Saturday Links

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

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43 Responses to “Saturday Links”

  1. #1 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Considering Anwar Al-Alaki made numerous statements in print and video concerning his intent to commit acts of hostility towards the US (or help others to do that) and that he was waging his war from an area where serving his arrest warrant would be problematic, I would think that most courts will take a very lenient view towards serving his warrant with a Hellfire missile.

    The guy was part of the leadership cadre of an organization involved in active hostilities with this country. Enemy leadership has always been a legit target, and he made it pretty clear that he was enemy leadership. In war, being an American citizen is not a golden ticket that guarentees you will not be engaged as an enemy if you are on the other side of a war. Ask the German Americans who were killed while fighting for the Nazis. For that matter, ask the thousands of guys killed on Picket’s Charge or in the cornfield at Antitam. They were nominally American citizens too.

  2. #2 |  Name Nomad | 

    Re: crazy cleric — I can see how there are good arguments for what was done, but the part that worries me is that many don’t even see it as a gray area. From what I’ve seen, it seems most people are annoyed that due process is even being brought up, which I find quite disconcerting.

  3. #3 |  30 year lawyer | 

    Wal-Mart needs to learn a VERY expensive lesson.

  4. #4 |  James | 

    My favourite argument from the pro kill’em all crowd has been:

    “We couldn’t have possibly given him a trial, haven’t you heard of the sixth amendment?”

    That one is fucking glorious.

  5. #5 |  Les | 

    celticdragonchick, speaking out in support of terrorism and claiming to intend to commit acts of terrorism are not crimes punishable by due process-less death.

    You claim that he’s a “legit target,” but the entire basis of that conclusion is, wait for it, “the government says he is.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/opinion/20johnsen.html

    Why is he a target?

    Government: Because he is dangerous and will kill Americans.

    What evidence do you have?

    Government: Lots of it.

    May we, the people, see this evidence?

    Government: No, because it’s very secret evidence. You’ll just have to…trust us. And…now he’s dead. The point is moot. He was a legit target. Trust us. We are the government. Trust us.

    http://politics.salon.com/2011/09/30/awlaki_6/singleton/

  6. #6 |  Lorenzo | 

    I like my chicken bonin.

  7. #7 |  zendingo | 

    @5
    well said!

  8. #8 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    SCIENCE FTW!!!

  9. #9 |  Juice | 

    Arguing with people on certain blogs and fora I kept getting the argument that “due process” doesn’t mean that you have to have a trial. Their argument was that he got “due process” when the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed.

    This thing has so far been used to justify Guantanamo Bay and the warrantless eavesdropping program. Now it’s being used to justify extrajudicial killing. What can’t this thing do?

  10. #10 |  EH | 

    Volokh.com has a post by Kenneth Anderson that goes into the legalisms involved. I think (by design) a lot of this is a subjective matter, but it’s nice to have more datapoints.

  11. #11 |  StrangeOne | 

    Wow juice, thats such a terrible argument even at face value. Due process is guaranteed to American citizens by virtue of several amendments. Without writing some kind of amendment to change that process, even someone with high school civics understanding of American government should be able to see that its illegal for the executive branch to just go around executing people. Even executions for treason still require a trial, according to the constitution.

    Of course I have serious doubts that many members of congress posses a high school civics grade understanding of American government. Or at least they pretend not to when its politically beneficial to ignore the constitution.

  12. #12 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Like I needed another excuse to never, ever shop at Wal-Mart. What a clusterfuck of corporate scumbaggery.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The government is not constrained by the Constitution or any other laws. It is only limited by what it can get away with. Since most people think the Constitution does the work of restraining the government, they feel they don’t have to. The truth, however, is that the Constitution has no power at all. None.

    Since voters haven’t raised a shit storm in the past when the President started delivering it’s foreign policy on laser guided bombs, the government is going to continue to ratchet up this strategy. Last year the question was whether it’s ok for the President to bomb other countries without the authorization from Congress. We’re passed that now and debating whether the President can drop bombs on American citizens in other countries. Maybe next year we’ll be debating whether it’s ok for the President to drop bombs on American citizens inside the country. Next it may be something about how much collateral damage is permissible. After that it will be something else, but it will always continue to chip away at what little remains of the Bill of Rights because no one gives a shit and it’s a lot easier to rationalize it away.

