Drones

Eric Holder: Yes, Your Government Can Drone You to Death on U.S. Soil (UPDATED)

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Don't worry! Assassinations will be safe, legal and rare. ||| Whitehouse.gov
Whitehouse.gov

Remember how Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has been trying to get a straight answer about whether the United States government reserves the legal right to assassinate American citizens on U.S. soil? Well, Attorney General Eric Holder has just answered the question in a letter to Paul, partially reprinted by Mother Jones. Excerpt:

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

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

Whole thing here.

The Reason-Rupe poll found last week that 57 percent of Americans think assassinating Americans is unconstitutional. More Reason commentary on the topic here.

UPDATE: You can read the whole letter here.

UPDATE 2: Rand Paul responds here. Excerpt:

The U.S. Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening—it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.

Paul also received a response letter from John Brennan, whose nomination to CIA director Paul has been opposing, in which Brennan says the CIA "does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States." Sen. Paul's office comments: "Notably missing from Mr. Brennan's response are answers to the myriad other questions Sen. Paul posed to him in previous correspondence."

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  1. It looks like Holder’s been catching up on 24 on Netflix.

    1. my roomate’s step-aunt makes $72/hr on the internet. She has been fired from work for 8 months but last month her check was $17920 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..13925.html

  2. Shorter SadStache: “Yes”

  3. That’s funny, I wasn’t aware Holder was able to make that decision.

  4. DRONE PROCESS

    1. Holy sweet fuck, I was kidding.

  5. That gun-walking, American-assassinating… What else has he done? I need a longer string of prose.

    1. Porn mustache-wearing.

      1. That would be Stossel.

    2. Stedman-looking.

    3. Mustache promoting…

    4. cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit

      1. lots of people kiss dogs. That doesn’t make them worm-headed sacks of monkey shit.

    5. Another TAH fan? On reason.com?

      Bestill my heart!

  6. “These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.”

    1. That sounds like something a wise Latina would endorse.

  7. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.

    Sorry, but that is still not a straight answer to Rand’s question.

    1. It means “Beginning in April…”

      1. LOL@Arensen. Looks pretty simple to me, adding the words “extraordinary’ doesn’t really change Holder saying, Yes We Can.

        Now I know what the slogan meant.
        Can we steal your money? YES WE CAN.
        Can we kill you at will? YES WE CAN.
        Can we tell you what to eat? YES WE CAN.
        Can we control your health care decisions? YES WE CAN.

        Just add YES WE CAN after every civil liberties limiting question and you have the Obama administration answer. It’s like adding, ‘in bed’ to fortune cookies, it’s fun if you try.

    2. it is technically correct. Come on, let’s assume the US was invaded, would we seriously object to the president deploying the military to “use lethal force withini the territory of the United States”.

      Moreover, while very prudent and wise, the Posse Comitatus act is NOT a part of the constitution. Maybe it should be.

  8. Did anyone think he was going to limit the power of the Federal Government?

  9. “Because there are so many other ways we can extrajudicially kill American citizens on U.S. soil, it is unlilely that we would ever use drones to do so.”

    1. Fucking exactly

  10. Shouldn’t US soil be, in theory, the primary place where US military force is deployed? As in, in the event of an invasion of US territory?

    In reality we’ve deployed in lots of places since WWII, but I don’t think any of them had attacked us first.

    1. For approximately the first time, ever, I think I may agree with Tonybot.

      It has occurred to me that in the event the military is in fact acting as a wholly independent arm of government, a sort of lamprey on the body politic, keeping them occupied in distant lands would be roughly a bonus to the extent they are not killing our neighbors.

      1. Scareduck, You miss what Tony left out. I assume you’re thinking, Yes, the US Military should only be used in defense and so would likely be used on US soil (counter offensive aside).

        But Holder is saying, hey, the US Military will need to kill US Citizens on US Soil. Since Tony left the target of the military out of the comment, I’d assume based on his past positions he’s comfortable with Ethnically Appropriate Rock Star Jesus having the power to use the US Military to kill it’s citizens (when they see it as ‘necessary’ without judicial review). But many socialist are comfortable now with growing executive branch powers, they will soon reverse when the Rock Star leaves the WH.

