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The constitutional and legal justification for killing Americans abroad should not be a state secret.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
President Obama and Republican congressional leaders rarely agree about anything these days. What a shame that when they do find something, it happens to be one of the most odious legacies of the Bush administration that Obama now has embraced.
A recently leaked white paper outlines the administration’s justification for using drone aircraft to kill alleged terrorists, including at least two American citizens.
The rationale basically goes that when Americans are working with terrorists overseas and the administration deems them a threat, America can kill them.
If that sort of imperial prerogative sounds familiar, it should. Not so long ago, the Bush administration used similar reasoning to justify indefinite detention and torture.
Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, criticized such tactics and President Bush’s lame justifications for them.
Now those past critics support the president. Across the political aisle, Republicans would display deep hypocrisy if they criticized that which they once defended so vehemently. Indeed, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Sen. Lindsey Graham back Obama on this one, terrible thing.
Meanwhile, the public remains in the dark. The leaked white paper outlines the argument, but the administration withholds the full legal justification along with records related to how it decides which Americans deserve death and how many have been killed.
Legal reasoning has, it seems, become a state secret. It is one thing to protect actionable intelligence and specifics that could reveal sources or techniques. Providing the full constitutional and legal justification, however, would not compromise security.
It is frighteningly easy to look the other way and allow the executive branch to carry out such terrible acts. National security is not free, after all.
America’s moral core has eroded if the public will sit idly by while the rule of law and due process are trampled by those sworn to uphold them. Surely the Founding Fathers never envisioned a president so powerful that he could order the death of a citizen without judicial review or even a need to explain his decision publicly.
Americans must demand accountability. If we are to walk this course as a nation, as moral beings, we must do it together. Allow an informed public to decide for itself if this is truly the nation we wish to become.
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