Anwar al-Awlaki

Holder’s Drone Memo: More Questions Than Answers

In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.

Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.

1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”

Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?

Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries.  Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.

The Inexcusable Brennan Hearing

In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious.  It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.

As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens.  The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.

Today in Liberty: Obama secretly argued against your Constitutional rights; Republicans will decide Cochran vs. McDaniel today

“Political success over time is determined by the number and effectiveness of activists on either side.” — Morton Blackwell, founder and president of the Leadership Institute

— You have no constitutional rights: Because they can be revoked by the federal government whenever we’re at war. At least that’s what the Obama administration argued in the July 2010 legal memo it used to justify the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. “We do not believe that [al-Awlaki’s] U.S. citizenship imposes constitutional limitations that would preclude the contemplated lethal action under the facts represented to us by DoD, the CIA and the Intelligence Community,” the memo says (begins on p. 67). “Based upon the facts represented to us, moreover, the target of the contemplated operation has engaged in conduct as part of that organization that brings him within the scope of the AUMF.” More here. Two things about the memo. Once we begin sacrificing constitutional protections, for whatever reason, we begin going down a very dangerous road. But let’s remember that this isn’t the first step down that road, just the most recent. The other point is that David Barron, the author of this memo, was recently confirmed by Senate Democrats to serve on the First District Court of Appeals.

Ted Cruz demands access to memo outlining how Obama can kill Americans

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) move last fall to go nuclear on the filibuster didn’t just undermine the rights of the minority in the chamber, it has also helped the Obama administration continue its pernicious habit of keeping members of Congress and the American people in the dark.

President Barack Obama nominated David Barron in September 2013 to fill a seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Barron briefly served in the administration, from January 2009 to July 2010, as acting assistant attorney general.

During his stint at the Justice Department, Barron, a critic of President George W. Bush’s use of executive power, wrote a memo outlining the legal case for the targeted drone assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen accused of terrorist activity. The drones memo, which has been used to assassinate other Americans, is now at the center of his confirmation to a lifetime seat on the federal bench.

Today in Liberty: House to vote on Ryan budget, Second Amendment hero passes away

“Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff. That’s it, in a nutshell. Everyone should be free to live their lives as they think best, free from meddling by politicians and government bureaucrats, as long as they don’t hurt other people, or take other people’s stuff.”Matt Kibbe

— White House suggests amendment to limit free speech: While Shaun McCutcheon was touting last week’s big win for the First Amendment, White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer preached doom and gloom, suggesting that a constitutional amendment to limit free speech “may be the only option” to undo recent court rulings.

Obama Makes a Mockery of Due Process, DOJ Memo Justifies Targeted Killing

Imagine that you live in a country that is run by a powerful handful of people that can order the death of any of its citizens, at any time, for any given reason without ever pressing charges against that citizen or bringing him or her to justice.

Imagine that this country you live in has apologists picked by the democratically elected president telling you and your family that what the president decides to do, should be done, whether you like it or not. They claim that his decisions should be supported by you, whether you think that what he’s doing is right or not, or even if what he chooses to do doesn’t represent you or your loved ones in the slightest.

This country is the United States of America, and the handful of people ruling our resources and citizens have a hit list of Americans and non-Americans they can kill at any given time, for any given reason, without due process.

The president’s apologists also want you to believe that that’s okay, he knows exactly what he’s doing and you shouldn’t be afraid.

According to a Washington Post report, President Obama’s hit list, which goes by the title “disposition matrix,” included at least three Americans. During President George W. Bush’s administration, an intelligence official claimed that he “did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing.” Under Obama, at least three American names are known to have been part of the hit list.

After Obama’s Speech, Many Questions on Drones Still Unanswered

President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University yesterday was arguably one of the most important – and most consequential – of his Presidency. His nine pages of remarks on counterterrorism operations specifically focused on drone policy and the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and seemed to signal a shift (of some sort) to end the War on Terror against specific groups, but to continue a war against radicalized ideology.

I’ll discuss GTMO in a later post. On drone policy, President Obama addressed many of the questions I posed yesterday in my post at United Liberty; but addressing is not the same as answering. Many of those questions remain unanswered; worse yet, I’m afraid this is the best we will get on drone policy.

To be fair, Obama is in the unenviable position of making actual life-and-death decisions on national security. Mistakes will be made, and his challenge is to minimize mistakes. In his own words:

Obama discusses drone policy in Google+ Hangout

Barack Obama

During a Google+ Hangout yesterday, Lee Doren, a good guy and libertarian, asked President Barack Obama about his administration’s use of drones against American citizens.

“A lot of people are very concerned that your administration now believes it’s legal to have drone strikes against American citizens and whether or not that specifically with citizens within the United States,” Doren stated. “And if that’s not true, what will you do to create a legal framework to make American citizens within the United States know that drone strikes cannot be used against American citizens?”

“There has never been a drone used on an American citizen, on American soil. We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States,” President Obama replied. “The rules outside of the United States are gonna be different from the rules inside the United States — in part because our capacity to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

Noting oversight of the program, President Obama explained he was going to work with Congress to provide “mechanisms to make sure the public understands” the drones program. Obama added, “I am not somebody who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants — or whatever she wants — just under the guise of counter-terrorism.”

Drone Nation: Interesting Facts About Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Charles Sipe is Executive Editor of Criminal Justice Degree Schools where he manages news coverage of the latest topics in the criminal justice field. He is also a graduate of University of Washington and US Army basic training.

A groundswell of opposition and concern has risen regarding the growing military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack suspected terrorists overseas which has included American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki last fall. The idea of faceless killer machines flying overhead is no longer a figment of science fiction. Earlier this year, Congress approved the use of drones in U.S. airspace that could lead to the widespread proliferation of drones above U.S. soil. The following infographic provides some important facts that you should know about military drones.


Infographic by Criminal Justice Degree Schools


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