    It’s ok to kill people without due process so long as they need killin’. And the government makes the decision as to who needs killin’.

  14. #14 |  Rojo | 

    My jaw dropped at the authoritarian mindset that is required of the assistant manager to look at the video and the receipt, confirm that the chicken bones were paid for, and then turn to to the security guard and say, “So, what do you wanna do?”

  15. #15 |  celticdragonchick | 

    @ Les

    Should the government have been required to bring documentation of illegal insurrection before a judge and then try to serve a warrant on a battlefield to General Hood or Stonewall Jackson?

  16. #16 |  albatross | 

    celticdragonchick:

    As I understand it, the things he said that are public record are, according to US law, protected speech–stuff that the government is not allowed to even fine or arrest you for, thanks to the first amendment. For allegations about his involvement with anti-US plots and terrorism, my understanding is that we have to rely on “trust me” sort of evidence.

    So what I see is the federal government assassinating a US citizen for saying stuff that’s offensive and hostile to the US, but is legal for him to say, and then telling me I should trust that if I knew the whole story, I’d agree it was okay to assassinate him. And the power for the president to order this done is now, apparently, bipartisan consensus policy, so every president from now on will have the power. Presumably, every time the president orders someone assassinated, he will justify it by explaining that he and his staff know secret classified information that shows that the corpse was formerly a very bad guy. And no doubt, sometimes, this will even be true, and occasionally, the evidence will even be good enough that you might trust it.

    Of course, it has turned out many times in the past that the feds have put people in Guantanamo as the “worst of the worst,” or shipped them off to CIA secret prisons and tortured them, only to realize later that they had the wrong people. (Even then, those prisoners often spent many more years locked up, and probably some are still locked up–God help you if acknowledging your innocence would ruin the career of the guy who has to decide whether to do it or not.) So you have to expect that many times, we will assassinate the wrong guy, or someone who was only a low-level nobody with the wrong friends. Often, the name on the hit list will have been found originally by beating it out of some other prisoner, who may have been saying whatever his captors wanted to hear to get the beating to stop. Or it will have come from some foreign government’s intelligence service, perhaps hoping to have the US rid it of a problem, perhaps simply trying to keep us sending them aid money.

    So I’m rather skeptical. I have little faith in the motives of the people making the decisions, whom I suspect to have risen to their positions largely through being basically sociopaths who are willing to do whatever harm is necessary to others in order to keep and gain power. I have little faith in the correctness of the information on which the assassinations are based, which has often proven to be wrong, and which is inherently really hard to get right. And I fully expect to see this kind of thing done many more times in the future, for the worst motives imaginable.

  17. #17 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Concerning the Wal Mart fiasco:

    That is why I do not like or trust private security (or big companies that use them) any more then I like or trust public police. Probably less, in fact, since you have more legal recourse and rights with the police then you do with private security, and the police, (alarming enough) probably have better training.

  18. #18 |  celticdragonchick | 

    As I understand it, the things he said that are public record are, according to US law, protected speech–stuff that the government is not allowed to even fine or arrest you for, thanks to the first amendment. For allegations about his involvement with anti-US plots and terrorism, my understanding is that we have to rely on “trust me” sort of evidence.

    That wasn’t my understanding at all. My take was that he made statements that could (and maybe should) have been the basis for revoking his citizenship entirely.

    8 U.S.C. 1481 states:

    “A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of title 18, or willfully performing any act in violation of section 2385 of title 18, or violating section 2384 of title 18 by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them”

    I grok what you are saying about the arrests of supposed Jihadists under the last President and all the garbage we were fed about “the worst of the worst”, only to find out a bunch of them were turned in by Afghan drug lords and milita leaders for ransom money because they had pissed off the wrong person. Al-Alaki is not that kind of guy. He has been the top propagandist for AQ for years, and has been open and vcery public about waging war against the US(I don’t think that kind of speech is actually protected under the Constitution, by the by…). He knew there was a warrant for his arrest. He had the ability to turn himslef in if he wished. He did not do so.
    *shrug*

    I’m not loosing sleep over this one.

