The Obama administration seems to have gone Jack Bauer on us, which would be okay if we were just talking about non-American enemy combatants on some far-flung battlefield.
It seems the administration danced its way around case law and the Constitution in an attempt to justify the assassination of three American citizens it refuses to acknowledge it had any part of, post execution. In September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, the mastermind behind the failed December 25, 2010 airplane BVD bombing, and his cohort, Samir Khan were killed. Two weeks later, in a separate drone attack, Denver native and 16-year-old son of al-Awlaki followed his father’s fate.
According to the Washington Post, “a recently leaked ‘white paper’ from the Justice Department…permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it had done so.”
No matter how evil someone is, it is unnerving that any president wouldn’t hesitate to blatantly disregard an American citizen’s constitutional right to a trial and then make the decision to become prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of that same citizen – and not man-up afterward.
To be clear, the use of drones on the modern battlefield has proven effective, but great ideas in the wrong hands can sour quickly.
In the recently crafted white paper, the administration makes a weak argument to justify its seeming extrajudicial power grab by suggesting “the use of lethal force” against an American citizen is equivalent to George W. Bush’s detention of foreign enemy combatants.
It seems like only yesterday a then-junior senator from Illinois repetitively repudiated Bush’s actions that included the capture, detention, and questioning of non-American enemy combatants, and a military-style christening of a few. Many say Bush’s actions led to information regarding Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and eventual elimination.
What a difference a little (or a lot of) power makes. There’s a new sheriff in town and, suddenly, the North Star we Americans call the Constitution is no longer the effective navigational tool it once was. Now it’s okay to assassinate citizens and grant due process to non-citizens.
After Obama’s election, his administration became obsessed with lavishing constitutional rights on Guantanamo Bay terrorists and tried to move them to New York City where they’d be granted due process. Back in August 2012, Attorney General Holder told Bloomberg he still regrets the “missed opportunity.”