Abdullah al-Shami vs. The Fifth Amendment


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

The Fifth Amendment protects all United States citizens by guaranteeing us all the right of due process of law. The Fifth Amendment is meant to ensure that the government has to at least prove to a court that a citizen is guilty of any crime that he or she is charged with.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Cornell Law

Without the Fifth Amendment, the government could grab any citizen off the street and proceed to jail them or execute them without a trial of any kind where the accused could mount a defense to the government’s charges.  It seems that the Obama Administration is once again in the process of deciding whether it will unilaterally execute an American citizen believed to living in Pakistan.  Or at least, preparing us for a kill decision that they have already made.

“A little more than two weeks after reporting by the Associated Press revealed that the Obama administration was “considering” the extrajudicial targeted killing of a U.S. citizen it accuses of “terrorist activity” abroad, new and similar reporting on Friday by the New York Times is extending the president’s case for assassinating a man now known as Abdullah al-Shami, a U.S.-born American citizen believed to be living in Pakistan.

The Times reporting, like the AP story on February 10, has all the hallmarks of an intentionally leaked story in which White House officials spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity in exchange for access to information deemed suitable for public consumption.” Common Dreams

While I would not doubt that Mr. al-Shami may be a terrorist responsible for killing or aiding the killing of many due to his alleged involvement in IED activities in Afghanistan, even the Obama Administration has confirmed that he is a United States citizen.  According to the Fifth Amendment, that would normally mean that Mr. al-Shami would be entitled to due process.

According to our post 9-11 reality, that means the decision on whether he will live or die for crimes that he has not been officially charged with, will be done in secret and without any due process as we know it.  Or should I say, as we used to know it.  As you will recall, the Obama Administration has executed at least 4 American citizens without due process.

“The debate over Mr. Shami’s fate is the first time that the Obama administration has discussed killing an American citizen abroad since Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. It comes less than a year after Mr. Obama announced new guidelines to tighten the rules for carrying out lethal drone operations. When the president announced the guidelines, during a speech in May in Washington, the White House acknowledged that four American citizens had been killed in drone strikes during Mr. Obama’s time in office.

According to the White House, only Mr. Awlaki had been targeted.

As it was in Mr. Awlaki’s case, the Justice Department has been enlisted to evaluate whether a lethal operation against Mr. Shami is legally justified, but it appears that the Obama administration remains divided on the issue. Several officials said that the C.I.A. has long advocated killing Mr. Shami, and that the Pentagon, while initially reluctant to put him on a target list, has more recently come to the C.I.A.’s position.

The debate over Mr. Shami’s fate is the first time that the Obama administration has discussed killing an American citizen abroad since Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. It comes less than a year after Mr. Obama announced new guidelines to tighten the rules for carrying out lethal drone operations. When the president announced the guidelines, during a speech in May in Washington, the White House acknowledged that four American citizens had been killed in drone strikes during Mr. Obama’s time in office.” New York Times

It really should disturb any and all citizens when anyone is adjudged guilty by any non-judicial process.  It really does not matter if the targeted individual is a scum bag or a saint.  If the government can kill any citizen without due process, does that not endanger us all?  Does it make you warm and fuzzy that the guidelines announced by President Obama last year switched drone authority from the CIA to the Military?

Doesn’t the decision to execute or not execute still come down to the President or his/her underlings in place of a Judicial process guaranteed by the United States Constitution?  I am unaware of any Fifth Amendment exceptions that allows for any President to essentially have the authority to override the Fifth Amendment.

92 thoughts on “Abdullah al-Shami vs. The Fifth Amendment

  1. I have no problem with killing an American who is engaged in terrorism or supporting those who are in armed conflict with the US and are abroad, safe from being put on trial in the US. It is like the police confronting an armed crook who refuses to surrender. Killing that person without trial is perfectly legal, and justified, even though he will have no trial.

    I have yet to get an answer from opponents of Obama’s drone program about whether or not it would have been legal to target Ezra Pounds villa in Italy for bombing. Pound as you may know was making radio broadcasts in support of the fascists and Hitler during WWII. I think it would have been perfectly legal and justified to have blown him away with US Army Air Corps bombs. My only regret was that he escaped his just punishment through influential friends after the war. I think that he should have gotten the same treatment as did Lord Haw Haw. The Brits arrested and hung him by the neck until he was dead. Pound should have joined him on the scaffold in the US.

