License to Kill

Obama blurs the line between warfare and summary execution.

Nearly a decade after the September 11 attacks, we still have not settled the question of how to deal with terrorism suspects. Should they be in military or civilian custody? Should they receive trials, and if so what kind? After years of acrimonious debate, President Obama is offering a way to settle this argument once and for all: Why not just kill them?

Last week U.N. investigator Philip Alston delivered a report on "targeted killings" in which the U.S. government plays a starring role. Under a policy secretly initiated by George W. Bush and expanded by Obama, the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command track and kill people, including U.S. citizens, based on their alleged ties to Al Qaeda or its allies. The killings, typically carried out by missiles fired from drone aircraft, dangerously blur the line between warfare and summary execution.

As Alston noted, targeted killings "are permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants…or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities." But "they are increasingly being used far from any battle zone"—in places such as Yemen, where the U.S. fires missiles at "high-value targets" such as the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Harold Koh, the State Department's legal adviser, says such attacks are justified by international law and by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed after the September 11 attacks. "The United States is in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces," Koh says. "Individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets."

But unlike a conventional war, this "armed conflict" is fought on a "battlefield" that spans the globe by "belligerents" who do not wear uniforms and are not readily identified. Hence Koh's reasonable-sounding law-of-war argument amounts to claiming that the executive branch has the unreviewable authority to kill enemies that it unilaterally identifies anywhere in the world.

The geographic reach of this license to kill exceeds even that of an old-fashioned tyrant accustomed to shouting, "Off with his head!" Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them "belligerents."

Given the breathtaking scope of the authority claimed by the president, the reassurances of his underlings ring hollow. "Whether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular location," says Koh, "will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses." This is a long way of saying "trust us."

Last February, Dennis Blair, then the director of national intelligence, assured members of Congress that "we don't target people for free speech." Rather, "we target them for taking action that threatens Americans or has resulted in it."

Awlaki, for example, is known mainly for his inflammatory yet constitutionally protected sermons. But according to an unidentified "American official" quoted by The New York Times in April, "The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words. He's gotten involved in plots."

Before you take the government's word that Awlaki has been marked for death based on something more than his anti-American tirades, consider its track record in justifying the detention of alleged "belligerents." Even though the burden of proof is much lighter than it would be in a criminal trial, the American Civil Liberties Union notes, "the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far."

Luckily for the government, it does not need to present any evidence against Awlaki or other "high-value targets," because it does not want to detain them. It only wants to kill them.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Untermensch||

    B-b-b-but the Chosen One was supposed to stop all of this icky Bush-era stuff...

  • Suki||

    Good morning Untermensch! Good morning reason!

  • ||

    Good morning Suki! How are you sofar today?

  • Suki||

    Doing well. Hope you are too!

  • Almanian||

    Morning Suki and other Reasonoids

  • ||

    Under most of the conventions that govern the conduct of war, it is lawful to execute combatants who are not wearing a uniform or military insignia once they are taken prisoner on the battlefield. It is interesting to note that it is not lawful to remove them from the battlefield and deny them EPW status with its attendant rights. In other words if you catch a terrorist in the field, you can shoot him or release him or call him an EPW and treat him as such. But you cannot select none of the above and detain him indefinitely while you pump him for intel at Gitmo or some other locale away from the place of capture. My preference is to shoot them upon capture. It creates an incentive to wear a uniform and not creep around, mixed up with civilians blowing things up.

  • ||

    I suppose you thnik that the Special Operations being carried out by the Pentagon world wide are all wearing uniforms to alert the unamed suspects of their presence. President O'BushBombya worse than Stalin.It's a sad comentary that Stalin is more decent than O'BushBombya.

  • ||

    Actually, most of the special ops guys do wear a uniform for the reasons I stated. Even CIA guys in the field usually wear some piece of a BDU and have a US flag somewhere on their clothing.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    B-b-b-but the Chosen One was supposed to stop all of this icky Bush-era stuff...


    Who was claiming that this stuff was icky?

  • Untermensch||

    Everyone on Team Blue until they were in power.

  • ||

    just that their actions actually painted a different picture. if the democrats were a firewall they would be the worst you could buy because they let everything through. and it is exactly that reason for which I believe they were elected.

  • Jay||

    Yeah, and let's not forget his total B.S. Nobel "Peace Prize." To lump the executive assassin in with the likes of Mother Teresa, who really did care for people - no matter what their faith, views, etc. - shows just how worthless that award has become.

  • ed||

    We should deploy a squadron of Miranda drones.

  • Suki||

    And an armada of defense lawyers.

  • ed||

    You have the right to be blown up.
    You have the right to remain silent.
    Forever.

  • Suki||

    Didn't the SCOTUS say if they don't say anything they didn't invoke their right to silence?

  • ed||

    Ed not know.
    Ed only pawn in game of life.

  • ||

    Obama is God. Therefore, he is all-wise and all-knowing. Consequently, he needs to be all-powerful, so he can do the maximum amount of good.

  • Matt||

    I personally trust the judgment and expertise of the people in positions to make those decisions. If there is someone out there who is going to attempt to murder as many Westerners as he possibly can, then I think he should wake up dead in a crater.

    Sometimes there just isn't enough time to attempt to extradite and then drag the scumbag through court for years.

  • GroundTruth||

    Please, tell me you are being sarcastic!

  • ||

    "I personally trust the judgment and expertise of the people in positions to make those decisions."
    --Makes sense, but it would be best to have some evidence/reasoning/anything other than "I've got a hunch" in order to kill people. We might as well have cops piloting the drones.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    "I personally trust the judgment and expertise of the people in positions to make those decisions."

