Assassination

Runaway Missiles

Why not trust the president with the power to kill anyone he considers an enemy?

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After FBI agents took custody of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25, 2009, they told him he had the right to remain silent. For Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who allegedly helped plan Abdulmutallab's mission, that right was more like an obligation, enforced by Hellfire missiles fired at his car from remotely controlled CIA aircraft in northern Yemen last week. 

President Obama's policy regarding people linked to terrorism is clear: They are to be treated like criminal defendants with constitutional rights, except when they are treated like enemy soldiers in the heat of battle, subject to summary execution from a distance. Although this flexibility has obvious advantages in waging the never-ending war on terrorism, it threatens to transform the elected executive of a republic into a dictator with the power of life and death over his subjects. 

That danger may seem theoretical in light of Awlaki's public record of fomenting violence against Americans. Regarding the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, the month before Abdulmutallab was caught with plastic explosives in his underwear, Awlaki bragged: "Nidal Hasan is a student of mine, and I am proud of this….What he did was a heroic act, a wonderful operation….I support what he did, and I call upon anyone who calls himself a Muslim, and serves in the US army, to follow in the footsteps of Nidal Hasan." Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square last year, also cited Awlaki as an inspiration. 

The U.S. government claims Awlaki, a U.S. citizen whom experts perceived as a threat mainly because of his rhetorical appeal to Muslims in English-speaking countries, not only advocated terrorist attacks but helped plan them as a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Yet the extent of his involvement remains unclear, and the Obama administration seems determined to keep it that way. 

Announcing Awlaki's death last Friday, Obama called him "the leader of external operations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula"—the first time he had ever been described that way. The president also claimed Awlaki "took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans." 

At a press briefing later that day, four different reporters asked White House spokesman Jay Carney for evidence to back up those allegations. "I don't have anything for you on that," Carney said, refusing even to acknowledge that the U.S. government had killed Awlaki, let alone explain the rationale for the secret decision that marked him for death. 

While Awlaki may have been guilty of everything the administration claims, it is not hard to imagine how a program of classified, unreviewable death decrees might go awry, especially in the service of a perpetual, geographically undefined war against an amorphous enemy. Endorsing Obama's "targeted killings," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently declared that "restricting the definition of the battlefield" or "restricting the definition of the enemy" would be reckless because "this is a worldwide conflict without borders." 

Writing in The New York Times, Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, acknowledges that the unilateral power to kill anyone the president identifies as an enemy is "fraught with the danger of executive overreach or mistakes." But "so far," Goldsmith assures us, "it appears" Obama is using his license to kill "with caution." After all, "before someone like Mr. Awlaki is targeted, multiple intelligence sources support the conclusion that he is a dangerous threat, top lawyers from many agencies scrutinize the action, [and] policy makers at the highest levels of government approve the action after assessing its legal and political risks." 

Or so we're told, by former insiders like Goldsmith and unnamed officials quoted in news stories on the condition that they not be identified.  The Obama administration can't even be bothered to say "trust us" on the record.

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

© Copyright 2011 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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137 responses to “Runaway Missiles

  1. If Obama uses lethal force to defend himself from your ruthless attacks, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself Sullum.

    1. Obama is too limp-wristed to defend himself against Sullum, or Ezera Klein for that matter.

  2. does anyone seriously think this hasn’t been done -Pollyannas, this isn’t a question

    1. Does the fact that something has been done in the past make it acceptable now?

      1. Writing in The New York Times, Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, acknowledges that the unilateral power to kill anyone the president identifies as an enemy is “fraught with the danger of executive overreach or mistakes.” But “so far,” Goldsmith assures us, “it appears” Obama is using his license to kill “with caution.”

        That’s gubment speak for “we done the same thing”

        The world is full of wrongs. Awlaki makes my “I don’t care list”

        1. Even if you trust Obama (which I don’t) the next president might be someone you don’t. Do you want to give the President the power to declare someone an enemy without a trial and then execute that person? I don’t want ANY president to have this power. It is a dangerous precedent.

          1. I don’t trust anyone in politics, and I don’t believe they seek our permission for many decisions -they use obscure legal opinions for the “good enough” clause

            1. “I don’t trust anyone in politics, and I don’t believe they seek our permission for many decisions -they use obscure legal opinions for the “good enough” clause”

              And do you believe this to be a good thing?

              1. Huh?

                Just read my shitty blog, little boy!

                1. I’m no masochist, thanks anyway.

                  “-they use obscure legal opinions for the “good enough” clause”

                  As opposed to using Goldsmith’s opinion as proof that “”we done the same thing”.

                  You really are a disingenuous asshole.

