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Blog of Mass Destruction

The Drone Assassinations Of U.S. Citizens

By The Reverend Published: February 6, 2013

I've been blogging in opposition to the unitary executive theory of the U.S. presidency for years. In short....the unitary executive doctrine....

John Dean explains: "In its most extreme form, unitary executive theory can mean that neither Congress nor the federal courts can tell the President what to do or how to do it, particularly regarding national security matters."

During George W. Bush's tenure, torture, extraordinary rendition for the purpose of torturing, indefinite detention, and warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens were all unitary executive decisions made in total secrecy by the president and his enablers. According to the unitary executive theory, even though each one of those activities is rendered illegal by U.S. law and/or the Constitution, the president, alone, still has the authority to order those activities to be carried out.

That voice you're overhearing is Richard Nixon's.... "if the president does it, it's not illegal."

President Obama has followed Bush's lead, expanding the unitary executive theory to include sole assassination-decision powers by the president. The exercise of these unitary executive assassination powers by Obama has resulted in the targeted killings of 3 U.S. citizens. Even though U.S. citizens are supposed to have the protection of constitutional due process.....to confront accusers, be charged with wrongdoing, evidence presented.....that quaint nostalgic practice is now, apparently, no longer operable.

NBC's Michael Isikoff's exclusive on this subject is found here. The Dept. of Justice's "white paper" justifying targeted assassinations, including of U.S. citizens, is found here. Unbelievably, the title of the white paper is "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational leader of Al Qa'ida or an Associated Force."

A few highlights....

"Targeting a member of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the U.S. is not unlawful. It is a lawful act of self-defense."

The Obama administration's understanding of the word "imminent"...

Isikoff...".....it explicitly states that imminence does not mean that the United States has to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons or interests is underway. If the US believes that the target has in the past been involved in such violent activities and the target has not renounced such activities it can be assumed that they are an imminent threat now and that that would justify an attack."

In other words, imminent threat does not mean imminent threat. Elsewhere in the white paper, that is how it is spelled out...

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

George Orwell couldn't have written it any better.

However, this.....takes the cake....

"were the target of a lethal operation a U.S. citizen who may have rights under the Due Process Clause and the 4th Amendment, that individual's citizenship would not immunize him from a lethal operation."

If you thought, as a U.S. citizen, you had rights under the Due Process Clause and the 4th amendment.....rights protecting you from the government arbitrarily killing you on the street or in your home....well, think again, because those so-called rights will not immunize you against targeted assassination.

Some argue that these drastic assassination power measures, even if U.S. citizens are not excluded, are only reserved for "senior operational leaders" of Al Qa'ida.....but the white paper includes the phrase "or an associated force".....which gives the unitary executive broad interpretive latitude. Do you think that unitary executive assassination rules might be ripe for political abuse? Itchin' to find out?

Furthermore, all assassination decisions are made in secrecy without any form of accountability whatsoever. No judges, no warrants...just the president and his assassination-list drafters. The assassination program, itself, cannot even be acknowledged as existing.....because that might threaten national security. Think about that.

The president of the United States won't admit that a government program even exists which targets "enemies", including U.S. citizens, for assassination on the singular say so of one person, the U.S. president......in the interest of national security. Simply admitting that such a program exists, the Obama administration says, endangers the country. Convenient.

Many of my conservative brethren are against Big Government.....and in some cases, rightfully so. Calls for "limited government" have been heard repeatedly coming from conservative and Tea circles.

What could possibly be a more dangerous example of Big Government, Unlimited Government, than an executive branch which claims the unilateral power to assassinate anyone in the world, at any time, including U.S. citizens.....on just the president's say so?

That's precisely what unlimited government looks like. The unlimited government power that only an authoritarian, dictator-president would claim as his exclusive right.

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