Holder Tells Senator That Obama Does Have Authority To Kill Citizens With Drones On U.S. Soil Without Criminal Charge or Conviction

300px-MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777President_Barack_ObamaAttorney 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.

Source: CNN

183 thoughts on “Holder Tells Senator That Obama Does Have Authority To Kill Citizens With Drones On U.S. Soil Without Criminal Charge or Conviction”

  1. The absurdly named “War on Terror” scrambled reason in this country.
    -Mike Appleton

    And most Americans don’t know the worst of it, yet.

  2. My problem is similar to that of Mike A.

    Terms such as “engaged in combat” have become so fluid, no one knows what they mean. There are no black-line rules. The ACLU is beginning to look closely at the increasing militarization of police forces. It is about time; I hope it is not too late.

    We are just now learning about the FBI infiltrating the OWS movement, and even acting as agents provocateurs to bait protesters into violating laws so they could be arrested. Nothing like making an example of a few key players. Nothing like giving them ten to twenty as a guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make other protesters think twice about exercising their First Amendment rights. J. Edgar Hoover, that old closet queen, created the model of using his agency to go after those he disapproved of. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it must have grated on him to have to enforce it. However, that did not stop him from trying to infiltrate civil rights groups and creating dossiers on activists from MLK, Jr. on down.

  3. I view Eric Holder as a waste of time. However, his interpretation of the President’s “kill” authority is accurate. It is also my view that the phrase “engaged in combat” provides absolutely no clarification in a society in which law enforcement has become militarized. The absurdly named “War on Terror” scrambled reason in this country.

  4. “In a letter to Paul Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

    “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no,” the three-sentence letter stated.

    In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Paul said he was satisfied with the response.”

    *********************

    Were you lying then or are you lying now?

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/07/obama-administration-responds-to-paul-on-drones/?hpt=hp_c1

  5. Here is a link to an unsolicited Ron Paul blog about DOJ’s illegal detention of me:

    http://www.dailypaul.com/234740/kay-sieverding-and-the-true-victims-of-indefinite-detention

    DOJ attorney David C. Rybicki filed in Federal Court in my case in DDC 11-01032 “JABS is not limited to inclusion of records that are created incident to arrest for a ‘criminal charge’ (see document 16-1 p.10). I filed an objection with the FR citation, yet Rybicki came back and asserted “Nothing in that Federal Register Notice states, as Plaintiffs erroneously claim, that the JABS must be used only to process individuals arrested for criminal offenses.” (see document 31, p 3).

    Judge Bates ruled that the Joint Automated Booking System doesn’t require a criminal charge so now anyone can be forced to provide their fingerprints and let any and all parts of their body be photographed and put into a national database and shared with local law enforcement.

  6. “The current discussion about drones, I think, is very frightening, because I’m having a hard time distinguishing between what they did with Operation Condor, low-tech, and what a drone does, because a drone is basically going into somebody else’s country, even with the permission of that country—of course, that’s what Operation Condor did, in most cases: You track somebody down, and you kill them. Now, the justification is: “Well, they were a criminal. They were a combatant.” Well, that may or may not be true, but nobody is determining that except the person that’s pulling the trigger.

    I just think that this has to be something that we discuss. And maybe trials like this, going back to the ’70s, people say, “Well, that was the dictatorships of the 1970s.” But the tendency of a state to feel that they can move against their enemies in the most effective way possible is still there, and it is certainly not limited to dictatorships.”

    -John Dinges is author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents

    Operation Condor Trial Tackles Coordinated Campaign by Latin American Dictatorships to Kill Leftists

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/7/operation_condor_trial_tackles_coordinated_campaign

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, a State Department cable, 1978, begins—the jacket of your book, says, “Kissinger explained his opinion [that] the Government of Argentina had done an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces.” The significance of the judge calling for Kissinger’s testimony and the Obama administration not responding?

    JOHN DINGES: They have asked for Kissinger to give testimony many times. And in my book, I quote the one time where he actually responded to a petition from France, I believe it was. And he basically denied everything. This is very frustrating. I was able to—it was clear to me that, there’s no other word for it, these were lies. I mean, the documents say one thing; Kissinger said another thing. And he knew what those documents said. It’s not—the United States has never allowed any of its officials to face trial in other countries. We are not a member of the ICC. There’s never—

    AMY GOODMAN: The International Criminal Court.