    So you trust both Bush & Obama with the ultimate power of life and death? Well, I trust neither, so it's a wash, I suppose.

    "If there is someone out there who SOME CAREER POLITICIAN THINKS is going to attempt to murder as many Westerners as he possibly can...

    ftfy

    "Sometimes there just isn't enough time to attempt to extradite and then drag the scumbag through court for years."

    Here in Chicago, we just wrapped up a judicial debacle in which a drunk cop zipping along at 60 miles an hour on a city street killed a couple of Hispanics and didn't even get a ticket. Among the highlights of this particular circus: sworn testimony that the six shot glasses the officer was filmed downing in a bar contained water. I'd like to have a few people whacked over this matter, but there's that pesky "civil society" thing...

  • ||

    Thie bigger issue is the Uppity One's hipocracy.

    The Bush war powers were horrifying but at least he didn't campaign, with mock horror, against them before implementing them.

  • ||

    before implementing expanding them.

    ftfy

  • ||

    Unless their names are Bush and Cheney?

  • ||

    The press only has an issue with government power and discretion when a Republican is in office.

  • Suki||

    +1

  • unPC||

    + me too

  • Warty||

    I try to be all jaded and shit, but it's a bit shocking to me that other countries tolerate us having assassination skybots in their skies.

  • ||

    We do give them lots of money so their political class can buy luxuries.

  • Untermensch||

    Are you really shocked? Considering the regimes in most of the countries where we have those would be the first in front of the firing squad if the people we are assassinating got into power, I’m not surprised at all that the pro-American regimes tolerate it. After all, our enemies are their enemies. These governments are, in many cases, de facto extensions of U.S. foreign policy bodies.

  • JohnD||

    Their leaders are smart. They don't want to make the target list!

  • ||

    Untermensch + JohnD = THIS^^^^^^^^^^^

  • Draco||

    I've long argued that the targeted killings of enemy (even national) leaders was a more rational and humane solution than going to war with your divisions of young people against their divisions of young people, resulting in thousands of innocent deaths. It always disgusted me that "assassination" was considered immoral, while sending thousands to die on the battlefield was considered noble.

    Even though, as Jacob points out, there are problems with the drone killing strategy it might be the most humane and rational choice in a world full of bad choices.

  • ||

    Remo: "You make it sound like a public service."

    Chiun: "Professional assassination: it's the highest form of public service."

  • JohnD||

    It is a public service, asshole.

  • Julius Caesar||

    I beg to differ.

  • Drone Pilot||

    Not to mention, fun and cool.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What's the point in being the POTUS if you can't have your enemies killed?

  • ||

    I'm certain you're not on President O'BushBombya enemies list but not to worry it doesn't matter you're just collateral damage.

  • Charles Johnson Banned Me||

    They should link this drone system to X-Box Live and we could finally get our kids interested in the wider world.

  • ||

    For example: Call of Duty MW2: Afghan map...you even get to put yourself in the Taliban, er, freedom fighter's sandals!

  • ed||

    This is only the beginning. In a few years well-off individuals will be able to purchase their own small, disposable (one-use) drones for personal expressions of revenge and mayhem. Target a residence (or hip-riding cell phone) via GPS or on-board video camera and that pesky ex-wife or cruel employer goes bye-bye.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    There an app for that?

  • ed||

    Nice.

  • Tim||

    i-Kill

  • Steve Jobs||

    Intriguing...please continue.

  • Henry||

    No, please don't.

  • ||

    Nez was right all along: Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority!

  • LarryA||

    Actually, we could just issue everyone an exploding phone and eliminate the annoying flying things. Twenty or so of your neighbors don’t like you, and it’s “Bye bye.”

    Then we’d have a civil society.

  • ||

    Libertarians need to wake up to reality. The American public and by extension its elected officials are not going to tolerate letting these people go or trying them in civilian court where the principle is better to let a few guilty go free than convict an innocent. But, we have effectively closed off the option of military tribunals. So that leaves only one option, killing them. I am not crazy about this policy either. I would rather capture then and try them by tribunal. But that is not possible.

  • Suki||

    Waking up to reality extinguishes our Libertarianism.

  • RyanXXX||

    So, we should just kill AMERICAN suspects who are suspected of terrorism without a trial, because they may be found innocent? And we should base our conclusions on the words of anonymous intel officials?

  • ||

    Their are precendents, NAZIISM and Stalinism, North Korea just to name a few. The USA is in proper company with these precedents.

  • Henry||

    Boy, you really explained THAT one well......

  • ||

    I vote for drones that target politicians.

  • Tim||

    What we got was drones that vote.

  • ||

    Yeah, but they elected Skynet.

    Hey, It's Change I Can Believe In.

  • Tim||

    The Cylons were created by Man.
    There are many copies. They Evolved. And then the day came when the Cylons decided to kill their masters...

  • Suki||

    But wait! They broke the law! Someone wake Azimov. He is needed now more than ever.

  • ed||

    Careful. You might awake the Mule.

  • Tim||

    Industry is trying to build an AI at least as intelligent as human level, assuming this is possible, human brains are responsible for all sorts of carnage in history.
    Is the new being going to be Gandhi or Hitler? Asimov was right about needing to hard wire in his laws.

  • ed||

    Is the new being going to be Gandhi or Hitler?

    It might be Sarah Palin.

  • Tim||

    Artificial unintelligence?

  • ed||

    FTW

  • Henry||

    Kill yourself.