                  1. ???, I’d describe you as slow. Half ‘my’ comments are epi

                    1. And the other half are moronic

                    2. Fuck off, I told I’m not into autoerotic asphyxiation

                    3. And my point is proven

                    4. and I don’t want to be Dr. Carl Van Casselled by you either

      2. The law lives by precedent.

    2. Not to worry. You’ll always be my little pussy fart, queefikens. LOL

      Jess
      http://www.anymouse.com

  3. Dick Cheney must be secretly proud of Obama right now.

    1. Obama is Dick’s son?

      1. No, Obama’s mom is the white one and Cheney was not anywhere near Kenya 50 years ago.

    2. moarso than team boosch whom cheney threw under the bus…to sell books.

      1. This isn’t the real me of course, you only make yourselves look foolish when you try to imitate me.

        1. ^spoof

          1. Duhhhhhhh [WINGNUTZ] DEEP DERP

  4. It’s all fun and games until you kill some Moroccan waiter in Norway.

    1. wait, he was a Somalian double agent trying to get his hands on the secret recipe for solid H2O…

  5. So far, it appears, the Obama administration is exercising this duty lawfully and with caution. Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.

    Who knew the rest of the world were such civil libertarians?

    1. The rest of the world is just jealous. After all, drones have a pretty sweet gig. “The drones’ main function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen. Drones in a hive do not usually mate with a virgin queen of the same hive because they drift from hive to hive. Mating generally takes place in or near drone congregation areas. It is poorly understood how these areas are selected, but they do exist. When a drone mates with its sister, the resultant queen will have a spotty brood pattern (numerous empty cells on a brood frame); again it is not clearly understood whether this is from higher mortality of the larvae, or by removal of these larvae by nurse bees.”

      Via the always accurate Wikipedia.

      1. Did you just say fucking your sister is cool? You sick bastard.

        1. We need to look at this within the context of Apiary culture. It works for them, we may not understand their ways and they may seem distasteful to us but they have different ways. Didn’t you learn anything from Cultural Diversity class?

          1. I bet you’re a big Jerry Lee Lewis fan. 😛

        2. I think he was saying that if you do your sister, you’ll be able to call your resultant daughter Spot or Spots depending on your cruelty level.

          1. And you can call your son “Sloth” after all of the deformities it would undoubtably cause.

            1. Do people still believe that? Are there people out there so profoundly stupid that they genuinely believe genetics work that way?

              The chance of ANY deformities is infinitesimal. Stop being an idiot.

              1. Seriously? Fucking your sibling doesn’t cause mutations? Wow, I guess we know how anonymous here spends his weekends…likely fucking his twin and caring for their three-armed chilluns in their trailer.

                1. There is a potential for deletorious recessive alleles to be expressed. IIRC, that threat is incresed if the inbreeding continues for many generations. So a single incidence of inbreeding is unlikely to be a problem unless the two people involved already carry problematic genes which wouldn’t really be so much causing a mutation as expressing a previous mutation that had nothing to do with inbreeding. In any case, the expression isn’t likely to be three arms but something more along the lines of not having your blood clot properly.

                2. Is this standard for you, someone uses a word you don’t understand, so you move the outposts?

                  You’re the only one claiming claiming it “doesn’t cause mutations”, which is of house patently idiotic since all procreation can cause mutation.

                  Do you always bang on strawmen when you make an idiotic comment and get called on it?

                3. Is this standard for you, someone uses a word you don’t understand, so you move the outposts?

                  You’re the only one claiming claiming it “doesn’t cause mutations”, which is of house patently idiotic since all procreation can cause mutation.

                  Do you always bang on strawmen when you make an idiotic comment and get called on it?

                4. “The chance of ANY deformities is infinitesimal” /= “doesn’t cause mutations”

                  Unless you’re sloopy.

                5. “The chance of ANY deformities is infinitesimal” /= “doesn’t cause mutations”

                  Unless you’re sloopy.

                6. It does not cause mutations. It makes more likely that a bad recessive gene will be expressed. The mutation already existed.

      2. As there are those within the Department of Homeland Security who think that people who fly the Gadsden flag to be ‘terrorists’ on the same order as Awlaki, it shall be interesting when drones are deployed in support of Operation Garden Plot.

        1. Dollars to doughnuts they’ve already been so used. Perhaps not Predators, but surveillance UAVs.

          1. I live just outside Washington DC and have seen drones in the sky overhead. It’s a little creepy, to say the least.

      3. Cultural diversity is having different cultures respect each others[sic] differences. It could also mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. It differes[sic] from multiculturalism in that multiculturalism is usually associated with the organizational promotion of multiple cultures whereas cultural diversity is a recognition of the diversity in cultures.”

