Assassination of US Citizens
The Department of Justice has released a document that they claim justifies the killing of U.S. citizens in the name of national security. Michael Isikoff from NBC news publicized the DOJ’s White Paper that sets out the “legal” authority of the President to assassinate US Citizens.
In the beginning, the DOJ legal argument attempts to make it appear that only “U.S. citizens who are senior operational leaders of al-Qua’ida or an associated force of al-Qua’ida” are considered eligible for assassination. However, by the end of the analysis, the DOJ document has moved beyond “foreign countries” to include any geographic area and authorizes lethal force against any person classified as a potential hostile by the President or by any “high level official of the U.S. government” even when there is no evidence to support such an accusation. Sound too “Orwellian” to be true? Read the full analysis HERE and YOU be the judge.
In the DOJ’s paper “Imminent threat” is redefined to include a citizen plotting about some threat at some distant time. The government does not have “to have clear evidence that a specific attack…will take place in the immediate future.” And though much is made about the Law of War, the citizen to be assassinated can be far from the “actual hostility.” The DOJ eliminates the barriers of “geographic limitations,” and asserts the ability to “follow” the target to a “a new nation.” Let us not forget the provisions of the NDAA that allow the President to transfer the powers under the “Law of War” to the FBI, making it possible for that “new nation” to be the U.S. No Constitutional protections, no review of a judge, no jury of your peers, no requirement of actual “imminent threat,” and no need for you to be caught on the battlefield (unless you remember that the government has already declared the ENTIRE PLANET to be a battlefield!).
In criminal court, to put someone in prison or sentence them to death, the burden of proof that must be met by the government is “beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.” In order to get a search warrant the Fourth Amendment requires the government to meet the standard of “probable cause” as reviewed and approved by a judge. The Fifth Amendment requires that before the government can take someone’s life they are guaranteed an indictment by a grand jury and conviction by a jury of their peers. One would think that at least these standards would apply if the government is going to take a citizen’s life. Unfortunately that is not the case here and the only reference the DOJ makes to the Constitution is to point out that it DOESN’T APPLY! What is the burden of proof for the President to assassinate US citizens? According to the DOJ, the government must simply “demonstrate” that the United States’ interest in preventing an anticipated threat of violence outweighs “the person’s interest in his life,” again, with no “clear evidence that a specific attack…will take place in the immediate future.” Citing their standard of proof, the government quotes the court of Cf. Hamdi, 542 U.S. at 535: “the Court accords the greatest of respect and consideration to the judgments of military authorities…the scope and discretion of that discretion is necessarily wide.” And of course in this case, that scope the government asserts, would be transferred to the “high-level official of the U.S. government” making the determination.
It is interesting to note that throughout its paper the DOJ continually appeals to the “government’s inherent right to defend itself” while this administration does not seem to recognize such a right among its citizens. Will we be given the same deference when we defend ourselves? Will George Zimmerman be given an inherent right to self-defense under the same standards as the government asserts? Apparently this administration only claims such a right for the government? The framers said each of us have an inherent right to self-defense (Sam Adams said, “The rights of the colonists are these; First life, Secondly liberty, and third property and the ability to defend them”).
What’s the Big Deal?
What is wrong with the Executive branch of a government engaging in the assassination of our citizens, who are classified by the government as combatants against this country, absent due process? If they can do this without a “speedy and public trial,” we are trusting the government to convey truthful and accurate information to justify their actions. Our founders were intimately aware that the governments often have their own perspective on things and have the power and tools to justify their actions at all levels. Their point would be that a government not only has an agenda, but also has the power to control and manipulate information. Richard Henry Lee stated that we must not only guard against “what men do, but what they may do.” They knew the unrestrained power of the government must be continually checked against the Liberty of the people.
What about the fact that the government has already redefined who is a “terrorist”? Just look at Janet Napolitano’s report, as head of the Department of Homeland Security, warning America regarding who is a terrorist; "rightwing extremists" concerned about illegal immigration, abortion, increasing federal power and restrictions on firearms – and returning war veterans.
“Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
Our founders knew that in a government that has the ability to define the enemy, and the uninhibited inclination to define its own citizens as terrorists, tyranny is already established. Unrestrained power of the government must be continually checked against the Liberty of the people. It is Liberty that is the most important asset to any peace loving nation. Benjamin Franklin is quoted to have said, "Those who would trade Liberty for temporary security deserve neither Liberty nor security." How could he make such a bold statement? Because he knew from history that trading Liberty will NEVER result in greater security and once Liberty is traded, you never get it back. I find it very telling that our founders never said, “Peace must be supported at all hazards.” Eliminating enemy combatants –good; assassinating US citizens…a destructive assault on Liberty. This is the Constitutional quagmire we have created by maintaining a completely inept political administration that is completely ignorant of the Constitution and the principles of Liberty it protects.
I ask you, how can authorizing this level of arbitrary power be acceptable in the eyes of our Congress who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States? How can these elected representatives justify the worst arbitrary power and the most destructive authority to our individual liberty? Read the full analysis HERE.
“To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government." And as a remedy for this fatal evil he is everywhere peculiarly emphatical in his encomiums on the habeas corpus act, which in one place he calls "the BULWARK of the British Constitution”. (Alexander Hamilton, Fed. Paper #84, quoting Justice Blackstone)