  • Fluffy||

    I can find a way to live with some variant of this policy, but under specific conditions:

    1. Explicit Congressional authorization in the form of a DoW or a letter of marque and reprisal.

    2. The policy has to be engaged in openly, without denial or non-operational concealment.

    3. When undertaken against American citizens, probable cause must exist to demonstrate that the citizen has engaged in a capital crime like treason or espionage.

    My problems with the policy we currently have are:

    1. The executive branch is usurping an authority that clearly belongs to the Congress.

    2. We insist on embarrassing ourselves by lying about a policy that pretty much exists in the open at this point.

    3. When Awlaki was first targeted, we didn't have enough evidence to arrest him, or to prevent him from traveling overseas. He may have engaged in non-speech activities since he went overseas, or there may be secret evidence, but as late as 2007 we didn't have enough evidence to get him indicted and extradited from Yemen even when he was in custody there. So this whole, "We don't have even the paltry amount of evidence it would take us to indict you, but we can kill you if we feel like it as long as you're physically not in the United States" stuff is BS.

  • ||

    "1. The executive branch is usurping an authority that clearly belongs to the Congress."

    That is an interesting point. I wouldn't call this a letter of marque but I think it does fit well into reprisal. It is an act short of war taken in reprisal for some nasty act taken against us. I think it would fit in nicely to that.

    But, doing that would require actually taking responsibility for something. And good luck with that. They would rather let it happen and then grandstand about it if the rubes on the Left make any noise.

  • ||

    What a marvelous solution: be just like the terrorists, but with better technology.

    Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them "belligerents."

    Yes; I wonder how the apologists for this policy would answer that. Or if they would. Is the U.S. government the only government with this "authority"? If so, on what basis is this claim made? Might makes right?

  • Warty||

    Might makes right?

    Well, really, what else has a government ever claimed?

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    Oh, they've claimed a great deal more.

    None of which is true.

  • Warty||

    Good point. I stand corrected. Let me edit my sentence then:

    What else has a government ever tried to conceal with weasel words and appeals to patriotism?

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    nuttin

  • Natural Law||

    Might makes right?

    Yes.

  • ||

    The answer is that we would declare war on the country who did it. Indeed, if the a country like Yemen decided that it didn't want us doing this on their soil, they would have every right to declare war.

    The whole point of the program is that we are at war. So, while I am sure the proponents of the program would be pissed if someone did it to us, they would, like our enemies, have every right to retaliate for it.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    "The whole point of the program is that we are at war."

    That's beneath you. We're also "at war" with drugs, but that doesn't entitle the Executive to bomb Detroit. There's no legal codification encompassing shooting wars against non-state actors. That needs to change; specifically, it needs to include Congressional and judicial oversight.

  • ||

    "There's no legal codification encompassing shooting wars against non-state actors."

    Not true. The authorization for the use of force after 9-11 basically gave the President the power to wage war against Al Quada wherever he found them. There is also a UN Security Council resolution that says the same.

    And further, there is a huge tradition of waging war against non state actors in international law; piracy. Nations have always had the right to kill pirates wherever they found them, including violating the sovereignty of countries who harbored them.

  • ||

    but that doesn't entitle the Executive to bomb Detroit

    Especially when we all know Cincinnati needs to be nuked 1st.

  • CE||

    but that doesn't entitle the Executive to bomb Detroit.

    But it looks like someone already did.

  • Henry||

    More importantly, I think it's naive to say that most, or possibly any, of these targets are non-state actors, when most have support from various regimes that are in power in various countries.

  • ||

    You think Detroit hasn't been bombed? Just last week a 7 year old girl was bombed by the police while asleep in her home. The pig police then executed her as the stun grenade bomb didn't kill her. Incidentally, stun grenade bombs use phosphorous an illegal weapon world wide, well with the exception of the USG, Israel, North Korea, the real AXIS OF EVIL.

  • Rich||

    The answer is that we would declare war on the country who did it.

    How quaint!

  • Tim||

    Good advice, especially about the sandwich.

  • J_L_B||

    Equivalent logic: The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor using bombs dropped from airplanes. But because we didn't like that too much, we should not have used bombs or airplanes in our fight against them.

  • Fluffy||

    I think you're missing the point a little.

    We claim that undertaking such an action is not war and is perfectly legal and fair and no one should complain or is entitled to complain.

    In fact, in Pakistan if you stand up and complain about the fact that drones are killing people in your country, you get put on the list of people to be killed by drones.

    I think it would be more equivalent if Iran started assassinating people within the borders of the US, and when we said that was an act of war they scratched their heads and said, "No way, what we're doing is totally legal. Our President signed an executive order saying it's legit. So stop bitching."

  • J_L_B||

    Except that we conduct these operations with the tacit approval of Pakistan. Pakistan is unable mount an effective offensive against them an relies on the efforts of a more powerful ally to launch attacks.

    In your Iran example, we are not permitting Iran to assasinate people within our borders, nor have we been conquered by elements hostile to the Iranian regime and hence have not converted ourselves into a legitimate enemy of Iran.

    Iran would we be correct to conduct such operations with either our approval, or our inability or refusal to control groups hostile to them.

  • Henry||

    I could be wrong, but are we not in a war right now? When did our statesmen claim these actions are NOT war actions? Correct me if I'm wrong.

    And I'm not really sure what J_L_B is saying...

  • ||

    Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them "belligerents."

    You don't have to imagine this, you are seeing it. The government of Afghanistan authorized the killing of about three thousand US civilians and the destruction of two very large and expensive buildings.

    You reap what you sew.

  • Les||

    The government of Afghanistan authorized the killing of about three thousand US civilians and the destruction of two very large and expensive buildings.