    JOHN DINGES: The International Criminal Court. There’s never been any participate—there’s never been any trials that have brought Americans in the dock. There was an attempt in Italy; of course, all of those people were gone. The United States, for one reason or another, Democrats and Republicans, protect our own human rights criminals when it’s involving human rights crimes outside of the United States. It’s just the way it is.

    AMY GOODMAN: Would you describe Henry Kissinger in that way, as a human rights criminal?

    JOHN DINGES: Yes, absolutely.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the relevance of this history of farming out the battle against terrorism, and so you could have no finger marks—no fingerprints of your own involvement to the current war against terrorism in the United States?

    JOHN DINGES: Well, I wrote—I was writing chapter one, when 9/11 happened, in my house in Washington. And as I finished the book—and I actually end with a reference to 9/11—I said this is not something that we’re condemned to repeat. And I was making the comparison between the war on terror in the 1970s and the current war on terror that was launched by President Bush. I thought we were going to—we had learned the lesson, that you don’t imitate the methods of your enemies and—or those who had been shown to be human rights criminals. Unfortunately, we crossed that line, I think, many times.

    The current discussion about drones, I think, is very frightening, because I’m having a hard time distinguishing between what they did with Operation Condor, low-tech, and what a drone does, because a drone is basically going into somebody else’s country, even with the permission of that country—of course, that’s what Operation Condor did, in most cases: You track somebody down, and you kill them. Now, the justification is: “Well, they were a criminal. They were a combatant.” Well, that may or may not be true, but nobody is determining that except the person that’s pulling the trigger.

    I just think that this has to be something that we discuss. And maybe trials like this, going back to the ’70s, people say, “Well, that was the dictatorships of the 1970s.” But the tendency of a state to feel that they can move against their enemies in the most effective way possible is still there, and it is certainly not limited to dictatorships.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, John Dinges, for being with us. John Dinges is author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents. Before that, he was with National Public Radio, NPR, worked as a freelance reporter in Latin America, is currently a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism.

  7. Turley – please explain why this statement is wrong, rather than simply assuming it is: ‘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.”

  8. if Obama was subject to impeachment it would cause great national upheaval. So I think that is off the table and 2014 is when we should vote as many in as we can who believe in the rule of law [which is limited government].

  9. Obama’s Transparency Test
    3/5/12
    Posted by Jane Mayer
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/obamas-transparency-test.html

    Excerpt:
    In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama vowed that when it came to counterterrorism in his second term, he would be “even more transparent to the American people and to the world.” That commitment is about to be tested. With Obama’s pick for C.I.A. Director, John Brennan, now all but assured of confirmation, his Administration needs to decide whether to push for the public release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s still-classified blockbuster report on C.I.A. wrongdoing during the Bush years. It’s hard to see how the Obama Administration can square its talk of transparency with any further cover-up of this ostensibly mammoth, comprehensive, and devastating report on the brutal interrogation and detention practices during those years.

    Obama’s Justice Department has now agreed to share with the Intelligence Committee the remaining legal memos it had been keeping from the Senate, laying out its justifications for targeted drone strikes. While this is a step in the right direction, the release of the report—which is currently bottled up at the C.I.A. under review—remains a more serious challenge.

    During his Senate confirmation hearings last month, Brennan acknowledged that the report’s three-hundred-page summary had shattered his earlier belief that the Bush Administration’s resort to what were euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques” had worked. Brennan had claimed publicly in 2007 that the C.I.A.’s treatment of terror suspects had produced valuable intelligence, and perhaps even saved lives. But after reading the report, Brennan acknowledged under oath that he now doubts this.

    In response to a question from Saxby Chambliss, the Republican vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Brennan said, “I must tell you, Senator, that reading this report from the committee raises questions about the information that I was given at the time, the impression I had at the time.”

  10. This is not about Obama, or the Congress or the judiciary. Not one branch of govt. is left that cares about life, justice or the rule of law. This is about who we are as citizens.

