined.

The memo, entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force,” is a tour de force of an imperial presidency. It was provided previously to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees. However, those members did nothing to stop such an extreme assertion of unilateral presidential power or to alert the public that the president was claiming far greater latitude in ordering the killings of citizens.

In an Orwellian twist, the memo insists “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination.” It is more like a very pointed expression of presidential displeasure.

Here is the memo: 020413_DOJ_White_Paper

Source: NBC

395 thoughts on “DOJ Memo: Obama Administration Claims Broader Authority To Kill Americans”

  1. Here’s a good reason to support drone killings: When you have to have individuals be your assassins, instead of drones, those individuals become extremely powerful and then you have to give them the right to do whatever the hell they want to do, in spite of law (and order) anywhere in the world, and you have to pay them off with tax dollars to keep doing whatever they want because THEY have something on every single branch of the government and you can’t ever change that or negotiate with them. The Colonel who was the head of the Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1990s was an assassin who had killed folks for the US Govt in Korea, Cuba, you name it. He therefore was absolutely above the law because HE REALLY KNEW where the bodies were buried. So he molested his 4 kids and they told, so the Army had to get its lawyers, its generals, its liars, its social workers, and its doctors out in force to destroy the mother’s custodial rights, usurp the power of the civilian courts including child protective services and the Juvenile Courts of two states (Indiana and Georgia), slander the maternal grandfather without any evidence so the children’s torn hymens could be blamed on their beloved Grampa rather than on their paternal rapist-sniper, and eventually, the Army had to back the actual kidnap of four children who were hidden on a federal reservation with the father who did not have custody in any court of law, while they sent him his checks and claimed simultaneously to not know where he had gone! All this was arranged because he had killed a few people for our government.

    So see, drones are a good idea. At least they don’t molest any kids at home; they just do what we have always done: kill people the government wishes to silence or people who — oops — may be standing near such people or kill people who — oops — actually were not really… but you get the idea.

    Using drones is more controllable in the long run than using live snipers.

  2. John Podesta’s Targeted Strike on White House Secrecy

    By Albert R. Hunt Mar 13, 2013 11:25 PM ET


    John Podesta, one of the most influential policy advisers in the Democratic Party, has leveled a blistering attack on President Barack Obama for his refusal to provide the legal rationale for drone strikes. The criticism is sure to rattle the White House and congressional Democrats.



    Secrets no president should keep

    On U.S. drone policy, Obama needs to demonstrate the transparency he promised the American people.

    By David Keene and David Cole

    March 14, 2013,0,6437056.story


    There is simply no legitimate reason to withhold from the American people the legal rules and standards under which our government operates, particularly when asserting the power to take human life. Certainly aspects of national security programs should remain secret. The evidence collected in counter-terrorism operations, information showing our intelligence agencies’ sources and methods, and the strategies government agents use to intercept terrorist plots are all appropriately protected as classified information.

    But with targeted killing, the cloak of secrecy has been extended to cover the very rules themselves. That practice dangerously undermines our system of checks and balances. It makes robust oversight impossible. It excludes the public from meaningfully participating in or collaborating with their government. It breeds distrust. Secret law has no place in a democracy.

    There may not be much that can unite conservatives and liberals these days, but a commitment to transparent government should be something we can all agree on. Obama says he gets it; during Sunshine Week the White House blog has been highlighting an Obama initiative demonstrating his commitment to open and accessible government. The drone policy hasn’t been mentioned so far.

    Now Americans of all political allegiances must come together to demand that our president tell us the ground rules that govern his claimed authority to have us killed.

    David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union, is now the president of the National Rifle Assn. David Cole is the legal affairs correspondent for the Nation. They co-chair the Liberty and Security Committee of the Constitution Project, which promotes reasonable and law-abiding responses to terrorism.

  3. Yes the government has built fear into the population. What happened to me was actually felony witness intimidation. So when the courts are not fair and witnesses are intimidated and retaliated against, then the only other options are submission and violence, don’t you think? Personally I am really afraid of guns and have considered myself to be non-violent but I think I personally would be better off if someone else would use violence to protest experiences similar to mine.

    The Columbine and other shootings are the only reason that there are anti bullying programs. These weren’t put in because people in power were concerned about victims. The anti bullying programs were put in to avoid shootings.

  4. Targeted Killings & the Right to Know When Your Government Can Kill You

    By: Kevin Gosztola Thursday March 14, 2013 12:18 pm

    Obama’s I’m-No-Dick-Cheney Standard for Government Secrecy

    By: Kevin Gosztola Thursday March 14, 2013 1:18 pm

  5. It’s a huge problem that Obama is against rights. If it was a Republican who was against rights then we could go to the Democrats. Now it seems to be only “libertarians” who care about rights in any meaningful way.

  6. “….you might be called a racist after its all said and done…” -AY


    Here’s a quote that I like:

    “It is not what they call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.”

  7. AP,

    Don’t you realize that if Obama has its name attached to it, he can do no wrong. You must be misinterpreting this administrations stance towards justice, human right and you might be called a racist after its all said and done, after all Obama is half white… I for one appreciate the efforts you put into your posting….

  8. Obama’s Chilling Secrecy, from Denying Drone Program’s Existence to Stonewalling on Legal Memos

    Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed over the weekend he was initially instructed to deny the existence of the Obama administration’s targeted killing program overseas. Even though the administration has since backed down from that stance, it continues to stonewall members of Congress on releasing the Justice Department memos explaining the program’s legal rationale. Unanswered questions around the program have held up the confirmation of CIA nominee John Brennan. “For a program that is so far-reaching and that has so many consequences, not just in the world, but for the rule of law, the Obama administration has an obligation to be far more transparent than they’ve been so far,” says Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    AMY GOODMAN: Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed over the weekend he was initially instructed—this is when he was press secretary—to deny the existence of the Obama administration’s targeted killing program overseas. He made the disclosure during an appearance on Chris Hayes’ show on MSNBC.

    ROBERT GIBBS: When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the things—one of the first things they told me was, “You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.” And so, I would get a question like that, and literally, I couldn’t tell you what Major [Garrett, Fox News reporter] asked, because once I figured out it was about the drone program, I realize I’m not supposed to talk about it. And—but here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition: You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, your response?

    JAMEEL JAFFER: I agree, it’s inherently crazy. And the Obama administration should reconsider the positions that it’s taken in court, and it should release the documents that it’s been refusing to release. There’s a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon at which the Obama administration will be pressed again for the release of the information. I think that they should take this opportunity to release information they should have released many weeks ago.

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