    Also, as others have noted in other forums, there at least a dozen German Americans who were killed while fighting for the Nazis during WW II. Was there any requirement to arrest them or serve papers in any way?

  19. #19 |  Mattocracy | 

    So the security guard lied to the police. That’s a crime. Why isn’t this asshole in jail or being prosecuted?

  20. #20 |  Mattocracy | 

    Being anti-american is not a valid reason to be executed. If Iran sent a drone over the US and killed a bunch of former Iranian citizens who were calling for an end to the current regime there, we wouldn’t find that acceptable.

    The foreign policy of ‘continuing to do the things that make our enemy hate us until they stop hating us’ has proven to be very self defeating. At some point, we have to accept that pre-emptive strikes are wrong no matter who is president.

  21. #21 |  albatross | 

    I see this as being about two issues (just as were the cases of John Lindh and Jose Padilla):

    a. Is this particular person who was treated very badly (imprisoned, killed, tortured, whatever) a genuine bad guy for whom I’m not inclined to shed a lot of tears?

    b. Is the power claimed by the government in this case one that the government should have?

    As far as (a), I suspect he was indeed a very bad guy, and that he improves the world with his absence, though I don’t know that for certain. And even people who support horrible ideas ought not to be murdered for it.

    As far as (b), the power scares the hell out of me. It’s the sort of thing you see in countries you really don’t want to live in–the president or top military/intelligence people have a hit list and send out death squads to kill the people on it. It’s the sort of power that cries out to be abused, and that inevitably *will* be abused.

    This is very similar to the case of Padilla, who probably really is a genuine bad guy. But even for genuine bad guys, I don’t want the president having US citizens disappeared off US soil and held incommunicado on his say-so alone. That’s what happened to Padilla. (And again, the facts are not all that clear–the original media story was that he was planning an attack via a bomb with radioactive materials (aka a “dirty bomb”) at just the same time that this was the widely-discussed fear about terrorists. Later, he was said to have planned some kind of mass arson. Eventually, he was convicted on some entirely unrelated terrorism-related charge.)

    This is similar to all the people we tortured. A lot of those people were surely awful people, who’d happily have done worse to Americans if they’d had the chance. And yet, giving the feds the power to torture people to get information is a really bad idea, one that is almost guaranteed to be abused, as indeed it was. During the runup to the Iraq war, torture was used to “discover” links between Iraq and Al Qaida, which turned out later not to exist in any significant form.

    As far as the legal issues go, there are ways to strip someone of citizenship, but they involve legal proceedings, not the president and his staff telling us to trust him. And convicting someone of treason has a pretty high bar, set in the constitution. If it’s truly necessary to have death squads running around trying to knock off the people on our hit list (I’m not at all convinced the danger posed by terrorism remotely justifies this), there needs to be some mechanism for deciding who goes on the hit list other than the president’s spokesman assuring us that they have very good reasons that they just can’t show us.

  22. #22 |  Chris Mallory | 

    The Wal Mart story is not a news story. It is one side of a law suit written up as an “OMG teh ebil capitalists are going to kill us all” bit of yellow journalism.

  23. #23 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    any more then [sic] I like or trust public police

    Unless it concerns assassination.

    Cognitive dissonance, thy name is celticdragonchick.

  24. #24 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    Anwar Al-Awlaki, the face of moderation?

  25. #25 |  Les | 

    @celticdragonchick

    Should the government have been required to bring documentation of illegal insurrection before a judge and then try to serve a warrant on a battlefield to General Hood or Stonewall Jackson?

    Was al-Awlaki leading troops or even fighters against U.S. forces? Yes? Says who? The government? Evidence? Can’t show us any? He must be guilty!

    Your comparison isn’t just historically ridiculous (the endless war on terror is nothing like the Civil War in any way, shape, or form), but it ignores the point that the only evidence the U.S. has against al-Awlaki is so secret, it can’t show it to us.

    You’re accepting a system wherein the government can accuse and kill someone without evidence, so long as it claims that evidence is top secret.

    That’s not how things work in a free society.

