Anonymous administration insiders claim that the president personally approves every name on the White House kill list. According to the tortured language of an undated 16-page Justice Department white paper that was leaked, "it would be lawful for the United States to conduct a lethal operation outside the United States against a U.S. citizen who is a senior, operational leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force of al-Qa'ida without violating the Constitution."
The legal opinion, apparently drafted at the Department of Justice and the Obama White House without consultation with Congress, elaborates at length about how such lethal action against American citizens overseas does not violate any laws, treaties or international conventions or even Executive Order 12333, which bars assassination.
Most troubling, the white paper reduces due process to a determination made by "an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government ... that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." Though the document lists other restrictions -- e.g., capture must be infeasible -- and purports to limit "lethal operations" against American citizens to those involved with al-Qaida "in a foreign country," it does not define "imminent threat" and is silent about killing citizens here at home. In short, it raises more questions than it answers.
What about American citizens, overseas or here, believed to be affiliated with other threatening organizations besides al-Qaida -- such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad? Who decides whether capture is feasible or not? Do we really want to establish a precedent that an American president or any "informed, high-level official of the U.S. government" can serve as chief prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner for American citizens? If so, who will hold him or her accountable?
When the matter came up at the White House press briefing March 7, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said, "The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil." That's reassuring.
In a surreal twist, the Obama "drone program" was Washington's topic du jour as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's brutal regime announced, "Now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the armed forces of the (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack."
That sounds as if it might even be an "imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." But unlike an American citizen in Pakistan, Yemen or Virginia, Kim doesn't have to worry about a missile fired from a drone over Pyongyang. That's forbidden by Executive Order 12333.
Carney says, "The United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack." That's reassuring, too.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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