        That’s some damn bad writing there.

        1. The writing at Wikipedia is of a notoriously uneven quality. The best articles seem to be in the hard sciences or (sometimes) economics. “Cultural diversity” being one of the more squishy “social science” topics does not receive the most – shall we say – informed editors and writers.

          1. No, the best written wiki articles either about anime characters or star wars.

            1. It happens to be very important that the world know about Lando Calrissian’s maneuver at the Battle of Tanab.

          2. All writing is great in its own way. Them scientisty people are good at sciencey stuff and us cultural diversitists are good at what we do, which is not squishy. It is just these sorts of artificial parameters of quality that stifle creativity.

            Also, there is implied rape in anything you write.

          3. The best articles seem to be in the hard sciences or (sometimes) economics.

            That’s because those articles tend to be plagiarized from textbooks.

            1. Plagiarized is such a harsh word. I prefer ‘cited without attribution’.

          4. Econ is a social science and categorized as such at most colleges and universities, despite what econometricians would like to believe.

            Obviously this is no judgement of the wiki articles.

    2. (sweaty hands wringing)
      c’mon guys, this is much ado about nothing…
      just like all the worry about “my phones are being tapped” because of the Patriot Act…
      its a big stretch from Gibson Guitars to a Hellfire up your arse…

  6. “Why not trust the president with the power to kill anyone he considers an enemy?” Because trusting him to do so led to this bastard’s death. Calm down. A hellfire missle onto the head of this young man was a good thing. You want to find something wrong with this?

    1. “You want to find something wrong with this?”

      Yes, the precedent of allowing a POTUS to declare someone an enemy without a trial and then execute that person, also without a trial. Even if you trust Obama (which I don’t) the next POTUS might be someone you don’t.

    2. Yes. I. Do.

      Rubicons matter.

    3. The ends don’t justify the means.

      1. BUT THEY DO WHEN THE ENDS ARE DEAD RAGHEADS AND THE MEANS ARE ROBOT KILL DRONES FOR THE BEST GODDAMNED PARADISE IN FUCK HISTORY OF THE FUCKING PLANET MOTHER FUCKKKKKKEEEEERSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@#$@#^$&%R JHB

        1. dude, Santorum isn’t a Gaiaphile…

          1. I was speaking about AMERICA you FUCKING ATHEIST SOCIALIST AL-QAIDA WORSHIPPING NAZI. THE REST OF THE WORLD IS HELL (except Israel) AND ONLY THE LIGHT OF AMERICA’S (and Israel’s) EXCEPTIONALISM WILL KEEP ITS DARKNESS AT BAY!!&^!(*&^!(*&^(!*^(*!&(^!(OIUYUHLJB

            violent emits mouth foam, begins speaking tongues, has a seizure

            1. ROFL I can’t stop laughing at this you’ve made my day with your Santorum impression. Personally, I think Santorum should run with Ronnie Barnhardt from “Observe and Report.”

              Ronnie Barnhardt – “I have a dream most nights. It starts on a playground. There’s kids swinging, laughing, dogs barking, butterflies just flapping their little wings. And then you hear a rumbling, and over the horizon comes a black cloud and it’s made of cancer and pus. And it starts sweeping over the playground and everyone starts screaming and clawing their eyes and pulling at their hair, and saying “Help! What do we do?” And you know what happens next? Out steps me wielding the biggest fucking shotgun you’ve ever seen in your whole life. And you know what I do? I blow every fucking thing away. And I am getting God’s work done. When it’s all over and the dust has settled, the whole world gathers below me and they say, “Thank you, Ronnie, thank you for helping, being a great man and doing this for us.” And you know what I say? “You don’t need to thank me. I’m just a guy with a gun. I’m just a cop.”

              1. Even more so, it’s like the Santorums and Barnhardts of the world think they live in middle earth where there is a dark, foreign, land just gestating with hateful ugly monsters on the other side of the planet, eager to boil over and spread like a disease. Fuckers like these people think they are downing giant elephants while surfing their corpses to the ground when they are actually blowing up children who “were in the wrong place a the wrong time”.

  7. Obama is using his license to kill

    Let me be clear.

    Obama. Barack Obama.

    1. Double-O Bama

      Licensed to kill

      1. Also he’s going to win back the national debt in a game of baccarat.

        1. More likely, he doubles it in a dice game with Ashy Larry and Leonard Washington.

          1. “dice game”

            Raaaaaaaaciiiiiiiist!