    They didn't authorize it, they simply approved of it. I suppose the innocent men, women, and children we're blowing to bits also are "reaping what they sew?" Way to war-monger.

  • ||

    BS.

    The attacks of 9/11 were planned in Afghanistan under the approval and protection of the government of Afghanistan. They were given an ultimatum: turn over the terrorists who plotted and carried out the attacks or face the consequences. They made their choice, and were administered justice.

    The fact that they are killing innocents by hiding among them is regrettable. Maybe you can send them an email and change their tactics.

  • ||

    Didn't the Afghan government state that they would hand over any suspects if they were shown proof of their involvement? At which point the
    American government balked.

  • ||

    1) We get permission from these countries before we put drones in their skies. These countries often feel the need to express public disapproval and outrage for political reasons, but we get the approval nonetheless. Neither Pakistan nor Yemen attempted to stop these drones, and there is a reason for that: Most of these countries are at war with the same people we are, and actively want these same groups dead.

    Nearly every nation in Southwest Asia and Northern Africa has a serious Islamofascist organization looking to topple it for something more Islamic. They can't go after these guys, so they get us to go after them instead.

    2) Most of the areas in which we might deploy drones are in a state of anarchy. De jure, NW Pakistan is under the control of the government of Pakistan. De facto, it is under the control of the Taliban and local tribal leaders. If the central government cannot get troops or police into these areas to arrest suspects without a bloodbath, and we cannot restore control of the area without a major invasion. Drones save lives, time and effort.

    3) Terrorists are non-uniformed combatants in a war zone, and working for the enemy. This makes them spies, or francs tireurs. Under the Geneva Conventions, spies/francs tireurs have no rights whatsoever. We can do whatever we want to with them under the laws of war and be covered.

    There is a reason that there have not been any real war-crimes trials against members of the American military for the treatment of terrorist prisoners, and that is because they have not actually broken the law even in the course of waterboarding them.

  • ||

    Ed only pawn in game of life.

    "Hey, you can't park there!"

  • ||

    Well, really, what else has a government ever claimed?

    There's always, "We're different!"

    (Quite popular among the American Exceptionalism mob.)

  • ||

    Really, this is the logical next step from extending due process rights to illegal combatants.

    Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.

    You have to appreciate the irony of a "human rights" policy that manages to elevate assassination above arrest and interrogation.

  • ||

    Foreseeable, yes, in that I strenuously argued on Hit&Run; that this would happen all throughout 2008. Well, it was one of two options, the other being polluting the regular judicial system by weakening the rights therein, which is how France deals with it.

    It's only a logical consequence once you take other assumptions as granted, most importantly the one about how the US and its people wouldn't let acts of piracy go unpunished.

    Congress (and a large section of the American people) want these people stopped, but they don't want to take responsibility or see the nasty process in action. So we get secrecy instead; I really think that a large percentage (at least enough to swing elections) hated the public and international criticism of Bush and the US (and seeing the policies up close and in the news) rather really opposing the policies.

  • Fluffy||

    You know what? I can find legal ways to justify and support the policy in question, but then you guys have to come up and ruin it by being dicks about it.

    You are both arguing that the assassination policy is the fault of the people who argued that the Constitution applies to all persons in US custody outside of war zones, because by demanding legality and constitutional rule we're somehow "forcing" the state to act in this way.

    Which is kind of like saying, "We have no choice but to rape you now that you refused to suck our cocks. This is your fault!"

  • ||

    You are both arguing that the assassination policy is the fault of the people who argued that the Constitution applies to all persons in US custody outside of war zones, because by demanding legality and constitutional rule we're somehow "forcing" the state to act in this way.

    No, I am not arguing that it is your fault. I am arguing that because other people are enormous hypocrites that this was an expected reaction. There's a moral distinction in my opinion-- though R C Dean seems to be saying that you do bear moral responsibility for foreseeable consequences.

    I personally wouldn't go there. I don't think it's really fair to complain that people bear moral responsibility for arguing other people out of option A even if the result is that the worse option B is adopted instead of the preferred option C. It's related to casting blame for people voting third party. I do admit that it raises a philosophical question about which people disgree; it sort of reminds me of the trolley problem.

  • ||

    Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.

    I don't think I can go so far as to agree with this. Just because I foresaw this happening doesn't mean that plenty of people weren't honest in their opposition, just that the hypocrites were swing voters. How much moral blame do they get for not predicting the result correctly? How much moral blame would they get if they correctly predicted the result but decided to be "pure" regardless?

    I know that my moral intuition meant that I could not be satisfied with myself without arguing for what I saw as the least worst possible option. However, I don't think that you can blame others in a moral sense for inaccuracy.

  • ||

    Nations have always had the right to kill pirates wherever they found them, including violating the sovereignty of countries who harbored them.

    Sovereignty implies control over what happens in your borders. If there are belligerents within your borders, you are either (a) sponsoring them or (b) not really sovereign after all.

    In either case, warfighting responses are appropriate by whoever the belligerents are targeting.

  • ||

    Every nation has a duty to control its borders. If the nation fails to do so and armed groups use that nation as a base to attack other nations, those nations have a right to defend themselves against said groups even if doing so means violating the sovereignty of that nation. That is a very old tenant of international law.

  • ||

    Which is the policy of Israel.

  • ||

    How's that worked out for Israel, at war for 6000 years now.

  • ||

    Fairly well, considering the obvious alternative, sure to occur should they let the guard down.