  26. #26 |  karl | 

    The Wal-Mart story looks just a little too strange. As skeptical as I am about the police in general, the idea that someone was arrested on the say-so of a security guard when a valid receipt and an assistant manager were right there seems… I don’t even have the vocabulary for something like this.

    On the other hand, it’s in Alabama — a state that makes Arizona (my home) look reasonable.

  27. #27 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Anwar al-Awlaki sounded like a bad dude, but government officials turned him into Emmanuel Goldstein, with the active support of much of the media. I do not consider him to have been as bad as our sometime buddy President Saleh, who has personally ordered much more bloodshed than Awlaki was ever able to bring about. Saleh is a bad motherfucker, and it’s a shame that the assassination attempt against him wasn’t successful, just as it was a shame that Hitler wasn’t successfully bombed to Kingdom Come by that briefcase in 1944. Saleh actually kills people and imprisons nurses and physicians for treating opposition protesters injured by his goons; Awlaki may have had an operational role in terror plots and the Fort Hood attack, but the US government has no credibility on these matters because it assassinated him rather than indicting him and convicting him in a court of law. I suspect that his role was greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. I’ve heard of no credible evidence that he was anything more than a figurehead and an abettor–and, no, the say-so of CIA spooks is not credible evidence.

  28. #28 |  Andrew Roth | 

    The Wal-Mart story could be a trial lawyer’s yarn, but it sounds plausible because it fits into a long pattern of wacko behavior by Wal-Mart with respect to unions, workers’ rights, and loss prevention. Wal-Mart is an aggressive criminal syndicate.

    Re: celticdragonchick #17: Spot on. An awful lot of private security officers are police academy rejects and washouts who like dressing up like Pennsylvania State Troopers, projecting the image with none of the responsibility. These guys are dregs even in comparison to the jackbooted skinheads and low-IQ linebackers who staff many small-town police forces.

    One problem with allowing these people to impersonate cops is that much of the citizenry doesn’t realize that these rent-a-cops have no police authority. If Americans knew their rights these dipshits would be entertaining curiosities, dressed up as policemen for Halloween all year long. Instead, we get privatized police state nightmares such as the terrorism fusion center at the Mall of America, with “intelligence” being provided to the FBI by idiots who wouldn’t have a chance of making detective at most real police agencies but fancy themselves Eliot Stabler.

    Yes, the training for real cops is better than what rent-a-cops get. At good agencies it’s indescribably better.

    One of the greatest services that good cops can perform is to express their unreserved contempt for rent-a-cops who attempt to exercise one iota of false authority. As an unsuccessful former police applicant myself, I find the delusional grandeur of the spectacle pathetic and despicable.

  29. #29 |  yonemoto | 

    That is why I do not like or trust private security (or big companies that use them) any more then I like or trust public police. Probably less, in fact, since you have more legal recourse and rights with the police then you do with private security

    Wait what? Are you really reading this blog? Clearly since this incident is going to a law suit, you have MORE legal recourse with private security, versus the innumerable times when you DON’T have legal recourse with police (“qualified immunity”).

  30. #30 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Useless hill to die on, thy name is Just Plain Brian.

    I know you guys here are talking about the “sooper sekrit evidence” that the gubmint sez we can’t see. That does not concern me. I am going what Alaki has put into the public record all on his own. He talked his way into a missile in a fairly deliberate fashion. Darwin Awards in action.

    Was al-Awlaki leading troops or even fighters against U.S. forces? Yes? Says who? The government? Evidence? Can’t show us any? He must be guilty!

    There was nothing secret about it. Where the fuck have you been hiding? The guy was openly recruiting for AQ. Goebbels didn’t shoot a gun on the battlefield, but being a propagandist still made him a legit target in WW II. Again, I am not concerned with the secret evidence against him on bombing plots. He made himself a target with his own mouth.

    Your comparison isn’t just historically ridiculous (the endless war on terror is nothing like the Civil War in any way, shape, or form),

    They are both conflicts that involve legal definitions of American combatants. You need to try a little harder than that.

    but it ignores the point that the only evidence the U.S. has against al-Awlaki is so secret, it can’t show it to us.

