Is the leaked Department of Justice White Paper reviewing the memo outlining the constitutionality of lethal aerial drone strikes on U.S. citizens and al-Qa’ida a new revelation or proof of what we suspected all along? It seems the Constitution, like the Bible, is just another document with text that people can parse and interpret to support their own twisted actions in direct conflict to the larger inherent message. Just as the Bush legacy was to hand the executive branch a virtual blank check of justification for drones strikes, what precedent is President Obama setting for future Presidents?
Stand Your Ground
“-and who himself poses an imminent threat of violent attack…”
“That history show that states have long recognized justifications and excuses to statures criminalizing “unlawful” killings.”
“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination.”
The big lynch pin peppered throughout the review is the word imminent. Similar to “Stand Your Ground” laws, the U.S. is exercising its right to self-defense based on the belief that the victim was poised to imminently kill or do great bodily harm. If the gathering of a couple of al-Qa’ida thugs in some dusty backwater village poses an imminent threat to the security of the U.S., under this logic, we have the right to blow up half the cafes in Afghanistan.
Beyond a disregard for the human rights of the civilians that might be blown-up in a drone strike, the President should be worried that a neoconservative like John Bolton endorsed the targeted drone strikes. Perhaps President Obama will enlist Bolton, a former U.N. Ambassador, to defend the U.S. as the United Nations investigates drones strikes as a war crime.
Don’t Fly Over Me Bro
All the President’s men can work feverishly into the night digging up old case law that supports extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens and other suspected terrorists, but it doesn’t change the fact that the American public understands that it is fundamentally wrong and goes against the spirit of our Constitution. Eleven different states have already begun looking at laws to restrict or ban the use of drones.
While the impetus for most of the legislation centers on privacy concerns, there is also the issue of weaponized drones being used by local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, which raises the question if the Second Amendment covers my right to own a gun attached to a drone? Hey NRA, will you support my right to own a weaponized drone?
Rules are Meant to be Broken
The memo sets forth all sorts of conditions and rules by which the government must adhere to before pulling the drone trigger:
- An informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.
- Capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible.
- The operation is conducted in a manner consistent with the four fundamental principles of the laws of war governing the use of force.
Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at Northwestern University School of Law in March 2012, not only covered the four principles governing war, but his speech is essentially the leaked memo: a rationale for surveillance and action against terrorist targets anywhere in the world.
Torture, Drones…it’s all the same
President Obama just as easily could have embraced the constitutional rational for torture created by President Bush, but decided against it. His “opt-out” of the constitutional torture logic could be the “opt-in” of the next President. The precedent he has set with the drone attacks, not reviewable by the Supreme Court, will be passed on to the next President. Can you imagine if a Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, if elected, would use the drone program? Heck, half of the Middle East leaders would be killed because they posed an imminent threat to the U.S.
President Obama’s rationale for the use of drones to kill al-Qa’ida targets may be beneficial in the short run, but I fear the legacy will have a tragic ending as the killings create more enemies and in the wrong Presidential hands, could spark a world war.