At a time when Senate Democrats, such as Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon are asking the White House for an outline of the legal and practical rules that underpin the U.S. government’s targeted killing of American citizens suspected of working with al-Qaida, it is time for the nation as a whole to look much more closely at what is going on.
Wyden’s letter to the White House asked some relatively back questions: “How much evidence does the President need to determine that a particular American can be lawfully killed?” “Does the President have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender before killing them?” And does the White House believe it is authorized to order the extra-judicial killing of U.S. citizens here in the U.S.?
So far the administration has not responded. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/01/wyden-brennan/
But the questions reported coming from Wyden really only scratch the surface of here.
Keep in mind that Obama is putting folks on the “Kill List” based on the authority he claims Congress gave the president September 14, 2001, with that authority allowing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
That is the exact, and complete, language of the authorization for the use of force. Nothing else in the resolution allows the use of force.
Now, since we are talking about KILLING PEOPLE here, and that is fairly serious stuff, and since those crazy bastards who ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights included some ambiguous language about how “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” (And isn’t it really obvious that “no person” has to really mean “no citizen who we like at the moment” and not some foolishness like “no person”? I mean, isn’t that really obvious?) let’s actually parse the language of that 2001 resolution for the authorization for the use of force.
It first authorizes the use of “all necessary and appropriate force” (and presumably that is unlimited and deadly force, though that is not expressly addressed, and we will set to the side the issue of whether it is “appropriate” or “necessary” to order the killing of someone who could have been captured) “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
So just looking at that, while the authorization purports to allow the president to make the call based on his unreviewed and unreviewable determination as to whether someone “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,” that language would rather clearly NOT authorize the use of force against those individuals who were NOT involved in the planning, authorizing, committing or aiding of the 9/11 attacks — in other words, aid or support AFTER THE FACT to the folks who were involved, or to the the cause or organization involved, would NOT trigger the authorization for the use of force in that first clause.
So what about the second clause, who does it purportedly let the president kill? Well, it authorizes him to use force against “those nations, organizations, or persons he determines… harbored such organizations or persons,” but then it further includes the limitation that the use of force against those who “harbored” those responsible be “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
So in summary he can order the murder of those he decides were responsible, or those who he determines HARBORED those responsible but for those who harbored it is only when that use of force is “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” (And all of this ignores the question of the constitutionality of such a broad grant of power to a president to kill people without any review or any way for anyone to determine whether the targets ordered killed comply with the purported grant of power.)
That means that even under that extremely broad authorization for the use of force, he can not order the execution of those who were neither involved in the 9/11 attacks NOR ever harbored those who did so, even if it is believed that the folks he wants to target will in the future assist the group or individuals responsible attack again.
This is why Bush had to go back to Congress to seek separate authorization for the use of force in Iraq. Despite the claims from the left that the Bush administration tried to justify the invasion based on a contentions Iraq had close ties to Al Queda and had somehow been involved, if Bush had in fact made that determination, he never would have needed to go back to Congress.
So 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, with the president ordering ever growing numbers of drone strikes on individuals, we need to ask, at what point does that authorization end? How tenuous can the connections be for us to turn a blind eye to the president ordering extra-judicial, non-reviewable murders? And without any review of those decisions, how will we ever know how tenuous the connections are, or are even thought to be? How will we ever know how often they are wrong? Does the authorization for the use of force and the president’s belief it allows him to use kill lists also insulate him from all liability (civil and criminal) for those murders he orders when he was wrong? Or when he was right in whether someone fit the requirements, but those carrying out the kill order made a mistake and killed the wrong person or people? Or when he was right but ordered the use of force under such circumstances that the risk of injury to others, and the likelihood of success in getting the target was not necessary (because the target could have been easily captured) or appropriate (because the risk of harm to others was outrageously high (such as perhaps poisoning the water supply of an entire city to kill one individual known to be there, even though the city was not harboring him and was inhabited by tens of thousands of innocent and uninvolved people).
When will the madness of our grant of that use of force stop?
Will it stop when a president begins the wholesale slaughter of U.S. citizens on American soil? Or will that even be acceptable so long as whoever is then is office claims it is to “prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States“?
Without the opportunity to review his decisions, we will never know.
And in THIS environment we have the president calling for new, tighter regulations on firearms…. and much of the nation seemingly absolutely eager for them.