  • T||

    Okay, I realize some of you are latecomers to the festivities and all, but this isn't news. Set the Wayback Machine to February of '06. You had the spectacle of a senior Justice Dept. official admitting the POTUS could whack somebody out, all nice and legal, just because he felt you were a threat. And looky here, we're actually doing it!

    All this changes is that they've dropped the pretense. Somebody feels there's no need to hide it, since we all know the .gov does it anyway. The .gov has decided to be open about what they're willing to do, and why. We're going to kill you, just because. Have a nice day, and fuck your rights because they don't exist.

  • RyanXXX||

    War is the health of the state.

    Now that we have a War on Terror, I don't see this power to murder American citizens ever going away. Can you imagine them sitting down and drafting a bill to repeal the so-called "authorization" from 2001? I can't, unless the new wave of Ron Paul republicans make a big splash in November.

    Which means that power is here to stay. A precedent has been set. Even during the Civil War we didn't assassinate/execute our own citizens without trial (though Lincoln briefly considered it)

  • ||

    We don't even have to talk about this in hypothetical terms. My own congressman, Sam Farr, authored and introduced such a bill a few years back. It went nowhere. Rescinding the authorization for the use of force is a very obvious way for Congress to assert its own control over warmaking. But they are too chicken to do it.

  • ||

    This shit has been happing for years. I really don't have much of a problem with it.

    In fact, I wish they had assaniated Saddam, instead of sending in the damm army.

  • ||

    Which is a great argument for the pre-Carter CIA.

  • ||

    The purpose was to invade Iraq.

  • ||

    Squawking about "reality" and sneering at morals is all very nice. So let's think about reality: the reality is that letting the president have unlimited authority to kill whoever he wants is dangerous, and another reality is that we aren't one bit safer on account of it.

  • J_L_B||

    ..letting the president have unlimited authority to kill whoever he wants is dangerous...

    That is perhaps true, I wonder why the constitution then grants him that power as commander and chief the armed forces of the United States.

    I don't understand the shock and horror over this. The CIA used to conduct assasination operations all the time up until the 1970's. when Ford's executive order prohibited the practice. The consensus opinion among experts and public was mostly opposed to the ban and I would venture to say still is.

  • ||

    I know that clause is given a very broad interpretation nowadays. But that's still quite a stretch.

    Even if it's truly what the authors meant, that doesn't make it any less dangerous, any more sensible, or any more useful. The Constitution is not perfect or handed down from Almighty Gawd.

    Has this policy made us safer? How?

  • J_L_B||

    Has this policy made us safer? How?

    I would venture to guess it has eliminated several of those that seek a second episode of flying our airplanes into our buildings.

    I'm sure some would counter that the collateral damaged has angered the otherwise neutral masses of young men into recruiting centers for the enemy. Perhaps, but should we halt our efforts because our enemy is angered and emboldened by our victory or their defeat?

    A full pullout from the Middle East would probably make us safer in the short term. But we would lack conscience and intelligence if we thought Taliban-like oppression would not take hold throughout the region, and the spread of radical Islam would not threaten us eventually. A dozen targeted drone strikes conducted presently are worth a half-million man invasion a decade or two from now.

  • ||

    I would venture to guess it has eliminated several of those that seek a second episode of flying our airplanes into our buildings.

    Based on what? How do you know that anybody who has been killed in this fashion was seeking to do anything? Because Sean Hannity thinks so?

  • Henry||

    Based on having a brain and connecting the dots between the anti-American and anti-Western culture sentiments in these places, and the regimes supporting them.

  • Jake Boone||

    "That is perhaps true, I wonder why the constitution then grants him that power as commander and chief the armed forces of the United States."

    What utter bullshit!

    Go ahead. Post the constitutional language that gives the CinC the power to kill whoever he wants whenever he wants.

  • ||

    Or consider the third reality. One in which people can plan train for, supervise, fund and execute planes flying into Trade Centers with little fear of retribution.
    Consider another reality. One in which millions of subservient agressor Japanese will not cede defeat but will conntinue aggression and your choice is hundreds of thousands of GI losses or several hundred thousand "innocents" are vaporized.

    Tough choices, the world is full of 'em.

  • CE||

    Tough choices, the world is full of 'em.

    Apparently it's full of rationalizations for murder and mass murder as well.

  • ||

    "Consider another reality. One in which millions of subservient agressor Japanese will not cede defeat but will conntinue aggression and your choice is hundreds of thousands of GI losses or several hundred thousand 'innocents' are vaporized."

    I thought the Japanese were, at least secretly, trying to get us to the negotiation table in order to sue for a surrender that was a little less than "unconditional." Specifically, they were willing to surrender if the Emperor could keep his throne. FDR and Truman held out for "unconditional" surrender, which the Japanese could not accept. But when all was said and done, after the bomb was dropped, and the innocents were vaporized, we let the Emperor keep the throne. What sense does it make to have vaporized the innocents, only to grant the terms of peace that we could have had anyway, without the vaporization?

    Some say we had to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki to give Stalin something to think about, if he had any designs on acquiring territory we had helped to "liberate," or even taking at a poke at us for himself.

  • ||

    The reason for bombing Japan was weapons testing of nukes. The USG like to test weapons on civilians whom are unable to protect themselves.The fact that Japanese were non whites made it easier to nuke them.

  • ||

    Yeah, yeah, I know. The prez will only kill the "bad" people.

    And to think, they accuse libertarians of being utopian. Shit.

  • Tim||

    I'm having a hard time enjoying this sandwich...

  • ||

    CIA teams along with a few hundred US military personnel routed the Taliban in Afghanistan in September through December, 2001. Estimates are that about 60,000 Taliban were killed. This was accomplished almost exclusively with air power (B52s, smart bombs, etc) directed from ground based CIA officers, and US military personnel.