        2. Then drive away in an Aston Martin.

          1. Osama Bin Laden was killed with a Walther PPK. Coincidence?

            1. No SEAL worth his weight would be caught anywhere near a Walther PPK. A firearm suitable only for conversion into a cigarette lighter.

    2. Double oughts ramblings make sense now. He’s really you.

    3. The nation — shaken, not stirred.

  8. morning links… Morning Links… MORNING LINKS!

    1. chomp chomp CHEWY CHOMP!

    2. NOOOOOOO STAY HERE AND PLAY WITH THE TROLLLLOOOOOOOOOO

  9. We all know the real reason why Awlaki was killed: he failed to keep the IRS informed on his income while living abroad. Really, how do they explain this one, that people abroad have to keep the IRS informed, but apparently don’t have any constitutional rights?!

  10. …..Barry Obama preens before the crowds as the Defender Of The HOMELAND. His supporters cheer. Their leader, right or wrong.

    1. He has my under-the-table-cash-stuffed envelope!

  11. We unconditionally support him, so shut up!

  12. It doesn’t matter if they killed the terrorist leader, Agent Thorton escaped the attack. Alpha Protocol has to be shitting their pants right about now.

  13. The TSA has apologized to Ann Arbor parents after a database mixup lead to the bombing of a school bus carrying students to Central Hills Elementary School.

    The attack was intended to assassinate infamous Al Qaeda lieutenant Mohammed Al-Akbar, a resident of Saudi Arabia, who used the alias James McGregor when attempting to order goat restraints online from an American manufacturer for his hidden compound/goatbrothel. Unfortunately, this name was also shared by Jimmy McGregor, 5, of Michigan, who died in the explosion along with 27 other children. When the terrorist leader’s alias was added to the government’s terrorist hitlist database, an unforeseeable tragedy was set into motion.

    “We regret that these students and their parents did not have a positive experience,” the TSA said in a statement that was provided to [this paper] Friday morning. “The Regional Director for Kinetic Interventions has personally reached out to the families of these students to apologize and to learn about their experience, in order to ensure a smoother experience in similar interventions going forward.”

    Predictably, the President’s opponents on Capitol Hill took the opportunity to slam him in a scathing press conference. “Frankly, it’s political correctness that killed these children,” one Congressman said to the gathered reporters. “When will America accept that it isn’t the Jimmy McGregors of the world that represent a threat? If the Administration truly cares about national security, it should focus its efforts on bombing Muslim schoolchildren in America and ignore the whining of the PC crowd.”

    Al-Akbar took advantage of the controversy to release an Arabic-language video criticizing the U.S. government Friday afternoon to jihadist websites. On it, the terrorist leader is heard to exclaim, “At least it wasn’t one of our fucking weddings”.

    1. The first three paragraphs are pretty good; it’s only a matter of time.

      1. welcome to owebama-nation…

    2. Stop ripping off my masterpiece.

  14. “Why not trust the president with the power to kill anyone he considers an enemy?”
    All Presidents do as they want….who will stop them?

    1. Wilkes Booth.

  15. except when they are treated like enemy soldiers in the heat of battle, subject to summary execution from a distance.

    One does not “execute” enemy soldiers in the heat of battle. One merely kills them.

    The problem that has plagued the WOT from day one is on display here. The usual law of war does not apply in any coherent way to this armed conflict.

    Geneva Convention warfare authorizes the killing of enemy soldiers, identified by uniform, under the command of a sovereign, etc. That doesn’t really do much for us. It also allows, I believe, the killing of anyone actively opposing us in the heat of battle.

    Drone strikes don’t fit that paradigm. We are killing people not in uniform, not in the service of a sovereign, etc. Tellingly, we are not actually at war with another country; the whole Geneva Convention warfare model doesn’t really apply very well, as it involves warfare between sovereigns.

    The criminal law paradigm also doesn’t apply very well at all. Aside from the jurisdictional problems posed by people who aren’t on US soil, there are the practical problems of evidence, defense, confronting witnesses, etc. posed by bringing intelligence information into a courtroom.

    We need a third way. No one has proposed it. Consequently, we are operating outside of both recognized paradigms, and our failure to create a third means we are operating, IMO, lawlessly.

    1. Aside from the jurisdictional problems posed by people who aren’t on US soil

      Honestly, this doesn’t impress me.

      There have always been occasions where other countries have declined to cooperate with US law enforcement.

      In those cases, we really have three choices:

      1. Like it or lump it.

      2. Force the other nation to comply (i.e. the Afghanistan model)

      3. If the other nation wishes to comply but can’t because it doesn’t control all of its own territory, we can intervene in whatever civil conflict is occurring.

      What we did to Awlaki is actually pretty close to #3. We are obviously intervening in an ongoing way in the civil conflict in Yemen. We’re just lying about it for political reasons.