  2. An important piece here, rafflaw. Like our State Dept. official, I see no footnotes either but I wonder if self-preservation trumps the Bill of Rights. That’s the classic question.

  3. Randy, while I might be prepared to hang Pound for the denseness of his poetry, which seemed to suck the air out of the room, I could never see executing someone for expressing their political views, broadcast or not.

    If you’re unable to tolerate a persons expression of beliefs, then you’re not fit to be an American.

  4. As troubling as the extrajudicial execution precedent is, where there is no feasible way to capture a US citizen that the President has good reason to believe is actively preparing to commit terrorist acts, those making the argument against killing the US citizen terrorist should first have to draft the President’s remarks explaining his refusal to take an opportunity to eliminate the threat that he will give at a press conference after a large number of people have been killed by that terrorist.

  5. There was certainly an outcry- it might not have been large, but I can remember people around me speaking out, calling their representatives, etc. I’m sure Glenn Greenwald wrote a piece or two about it.

    And re: “The only good terrorist is a dead terrorist”- It seems that even if that’s a reasonable statement, you’re still leaving the designation of “terrorist” up to unelected, unaccountable people in the executive branch, who have no incentives to make decisions that line up with either the constitution or the will of the people. Trusting decisions of life or death to illegal processes is lunacy, or at least, incredibly foolish.

  6. Imagine the National dialogue had the New York Times ran the headline:
    China Debates Droning Chinese Separatist living in San Francisco Cal. USA

    Would the President take to the airwaves to:
    A) Proclaim this a provocative move toward acts of war against the USA
    B) Explain why it is necessary to use tactical targeted limited strikes

    Are we safer, yet?

  7. Terrorism is an asymmetrical war and does not fit our military or criminal codes. That said, there needs to be a legal process of some sort than just arbitrarily killing US citizens. I have no problem w/ killing Awlaki. But, now we need to put a system in place to deal w/ his ilk. Because there are and will be more.

  8. Killing Pound wouldn’t have been legal for the same reason that the killing of Al-Awlaki wasn’t legal- the Fifth Amendment. “Legal” doesn’t mean right or just or fair, it means “within the law”. Maybe you have a convincing argument for killing Pound or Woodhouse or al-Shami, maybe you believe without a shadow of a doubt that such killings would be just and proper. That in no way makes them “legal” in the necessary sense.

  9. That is where the problem lies. In the end, a terrorist can become whoever you want a “terrorist” to be to carry out an execution. A terrorist could quickly become just someone who doesn’t agree with the standard position on things. That was precisely one reason why we have a United States today. It should never be convenient for a government to kill someone. Have we not seen enough cases of eroding of constitutional rights on this blog to realize government execution will become convenient for whatever reason? Governments do not reverse course on these issues.

  10. Nick makes a good point, as are several others. But I do not see how a few guys in a room handing out the Trotsky treatment for whoever THEY think deserves it serves our nation very well. It’s a fast road downhill from here…

  11. All I know is that my Fifth Amendment Rights, along with my 1st and 4th are being arbitrarily decided by a group of wo/men meeting in SECRET, devising policy in SECRET and rushing letters to a SECRET court appointed by one Chief Justice without review.

    On a side note, I’m hooked on an English program called ‘TIME TEAM’.
    They hunt for and discover ancient ruins from early English history. Normans, Druids, Saxons, etc. Ya know, Pre USA Constitutional days where the King decided what the law was any given moment…

    Now we seem to entering our Post-Constitutional age.

  12. Ezra Pound was in arms for a nation with which we were at war. There is no “declared war” on Pakistan or Afganistan or some group therein. And therein lies the problem. Congress should pass a Declaration of War against al Qaeda and other terrorist entities and those who fight for them are enemy combatants and traitors if they are citizens. We shot the Redcoats back when I warned that they were coming. They were British citizens, as were we. The buck started there. It wont stop in Pakistan.

  13. mespo,
    I agree that self preservation is important, but why have a Fifth Amendment if someone outside of the judiciary can decide who is to live or die? We can take care of ourselves while at the same time protecting our Constitutional rights. Indeed, I think we must or we have lost more than a battle with terrorists.

