The Secret Memo That Explains Why Obama Can Kill Americans

The Atlantic

The Department of Justice produced it prior to the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. But they won’t release it.

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Outside the U.S. government, President Obama’s order to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without due process has proved controversial, with experts in law and war reaching different conclusions. Inside the Obama Administration, however, disagreement was apparently absent, or so say anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post. “The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials,” the newspaper reported. “The document was produced following a review of the legal  issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers  from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality  of killing Aulaqi, the officials said.”

Isn’t that interesting? Months ago, the Obama Administration revealed that it would target al-Awlaki. It even managed to wriggle out of a lawsuit filed by his father to prevent the assassination. But the actual legal reasoning the Department of Justice used to authorize the strike? It’s secret. Classified. Information that the public isn’t permitted to read, mull over, or challenge.

Why? What justification can there be for President Obama and his lawyers to keep secret what they’re asserting is a matter of sound law? This isn’t a military secret. It isn’t an instance of protecting CIA field assets, or shielding a domestic vulnerability to terrorism from public view. This is an analysis of the power that the Constitution and Congress’ post September 11 authorization of military force gives the executive branch. This is a president exploiting official secrecy so that he can claim legal justification for his actions without having to expose his specific reasoning to scrutiny. As the Post put it, “The administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis used to authorize targeting Aulaqi, or how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process.”

Obama hasn’t just set a new precedent about killing Americans without due process. He has done so in a way that deliberately shields from public view the precise nature of the important precedent he has set. It’s time for the president who promised to create “a White House that’s more transparent and accountable than anything we’ve seen before” to release the DOJ memo. As David Shipler writes, “The legal questions are far from clearcut, and the country needs to have this difficult discussion.” And then there’s the fact that “a good many Obama supporters thought that  secret legal opinions by the Justice Department — rationalizing torture  and domestic military arrests, for example — had gone out the door along  with the Bush administration,” he adds. “But now comes a momentous change in policy with serious implications for the Constitution’s restraint on executive power, and Obama refuses to  allow his lawyers’ arguments to be laid out on the table for the  American public to examine.” What doesn’t he want to get out?

Image credit: Reuters

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3 thoughts on “The Secret Memo That Explains Why Obama Can Kill Americans

  1. SO, I GUESS THAT IF OBUMMA DON’T LIKE YOUR ASS HE’LL JUST TAKE YOU OUT. I SAY WE RETURN THE FAVOR.

  2. Was Hank Jr. right?

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn’t a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

    Murder is Murder no matter what the reason. That’s why under FREEDOM we have Judges and Juries

  3. Hank Jr. was right but the Liberal Left doesn’t want to hear what is right, they want to hear their views.

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