    How is this current use of drones any different, except that it is MUCH more precisely targeted? Why would you want people who are waging war against the US to be immune from drone strikes? Is it preferable to risk the lives of US soldiers so we can get up close and personnel and do it with bayonets instead? Do you prefer the greatly increased collateral damage of a traditional engagement? Geesh, you guys would probably complain if you were hung with a new rope!

  • ||

    They are insistant in picking fly shit out of the pepper.

  • Henry||

    It seems to me that if you are allowed to drop a wide-area imprecise bomb somewhere, you should be allowed to use the precise, targeted bomb there. Can this even be controversial?

    I guess the question is, where can we bomb in the name of war? It seems like the rules should be the same whether for both cases.

  • ||

    Here’s are a few simple questions for Jacob Sullum: If, hypothetically, you found yourself in a position to prevent the injustice you argue occurred (perhaps you might prefer to refer to it as an unjustified act, rather than an “injustice”)---let’s say, you found yourself in a position where you could have warned Anwar al-Awlaki of the incoming drone fired missiles, allowed him to escape, and let’s say you could have done this without being detected. Would you have warned him? Would you have prevented the "unjustifiable" act? It seems it may be easier to criticize---on philosophical grounds---the decision to take out such a target, but how easy would it be to take responsibility for the consequences of not taking out that target? Would you like to be responsible for those potential consequences? Do you see some larger, more ominous set of consequences as being more threatening to the greater good?

  • J_L_B||

    Has this policy made us safer? How?

    I would venture to guess it has eliminated several of those that seek a second episode of flying our airplanes into our buildings.

    I'm sure some would counter that the collateral damaged has angered the otherwise neutral masses of young men into recruiting centers for the enemy. Perhaps, but should we halt our efforts because our enemy is angered and emboldened by our victory or their defeat?

    A full pullout from the Middle East would probably make us safer in the short term. But we would lack conscience and intelligence if we thought Taliban-like oppression would not take hold throughout the region, and the spread of radical Islam would not threaten us eventually. A dozen targeted drone strikes conducted presently are worth a half-million man invasion a decade or two from now.

  • J_L_B||

    Damn posting should've been a reply up top. Stupid internets, I hate the internets so much!

  • ||

    Keep history in mind. Ten times the number of "innocents" were killed in the three years AFTER the Viet Nam War than were killed during the ten yeas OF the Viet Nam War.....on both sides.

  • ||

    Oh, and Jane Fonda (evidently) didn't give one shit.

  • ||

    [I'm sure some would counter that the collateral damaged has angered the otherwise neutral masses of young men into recruiting centers for the enemy.]

    Justificate enough to double the strength of the bomb and take out even greater numbers of the "neutral masses".

  • Les||

    Let's all remember that this isn't really a problem at all because innocent American civilians, innocent American men, women, and children who are being blown to pieces and burned alive on a regular basis. It's certainly not a problem for anyone here because no one here has had any family members blown to pieces or burned alive. So what's the big deal?

    We must trust the military to only target people they believe want to hurt us. Because trusting the military is nothing like trusting the government. And the military is not as inept or corrupt as every other part of the government. It's special, see?

    And WAR!

  • ||

    It's certainly not a problem for anyone here because no one here has had any family members blown to pieces or burned alive.

    I vaguely recall about 3,000 innocent Americans burned to death in two tall buildings in New York. The Taliban and Al Quida seemed to have something to do with that. They have never renounced that act, which leads me to believe they would do it again if they could.

    So, yeah, what's the big deal?

    Give war a chance!

  • Paul||

    Obama's got a license to ill!

  • ||

    Well, if this policy is such a big fucking success, then there's no reason not to repeal the "Patriot" Act, is there? And we can stop with the ridiculous searches at airports, and unwarranted wiretaps of U.S. citizens, etc. etc.

    No. This is just going to go on and on and on. And someday when a president whacks somebody you DO care about, you'll have to nerve to ask, "how did this happen?"

  • ||

    A heavy assumption on your part that I would ever "care" for anyone so targeted. More likely my response will be, "wtf took you so long".

  • Henry||

    "Well, if this policy is such a big fucking success, then there's no reason not to repeal the "Patriot" Act, is there? And we can stop with the ridiculous searches at airports, and unwarranted wiretaps of U.S. citizens, etc. etc."

    Agreed. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with this.

  • ||

    Teh airport security of removing shoes is obedience training for adults.

  • ||

    1) Terrorists are unlawful enemy combatants, not "suspects." Unlawful combatants deserve summary execution. Anything better than that is mercy, not an entitlement. Unlawful combatants deserve _worse_ treatment than either lawful combatants or civilians. They don't deserve to be treated better than lawful combatants, nor as well as civilians. Their combatancy makes them worse than civilians, and their unlawfulness makes them worse than lawful combatants.

    2) The only reason to capture unlawful combatants and keep them alive is to interrogate them. Since interrogation has been politically demonized by Islamo-fascists and their sympathizers/dupes, it was predictable that we'd turn to simply killing them.

    3) We have settled the question of how to deal with captured terrorists. Gitmo's not closed, and the Obama administration has predictably said that we should hold them at Bagram instead of Gitmo.