  14. Be careful what you rationalize.

    Technology spreads.

    It is only a matter of time before administration officials and drone operators fall under the shadow of drones operated by most any third world military power.

    I can’t wait to hear the demands for respect for international law and due process then.

  15. Ok fine, al-Shami is an American who some feel is being targeted without due process under the 5th Amendment. There is a simple answer for all of this.

    1. Indict him
    2. Try him in absentia but with full legal representation on his behalf before a secret jury of his peers. A member of Congress from both parties could be tasked to swear that the proceedings were fairly adjudicated. The trial would have to be in secret to insure that all concerned — judge, jury court personnel etc were protected.
    3. If judged innocent at that point, the drone order would be rescinded. If found guilty by a jury of his peers, then the drone order would be implemented at the earliest opportunity.
    4. This should appease both sides as well as giving al Shami or any other terrorist (Americans only) their respective day in court.
    5. If judged innocent the respective defendant would be “cleared” up to that point only. His ofuture actions would judge whether he stood trial again in the future. There should be no “Teflon Dons” when it comes to terrorists.

  16. It seems that having an Arab/Muslim name makes one an automatic terrorist suspect. If we all used the same type of names perhaps it would be more difficult to know who to demonize.

  17. Very good Mike. That is why the Constitution is a truly amazing document. It has helped the less able-minded leaders since to avoid truly cataclysmic philosophical situations like, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…” and “what goes around, comes around.” It is so great, it even possibly protects against subsets of Murphy’s law. Guess that doesn’t say much about our standing pres.

  18. I guess the one thing the Constitution can’t overcome is, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…”
    But, it’s cast aside at our peril. We see it happening every day on this blog.

  19. Could we all calm down just a wee bit? Abdullah the Syrian (al-Shami in Arabic) is an American citizen. But keep in mind that he is an active member of Al-Queda, a group which is very much always actively planning military actions against the US whether here or abroad. If he were captured in the United States he should be subjected to a criminal prosecution in either civil or military courts depending on the nature of his capture. If captured abroad arguably he is a POW and could be subject to a court martial under the rules of war. And it does not matter in either instance that he is a US citizen by birth. Although that detail could get him a death penalty under the treason definition.

    Now, about trying to kill him in a military action directed against Al-Queda or its affiliates … your representatives and mine (Congress) have authorized the use of military force against Al-Queda and its affiliates. No distinction is made based on the individual citizenship of its members. Recall that during the Rebellion US forces were daily trying to kill or capture rebel soldiers and their generals and leaders. President Lincoln was not obligated to go to court day in and day out seeking a writ to shoot at Bobby Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, or “Jeff” or Lincoln’s friend from his days in Congress — rebel V.P. Alexander Stephens. And they and their soldiery were one and all US citizens.

    So, if in the course of military operations, including those specifically designed to attack the Al-Queda leadership, a person who is both an American citizen and a citizen of another nation (as Al-Shami is), and an active member of Al-Queda’s leadership (as Al-Shami is) is killed it is as a result of an act of war authorized by the Congress. President Obama is no more obliged to seek a court order or conduct a trial in absentia of Abdullah al-Shami than was President Lincoln.

  20. While we are debating some one who chose to go over to the dark side, let’s not forget that if given the opportunity, this terrorist would not hesitate, for a New York minute, to separate our heads from our shoulders.

  21. Justin and Anon54321,
    I agree that a trial in absentia is better than no trial, but a secret jury is not a step in the right direction. Another bad precedent in my opinion.

  22. Taking the life of another person is not for anyone to judge on this earth. Anyone with that much power is corrupt, be it in the administration or any judicial system.

  23. Mike: ‘But keep in mind that he is an active member of Al-Queda, a group which is very much always actively planning military actions against the US whether here or abroad.’

    And so, because he doesn’t agree politically with what the U.S. stands for and articulates that position, he loses his constitutional rights? Maybe he’s seen the way we have treated people at Abu-Garhib or GITMO. Maybe he’s seen us declare ‘war’ on countries who had done nothing to us and said ‘enough is enough.’ A ‘freedom fighter’ is a ‘terrorist’ when viewed from the other side.