    2. Wherever I go becomes America as soon as I get there.

    3. “In reality we’ve deployed in lots of places since WWII, but I don’t think any of them had attacked us first.”

      Al Qaeda certainly attacked us first.

    4. correct, see above. I give Holder a pass on this one, but I strongly suspect he got lucky.

  11. Will someone please tell Texas Governor Rick Perry that he is not our countries President & Texan Hank Skinner is not a terrorist !

    Texas captive prisoner Hank Skinner deserves to be treated like all American citizen’s who are accused of crimes.

    Executing American Hank Skinner by needle instead of by Drone on USA soil without DNA tests on his lost~destroyed DNA evidence,is a demonic criminal policy not justice !

    1. Free Hat! Free Hat!

  12. “As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country”

    Isn’t there already a law on the books, posse “latin word”, passed in the 1880s that forbid the military from enforcing laws in the country?

    Pearl Harbor, uh, the military handled that one.
    As for 9-11. Pilots used to be required to carry a pistol on duty because they could be carrying US mail. Then the feds banned that due to a former employee walking on to a plane, shooting the pilots and crashing the plane with 30 or forty people aboard.
    Thus violating the second amendment and common sense.

    Then the DOJ enforced political correctness with the ban on “discrimination”, thus violating the first amendment right to associate, which made it easy for all the hijackers, except one, not to have to worry about being profiled.
    The one who was stopped was because the agent was relatively knew and didn’t know better.

    Sum it up: Feds violate their oaths by violating the constituion which causes disaster at which point, Feds use the disaster as an excuse to violate the constitution again and claim more power.

    1. Comitatus comitatus
      Comitatus
      Comitatus comitatus
      Comitatus
      Comitatus comitatus
      P-posse comitatus

      1. COMITATUS COMITATUS
        BANANA-FANA FOMITATUS
        FEE-FIE FOMITATUS
        COMITATUS

      2. Falco rocked!

      3. Wasn’t Posse C. taken off the books in 2005 with one of the defense bills? I seem to remember Keith Olbermann bloviating about how it was the end of America.

        1. There are many ‘laws’ on the book limiting the exercise of federal powers, and those have meant what this past half century?

      4. n n not in the constitution.

        Should be, though.

  13. Catastrophic attacks on our soil. Like Ruby Ridge, Kent State, Selma. That sort of thing. Otherwise, nah. Nothing to worry about.

    1. I’m pretty sure Waco would have somehow become a catastrophic attack against Americans as well.

  14. As much as I hated Nixon and Carter, I never wished that they would die horrible deaths filled with suffering. Obama and crew have changed me in some fundamental way.

    1. Nixon always seemed like someone you’d want as an evil buddy, someone who would help you do some nasty thing if you ever needed to.

      Carter always seemed like a buffoon, unworthy of hatred.

      1. It’s easy to hate the bastard that gets on TV wearing a sweater and tells you to turn the thermostat down to help get by when you’re struggling to pay the rent and feed your kids.

        1. That’s true. I forgot about that shit.

          Fuck Carter.

          I absolutely loathe the bastard now, though. He acts like he’s some superstar and wasn’t the most despised President in history. I think that Jefferson Davis was more popular — in the Union, during the Civil War.

          1. Bush seems like he is now the most despised President, although I can’t really say how his record is fundamentally different from Obama.

            I thank Bush for giving me the Red Team wake up call. I was a constitutionalist, state’s rights, small government, military hawk (make that circle square), yada yada. Then epiphany, oh shit, I can’t really tell how Bush fits any of that. But all the networks are arguing like there are differences between the two parties, massive Bush hate, but for what seemed like all the wrong ethical reasons. Then I started wondering why I thought this, then questions of negative and natural rights started percolating. Then the realization that the parties were giving me false choices. So really, fuck Carter, fuck Bush, fuck Obama, fuck all the ‘reporters’, fuck them all for wasting years of my life in the sewer of their false choices.

            I see many bitch about Reason, but at least there is light on the false choices. I think calling out the false choice on every issue is libertarians strongest entry into national debate.

            Problem is, it takes a few seconds of shallow thought to make a Democrat. It takes a few minutes of shallow thought to make a Republican. But it takes asking and answering real ethical and principled questions of oneself to make a Libertarian.