      If we were openly and constitutionally intervening in the civil conflict in Yemen, I really would have no problem with what happened to Awlaki.*

      *With the exception of the fact that I have a problem with the circumstances that led to Awlaki being where he was. He had been pretty careful to keep his behavior within the letter of the law while he was in the US, and only fled to Yemen when it started to become clear that the Obama administration wasn’t going to trouble itself with petty niceties like the letter of the law for much longer in his case. After you disappear enough people, you don’t get to complain when people start fleeing beyond your jurisdiction and say, “Wah! You fled our jurisdiction so now that means we get to kill you with a drone instead!”

      1. I dunno, Fluffy. I didn’t take you for a supporter of universal US jurisdiction anywhere on the planet.

        I guess when France refused to extradite Ira Einhorn, after he had been convicted of murder in a US court, we would have been legally justified in sending a hit squad over to put a bullet in him?

        Even so, it sounds like we agree that the drone strikes are lawless. We aren’t Constitutionally intervening in Yemen, so the warfighting paradigm is out, and we never did any kind of criminal due process, so the criminal law paradigm is out.

        1. Well, no. I’m saying that as long as we aren’t willing to declare war on France, if France won’t extradite somebody it’s tough shit for us.

          But that if you’re being harbored somewhere where we HAVE declared war, it’s open season.

          And I agree that our activities in Yemen are lawless. I am just saying that if we did what we needed to do to make our overall Yemen policy lawful, that striking Awlaki would have been lawful as a result.

          1. The real question is why officially declaring “war” makes any difference from a moral standpoint.

          2. Damn, Fluffy. Give me something to disagree with, here.

            The real question is why officially declaring “war” makes any difference from a moral standpoint.

            Unless you are willing to say that every time a soldier kills another soldier in open combat, they have committed murder, I think that the question is moot.

            1. It’s arguably the case if the war isn’t even remotely legitimate under the laws of their nation. Any soldiers that participated in the attacks on Libya violated their oath to the Constitution, and cannot take any shelter under the legitimacy it grants.

              The only thing protecting them from justice is that Americans treat freedom like trust fund brats treat money.

            2. The problem that has plagued the WOT from day one is on display here. The usual law of war does not apply in any coherent way to this armed conflict.

              Geneva Convention warfare authorizes the killing of enemy soldiers, identified by uniform, under the command of a sovereign, etc. That doesn’t really do much for us. It also allows, I believe, the killing of anyone actively opposing us in the heat of battle.

              Drone strikes don’t fit that paradigm. We are killing people not in uniform, not in the service of a sovereign, etc. Tellingly, we are not actually at war with another country; the whole Geneva Convention warfare model doesn’t really apply very well, as it involves warfare between sovereigns.

              The criminal law paradigm also doesn’t apply very well at all. Aside from the jurisdictional problems posed by people who aren’t on US soil, there are the practical problems of evidence, defense, confronting witnesses, etc. posed by bringing intelligence information into a courtroom.

              I agree with most of this. We do need a 21st century model that includes aspects of both domestic criminal justice and conventional warfare, though the previous two administrations have made efforts (usually rejected by civil libertarians, e.g.: military tribunals for the Guantanamo detainees) in that regard. Goldsmith also wrote an op-ed proposing a special court for terrorists. It’s worth noting that many libertarians believe all war to be illegal mass murder, and therefore instinctively oppose any fusion between criminal law and warfare. Those people don’t help the situation and make it more likely that measures such as Predator drones will be used.

              I’m saying that as long as we aren’t willing to declare war on France, if France won’t extradite somebody it’s tough shit for us.

              The act of harboring and/or sponsoring terrorism is an act of war. People like bin Laden and al-Awlaki pose a threat to national security; Roman Polanski does not. If governments officially support Islamic terrorism, they fall within the AUMF; if governments (such as Yemen) don’t control parts of their own territory where terrorists hide out, then the responsibility falls to the U.S. to take out the terrorists that pose a threat (it’s also arguable that the sovereignty of a government does not extend to land it doesn’t actually control). Sending in troops would unnecessarily risk the lives of Americans; furthermore, when captured, where would we imprison Awlaki and how would we put him on trial? The Obama administration has tried to dodge both of these questions by using drones.

