NBC News was leaked a Justice Department memo that discusses the Obama Administration policy regarding the drone killing of United States citizens who have not been convicted -- or even indicted of -- crimes.
I'm of the mind that fellow American Anwar al Awlaki deserved to die for all of the murder he's encouraged and facilitated. I have no doubt that a jury of his peers would deliberate for about 30 seconds before reaching the same conclusion. But, being American, I believe that such a trial is a good idea. But al Awlaki is really the "worst" American to be killed in a drone strike and his killing isn't terribly controversial among the masses. But he's also just one of the Americans President Obama has ordered killed. And NBC News tells us just how broadly that killing power is being interpreted:
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
A few years ago my husband pointed out how odd it was that Obama was mirandizing Nigerian terrorists who sought to kill us but killing Americans without going through the judicial process:
But if it becomes accepted the president can publicly assert his power to kill U.S. citizens, we're setting a truly dangerous precedent. It's not that I expect Obama to cavalierly kill people -- but I worry about what future presidents might do.
I'm actually worried enough about this president. Mike Riggs points out "5 Disturbing Aspects of the DOJ White Paper on the President's License to Kill" at Reason. Here's #4:
4. Although the requirement that capture be "infeasible" could be read as ruling out targeted killings within the United States or in friendly countries willing and able to assist in the apprehension of suspected terrorists, the paper identifies no geographic limit on lethal strikes against people deemed to be imminent threats. It explicitly rejects the notion that attacks should be limited to "the zone of active hostilities." (Hence the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.) As for obtaining permission from the government of the country where the target is located, the paper says "a lethal operation in a foreign country would be consistent with international legal principles of sovereignty and neutrality if it were conducted, for example, with the consent of the host nation's government or after a determination that the host nation is unable or unwilling to suppress the threat posed by the individual targeted." In other words, firing missiles at a suspected terrorist is permissible under international law only if the host nation's government 1) agrees to allow the attack or 2) refuses to allow the attack.
You probably won't be surprised that the New York Times has put all this on page A6 of the paper. I have absolutely no doubt that President Bush would have received the same treatment if he were killing Americans, and defending same, in such a manner.