    See my above comments.

  31. #31 |  KBCraig | 

    Re: Nashville MDHA eminent domain abuse

    The mayor and council cop-out is just that: a lame excuse. No matter what oversight authority they might or might not have over the MDHA once the members are appointed, they still have the ultimate veto authority over the board’s actions: the checkbook.

    The MDHA cannot possibly put the taxpayers on the hook for anything unless the city agrees to write the checks. Stop writing checks (including checks for the MDHA’s employees, expenses, and office space): problem solved.

  32. #32 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    So your response to the fact that we only know he’s said some things is “he said really bad things”?

    My days of not taking you seriously are really coming to a middle.

  33. #33 |  Les | 

    I know you guys here are talking about the “sooper sekrit evidence” that the gubmint sez we can’t see.

    Ah, so now you’re using “country talk” to refute points. Brilliant. Hard to argue at that intellectual level, though. I’ll give it a shot.

    There was nothing secret about it. Where the fuck have you been hiding? The guy was openly recruiting for AQ.

    Right, because he said, “I am recruiting for AQ.” And when sued to present evidence that he was a threat of any kind, the government said, “It’s secret. We can’t show you how we know he’s an important person in Al Qaeda, because it’s secret.” Where have you been hiding?

    http://politics.salon.com/2011/09/30/awlaki_6/singleton/

    You keep comparing the war on terror, an undeclared, unending war to wars like the Civil War and WW2 because there are “legal” definitions of combatants.

    Okay, then. How many prisoners (“captured on the battle field!”) during WW2 did we have to let go because they weren’t really Nazis? How many prisoners (“captured on the battle field!”) during the Civil War did we have to let go because they weren’t really Confederates? How many people imprisoned (and tortured) (“captured on the battle field!”) have we had to let go because they weren’t really Al Qaeda?

    And you want me to try harder? Really?

  34. #34 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Right, because he said, “I am recruiting for AQ.” And when sued to present evidence that he was a threat of any kind, the government said, “It’s secret. We can’t show you how we know he’s an important person in Al Qaeda, because it’s secret.” Where have you been hiding?

    Oh…I dunno…maybe it was all that radical shit he kept putting on…you know…You Tube…

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/09/awlaki-dead-yemen/
    Whether or not Awlaki in fact had any operational role in al-Qaida, his influence over its propaganda operations is undisputed. For years, Awlaki has preached al-Qaida’s message in English on YouTube. It was a clear propaganda coup for the terrorist network: an American citizen, speaking English, constructed religious arguments for killing his fellow Americans. The administration prevailed on YouTube to take many of Awlaki’s videos down, out of the fear that YouTube trollers would heed the call, but keeping them down has been difficult. A YouTube search on Friday yields several of Awlaki’s conspiracy-soaked sermons.

    Awlaki’s fingerprints are also all over Inspire, al-Qaida’s English-language online magazine, published from Yemen. Several issues have featured interviews with Awlaki or articles he penned. His message has stayed consistent: Muslims have an obligation to attack the perfidious United States. According to the terror-watching organization IntelCenter, Awlaki was working on yet another Inspire piece justifying the killing of innocents, titled “Targeting Populations of Countries at War with Muslims.”

    Sooper seekrit. Can’t find it at all. Nope.

    I guess that includes Glenzilla at Salon.

    By the by, that most definitely is not protected speech…and certainly not in a time of war and in support of a hostile party.

    Okay, then. How many prisoners (“captured on the battle field!”) during WW2 did we have to let go because they weren’t really Nazis?

    We locked up quite a few a few German Americans in detention camps because of their participation in German cultural groups that were suspected of being fronts for the Nazis. Some were detained for years after WW II and then forced to return to Germany…based on little evidence other then hearsay.

    How many prisoners (“captured on the battle field!”) during the Civil War did we have to let go because they weren’t really Confederates? How many people imprisoned (and tortured) (“captured on the battle field!”) have we had to let go because they weren’t really Al Qaeda?</i.

