Obama’s assassination list may spell trouble for political dissidents
To the best of my knowledge, President Obama is the only Nobel Peace Prize recipient who has ever maintained a kill list. The recent release of the Department of Justice’s so-called “white paper,” outlining some of the criteria the federal government uses to decide whom to send drone strikes against, has brought this back into the limelight.
I am reminded of some of the words Obama spoke of concerning armed conflict during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct.”
It is the very nature of these rules that is of utmost importance. From basically endorsing situations of infinite detention to ordering drone strikes against citizens without securing a guilty verdict through the court system (both contrary to the Fifth Amendment), it appears the rules Obama binds himself with are not those of the Constitution. It’s notable that Obama has adopted a similar foreign policy to that which he criticized Bush, Jr., of using.
The DOJ white-paper establishes that a situation must meet three criteria before a U.S. official authorizes an assassination. Such a situation exists “(1) where an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) where a capture would be infeasible—and where those conducting the operation continue to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) where such an operation is conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles,” which are detailed as “necessity,” “distinction,” “proportionality,” and “humanity.”
The issue with each of the aforementioned criteria, other than them being highly subjective, is that they require we put complete trust in the ethics and judgment of Obama and his administration. If we could grant that trust, we would hardly need a Constitution in the first place. In addition, the list of criteria employs a subtle but extremely important role reversal. As opposed to the criminal justice system—requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt inside a court system—the white-paper system places the burden of proof on the soon-to-be-killed.
I don’t have the expertise to determine whether the arguments outlined on the white-paper are actually legal. If they are, I would reckon it would still go far against the intent of the Constitutional framers. Even if the Obama administration is legitimately legally able to conduct this type of policy, legality does not necessarily beget appropriate policy. The point, though, is that the adoption of this increased police state, one without suitable due process, may result in the abolition of political freedom.
The Obama administration has at least thrice labeled pro-life people and conservatives, either implicitly or directly, as having an ideology associated with terrorism. A Department of Homeland Security document from January 2012 labels “extreme right-wing” individuals as having an ideology associated with potential terrorism. What’s so extreme about them being on the right-wing? Oh, just things like being “suspicious of centralized federal authority” or being “reverent of individual liberty.” Apparently the Obama administration isn’t aware that failure to question authority is often logically fallacious.
Do I believe pro-life people are going to be droned to death next week? Certainly not, but while the denial of proper due process to citizens located outside the United States is not sufficient to endorse similar treatment of people domestically, it is an incremental step. If the president can order an assassination of a U.S. citizen suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda, how many safeguards are there left to prevent him from using the National Defense Authorization Act to indefinitely detain somebody for believing something extremely radical like that oh-so-archaic belief that human beings should be guaranteed the right to life?
Over the past hundred years, the powers assumed by the federal government have grown at a tremendous rate. I am no sympathizer with members of Al-Qaeda, but trading endowed liberty for securities—pseudo or otherwise—is a dangerous move. After all, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”