    To accept and defend the destruction of one’s own society, to countenance the murder of other people says something very disturbing about much of the US population. It says, right or left, many are an authoritarian bunch who are willing to give up everything for the sake of belief in a leader, or for “safety”. That authoritarianism and lack of concern for other human beings was clear during the run up to the election and of course, in the voting itself.

    Now it really is time to stop accepting “belief” in a “leader”. The president is not our father as some claim. That claim is unworthy of a citizen. He is not above criticism. He most certainly should be impeached and brought for trial at the Hague for war crimes. If it makes you feel better these are the same actions I advocated with regards to Bush. I am completely bi-partisan in my thinking about what to do with out of control, lawless presidents.

    It is way past time to believe that destroying the rule of law is a way to achieve “safety”. Yet I still see people defending the indefensible. That is crazy. We don’t need to worry about bat shit crazy in the Republican party when many people of either major party will accept the unacceptable. That is a bat shit crazy action as a citizen.

    It is only courageous, strong, ethical citizens who have any chance of getting the US out of this mess. Be that person.

  11. Brennan faces far more problems than those of a fillibuster:

    C.I.A.’s History Poses Hurdles …

    ” … By the account of people briefed on the report, it concludes that the program was ill-conceived, sloppily managed and far less useful in obtaining intelligence than its supporters have claimed.

    ‘It’s a potential minefield for John Brennan,’ said Mark M. Lowenthal, a former assistant C.I.A. director and former House Intelligence Committee staff director.

    The still-classified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee will place Mr. Brennan squarely in the cross-fire between Democratic critics of what they call a morally and practically disastrous experiment in torture, and some Republican defenders who say the report is biased and fault President Obama for banning coercive interrogations. And it could place Mr. Brennan in a difficult position inside the agency’s headquarters in suburban Virginia. …”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/us/politics/cias-harsh-interrogations-pose-hurdles-for-john-brennan.html?hp&_r=0

  12. on the whole, neither the left nor the right are very friendly to individual rights.

    The right on abortion, etc. and the left on everything but abortion and women’s rights.

    The problem is no one wants to give up their pet platforms. The right wants to control reproduction and the left wants to control production. If we ever want to be free again, both the left and the right are going to have to abdicate control and we as citizens are going to have to learn to be independent.

  13. Elaine,

    As soon as partisan politics takes a back seat to what’s right and what’s wrong….. Then we may be able to see real change….. Obama…. Change you can (dis) agree with…..

  14. “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Ron Wyden

    Ron Wyden seems to understand the stakes. We’re living in a proto-fascistic state.

  15. I am glad Paul chose to do this but when Ted Cruz started talking I had to shut it off. I understood why no republican or democratic woman cared to participate.

  16. Our elected leaders should stand up for what is right. Where are the liberals…those who have been defenders of our civil rights? -Elaine M.

    Shame on the Dems. Kudos to Wyden.

  17. Swarthmore,

    Our elected leaders should stand up for what is right. Where are the liberals…those who have been defenders of our civil rights? Rand Paul is right to question the Obama Administration on this issue. I wonder what the Democrats would do if it had been the Bush Administration and not the Obama Administration who claimed it had authority to kill US citizens on US soil.

    1. In politics there are no good guys only good issues.

      The important question is not have they been wrong. We have all been wrong. The question is they right on this issue.

      When someone is right we stand with them on that issue.

      If they are asking the right questions, if there position is the way forward, we stand with them whether they are Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or the devil himself.

      There will plenty of time and plenty of issues on which to challenge them – when they are wrong!

  18. I know I will get blasted for saying this but I can actually understand why the democrats would not want to stand with the the most far right members of the tea party caucus in this filibuster. These guys might be right on one issue but they are wrong 90%. This is the same group that opposed the VAWA, and they are against abortion even in in the case of death of the mother. They support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, also. They want to kill Social Security and Medicare NO republican woman stood with this group, either. Earlier Wyden crossed the aisle to try to make a deal with Ryan on raising the Medicare age. Maybe these GUYS are the future leaders of the republican party. Matt Drudge seems to thinks so.

Comments are closed.