              Sullum’s argument simply boils down to not trusting the government despite procedural safeguards, rigorous intelligence gathering, and the post-9/11 AUMF (which would surely apply to al-Awlaki). How do you know the executive branch and military officials aren’t abusing their power during a conventional war between nations? There’s little dispute that keeping information classified during World War II was justified, even though abuses of power clearly took place. Given what we do know, it’s obvious al-Awlaki was a terrorist who made a passionate effort to inspire other wannabe terrorists. While the DOJ should release the OLC memo and de-classify whatever information it can, the “extra-judicial assassination without due process” meme, along with nonsense about drones killing people in London or Paris, go beyond reasonable skepticism of government activity and into paranoid territory.

              1. ^this^
                but then common sense is not that common, i.e. Oc-your-pie Wall St.

                1. Wouldn’t it be easier just to treat terrorists as pirates of old? Somewhere in the grey area between criminal and soldier and receiving harsh treatment as a result.

                  Also, wouldn’t a letter of marque and reprisal allow the hunting of terrorists in any corner of the globe legally?

        2. “”so the warfighting paradigm is out, and we never did any kind of criminal due process, so the criminal law paradigm is out.””

          And our government isn’t interested in anything that would restrict their abilities. Which pretty much leaves us with make it up as you go.

    2. [One does not “execute” enemy soldiers in the heat of battle. One merely kills them.]

      You’ve never been there, right?

  16. Unfortunately, the congress has given the President the right to kill anyone associated with the Terrorists movement, declaring them enemy combatants. I think this is very shaky ground as the are not a governmental group and are thus actually criminals, very dangerous ones, but criminals, not combatants. The President is not breaking the law, but the law is very dubious.

    1. Unfortunately, the congress has given the President the right to kill anyone associated with the Terrorists movement, declaring them enemy combatants.

      And the question is, and has always been, outside of open combat, how do we certify someone as being an enemy combatant and a drone target?

      1. I would say that outside of open combat, the only time that would apply is when the party in question is in the territory of a nation or group that is engaged in open combat.

        So (let’s assume for a moment that the war in Afghanistan is legal) if you’re chilling at a Taliban training camp and a drone bombs your head, you don’t get to complain.

        But if you’re sitting smoking a hookah in Paris somewhere, you do.

        Unfortunately I don’t see how the current policy is bounded that way. The policy appears to be, “We declare you an enemy combatant, we can assassinate you,” and not “If you are in the territory of an enemy waging war on the US in open combat, we can strike against you the same as we can strike any other enemy asset.”

        1. let’s assume for a moment that the war in Afghanistan is legal

          And one of the main issues here is that this shit didn’t even happen in Afghanistan. It happened in Yemen, another country we will never officially declare war against. The implications of this are huge, gaping, and rusting since they’ve been fucking us over since (AT LEAST) the Vietnam War. If we have a set of rules, write them down so all the violent evil fucks can remember them and then convieniently throw those rules out (however bad and arbitrary some of them were), what was the fucking point of rules in the first place? If this country was formed under the idea that it would be governed by this set of rules, a set of rules which inevitably ge thrown out so elected officials can get their wishes, how is the United States even still a country? The fucking contract has long been violated, raped, killed, eye-fucked, raped, thrown into a shallow grave, ripped apart by wolves, raped by the wolves, and raped again in every possible original and manufactured orifice. Why did the colonies break free of England, a country ruled by men, just to become another country ruled by the whims of men?

          I’m not one of these guys who likes to blow the Constitution’s long decayed and forgotten dick, but if you are going to have a nation-state I think it’s good to have a set of agreed upon rules you can hold your leaders responsible for, and when they stray from their promised duty they should be toast. But fuck it, this ship is going down anyway. It’s too bad it will take the fleet with it.

          1. who peed in your oat meal…

      2. “”how do we certify someone as being an enemy combatant and a drone target?:”‘

        Being that the drone was operated by the CIA, I would expect any rational to be classified. I don’t think we’ve made how the CIA determine who to kill public ever.

      3. Riding in a weapons convoy is a definite target. He was blown up in one. Destroying supply lines has been a fact of war as long as it has existed. The is also the internet videos of him urging terrorist strikes against the US. At least two captured terrorist cite in for inspiration and aid. He could and should have been convicted in absentia in a court though.

      4. Riding in a weapons convoy is a definite target. He was blown up in one. Destroying supply lines has been a fact of war as long as it has existed. The is also the internet videos of him urging terrorist strikes against the US. At least two captured terrorist cite in for inspiration and aid. He could and should have been convicted in absentia in a court though.

  17. I wonder how those who support such executive powers would feel about someone like, oh, I don’t know, say Richard Nixon having them?

    1. Thus, the Iron Law:

      Me today, you tomorrow.

  18. With this logic, you might as well disarm the police. People are killed every day without benefit of trial. This man made war against the United States and was a casualty of that war. Tough shit!

