U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, says he could envision a situation where the Obama administration could call for a drone strike, in this country, against an American citizen...hypothetically of course.
Holder's admission should chill you down to your bones. It is an admission this government has already "gamed" out this possibility and believes it to be legal. They use the same rationale the previous administration used to justify torture and spying on Americans, that is, the bomb is about to go off and we only have 24 hours to get information or stop it and we have to do something now. (it doesn't make any more sense if Obama says it than if Bush does)
Holder's letter to Paul raises both constitutional and legal questions. Drones are controlled by the C.I.A. Since the C.I.A. is prohibited from acting inside this nation, the use of a drone would be an illegal use of force. I'm not naive enough to believe this law would deter anyone, since the Bush administration was more than willing to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and ordered the National Security Agency to enlist telecom companies to spy on their own customers. Bush and company went further and ignored international treaties, and American law, against torture, rendition (kidnapping) and assassination in the period after September 11th. The Obama administration has cloned this part of the Bush/Cheney DNA and continues to hold to many of these actions and most of the principles justifying them.
Equally disturbing is the apparent trashing of key elements of the Bill of Rights. A drone strike, in order to be affective, has to be secret and thus extra-judicial. Since it is used in secret, and its use cloaked in darkness, there cannot be any indictment or grand jury or bill of particulars before hand. The "target" does not get to face his or her accusers in court, file a habeas corpus petition to show the government has the wrong person or demand the government show probable cause for its actions. Witness testimony, wiretaps, documents and other surveillance information, all used to justify the drone attack, would not be open to challenge or cross-examination. The "target" would not have any idea the government had signed a death warrant...a warrant not subject to judicial review.
For those of you not sufficiently outraged, imagine for a moment Dick Cheney sending a letter to Barbara Boxer confirming the possibility the government is considering the assassination of American citizens (murdering) as part of the Bush Administration's war on terror. Progressives would be apoplectic in their reaction. Why aren't they now?
What is the difference between a C.I.A. hit team killing an American citizen in this country and a drone doing the same thing? What happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty? What happened to the 6th amendment right to due process...4th amendment right to probable cause, a warrant and judicial review...the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment? Every time I turn around the Bill of Rights is smaller than it was and all of these dilutions and watering down of civil liberties are justified by the need to fight the terrorists. The terrorists claim the people killed on September 11th were not innocent victims, but rather were complicit in America's war against Islam. We reject this argument completely, yet the Attorney General is making the exact same argument for killing an American citizen with no due process. What's the difference between the two positions? Apologists would point out how we would never make a decision to use a drone cavalierly. We would have justification and evidence to support such an action. We would never cross this threshold lightly and, if all these arguments fail, you just have to trust us. Really?
When pressed, Holder will claim he was just answering a hypothetical question with a hypothetical answer. He will declare there is no policy, or intention to seek a policy, to assassinate American citizens. He will feign anger and take umbrage at the thought anyone could think this administration would entertain such an action without a thorough vetting by legal authorities and his protestations wouldn't be worth the paper they were printed on. A decision to use a drone to kill an American citizen would be done in secret. It would be cloaked in a veil of national security so thick, the family of the victim would not even be allowed to sue or go to court to force an exposure of the evidence. No judge or judicial official would be involved and afterwards the courts would collaborate to prevent any redress under the auspices of national security.
Nowhere has the Obama presidency been a bigger failure than on matters of national security and civil liberties. We leave a disaster that is Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open for business. Federal courts are off limits for terror suspects replaced by military tribunals. We conduct war now by drone strike creating future terrorists as we go. While we claim to have cut the head off of Al Qaeda, we quietly open new war fronts in Africa and new military bases in Nigeria. We don't know what to do about Syria and our failure to secure Gaddafi's weapons in Libya resulted in a weapons bonanza for Al Qaeda, and other terrorists, in Africa. No one could have predicted a day when the chief law enforcement officer in the nation casually admits his administration is quite willing to ignore the Constitution, when it's convenient, in order to fight "terrorism".
Terrorism is supposed to scare us because if the terrorists win, our freedoms are lost. (isn't that what they say the military is fighting for, to protect our freedom?)...if the terrorists win our experiment in democracy is over...if the terrorists win they will declare an Islamic caliphate in this land...if the terrorists win, the beacon of civil liberties is extinguished. It would appear if Holder and Obama win, the difference between the administration and the terrorists is a difference without a distinction.