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Drones, Targeted Killings and the Fifth Amendment

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February 4, 2010

When an American citizen leaves the U.S., they don’t give up their constitutional rights. Which is why it’s so downright scary that at a hearing yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair admitted that the Obama administration reserves the right to order the assassination of Americans abroad who are suspected of involvement in terrorism.

This kind of death-before-due-process is called an “extrajudicial killing.” It’s also a violation of Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights (you know, the “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law” part).

Now, Blair said “special permission” was needed before an assassination was carried out. But that’s like “special sauce:” no one knows what goes into that special permission — it’s a secret.

President Obama must reveal more about this policy, specifically, who can be targeted for killing, who makes these decisions and whether lethal force can be used if arrest or capture have not even been attempted.

It’s also reported that drones are the Department of Defense’s (DOD) preferred weapon of choice for these targeted killings. We recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the DOD’s use of drones. We haven’t gotten anything yet, but stay tuned.

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