    Nobody gave a shit. Habeous Corpus was suspended and you could be imprisoned for being a loud mouthed Copper Head if the wrong Union officer heard you. Civilians were thrown in military prison camps willy nilly along with suspected Reb sympathizers and bounty jumpers. We have been the veritable model of restraint compared to what you could do at that time. Hell, Lincoln had protesters (and anybody nearby) shot on sight during the New York draft riots.

    Yeah, try harder.

  35. #35 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Note:

    The wiki ariticle on German detention in WW II states all the detainees were German nationals. My understanding was that some naturalized citizens were also detained on suspicion of membership in various “cultural groups”. My recollection may be in error, or the article at Wikipedia may be in error. I do not know which is the case.

  36. #36 |  Mike | 

    “By the by, that most definitely is not protected speech…and certainly not in a time of war and in support of a hostile party.”

    Wrong wrong wrong. All of that is in fact protected speech, as it passes the imminent lawless action test established under Brandenburg v. Ohio. It is (or at least it is supposed to be) perfectly legal for a U.S. citizen to say “You should kill Americans.” It is even supposed to be legal for a U.S. citizen to say “You should kill Americans via bombing airliners.” What isn’t protected speech is for a citizen to say “You should kill Americans via bombing airliners and you should use this type of bomb on this flight at this time.” As for the “certainly not in a time of war” bit…

    Show me where we are in a time of war. Laws matter, rules matter (or at least they are supposed to.) Just because “this is a different threat” and “TERRORISM” doesn’t mean the government gets to do things differently. The Authorization of Use of Military Force was and is not a declaration of war, no matter how much everyone wants it to be. As Juice pointed out above, it seems to have morphed beyond whatever it was originally intended to be and has become a catch all act under which the government can do whatever the fuck it wants as long as it somehow attaches the word “terrorism” in there.

  37. #37 |  Burglars Allday | 

    she sure is going to be surprised when she finds out they put all those tattoos on her when she was deaf.

  38. #38 |  MassHole | 

    Celticdragonchick,

    I’m really don’t understand your point of view here. Are you saying you are willing to give the government the unfettered ability to execute American citizens at will as long as their considered an enemy of the state? Are you OK with this taking place within US borders, because that’s where this is headed? Do you really not see the genie being let out of the bottle here?

  39. #39 |  2nd of 3 | 

    Wrong wrong wrong. All of that is in fact protected speech, as it passes the imminent lawless action test established under Brandenburg v. Ohio. It is (or at least it is supposed to be) perfectly legal for a U.S. citizen to say “You should kill Americans.” It is even supposed to be legal for a U.S. citizen to say “You should kill Americans via bombing airliners.” What isn’t protected speech is for a citizen to say “You should kill Americans via bombing airliners and you should use this type of bomb on this flight at this time.”

    That is exactly what he did through Inspire Magazine. It gives methods, targets, and times to attack. He was waging war against the U.S. And was a legitimate military target so long as he was outside the reach of law enforcement. He was as legitimate target as any other member of AQ.

    I suppose the alternative was what, try him in absentia? That would that have satisfied the legal requirements? I suspect then the argument would shift that he didn’t get to face his accuser or testify, so it would be called a sham trial.

    ight, because he said, “I am recruiting for AQ.” And when sued to present evidence that he was a threat of any kind, the government said, “It’s secret. We can’t show you how we know he’s an important person in Al Qaeda, because it’s secret.” Where have you been hiding

    WTF? Are you saying he was waterboarded in a confession, or his volumes of videos and writings are faked by the government, or he was mentally ill and making shit up, or the government air dropped him into Yemen to have an excuse to waste a cruise missile? What exactly are you suggesting is the alternative explaination here? He was just a poor preacher who fell into the situation through a series of Forrest Gump-esque misunderstandings?

  40. #40 |  2nd of 3 | 

    Okay, i obviously have a greatly different viewpoint. Fine, we’ll probably never agree. My question: is this materially different from the UBL assaassination? Had he been sentenced to death by a court? Was there non governmental proof he did anything more than exercise freedom of speech? Yes, he wasn’t a citizen but if the worry is due process and proof then citizenship should be irrelevant. Did that assassination raise questions as well?

