“Imminence” used to mean something in military terms: namely, that an adversary had begun preparations for an assault. In order to justify his drone strikes on American citizens, President Obama redefined that concept to exclude any actual adversary attack.
That’s the heart of the Justice Department’s newly leaked white paper, first reported by NBC News, explaining why a “broader concept of imminence” (.pdf) trumps traditional Constitutional protections American citizens enjoy from being killed by their government without due process. It’s an especially striking claim when considering that the actual number of American citizens who are “senior operational leader[s] of al-Qaida or its associated forces” is vanishingly small. As much as Obama talks about rejecting the concept of “perpetual war” he’s providing, and institutionalizing, a blueprint for it.
Imminence has always been a tricky concept. It used to depend on observable battlefield preparations, like tanks amassing near a front line, missile assemblage, or the fueling of fighter jet squadrons. Even under those circumstances, there has been little international consensus about when a nation under threat can take action. A classic example is Israel’s June 1967 bombing of the Egyptian Air Force on its tarmac, which followed months of signals that Egypt was about to launch a massive assault. Whether you view Israel or Egypt as the aggressor tends to depend on your sympathy to either party in the conflict.
Source: Wired. Read full article. (link)