    As far as I see things, I am sick of the excuse of ‘terrorism’. Terrorism only works if you allow yourself to be terrorized. So stop being terrorized.

  24. The 5th Amendment defines certain parameters within which our judicial system must operate. Therefore, the Amendment presupposes a legal system. War is the antithesis of law. It is the absence of law. It is the breakdown of existing legal systems. Almost by definition, war means we are not resolving disputes through the judicial process. It follows that transposing the 5th Amendment to a non-legal setting (the war on terror) is like putting the proverbial square peg into a round hole. It can’t fit. Don’t be surprised when it doesn’t fit.

  25. There comes a time and situation when decisions must be made outside of the laws that we hold dear. A terrorist who happens to be an American is no different than a criminal in the process of committing a crime. If the terrorist wishes to surrender to the American justice system then they should be afforded the freedoms of the 5th, unless of course we are at war and the terrorist is an American traitor. In this case we can only rely on those in command to make a decision only after regarding the situation with the utmost concern. In this case with the Obama administration there does not appear to have been any cavalier rush to kill. Compare this with the past administration of the three stooges and then come back with the argument. Also, on the one hand the 5th protects Americans, on the other hand it allows Americans to slaughter those who aren’t American. Regard the almost million innocent Iraqis and Afghanis. Regard the three million innocent Vietnamese. This holier than thou attitude is what makes America stink.

  26. We started down this slippery slope when we joined the United Nations with an idea of Police Actions.

  27. ” don’t we and I have a right to defend ourselves even if that means a preemptive strike.”

    I that is exactly what many of us find so troubling. In recent years the idea of preemption has come to be used so easily, some might say recklessly, that it really doesn’t have much meaning.

    Instead of applying preemption in cases analogous to self defense, with our back against the wall, now it seems to be used whenever those in power consider the target a really, really bad guy – deep down you know he deserves it.

    I don’t think international law has much room for preemptive attack.

    Personally, I might be convinced for preemptive attack in cases where the survival of the nation is at stake. In my long life that has never been the case.

  28. I do see the survival of our country at stake. These terrorist don’t deal in days, months or years. They deal in decades and centuries. They have a history. Thanks for your reply.

  29. “I do see the survival of our country at stake.”

    I think in my lifetime the only immediate threat to national survival I have seen was the Cuban missile crisis in which missiles were being placed in range of every important target in the continental US. Couple that with the fact that launch of the missiles would have given only a few minutes warning, with no chance to shoot them down, and I think there really was the possibility of an existential crisis.

    But in that case, the nations survival depended on a cool, thoughtful response with a steady hand, not rapid escalation.

    I think it is really had to argue that any other event comes anywhere close to that one in posing a threat to the nations survival.

    Certainly not Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, the oil crisis of the 1970’s, Vietnam. Possibly a lack of response in Korea might have lead to a confluence of events resulted in a threat to the nations survival.

    I am not suggesting for a minute that terrorists are not a threat. But an existential threat? Please.

    I am not suggesting for a minute we should not take strong action against them. But our interest lies in upholding our standards, not in destroying the basis of international law that took so many decades to build.

    The attacks in Pakistan and other places are little more than colonial arrogance. Can you imagine launching a missile attack in Switzerland if they refused to extradite some one we designated a terrorist, how about Canada, or even Mexico?

    We launch these missile attacks because we can get away with it and it is convenient – not because there is any necessity.

  30. RTC If Pound had only been living in Italy and was simply writing poetry, I would have no problem with not killing him. The FACT is that he was broadcasting for our enemies in wartime. THAT is the definition of treason, and he richly deserved the death penalty. The same holds true for other Americans who affiliate with Al Qeada. They are legal targets and should be killed at the first opportunity. Simple.

  31. I was worried about just facing all my in-laws in Pakistan-different culture, some different values and expectations, different plumbing and other standards. . . . now I have to worry about a military strike in case my visit takes me too far into the north of Pakistan. . .Not worried about the Taliban, but my own government. What wonderful rights we have as Americans. . . theoretically.

  32. randyjet

    … The same holds true for other Americans who affiliate with Al Qeada. They are legal targets and should be killed at the first opportunity. Simple.
    Yes, the issue is simple.

