In September 2011 the US government killed two US citizens in Yemen by drone strike. Anwar al-Awlaki and Safir Khan. Both were battlefield combatants for Al Qaeda, and no one mourned their death.
In October Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, with no known affiliation with Al Qeada or terrorism was also killed by drone strike.
At the time of the first strike, the White House issued a statement that they carried out these killings under the protection of a “finding” by the Justice Department. The Justice Department this week published that finding, 16 months after the strikes.
Read about it here.
Now while in all likelihood other presidents or senior executives of government have signed off on the killing of American citizens abroad (if you read spy thrillers you may even believe thousands), none have ever stepped forward to admit it.
Why they haven’t is that there is no legal basis for such a killing.
This is because inside government, it has always been settled law and policy, that neither the president not any government official can order the execution of a citizen without “due process of law”, since, in essence, only a jury of his/her peers can. Therefore, such acts must be on issues of national security.
But only last week the White House and DOJ finally released the text of that “kill memo”, which you can read in the cited articles (above). It cites three specific conditions that must be met. (Hold that thought.)
Arguably the president acted without constitutional authority (once again) and again, and by the constitutional reading that had been national policy since they stopped hanging Wanted: Dead or Alive posters on fences in Kansas, nothing Eric Holder could have drafted would have passed legal or constitutional muster. The Congress hadn’t authorized it. Such killings belonged in the nether world of darkness, just like all the others, instead of an end-zone dance to shout to the world, for it sounded then too much like the president simply told his AG “I want to kill some people, so tell me how I can do it legally.”
(For background and context, understand that the only government-authorized killing of an American citizen on American soil was Border Patrol agent Brian Berry in Dec 2010, also based on a “go” authorization by the same Holder and his Justice Department.)
In 2011 the ACLU kicked up a fuss, but by their standards, a low profile dust-up. There was not the wholesale outrage and appeals to the masses a really outraged Left normally musters. They do still have an FOIA appeal pending in court, filed in federal court, but the killing of al-Awlaki’s son especially, and innocent kid, has stirred not a single whimper. Just process.
So why make this memo public now, this week? …which by its own terms, I might add, does not justify the killing of al-Awlaki’s son. The White House has made no public statement on this clearly wrongful (even by its own markers) killing. But then again, neither have they addressed the murder of 500 + Mexican citizens killed by guns they placed in their killers’ hands.
This memo was not released to explain a past deed, but rather excuse future needs, for the president has established that he can pretty do much anything he wants, kill anybody, anywhere, and for any reason, as long as he can conjure up a finding, for he now has elicited the complicity of the legal Left and congressional Republicans.
You see, with such tepid response by the ACLU, especially in light of the proliferation of drones over the US, and the absolute silence by the Republican Party when the killings were first announced…Ron Paul the only Republican to stand up and condemn it… it should be clear that now, after 16 months, they’ve been silenced into submission.
While it’s never too late to convene a hearing, for them it’s too late to cry foul, Havoc!, or even lawless homicide.
After so many unconstitutional successes, with no opposition, much like the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss and Munich Pact, a certain sense of invincibility has settled in over Obama, in part because he has made his opponents, by their silence, complicit in his acts.
Oh, and yes, I mean homicide, for if Obama’s kill order was unlawful and unconstitutional, it was homicide, just as Fast and Furious was, and you don’t just sue over murder. You send someone to arrest them.
We’re at that place now.
The ball is rolling.