  41. #41 |  albatross | 

    celticdragonchick:

    Let’s imagine two parallel situations to try to untangle this a bit:

    a. Dozens of witnesses observe a guy murdering his wife. The guy then flees across a border and is hiding out in some country that won’t extradite him to us. Is it okay for the president to review both the public evidence (say, videotapes) and the private evidence (say, police reports), and then order a death squad to cross the border and assassinate the guy?

    The core element here is that I’m assuming the guy is really guilty, and asking whether the president has the authority to judge him guilty and have him executed on his authority alone. My answer is no–the president doesn’t have the legal authority to do this, although I have no doubt he has guys working for him who will kill almost anyone he orders them to kill. (I imagine it would be hard for Obama to get anyone to follow orders to kill, say, Mitt Romney or John Boehner.) Justice would be served in this particular case by having the guy killed, but the cause of justice would not be served by giving the president the power to decide on his own that some guy needs killing and have it done on his own authority, because that would be misused. (Compare this with the main argument against lynchmobs–it’s not that they will never hang a guilty man, but rather that their false positive rate is much too high.)

    Now, I’ve eliminated the element of war here. So maybe war is the thing that makes the difference. So, let’s make up another situation:

    b. We’re in the middle of the cold war, and we’re also fighting the Communists in Vietnam. There is an American who is living outside the US, perhaps in Sweden. This American is making propaganda for the Soviets–he’s editing a Communist Party newspaper that urges workers to unite and overthrow the capitalist system. Can the president, again on his say-so alone, decide that this American deserves to die, and order a death squad to go to Sweden and knock the guy off? Is this a legitimate power of the president? And is it good policy?

    Here, we have a shooting war going on somewhere (Vietnam instead of Afghanistan), and a larger ideological/spy agency/political battle going on across all the planet. And this guy is clearly a propagandist for the other side. Is it okay to have him knocked off?

    Again, I say no. I think it’s bad policy on many levels, but the most basic is that I don’t want to give the president or the spy agencies or the military the power to decide what Americans are or aren’t allowed to say or write. If that is to be decided at all, it needs to be decided in court, based on evidence. The assertion that the administration is convinced he deserves to die isn’t enough, and will never be enough.

    The potential abuses here are real and scary. Glenn Greenwald is a citizen living abroad and is supporting the rights of many enemies of the US, and criticizing US policy pretty routinely. Why can’t he be assassinated? How about American citizens who go to the middle east to protest Israel’s treatment of the people living in Gaza? How about Americans living abroad who are volunteering for Wikileaks? How about Americans who go hang out with Hugo Chavez and make anti-American statements on the Venezuelan press. (Just now, I think Chavez mainly would like American oncologists to come hang around with him, rather than actors.) The next time Noam Chomsky goes overseas to give a talk, can Obama order him killed?

    Again, “that would be bad policy” isn’t much of an answer, because we’re talking about what powers the president should have. If the president has that power, we’d better assume it will often be used in ways we’re not too thrilled with, that it will sometimes be stretched to the limits of what we think the power really is, etc. That certainly fits what we saw from the Bush administration.

    It’s not enough to say “because that would be a bad, evil, crazy decision,” unless you think the president and his people will never make bad or evil or crazy decisions, which requires ignoring a great deal of the last decade. Whatever power Obama has in this regard will also be held by all his successors, whether good or bad people, whatever their ideas and belief and inclinations.

  42. #42 |  Rick H. | 

    albatross said it very well, but I’d like to respond to the following phrase which seems to invariably attach to all arguments for Presidential omnipotence:

    “in a time of war”

    Within an endless war, the concept of “time” is irrelevant. The last decade has shown me that, for the US military and its political puppeteers, peacetime will never come.

  43. #43 |  Jim | 

    When has there ever been peace, real peace, in the USA? The government has been at war of some sort or another since the very beginning, be it against Redcoats, Injuns, Canadians, Mexicans, Southerners, more Injuns, the Spanish, Phillipinos, various Central and South American countries, the Germans, booze, the Japs and Germans again, Commies everywhere, drugs, now various Middle Eastern and African countries and Islam everywhere. Peace? The US worships at the altar of Ares. Most Americans love war. With a track record like that, what else could it be?

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