Unpacking the Ramifications of Obama’s Targeted Killing Memo

Drones

Rosa Brooks unpacks the Obama JD’s targeted killing memo: “Like many legal documents, this one does fine on its own terms, but looks a lot less satisfying when taken out of its hermetically sealed legal universe.”

Related: John Fugelsang talks with Harper’s Scott Horton and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK about the kill memo and a possible slippery slope into domestic assassination:

Update: Via Jack Goldsmith, two different takes on the white paper — first, Jeffrey Rosen is outraged:

The Justice Department white paper released on Monday by NBC News is the public’s first direct glimpse at the legal reasoning that the Obama administration relied on in using a drone strike to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen living in Yemen. The memo’s arguments are troubling on many levels. Although the Obama administration’s brief is directed at the assassination of Americans abroad, the arguments it offers could apply with equal force to the assassination of Americans at home; lawyers for the Bush administration who tried to justify lesser outrages have been pilloried for supporting torture. But perhaps most troubling is the administration’s attempt to redefine the idea of the kind of “imminent threat” that can justify a targeted assassination. . . .

There are other reasons to object to the administration’s justification of targeted assassinations—including its questionable claim that they are legally supported by Congress’s authorization of the use of force after 9/11. On pragmatic grounds, the administration’s brief is a disaster: As the Church Commission found after studying the attempted assassinations of Castro, targeted killings are likely to produce an international backlash that threatens far more American lives than they protect. But, as a legal matter, the casual, and unpersuasive, attempt to read out of American constitutional law the principle that government can only kill citizens in order to prevent imminent death or violence in return is the most objectionable of all.

And then there’s Eric Posner, who is not so outraged (and wonders what all the fuss is about):

So far, the reporting on the leaked white paper from the Justice Department about drone attacks clearly assumes that we are supposed to be outraged by the Obama administration’s legal theories, just as we were supposed to be outraged by the Bush administration’s. And outrage is being dutifully ginned up. But the memo is utterly conventional as legal analysis; its arguments could easily have been predicted. . . .

Obama and Bush administration lawyers have stretched the Constitution and traditional rules of international law to accommodate the threat posed by terrorism. Some people will say they violated the law. But given the political consensus supporting these moves within the U.S., it is more accurate to say that the law has evolved. It gives the president the discretion he needs, or at least wants, to address an amorphous threat. Let’s hope he uses that discretion wisely.

Quite the leap of faith, that (YMMV).

More from Goldsmith here and here, and from Ben “Keep Calm and Carry On Killing The Wogs” Wittes, who thinks this is all much ado about nothing.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney On Targeted Killing: Lethal Strikes On U.S. Citizens ‘Legal,’ ‘Ethical,’ And ‘Wise’

Words fail (h/t):

A friendly reminder from TAFKAdnA:

The Obama administration claims that the secret judgment of a single “well-informed high level administration official” meets the demands of due process and is sufficient justification to kill an American citizen suspected of working with terrorists. That procedure is entirely secret. Thus it’s impossible to know which rules the administration has established to protect due process and to determine how closely those rules are followed. The government needs the approval of a judge to detain a suspected terrorist. To kill one, it need only give itself permission.

“Trust me” != due process, Mr. POTUS.

Related: Thomas P.M. Barnett:

For now, the only club whose membership can earn you such a “pre-sentence” is al-Qaeda, but how many dangerous organizations (you tell me where to put the sarcastic quotation marks on that phrase) will be added to this list in the years and decades ahead?

[…]

This is an extremely dangerous rule-set for America to be exporting around the world: threaten or scare of just plain piss off the wrong great-power government, and it reserves the right to assassinate you at will.  The quid pro quos are easy to imagine:  you, China, turn your back when we need to kill ours and . . . America can probably do the same when you take out those “protestors” (I mean, terrorists!).

I just have to ask: how does Obama lecture Netanyahu about anything at this point?

Quote of the Day: Inevitable Consequences

by matttbastard

The Wichita Eagle:

Warren Hern, a Colorado physician and close friend of Tiller’s — who described himself now as “the only doctor in the world” who performs very-late-term abortions — said Tiller’s death was predictable.

“I think it’s the inevitable consequence of more than 35 years of constant anti-abortion terrorism, harassment and violence,” he said.

When Obama was elected last fall, Hern predicted that anti-abortion violence would increase, he said. Because Obama supports legalized abortion, Hern said, its foes “have lost ground…. They want the doctors dead, and they invite people to assassinate us. No wonder that this happens.

“I am next on the list.”

Related: Must-read article from the always-excellent Ann Friedman, in which she puts the assassination of Dr. George Tiller into the broader context of the concerted criminal harassment (sometimes deadly) of US abortion clinic workers:

It’s apparent that we need someone at the federal level who is paying attention. After all, Tiller’s assassin was not acting in vacuum. Even if no national anti-choice group directly ordered him to fire that gun, he is a product of a culture that thrives on systematically threatening reproductive health care providers and women who seek abortions. Militant anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue — which has endorsed intimidation tactics in the past — released statements yesterday condemning Tiller’s assassination.

But after years of sending the message to its avid base that Tiller was a sub-human monster, a press release expressing dismay at the killing does little good. On the sidebar of the Operation Rescue blog, near where the press release appeared, was a small image featuring Dr. Tiller’s face, some very sinister-looking flames, and the words “America’s Doctor of Death,” linking to a detailed dossier about all of Tiller’s offenses. Other groups keep databases of reproductive health providers’ addresses and phone numbers, all but daring their members to conduct harassment campaigns.

Elsewhere: Contra the disingenuous spin (h/t Mandos) from the forced-birth set, Jill Filipovic and former Religious Right icon Frank Schaeffer both join Friedman in placing the blame for Dr. Tiller’s murder squarely on the collective shoulders of the ‘mainstream’ anti-abortion movement. As Schaeffer (who readily acknowledges his role, along with his late father Francis and former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, in establishing the anti-abortion movement) puts it:

The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as “murderers.” And today once again the “pro-life” leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words. The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I’d like to say on this day after a man was murdered in cold blood for preforming abortions that I — and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers