Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama Retains Authority to Assassinate U.S. Citizens

From Dana Priest's piece in the Washington Post today (emphasis mine):

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. The evidence has to meet a certain, defined threshold. The person, for instance, has to pose "a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests," said one former intelligence official.

The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, "it doesn't really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them," a senior administration official said. "They are then part of the enemy."

Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added.

This quote was toward the end of a larger article that discusses the growing military involvement of the United States in Yemen and is quite alarming.

The article claims that the Obama Administration has adopted the same view as the Bush Administration in their authority to target and kill U.S. citizens that they suspect of being terrorists. No formal charges, no trial, just authority to strike and kill those U.S. Citizens who the Government unilaterally labels as terrorists.

As Priest mentions, there is apparently a short-list with American names on it, that allows for zero evidence to be presented in order to verify the claims of the Government. Similar to why it is troubling to imprison detainees indefinitely without charge, it is just as troubling to learn that the President has determined that he has the authority kill U.S. citizens without any process of proving guilt.

From where does the Presidential authority for this kind of legal discretion derive? All those who had a problem with the Bush Administration for these kinds of abuses of power should have equal qualms with the Obama Administration for continuing these same actions.

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