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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

 
All war is based on deception." -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

by digby

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I am:

Last month, [Rand] Paul threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan, Obama's pick to head the CIA, "until he answers the question of whether or not the president can kill American citizens through the drone strike program on US soil." Tuesday, Brennan told Paul that "the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States—nor does it have any authority to do so." Brennan said that the Justice Department would answer Paul's question about whether Americans could be targeted for lethal strikes on US soil.[...]

Here's the bulk of the letter:

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

The letter concludes, "were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority."

Well that's good to know. I'm sure we can trust all presidents and their Justice Departments to know what that line is. Because nothing in history would suggest that leaders ever convince themselves that they are protecting the country by killing someone without due process.

And using 9/11 as an example of a permissible pretext takes some real chutzpah considering the fact that we just had a president who lied about ties between the perpetrators of 9/11 and Iraq and took the country to war based on them. That was bold of the Obama administration, I'll give them that, particularly since he made his national reputation as the guy who wouldn't have invaded Iraq.

I don't honestly know what this means. It sounds as though they would use law enforcement (of which we have in huge numbers at the federal, state and local levels, so don't be afraid kiddies) unless they decide they need to use the military. It doesn't explicitly say that they believe they can assassinate people on American soil, but it doesn't exactly rule it out. It stands the constitution on its head to even contemplate it.

I think it's immoral and probably illegal to go about the world assassinating people because you think they might be a threat, but it's a different set of laws and norms that govern such a thing. This case is something a 5th grader could answer: anyone on American soil is subject to the US Constitution which guarantees them due process. Nobody, not even the president doing his honest to gosh best to protect the country, has the authority to issue an assassination order within these borders. The fact that they still refuse to openly admit this is troubling, to say the least.


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