            1. let us be honest, at least one minute of that shallow thought to be a republican is twisting one’s brain around some moral inconsistencies in an effort to play the party game.

          2. wtf, carter wasn’t half bad. Deregulated the airlines, didn’t get us into a war (almost did, though). Carter is like the opposite of nixon. Reasonable president, insufferable post-presdency, where Nixon was an insufferable president, and reasonable post-presidency.

      2. My grandfather served with Carter before he got his “hardship” papers… and from what I gathered from grandpa’s great stories… he’s as dumb as you think he is.

        He was a Lt. on a submarine for, I forget how long…

        Nice guy, said grandpa, but not splitting atoms on his days off.

        1. In other words, empirically qualified to be President. The moment you begin to think that a politician, any politician, or a bureaucrat, any bureaucrat, is one our best and brightest, you begin to voyage down the path of being horribly wrong.

  15. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  16. has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so

    but, but, intentions are all that matter!

  17. Ya well, I will drop that drone. This asshole MUST GO! He fucks with me, I will drop his ass too!

  18. Would it have been unconstitutional for the US government to shoot down any of the 9/11 airliners in order to prevent them from reaching their targets? That would have involved killing US citizens within the domestic borders of the United States.

    1. Shooting down those planes, after an armed military jet first instructed the pilots to land the plane and that order was ignored, would have been in response to a de facto act of war. The civilian casualties would have been awful, but that happens in war.

      That is entirely different from the president extrajudicially assassinating U.S. citizens off his private kill list, citizens who pose no imminent threat to others, and who have not been given the opportunity to surrender.

      1. Oh, and on December 7th 1941, the people who bombed Pearl Harbor were uniformed foreign military officers flying armed military planes in U.S. airspace with obvious hostile intent, so that analogy of Holder’s doesn’t exactly hold up.

      2. That is entirely different from the president extrajudicially assassinating U.S. citizens off his private kill list, citizens who pose no imminent threat to others, and who have not been given the opportunity to surrender.

        Which is not what Holder said was OK. He said the president could order lethal military action within the US. You know, like Abe Lincoln and George Washington did. Not exactly a novel doctrine.

        You guys are again making an unforced error. Holder didn’t state that assassination by drone was OK in the US.

        1. Which is not what Holder said was OK.

          What Holder said (emphasis mine): It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

          If he meant to say it was limited to being a response to an attack then he easily could have. He clearly used the words “for example” to give the administration cover if/when they decide to murderdrone another American without due process, only within our borders.

          Holder didn’t state that assassination by drone was OK in the US.

          He certainly didn’t say that it wasn’t.

  19. Prefer that to the US droning the citizens of other countries on their soil.

  20. So, the next Ruby Ridge or Waco they can just fly in a drone. No need to deploy any real manpower.

    1. Well, it’s not like having people on site led to better decisionmaking by the Feds, anyway. If you’re just going to shoot random people through doors and set places on fire, drones will do that just as well.

      1. You know, I can’t argue with that.

  21. I hate Holder as much as anyone here, but he didn’t say it was OK to drone-assassinate citizens in the US. He said it was OK to have lethal military force in the US in response to an attack, which is hardly a controversial statement.

    Big thumbs down for Sen. Paul for overreacting to this; he will again wind up with egg on his face.

    1. Not really. Paul asked Holder about the assassination of US citizens on American soil. Holder didn’t answer the fucking question. He obfuscated. He left the possibility for such actions open by choosing not to disavow them. It’s an affront to anyone who believes that the power of the federal government are limited and defined.

      1. But Holder’s not “refusing to rule out” drone strikes. He’s just not addressing drone strikes at all.

        It’s like if you or I were in an email debate with a leftist, and he or she demanded that we say whether libertarianism would allow a poor person to starve to death in the street. It would be wise to just ignore that demand because it’s an emotionally weak point for our position; but it wouldn’t be right to say we’re “refusing to rule out starving poor people”.

        1. “When is rape permissible?”

          “Sometimes self defense is a necessary evil.”

          Evasion and non sequiturs for everyone!