    1. “People are killed every day without benefit of trial. ”

      Yes, by criminals. Are you saying this is a criminal act?

      1. Careful, logic will get you nowhere.

  19. Mmmmmmmmmm. Me likey!

  20. Awlaki was not killed as punishment.

    Awlaki was killed in order to stop him from functioning as a key member of al Qaida.

    This is war, not crime and punishment.

    The panty-bomber was on U.S. soil and was taken into custody by law enforcement.

    The Fort Hood murderer was taken into custody by law enforcement after he had been shot (shot to stop – which, make no mistake, at the time of pulling the trigger is ALL ABOUT KILL, as that tends to stop very well).

    As a matter of fact, the Fort Hood murderer example is illustrative of the whole concept overall:

    If Bob goes out and shoots a bunch of people in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then escapes and goes back to a peaceful, uneventful life as a decorative flower arranger until tips on America’s Most Wanted lead his identification and location – then the police will try to arrest him. If the courts decide it’s time for Bob to give back to society by getting out of the gene pool, then he gets the needle and that was punishment.

    On the other hand, if the police could find time to take a break from speeding ticket issuance in order to respond to a mass shooting, then it may very well be necessary for them to blast Bob straight back to the spaghetti strainer in order to STOP him from killing more people than he already has and to allow medical personnel to triage, treat, and evacuate the wounded. In this case, killing Bob (at the scene, as he kills) is NOT punishment. It is prevention. It’s totally, totally, 100%, entirely, completely separate from punishment in all respects except that he’s still dead.

    Now, you say, “But like, Alwak…Awakli…Awwlok…that guy they killed, he wasn’t really killing anybody himself when they like shot him with that predator thing, right? So WTF?”

    And I say, “Still the same deal.”

    Here’s why:

    Awlaki was not shooting people in a mall parking lot, that’s true. Instead, he was involved in managing the operations of a terrorist organization involved in killing people around the world, and he was located in a hiding place in Yemen. As he continues to work, al-Qaida continues to work, and what al-Qaida continues to work on is stuff that kills people. The more work al-Qaida does, the closer al-Qaida terror operations (like 9/11) come to killing people. So, the sooner people like Anwar Awlaki become blessings to the world through their rapid departure therefrom, the fewer people are going to get killed.

    So, drilling-in Anwar = fewer dead people.

    With regard to attempting to capture Anwar Awlaki, one has a number of operational problems that arise:

    – How to get enough people there in time to do it and do it correctly
    – How to overcome resistance without getting a bunch of civilian noncombatants killed

    You no doubt saw the movie Black Hawk Down or read the book, yes? And what was the final state of affairs for Osama bin Ladin, following the attempt to capture him in Pakistan?

    The use of force to obliterate key enemy personnel is not new to American history. Morgan’s Rifles specifically sought out and shot British officers during the Revolutionary War.

    As far moonbattery about the president killing “whomever he considers an enemy” – he’s the commander in chief. You elect him. The congress has the ability to cutoff funds to his operations.

    Your accusation that he is a dictator is juvenile and sophomoric. He’s not a dictator, he’s an elected president. He sucks at it, yes, but he’s elected. (Furthermore, in regards to the departures of bin Laden and Awlaki from sea of humanity I must make marks in the W column for our befuddled president.)

    If talk radio hosts start getting blasted by Hellfires launched from Reaper drones, then get worried. If London-style polonium lunches become a trend with journalists, get worried. But please, recognize this:

    THE BOURNE MOVIES ARE FICTION. FICTION. MADE UP. IT’S A SERIES OF STORIES. IMAGINATION.

    Please, don’t confuse imagination and politically-themed action-thriller movies with real life.

    There are no secret government assassins looking to launch a missile at you for that anti-Obama comment you posted from IP address 217.172.99.55 at 1352 hours on 17 September 2011 from 35?41?58?N 51?20?16?E. Don’t worry about it. (BTW, you’re car’s unlocked.)

    1. “There are no secret government assassins looking to launch a missile at you for that anti-Obama comment you posted from IP address 217.172.99.55 at 1352 hours on 17 September 2011 from 35?41?58?N 51?20?16?E. Don’t worry about it. ”

      Right. The attacks on liberty now taken as “normal” were the stuff of sci-fi or paranoia only a few years back. The slippery slope is coated with Teflon. Get worried NOW, it’s much easier.

    2. “”Awlaki was not shooting people in a mall parking lot, that’s true. Instead, he was involved in managing the operations of a terrorist organization involved in killing people around the world, “”

      Prove it.

