The Softball Question That Wasn’t

It should have been a softball question.

During a Google+ Hangout yesterday, conservative commentator Lee Doren asked President Obama whether he claims the authority to kill a U.S. citizen suspected of being associated with al Qaeda or associated forces on U.S. soil. Notice the question was restricted to only a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil (our concerns are, of course, broader and apply to the White House’s illegitimate claim of authority to kill people it unilaterally deems a threat, even if they are far from any battlefield, abroad).

What should have been a simple “no,” turned into this:

Well first of all, there has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil. We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States, in part because our capacity, for example, to capture a terrorist inside the United States is very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we're doing the right thing.

That doesn’t sound like a no. And just so people don’t get the impression that this was an off-the-cuff remark, when President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, was asked in a written follow-up to his February 7 confirmation hearing whether the White House could carry out a drone strike inside the U.S., he replied:  “This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so. “ 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., isn’t satisfied with these answers.  He has raised questions about targeting non-citizens in the U.S. and threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation if he doesn’t get some answers.

The president could easily end all this speculation.  All he needs to do is publicly disclose the 11 Office of Legal Counsel opinions that set out his administration’s claimed authority to extrajudicially kill American citizens and noncitizens. So far he has shared four of the 11 opinions with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That’s not good enough. Everyone has a right to know who the government claims it can kill in a program that has fast become toxic at home and abroad.

During his Google+ appearance, the president said, “This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Repeating something over and over again doesn’t make it true. President Obama must disclose the legal opinions on the killing program. Secret rules for killing people, citizens and non-citizens alike, are neither compatible with transparency nor the rule of law, especially when the administration claims the authority to kill people far from any battlefield.

Even the president’s most loyal followers should agree, because it won’t be the Obama White House forever.

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Anyone who prefaces an answer with "Well....." is lying.


REVISED COMMENT to correct typos

Exactly! I, too, caught Obama’s deceptive little comment in which he mildly suggested we’ll be just fine with domestic use of military drones to chase down, surveil and attack “terrorists” without due process, warrants, etc. Almost fell off my chair.

He did a deceptive little cross-over! Sounds like he's talking about conducting the WOT domestically within the US. He's saying the difference is mainly about terrain, not law, yet domestic use of military drones might be problematic for the posse comitatus act (not sure how this would work). Police and military use of drones both should require warrants and full due process of law (I would argue).

Domestic police (and even military) drones inside US need to be governed by regular US courts and judges (not military courts) to obtain warrants BEFORE police/military drone missions, not after, as emergency national security is not its basis as it is with the old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Act or FISC). The AUMF governing the "war on terror" after 9-11 should not be involved whatsoever in use of domestic police or military drones. Keep an eye on this warranting issue as it will keep us individually free from being accused of terrorism and locked up summarily without evidence or due process involved in a warrant. We are at risk under the unexamined drone issue the way it is being articulated so deceptively by Obama/Brennan to become a warrantless secret military/police state.

Along these lines, has anyone at ACLU or readers here read "Law vs War" ( by a couple of former FBI security analysts? Superb essay. They discuss the fork in the road after 9-11 when Cheney-Bush chose “war” to invoke “emergency powers” to chase down terrorists instead of “law enforcement” with full due process of law used fairly successfully by most other countries and suppressed effectively by Cheney-Bush here in US as “soft on terror” (limp dick syndrome, so no man wants to champion it), while “war” approach has backed us up into beginnings of a virtual secret police state domestically while somebody is making a bloody fortune for the MIIC while security for US citizens is wide open and extremely vulnerable.

Time to return to "law" and declare the "war on terrorism" over domestically and even (I would argue) worldwide. If Obama was a professor of Constitutional law, what was it? The Constitution of the Moon?


I thought the Patriot Act was the tip of ice berg for a police state. But, this is criminal. What is happening to us? Wake up America. This is really bad.


Wow, And I was almost certain a presidency lasted 8+ years at a minimum.

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