    2. This was a big chance for Holder and the Administration to put these concerns to rest for good. Instead, they used weasel language to allow it. Tulpa, surely you are smart enough to see that.

      1. He’s certainly being evasive, but that’s part of the game. Answering the question in the negative means less power for Holder and less power for BO, or more accurately for whoever tells BO what to do. And Rand Paul doesn’t have the juice, even within the GOP, to do much more than impotently whine.

        RP is going to get eviscerated for his overreactive response, though.

        1. So:

          The issue here is that Paul essentially asked Brennan if he thinks the President has the authority to issue death warrants effective here in the US.

          There is only one correct answer to that question, and all the correct ways to answer it involve an immediate, categorical, and emphatic response to it.

          Brennan’s failure to give that correct answer immediately is grounds for dismissal (in lieu of a good horsewhipping).

      2. It’s sort of like your girlfriend asking whether you promise to love her forever. You lose one way or the other with either answer to that question.

        1. I think we’ve stumbled upon the reason you don’t get laid.

          1. Heh. I usually get the opposite question.

    3. to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001 (emphasis mine)

      Deliberately vague. If like herein means “such as”, it would be potentially concerning but not crazy. If like herein means “resembling” or “similar to”, however, this leaves an uncomfortable amount of room for judgement.

      And in either case he’s obfuscating, as others have said.

      1. Exactly. Using words like “like” and “for example” means they’re leving their options open to use force whenever and wherever they please. If he meant to limit drone use to after events like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, he could have worded his letter to say so.

        1. I think what is missing is that Paul was exact in his question about drone use – that is, can the president, using intelligence, determine that someone is an “imminent” (imminent – but note that the word imminent is meaningless as used by Obama) threat and order a drone stike on an American citizen in this country.

          Simply put, the president is ordering the killing of individuals. I’m sure Roosevelt would have had Hilter assainsinated if possible. But that was a non US citizen in a foreign country in a declared war.

          But the difference is that we are talking about US citizens, who are not ENGAGED in an actual dangerous act. We do not (ostensibly)just shoot down Miafioso or drug smugglers – they are arrested and tired in a court…they are presumed innocent until convicted.
          I don’t know why everybody should believe the government if it says someone is a terrorist…after all, they seem to confuse cell phones with guns, mix up house numbers all the time, and kill mentally ill people when they outnumber them 12 to 1….

    4. Holder said they can murder anyone they want. Whether by drone or gun is immaterial. Big thumbs down to the statist-slaver-murderer-apologist.

  22. No new, earth-shaking news here: Obama’s been droning us all to death ever since he learned how to read a teleprompter.

    1. (rimshot)

      Well played. 🙂

    2. I laughed so hard I think I peed a little

  23. Why are any of us surprised? Really.

    1. Shouldn’t be. They’ve been refusing to deny it for a year. It’s clearly their policy once they took out al-Awlaki’s kid.

  24. Holder seems to be comically inept at expressing himself. However, in this instance, what he seems to be saying is that a drone strike could be used on American soil against Americans in the same circumstances that any citizen or police officer would be justified in using lethal force: to stop an imminent threat to life.

    Holder deserves to fired or prosecuted for Fast & Furious alone, but in this case, what he is saying does not concern me. A drone is a tool and “assassinate” is a loaded term. Asking “Would you kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil with a drone?” is the functional equivalent of “Would you kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil with a gun?” There are times when it is entirely justified, and he cannot categorically rule it out.

    1. He’s not inept at all. There just isn’t a way to clearly state “Yes, the President claims the authority to assassinate anyone he wants and screw your Constitution” without exposing Obama for the would-be dictator he is…so Holder mealy-mouthed it.

      1. Except that’s not what he’s saying. As I said, a drone is just a tool, like a gun. Take out every reference to “drone” and replace it with “gun” and you’re looking at a fairly unremarkable justification of the fact that government can sometimes use lethal force against American citizens to stop an imminent danger.

        1. The problem is the trustworthiness of those who get to define what is “danger” and how soon is “imminent”.

          1. That’s the point to really consider. When a citizen or police officer uses lethal force against a criminal, the decision typically comes under great scrutiny and the citizen or officer is subject to criminal charges if it is found that the circumstances did not warrant use of lethal force.

