So said Richard Nixon in his interviews with David Frost. Nixon was talking about wiretaps and surreptitious entries to protect lives and safeguard national security in a violent and anarchic war decade.
The Nixon haters pronounced themselves morally sickened.
Fast forward to our new century. For, since 9/11, we have heard rather more extravagant claims by American presidents.
Under George W. Bush, it was presidential authority to waterboard, torture, rendition and hold enemy aliens in indefinite detention at Guantanamo.
Under Barack Obama, we don't have a Nixon "enemies list" of folks who are not to be invited to White House dinners. Rather, we have a "kill list" -- a menu from which our constitutional law professor president selects individuals to be executed abroad.
Not only in Afghanistan, but Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and who knows where else. And not just foreigners, but Americans, too.
When may Obama order an American killed?
According to a Justice Department "white paper," any "informed high-level official" can decide a target is a ranking operative of al-Qaida who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States," and if we cannot apprehend him, order him eradicated with a Hellfire missile.
As law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell argues: "For a threat to be deemed 'imminent,' it is not necessary for a specific attack to be underway. The paper denies Congress and the federal courts a role in authorizing the killings or even reviewing them afterwards."
And they called Nixon the imperial president.
As killing a U.S. citizen is a graver deed than waterboarding a terrorist plotter to get information to save lives, Obama, who bewailed Bush's detention, rendition and interrogation policies, appears guilty of manifest hypocrisy.
But with 3,000 to 4,500 now killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen over 10 years, and an estimated 200 children and other civilians among the "collateral damage," it is past time for a debate on where we are going in this "war on terror."
A question raised by Donald Rumsfeld years ago -- Are we creating more terrorists than we are killing? -- needs re-raising. For if these drone strikes that kill innocent and guilty alike are creating new millions of sympathizers for al-Qaida, and recruiting new thousands of volunteers willing to dedicate their lives to taking revenge against us, we have entered upon a war that may never end.
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