    3. AwlakiRandom Reason Commenter was not shooting people in a mall parking lot, that’s true. Instead, he was involved in managing the operations of a terrorist organization involved in killing people around the world,domestic terrorism by inciting people to distrust the government, and to question its legitimacy and he was located in a hiding place in Yemenan unknown Internet location. As he continues to work, al-Qaidaanarchists continues to work, and what al-Qaidaanarchists continues to work on is stuff that kills peoplethreatens our way of life. The more work al-Qaidaanarchists does, the closer al-Qaidadomestic terror operations (like 9/11) come to killing people. So, the sooner people like Anwar AwlakiRandom Reason Commenter become blessings to the world through their rapid departure therefrom, the fewer people are going to get killed.

    4. “”THE BOURNE MOVIES ARE FICTION. FICTION. MADE UP. IT’S A SERIES OF STORIES. IMAGINATION.””

      You don’t say. All this time I thought Matt Damon was our top agent. Well, next to Cody Banks.

  21. The Congress shall have Power…

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…

    Looks like Obama is bypassing Congress once again: the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, the power to declare enemies and authorize their pursuit across international borders.

    According to the Wikipedia:

    A “letter of marque and reprisal” would involve permission to cross an international border to effect a reprisal (take some action against an attack or injury) authorized by an issuing jurisdiction to conduct reprisal operations outside its borders.

    1. Congress gave their approval to go after anyone involved with, or connected to, the 9/11 attack and anyone who supports such organizations.

    2. “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…”

      These relate entirely to the power of the purse and nothing more.

      At the time that the constitution was written, most nations kept relatively small armies and navies and raised larger forces as needed by calling up civilians to serve as soldiers and by hiring privateers to raid enemy shipping. In modern terms, this means that congress may provide funds and resources or it may not. However, congress has no power to direct U.S. forces or to restrict the authority of the president.

      It’s three equal branches, not legislative and two weaker ones.

      1. “”These relate entirely to the power of the purse and nothing more.””

        To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

        To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

        To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

        To provide and maintain a Navy;

        To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

        To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

        Clearly is more than just the power of the purse.

        1. It’s a ‘living’ document. Meaning you can make up any kind of bullshit you want, so long as you say it’s about the general welfare, or about teh children.

          1. I plead the interstate commerce clause.

  22. “Awlaki was not shooting people in a mall parking lot, that’s true. Instead, he was involved in managing the operations of a terrorist organization involved in killing people around the world, and he was located in a hiding place in Yemen”

    A) His material involvement in terrorism (other than making speeches) is more alleged than proven. It might well be true; that’s what these little things called “trials” are supposed to ascertain.

    B) Yes, Yemen, a country whose government is working with us. We could have just as easily sent a SEAL team to grab him (or force him into a firefight to get a legit kill). Christ, we’ve sent soldiers to retrieve the fucking leader of Panama to stand trial in ours. We (well, our government) just didn’t give a shit about doing things the right way.

  23. “We could have just as easily sent a SEAL team to grab him (or force him into a firefight to get a legit kill). ”

    Easily?

    How easily?

    A “legit” fight? What?

    Every respondent thus far needs to go look at this right now.

    1. Mark, you clearly do not have the mettle, nor the tunnel vision, to ever be a legitimate liberaltarian.

  24. The world is an imperfect place.

    We don’t first send over a volley of lawyers on the battlefield to give counsel to enemy combatants. Police shoot fleeing “suspects”. Innocent bystanders are killed in military action. Our own military personnel are also killed.

    It would be nice to be all powerful and all knowing, and be able to perfectly protect the innocent without every risking innocent lives in the effort.

    The world is an imperfect place, and we’re not all powerful. Justice is not a suicide pact to commit to inaction unless you can absolutely avoid all harm to innocents.

  25. Gee, it’s too bad Samir Khan and Ibrahim al-Asiri got killed in the same drone strike that killed Awlaki. Surely they could have testified to his innocence. I smell a cover up, a real conspiracy, I tell you. I weep for the loss of our liberty.

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  28. for shame, jason! for shame!
    https://reason.com/blog/2003/03/20/license-to-kill
    “but he’s a FOREIGNER! a DICTATOR!”
    nice try

  29. This article grossly distorts and misleads the powers being claimed here for the Chief Executive. These powers are no different than those in the hands of police chiefs,mayors, etc, who are thrust into something like a hostage situation, in which the hostage taker may be targeted for execution by snipers if deemed imminently dangerous
    to innocent folks. If no one ever worried about those situation, they have no justifiable basis for arguing against targeting an obvious threat
    who cannot be apprehended or prevented from acting against innocents in any way other than by execution at a distance. The entire issue boils down to whether the victim is sufficiently dangerous and apprehendable by no other means. It’s not really anything new.

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