            Will the operator of the drone and the commander who made the kill order (including the President, if that’s who it is?) be subject to criminal charges if it is found that the situation did not warrant the use of lethal force?

            I don’t think that question has been answered.

      2. Why Reason offers no “Like” or “dislike” button is beyond me. I liked your post, let it be noted.

    2. Holder is simply revealing Obama for what he is; Bush on steroids.

      All these politicians, power-hungry psychopaths, are the same. It’s just that some times are more conducive to their mass-murdering urges than others.

  25. Civil war or insurrection would be conceivable, but unlikely, environments in which this could happen without a violation of the constitution. There are also terrorist acts that could result in the shoot down of an airliner by the military in order to prevent the aircraft being used as a projectile against some ground target.

    I assume the issue is over law enforcement doing such a thing?

    There are conditions under which it makes sense for law enforcement to kill someone – such as when that someone is shooting at people (example: Northridge bank robbery shootout). It seems a drone would rather impractical for such a thing.

    No, law enforcement should have armed drones. Yes, sometimes the federal government could kill Americans without violating the constitution.

    1. I meant to right No, law enforcement should NOT have armed drones. (But yes, the federal government could kill Americans under certain circumstances without violating the constitution.)

      1. Technically, in the case of a Civil War, a collective has established their sovereign selves apart from the US Government so the use of the military would be a War against another nation. The result may be one nation again at some point, but still to sovereign nations warring and not US Citizens.

        Seems an insurrection is just a smaller collective saying they are sovereign? What did you mean by insurrection, could that be just me alone saying I won’t pay my taxes?

      2. This is the wrong answer. The United States Government must never murder citizens of the United States. The persons in question must be arrested and tried.

        It is beyond outrageous that the supposedly most powerful organization on earth is incapable of arresting an individual, and uses this as an excuse to murder them.

        1. If there’s a mass shooting and a policeman comes on the scene and shoots the attacker, stopping the mass shooting, isn’t that the government “murdering” a citizen without having him arrested and tried? Would you prefer the officer not be allowed to do such a thing?

          Given such a circumstance, does it matter if the killing is done with a gun or a drone?

  26. When the government will not restrain itself from usurping authority it was not delegated, and consistently refuses any accountability or responsibility for criminal acts,then it is abusive. The founders advocated the theory that it is the duty and responsibility of the citizenry to destroy government when it becomes abusive. Well? What are you waiting for?

    1. How?

  27. The question isn’t hypothetical and unlikely to occur. The question is if you think you have the right to murder people at your whim. It simply requires a yes or no answer, and you and the rest of your cronies have answered in the affirmative.

    It’s a nice twist that you redefined the question though in your non-answer. You psychopaths are pretty slick when you want to be.

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  30. Does the Federal Government of the United States have the authority to create murder lists, and further to assemble death squads to carry out the execution of United States citizens?

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  32. The structure of the U.S. government trends toward “Sociopaths governing conformists.” It’s late in the trend, and the trend slowly itself moves toward recursive systemwide-destruction.

    The more sociopaths in office, the more powerful the offices become, via incremental attempts to expand their power, and no attempts to restrict their power. This results in less accountability in those offices, both because the expanded power of the offices is criminality and retribution legalized, and because the nearest offices of oversight are also populated with sociopaths. Sociopaths form coercive protective social networks, in a way similar to the market forming voluntary market structures (“one hand washes the other”). Thus, our nation trends toward its own destruction, as all nations do, cyclically.

    If libertarians were strategically smart (they’re generally not), they would realize that these emergent rules can be interacted with, and have been, by liberals, for the prior 300 years. Of course, the government schools have done their primary job (destroying the Fourth Branch of government) very well.

  33. “Civil war or insurrection would be conceivable, but unlikely,…”

    Have you all forgotten that bit of unpleasantness that occurred from 1861 to 1865? And the fact that the police, of all types, carry weapons and are actually charged with using them to restore order? This happens every day. Whether the govt uses a guy with a gun or a drone is immaterial. They already kill citizens, and they have done so since the founding of the republic. And there are no plans to stop.

    1. One more thought –

      People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

      George Orwell

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