    4) The US track record when it comes to the legality of Gitmo detainees is quite meaningless, for several reasons. First, there has been a politically-motivated lawfare attack upon the military detention of any captured enemy combatants. Second, those who were clearly unlawful enemy combatants are more likely to have been killed on the battlefield, or to not challenge their detention as their cases would be so bad that even their sympathizers amongst the American legal profession would be unlikely to take them as pro bono clients. A better metric would be the total number of cases where their military detention was found unlawful divided by the total number of Gitmo detainees. That would still be too low, but it would be a lot more accurate and makes the US track record look a lot better.

  • CE||

    I think you get into trouble, legally and morally, at "terrorists are".... Who decides who is a terrorist? On what standard of proof? Allowing the executive to claim the power to execute anyone on his own say so is simply asking for tyranny.

  • ||

    "Who decides" is a red herring here. Who decides that a lawful enemy combatant is a lawful enemy combatant? The executive. There's no trial, no arrest, etc. Such criminal justice procedures presuppose jurisdiction, that is, the power to subject people to such procedures, but war is for precisely those situations in which jurisdiction has not been established.

  • RyanXXX||

    Where did all these neocons come from?

    Their own personal safety ("do you want another 9/11!? Do YOU?!!"), as well as complete trust of government when it comes to national security (accusation by a government official=guilt=execution, even if it's an American) are their only principles.

    I for one would rather deal with the occasional suicide bomber than live in a world where the president can order the murder of American citizens.

    Does assassination have a place in war? Of course. Kill as many Talibs and Al Qaeda as you like, on or off the battlefield. But the power to do that to your own citizens is a bridge WAY too fucking far.

  • ||

    That' probably easy since you and/or your children never have to face the reality of a suicide bomber. And when your "citizen" habitates a foreign land and allies and collaborates with people who've publicly celebrated massacres of your citizens and are busy planning more, you have reached the tipping point for having your own ticket punched. The only decision left undecided is, .50 cal or drone missle.

  • RyanXXX||

    proof please?

  • ||

    I have little proof on the drone missle, due to the evaporation of tissue. Documentation on the .50 cal is legendary. One big fucking hole.

  • Peter||

    Terrorism, the aiding of terrorists, or the planning of terrorism are crimes in the US. Using war and bombs against these kind of threats is foolish, it is actually what helps terrorists recruit more people to fight. And it isn't efficient, as the terrorists still get away!

  • ||

    Argument #564 for ever larger explosives.

  • Peter||

    ????

  • RyanXXX||

    That's probably easy since you've never had a relative who's been killed by a "stray" police bullet, or faced the reality of despotism.

    How many Americans die a year from gangland executions, or even car crashes, compared to these armies of sucide bombers washing up on American shores?

  • ||

    Yes, but we're taking care of that, incrementally, with open carry laws. Give it time.

  • CE||

    I don't think there are any blurry lines here.... the President has announced that he has the power to kill anyone at any time, and has already used that power, meaning he should be summarily impeached, tried, and imprisoned. Too bad Congress lacks the guts to follow through.

  • ||

    President O'BushBombya is just using what Stalin used. I cite the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico. At least Stalin had the decency to name a specific target and the assassination was done in person, which assured the target, Trotsky, was assassinated. It's a sad comentary, President O'BushBombya, worse than Stalin.

  • RyanXXX||

    Am I the only one who thinks this just MIGHT have something to do with the recent surge of secessionist movements/sentiments, as well as the populist anti-gov't backlash we've seen?

    What else could explain Obama/Holder's simultaneous eagerness to give foreign terror suspects civilian trials but summarily execute their own people?

    Perhaps the nation's power elite is pulling this new, unprecedented power out of their sleeve in order to prepare for when they have to put down a rebellion. After all, assassinating troublesome individuals is much easier than reading them their miranda rights or sending in the troops against separatist American states.

  • ||

    Yes, you are the only one who thinks that.

  • Henry||

    What the fuck is the point of posting Good Morning on this site???? Get a fucking life. It makes it that much harder to find comments ACTUALLY ABOUT THE ARTICLE. FUCKING KILL YOURSELF or stop posting retarded comments like that, sheesh.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Good Morning Henry

  • Henry||

    Possibly some of the worst comments known to man on this site. You're not funny. Keep it to yourself unless you have an intelligent thing to say!

  • ||

    The problem is "credible danger to America" will inevitably include the neighborhood "narcoterrorist" selling pot on the playground... and sooner rather than later.

  • Henry||

    Except that selling pot is not even in the same universe as plotting terrorist acts against America/Americans. Your linkage is pretty terrible.

  • ||

    The USG has implemented Stalin/NAZI tactics in the targeting of"suspected" belligerents world wide. Trotsky's assassination,ordered by Stalin, in Mexico is the most notable example. However, President O'BushBombya's order is even worse than Stalin's because the executions can be accomplished in absentia by drones, based on rumors.Stalin, at least, had the decency to have his assassins do it in person just to make sure the right person would be assassinated.

  • Peter||

    Whatever happened to due process?

  • ||

    What do you expect from apes that are only partly rational? The enemy du jour must be killed and if innocents perish along the way, well not to worry. There are literally dozens of justifications that can be rolled out demonstrating our benevolence and restraint and how it's the other guy that's the bloodthirsty maniac. And if any of those rationales fails to satisfy you then you must obviously be unpatriotic, insane, naive or any other label that will stick that automatically reduces your credibility to zero.

  • ||

    On the battle field it's forgotton for the unworkable nuisance that it is. Much like it is when the hostage taker presses the knife to the hostage and the police sniper creases his nose.

    Situations alter cases, and if you're prone to having tea in a tent full of IED makers, you're subject to the occasional drone missle, regardless of your citizenship, as it should be.

  • ||

    "Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them 'belligerents.'"

    You mean like when the Mossad killed Gerry Bull in Belgium. . ?