    Who decides when someone “affiliates” with al-Qaeda?

    Under our constitution that is a grand jury, then a petite jury of our peers, who watch the accused put on a defense and watch the prosecutor pur on a case attempting to prove that allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Anything less is a treasonous Star Chamber.

  33. Michelle, You will have a LOT more to worry about in Pakistan from the Taliban than US drones since they have killed a lot more people than drones ever have. Of course, the Taliban specializes in killing innocents and makes no pretense of killing their opponents. So YOU will be considered a prime target being female, and not a combatant. Be sure to wear a head scarf, and only travel with a male relative, otherwise you will be considered to be a legitimate target for those facts alone. It is also funny that you are worried about the folks who sponsor and promote killing YOU, but can find no words of condemnation for the killers in Pakistan who would like nothing better than to kill you for being a Western woman. Let’s get real about who those people in that part of Pakistan are. The ones who are decent folks who hate the Taliban have been either murdered or have left so I can care less about the remaining people. Maybe a drone will kill the SOB who shot that poor girl in the head while she was on the school bus. I hope so, and that person will not bother to mourn much if his kids or wife dies since they are just property to those kinds of folks.

  34. ” You will have a LOT more to worry about in Pakistan from the Taliban”

    I think many of us agree that the many different examples of terrorists are bad guys. Our differences arise in what constitutes legal action and what are likely to be the most effective tactics against them.

    I for one don’t think we gain by turning our nation into a police state or violating international law. I remain confident that we can defeat them more completely and more rapidly at less cost to ourselves without the excesses of the past decade.

  35. Dredd, it is pretty simple. When you are in the Taliban controlled area, make broadcasts for them, take part in giving them material aid, and all the other things, it is a pretty fair assumption you are guilty and are an active combatant, thus a legal target. I WILL get upset when the drones kill some American Muslim students on spring break enjoying the beaches in Afghanistan. THEN I will agree that such actions are wrong. Let me know when that happens, and I am sure lots more people will be upset too. Unfortunately for you, most Americans have good common sense about this kind of thing and you will find few takers for your sympathy for or concern for too much Presidential power. The nice thing is that Obama has not tried to cover this kind of thing up, while a lot looser criterion was used in the past. All a US citizen had to be was politically inconvenient to be murdered by the US government under our previous administrations. Virtually ALL of those who the US murdered were NOT engaged in armed actions against the US. Yet there was scant outcry by the folks on this site or others, and the media covered up their murders. The GOP was the prime party in murdering those people, and they were rather proud of it too.

  36. I am 100% in favor of impeaching and convicting Mr O and our esteemed Attorney General Mr. H for violating the oath of office to uphold the Constitution by their claim of a right to kill anyone anywhere they deem a threat. And please also put Mr B on trial for his authorization of torture.

    To those that believe these “terrorists” are an imminent threat…You actually believe the government that has admitted lying to you on more than one occasion about their spying activities? And you believe them in this case because?

    What prevents the president from affording an American their due process rights?

    It’s not he’s the terrorist heading up a rogue army believing that they aren’t bound by Duty to Nation, a Constitution tied to his oath of Office, yes?

    So again, why can’t he afford an American their due process Rights? I’ll even take a Grand Jury trial in Absentia. Unfortunately, it appears our Constitutional Scholar doesn’t have it in his heart of dark hearts to actually see that the law is enforced. His choice… Could be you next in his cross hairs.

    Keep that reality tucked in the back of your mind…
    … And stand up for your family, neighbor and self!

    Before they come for you and no one is left to stand up for you but a cabal of yes men on a secret court.

  38. Sounds like your remarks are hung in the spam filter.

    Immediate re-posting has never worked for me.

    You might try removing any links to other web pages and reworking the entire comment.

    You might hit the jackpot and have all 5 or 10 attempts to post come out later, one after another – the electronic equivalent of having a hung print job with pages shooting out on the floor.

    I usually just wait. Sometimes my remarks appear later. Sometimes they disappear and I just re-post them the next day and everything usually works fine. .

    I am pretty sure computer science is a misnomer. They should have called it computer mysticism.

  39. You can see where this argument goes. The whole notion is bad, it is reflexive of a bad foreign policy, and a very bad philosophical argument. You can pick it apart easily. Our current foreign policy is pretty well morally bankrupt, and thus terrorism is the logical result (blowback). We were happy to assist the side (one of the sides I guess) of the Syrian cauldron of hell. Were not Al Qaeda part of that crowd? Plus, there is a thin line between “covert” and “terror.” I’ve read some interesting things about Ukraine and the other revolutions–and some stuff you have probably seen from Edward Snowden regarding inciting mob tactics. Futhermore, to at least make for some stronger arguments, I believe some folks need to get a much bigger historical perspective. I am surprised how many adults were initiated to the real world on 9-11. The younger generation seems to almost think situations like Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and just about all of the devastation of western Russia were Hollywood story lines. Nobody will ever know how many Russians died in WWII–somewhere between 25-50 million. The scope of that horror is almost beyond comprehension.

  40. If Abdullah al-Shami, a U.S.-born American citizen, has joined a terrorist group and participated in terrorist actions against the United States, then YES he should targeted and eliminated. I want to see you defend him while you are chasing your separated head, rolling down the street. Oops, I’m sorry. I know that could never happen. The country never thought that 9/11 could ever happen either. It’s history now. I’m not a wait till it happens kinda of guy. I believe in “preventive maintenance.”

  41. Justin,
    I looked for any of your comments in the spam filter and I could not locate them. Is your comment at 10:31 the missing comment? Sometimes WordPress just gets hungry. I have had mine lost as well.

  42. i am aware of that, but they only had a trial after losing millions of lives. It most certainly would not have been a violation of his rights to bomb him into oblivion if they could have found out where he was and they wanted to use their resources to do it. The same holds true for Pound who could have been killed without any legal objections or spurious complaints about his not getting a trial. If the US bombs him in a country where the US has a means of having him arrested, THEN it would be wrong and a violation of that country’s sovereignty as well.

    As I have pointed out on many occasions it does not take much to shoot down a drone if the countries involved had any real objection to them. All they need is a C-182 RG and a good rifle and the drone is done for.

  43. If we cut through all of the self-serving justifications, it comes down to this: when we decide that a group of individuals can make secret decisions using secret criteria to determine whether a U.S. citizen gets to live or die, we no longer have a government of laws, but the alternative. Even wars are fought under law. Congress has thoroughly abdicated its responsibilities to successive presidents, who are hardly reluctant about assuming powers that have been effectively ceded.

  44. Sorry Mike, but since 9/11 we have been at war, and the military DOES get to decide who is a combatant and who is not. They also do that in secret as they did in WWII and all of our other wars. Unless you think that Lincoln, FDR, and all our wartime Presidents are dictators, we have not lost our freedoms as a result.

  45. Any American who joins a terrorist group and participates in terrorist acts against the United States commits acts of treason and FORFEITS their rights as a citizen of the United States. They are enemy combatants in a war. Not criminals as Obama would have us believe.

  46. Everybody keeps saying that as a citizen, he is protected by the 5th Amendment. This is absolutely not true. The 5th Amendment makes no mention of “citizen” or “American.” It says “no person…” It applies to all people whether they are citizens or not. Obama has the same authority to kill an American citizen overseas as he does to kill a non-citizen like Osama bin Laden.

  47. So all of the Obama royalists–have you seen the evidence against the accused? Would you care to share that evidence with us here? Is it true because Obama told you it was true? That’s not the US system of justice.

    This administration has killed a 16 year old boy whom they knew was not a terrorist. They have also killed a man whose alleged crimes were put before a grand jury. The grand jury did not find a reason to indict him, but hell, Obama wanted him dead, so he was killed anyway.

    I fail to understand why there are so many believers in a man who has consistently killed babies and children, afterwards labeling them as “terrorists”. I also fail to understand the cowardly nature of citizens who are willing to suspend the rule of law on behalf of dear leader’s say so. I want to know why you are so willing to break faith with your own Constitution because of terrorism.

    First they came… Even the most obsequious Obama royalists may fall out of favor some day. You may be getting strokes now, but a lot of former favorites don’t stay that way forever.

    Citizens need to have courage and the will for justice. Otherwise, the terrorists really did win.