  • ||

    TO THE WEAK-KNEED REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRAT.....TO ALL THE COMMUNIST IN THE IG,FBI,CIA,AND U.S. Senators and the left wing media outlets.///// VERY QUIETLY Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, CITIZENSHIP CASE REACHES THE SUPREME COURT ;;;GOD OPEN YOUR EYES.///For us there are only two possiblities: either we remain american or we come under the thumb of the communist Mmslim Barack Hussein OBAMA. This latter must not occur.
    Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama
    AP - WASHINGTON D.C. -
    In a move certain to fuel the debate over Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama qualifications for the presidency, the group "Americans for Freedom of Information" has Released copies of President Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, college transcripts from Occidental College . Released today, the transcript school indicates that , underMmslim Barack Hussein Obama, the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship.
    This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, detractors have been seeking. Along with the evidence that he was first born in Kenya and there is no record of him ever applying for US citizenship, this is looking pretty grim. The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about legitimacy and qualification to serve as President article titled, Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama Eligibility Questioned,"Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, first official visit to the U.K. In a related matter, under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama's legal eligibility to serve as President in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey . This lawsuit claims Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama, dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. Donofrio's case is just one of 18 suits brought by citizens demanding proof of citizenshMmslim Barack Hussein Obama,citizenship or qualification to serve as president.

    Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation of Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama campaign spending. This study estimates that Obama has spent upwards of $950,000 in campaign funds in the past year with eleven law firms in 12 states for legal resources to block disclosure of any of his personal records. Mr. Kreep indicated that the investigation is still ongoing but that the final report will be provided to the U..S. Attorney general, Eric Holder. Mr. Holder has refused to comment on the matter...

    LET OTHER FOLKS KNOW THIS NEWS, THE MEDIA WON'T !

    Subject: RE: Issue of Passport?

    While I've little interest in getting in the middle of the Obama birth issue, Paul Hollrah over at FSM did so yesterday and believes the issue can be resolved by Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama answering one simple question: What passport did he use when he was shuttling between New York , Jakarta , and Karachi ?

    So how did a young man who arrived in New York in early June 1981, without the price of a hotel room in his pocket, suddenly come up with the price of a round-the-world trip just a month later?

    And once he was on a plane, shuttling between New York , Jakarta , and Karachi , what passport was he offering when he passed through Customs and Immigration?

    The American people not only deserve to have answers to these questions, they must have answers. It makes the debate over citizensh Mmslim Barack Hussein Obamaip a rather short and simple one.

    Q: Did he travel to Pakistan in 1981, at age 20?
    A : Yes, by his own admission.

    Q: What passport did he travel under?
    A: There are only three possibilities.
    1) He traveled with a U.S. .. Passport,
    2) He traveled with a British passport, or
    3) He traveled with an Indonesia passport.

    Q: Is it possible that Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama traveled with a U.S. Passport in 1981?
    A: No. It is not possible. Pakistan was on the U.S. .. State Department's "no travel" list in 1981.

    Conclusion: When Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport.

    If he were traveling with a British passport that would provide proof that he was born in Kenya on August 4, 1961, not in Hawaii as he claims. And if he were traveling with an Indonesian passport that would tend to prove that he relinquished whatever previous citizenship he held, British or American, prior to being adopted by his Indonesian step-father in 1967.

    Whatever the truth of the matter, the American people need to know how he managed to become a "natural born" American citizen between 1981 and 2008..

    Given the destructive nature of his plans for America, as illustrated by his speech before Congress and the disastrous spending plan he has presented to Congress, the sooner we learn the truth of all this, the better.

    If you Don't care that Your President Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama is not a natural born Citizen and in Violation of the Constitution, then Delete this, and then lower your American Flag to half-staff, because the U.S. Constitution is already on life-support, and won't survive much longer.

    If you do care then Forward this to as many patriotic Americans as you can, because our country is being looted and ransacked! the commander

  • ||

    >> Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them "belligerents."

  • ||

    >> Imagine how the U.S. would react if a foreign government claimed it had the right to kill people on the streets of New York because it considered them "belligerents."
    The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.
    New Evidence Implicates Henry Kissinger in Assassination Case

  • ||

    There's nothing new about this extraterritoriality of murder. Israel's Mossad has long since publicly announced its claim of the right to kill enemies of Israel in whatever country it happens to find (or choose) them.

    Everybody, everywhere, is subject at all times to summary execution by any of a growing list of agencies, many of them national governments.

    They do this in order to protect civilization - or at least their respective niches thereof.

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  • ran||

    To lump the executive assassin in with the likes of Mother Teresa, who really did care for people - no matter what their faith.

  • กำจัดปลวก||

    To lump the executive assassin in with the likes of Mother Teresa, who really did care for people.

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  • sbo||

    An official sanction by a government or government agency to a particular operative or employee to initiate the use of deadly force, presumably in furtherance of the government's aims or policies, or in carrying out the operative's assigned missions and presumably in an assassination or covert context rather than in an overtly military context.

  • 3m||

    An executioner's sanction to terminate the life of the person being executed. An executioner's licence to kill has a limited scope, as it is issued only for the sole occasion of an execution. In this sense, a licence to kill is a form of legal immunity: killing is part of said individual's official duties, and they cannot be legally sanctioned for their acts, just as (for instance) police are not liable for speeding tickets during car chases.

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  • ห้องน้ำ||

    Trotsky's assassination,ordered by Stalin, in Mexico is the most notable example. However, President O'BushBombya's order is even worse than Stalin's because the executions can be accomplished in absentia by drones.

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