  48. Hi Jill. While I respectfully disagree with you, you make an excellent argument. War is dirty. Sometime innocent people get killed. It is just the nature of the beast. I wish it wasn’t that way. I don’t condone it, but at the same time America needs to do whatever possible to protect its citizens. Thanks.

  49. Jill,
    We don’t agree all the time, but in this circumstance, I agree with your response wholeheartedly. If we allow the 5th Amendment to be ignored for any citizen, we put all citizens at risk.

  50. Justin,

    There is no need for the US to be at war with “terrorism”. We successfully dealt with people accused of terror attacks, including attacks on US soil, in a court of law. This changed after 9/11, not because we could not have approached this from a criminal justice perspective but because it was much better for the govt./military/fianacial complex to make money off of a “war”. It also gave the oligarchy a way to suspend the Constitution.

    Yes, this is a dirty war, unnecessary and dangerous to ordinary people, both foreign and domestic. Drones are a blunt, illegal instrument for handling what should be a criminal matter. You do not answer the question of how you know the people being killed are terrorists. Why do you believe Obama when he has lied and deliberately killed people whom he could not produce enough evidence to indict?

    As to doing everything to protect our citizens. Who are you protecting by tearing down the rule of law? Societies collapse all the time after the rule of law is destroyed. And do anything? Like the German’s under Hitler? When they did human experiments on prisoners to determine how much cold or heat the human body could take, sure, they got that “medical” information and created protective clothing for German soldiers from that information. It worked! Praise the Lord!

    So are you willing to have your nation experiment on prisoners because it will help protect American citizens? After all, it does work. The president takes an oath to defend the Constitution, not protect the American people from terrorist attacks. We should hold him and ourselves to that oath, otherwise, you become what you hate–a person and nation willing to torture, maim, kill the innocent and commit daily atrocities–a terrorist.

  51. Hi Jill. I appreciate your argument, but it’s a bit of a stretch to include human experimentation. No one has been more critical than me with Obama. My position is well documented. I share your concern for governmental abuses. We have no disagreement there. However, we are engaged in an unconventional war with a people who have a history of warring. At the risk of sounding like I am justifying them, there are going to be abuses. But I am confident that the U.S. Constitution is strong enough to withstand both Obama and terrorism and come out stronger than ever. I love my country. I am as deeply troubled by what is happening as you, but we need to continue to speak out like you are doing now. Thanks.

  52. I’m not going to cry over them, but there is a problem with it. What will stop some administration from deciding that opposing that administration is an act of terrorism? On the other hand, I’m not surprised by this administration, which has made it clear that citizenship means little. Non-citizens seem to qualify for welfare, lower tuition rates and Federal financial aid and can even vote (since proof of citizenship is not required). Since citizenship means nothing (particularly if it will increase Democratic votes), then it shouldn’t matter if the target is a citizen. Our 5th Amendment rights do not exist as a benefit of citizenship, they are handed to us by our Creator and existed before the Constitution. Thus, it’s almost irrelevant whether or not the target is a citizen, the 5th Amendment still applies.

    Still, if a US citizen is going to be targeted, I expect my government to make a formal case, if necessary, hold a trial. Otherwise, there is nothing stopping the government deciding that, because I oppose this unConstitutional action, that I support terrorism and am therefore a terrorist and thus justify hitting me with a drone. If there is sufficient evidence to warrant execution, then there should be sufficient evidence to hold up in a public hearing.

  53. selfhelplegal: I think you are comparing apples with oranges. As I posted previously, I believe we are in a war on terrorism and dealing with enemy combatants, not criminals. In my opinion, enemy combatants are different from law-abiding citizens of the U.S. and should be treated differently. I explained my position in a previous post. Thanks.

  54. ” In my opinion, enemy combatants are different from law-abiding citizens of the U.S. and should be treated differently”

    I think many of us would agree with that – as far as it goes.

    The difficult question is how do we determine who is an enemy combatant. In the past that was relatively easy. There was a declared war, well know battle fields, and frequently combatants holding weapons.

    Now, frequently, that is not so clear.

    The question then is should we allow a group of unknown government officials acting in secrete determine who is a combatant, or should we require that there be some sort of public adversarial procedure.

    I think many of us wonder whether it is the combatant or the government officials acting in secrete that pose a greater threat to our liberty.

  55. We are not in a war. We are battling international organized crime. Wars are armed conflicts between states, and the Constitution spells out what needs to occur if we wish to go to war against a state. Use of the word “war” is a convenient method for justifying extra-legal actions. The choice of language, like the choice of actions, has consequences.

  56. Mike Appleton: I could not disagree with you more strongly. We are in a war with an unconventional enemy.

    bigfatmike: The people get the kind of government they deserve. I did not vote for Barack Obama. The people are the sovereign. The people are ultimately responsible for the government they have. That much said, someone has to make the decisions. Life is not all black and white, there are a whole lot of grey areas in life. It’s not perfect. If you don’t like the way the government is, then it is your responsibility to change it. Good Conversation. Thanks.

  57. So now we know why the Obama administration didn’t prosecute members of the Bush administration for ignoring the Constitution.

  58. Justin, I agree with your position. The people of the United States elected Mr. Obama. We take our elections very seriously precisely because of the amount of power we invest in our elected officials. We choose a person to execute these powers because we trust their judgement. A person who is in the US has specific rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Not a “citizen.” A person. When my in-laws come to visit from Germany, they enjoy the same protections against unreasonable search and seizure that I enjoy. Citizenship was never a big deal for the founders. In fact, we changed the Constitution 14 times before we even bothered defining who was or was not a citizen.

    There are certain rights and responsibilities that citizens have. Jury duty, voting, running for office, etc… Legal protections are not, and have never been, a right afforded just to citizens.

    We wouldn’t expect a cop to wait for judicial authority before he/she uses deadly force against a citizen who is actively threatening to kill a bystander. If the President feels that this person is a direct and immediate threat to the safety of Americans, it is entirely proper for him to take violent action to eliminate that threat. Our mechanism for review of the President’s decisions lies with Congress and it’s power to remove the President from office, or our power at the voting booth. None of us have access to the information that the President has. I simply have to trust that he has weighed this information carefully before coming to a decision. This is the very thing I elected him to do. I am certainly more comfortable with this power being exercised by someone elected by the people than I would be in it being exercised by an unelected secret FISA court.

  59. The problem I see is that the “King” can declare anyone opposing the ruling class a ” terrorist.” PETA?….terrorists! Occupy movement?…terrorists! Opponents of the Keystone pipeline?…terrorist! ANYONE opposing the oligarchy we have can be declared a terrorist, to enable them to keep looting the American (or Russian, or whoever) economy, especially the 99%. And every govt around the world is using the term to justify extrajudicial responses.

    As for me, I prefer the Constitution to a King?

  60. Yes, the absence of any effect check or balance outside of the executive branch is important part of the problem, but equ8ally important is the fact that there are real terrorists out there who want to kill Americans, but for who are in areas where they cannot be captured. The President fails his primary duty to protect the country if he does not act.

  61. Dave,
    I suggest that the primary duty of any President is to obey the Constitution. Without it, none of us have any security.

  62. “We the People of the United States, in order to ….provide for the common defense…do ordain and establish this Constitution…..” If you believe the President should not take the only action available to prevent attacks on American, per my earlier comment I suggest you flesh out the wording for the President’s Oval address to be delivered after a terrorist has succeeded. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

  63. I didn’t think there could be a president worse than Bill Clinton, but Barack Obama proved me wrong. One of the worse nights of my life came on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. For it was on that night that I was kicked in the stomach and had to swallow the bitter pill of accepting that Barack Obama would be reelected as President of the United States. On that fateful night, for the first time in my 62 years, I felt like I was losing my country that I love so much; the country that I fought for, along with millions of other veterans throughout this great nation’s history, and shed our blood defending. Now the “paper tiger” in the White House has surrendered to Russia and abandoned Ukraine as part of his endless policy of weakening America. The damage that this president will do to America before he is finally removed from office will take decades and generations, if ever, to repair. That’s unless, of course, the American people wake up from their winter solstice and demand that Barack Obama resign as President of the United States before he’s allowed to do any more damage to our country.

  64. Obama may be as bad as Herbert Walker Bush. Clinton was never as great a threat as these two.

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