March 9, 2012
Earlier in the week, Obama’s attorney general admitted that the Fifth Amendment is a dead letter and the president can kill anybody he wants without due process. “In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out, and we will not,” Eric Holder said during a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago.
FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday came off as a constitutional illiterate when he said he would have to check with the Justice Department to see if Holder’s criteria for summary execution was permitted on U.S. soil.
“I have to go back. Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not,” Mueller told Rep. Tom Graves.
Constitutional scholar Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School recently put the issue into perspective. “The U.S. government has now established a ‘death list’ for U.S. citizens abroad akin to those established by Latin American dictatorships during their so-called dirty wars,” he told IPS.
Our version of a Latin American fascist dictatorship with Generalissimo Obama presiding has just about finished off the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The NDAA and a long list of constitutional violations predating the Patriot Act are now coming to a head.
After government invests itself with such self-proclaimed power, the next step is usually the disappearance of political enemies and mass graves.
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By Pete Williams, NBC News Justice Correspondent
The U.S. government is legally justified in killing its own citizens overseas if they are involved in plotting terror attacks against America, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday, offering the Obama administration’s most detailed explanation so far of its controversial targeted killing program.
“In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out, and we will not,” he said in remarks prepared for a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago.
An American-born Islamic cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen in late September. Some civil liberties groups condemned the attack. Others, including members of Congress, called for a more complete explanation of how such a targeted killing of an American civilian was consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
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The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life” without due process of law. But that due process, Holder said, doesn’t necessarily come from a court.
“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process,” the attorney general said.
Holder said a U.S. citizen can legally be targeted in a foreign country if that person is “a senior leader of al-Qaida or associated forces,” and is actively involved in planning to kill Americans. Killing would be justified if the person poses an imminent threat of a violent attack against the U.S. and cannot easily be captured.
Any military operation targeting a citizen overseas must be carried out consistent with the law of war. “The principle of humanity requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering,” he said.
The ACLU called Holder’s explanation “a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny.”
“Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.
“Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power,” she said.
The ACLU is suing the Obama administration, seeking to have documents regarding the targeted killing program made public.
Holder said it makes no legal difference that a U.S. citizen is targeted away from a traditional battlefield. “We are at war with a stateless enemy,” he said.
While the U.S.-born cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, was at first believed to be merely an English speaking propagandist for the Yemen based group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. officials say he gradually assumed an operational role in the terror group.
According to federal prosecutors, Umar Abdul Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, told FBI interrogators that al Awlaki was deeply involved in planning his attempted bombing of a Detroit bound passenger jet on Christmas day in 2009.
Holder said Abdulmutallab told the FBI of “al Awlaki’s specific instructions to wait until the airplane was over the United States before detonating the bomb.”
The attorney general told the law students that the government is under no legal obligation to delay a targeted killing operation until a terrorist plotter is in the process of carrying out an actual attack.
“The Constitution does not require the president to delay action until some theoretical end stage of planning, when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear,” he said.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$4FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday said he would have to go back and check with the Department of Justice whether Attorney General Eric Holder’s “three criteria” for the targeted killing of Americans also applied to Americans inside the U.S.Pressed by House lawmakers about a recent speech in which Holder described the legal justification for assassination, Mueller, who was attending a hearing on his agency’s budget, did not say without qualification that the three criteria could not be applied inside the U.S.“I have to go back. Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not,” Mueller said when asked by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., about a distinction between domestic and foreign targetingGraves followed up asking whether “from a historical perspective,” the federal government has “the ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil or just overseas.”“I’m going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice,” Mueller replied.Indeed, Holder’s Monday speech at Northwestern University seemed to leave the door open. While Holder speaks of Americans who lead al Qaeda overseas, the implications of the speech seem broad.“First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles,” Holder said.Holder said the feasibility of capturing a U.S. citizen terrorist is “fact-specific and potentially time-sensitive.”“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force,” he said.Three Americans were killed last year when lethal force was used against American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki is credited with helping plot the foiled Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and inspiring the Fort Hood shooting. The two others killed — his son and a cohort who published his online terror magazine “Inspire” — were considered by the U.S. to be collateral damage.Asked about Mueller’s response, the Justice Department said the answer is “pretty straightforward.”“The legal framework (Holder) laid out applies to U.S. citizens outside of U.S.,” said a spokeswoman pulling excerpts from the attorney general’s speech.Holder said the circumstance were legal when it is a case of “an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans.The circumstances “are sufficient under the Constitution for the United States to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen abroad,” Holder added.However, the attorney general, referencing legal authority in the War on Terror that dates back to the George W. Bush administration, said the Obama administration is not bound to a particular battlefield.“Neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan,” he said.Holder argued in his remarks that it is “simply not accurate” that the president must get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen terrorist.“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process,” he said.But Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday that Holder’s remarks not only would be seen by the framers of the Constitution as “the very definition of authoritarian power,” but were met “not with outcry but muted applause.”“Holder’s new definition of ‘due process’ was perfectly Orwellian,” Turley wrote. “What Holder is describing is a model of an imperial presidency that would have made Richard Nixon blush. …“Where due process once resided, Holder offered only an assurance that the president would kill citizens with care. While that certainly relieved any concern that Obama would hunt citizens for sport, Holder offered no assurances on how this power would be used in the future beyond the now all-too-familiar ‘trust us’ approach to civil liberties of this administration,” he wrote.Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/03/07/mueller-have-to-check-with-holder-whether-targeted-killing-rule-is-outside-us/#ixzz1odWBhDbh$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$RIGHTS
Legal Experts Slam “Targeted Killings” of US Citizens
NEW YORK, 5 Feb (IPS) – Civil liberties advocates and legal authorities struck back Friday at what they describe as the “deliberate targeted killing of U.S. citizens far away from any active hostilities, as long as the executive branch determines unilaterally that they meet a secret definition of who the enemy is.”
In an admission that took the intelligence community and its critics by surprise, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a congressional hearing Wednesday that the U.S. may, with executive approval, deliberately target and kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of being involved in terrorism.
The American Civil Liberties Union is among those expressing serious concern about the lack of public information about the policy and the potential for abuse of unchecked executive power.
Attorney George Brent Mickum, who has defended a number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, told IPS, “I guess my sense is that it’s just more fear mongering. They kill somebody and don’t need to offer any justification.”
“We have killed thousands of innocent civilians while attempting to target alleged operatives. And let us not forget how frequently our intelligence has been wrong about alleged operatives,” Mickum noted.
He added, “My clients Bisher al Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, Martin Mubanga, abu Zubaydah, and Shaker Aamer all are alleged to have been operatives based on intel. In every case that intel was incorrect. I don’t have any expectation that our intel with respect to alleged American operatives is likely to be any better.”
Another constitutional scholar, Professor Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School, told IPS that “this extrajudicial execution of human beings” violates both international human rights law and the fifth amendment of the U.S. constitution.
“The U.S. government has now established a ‘death list’ for U.S. citizens abroad akin to those established by Latin American dictatorships during their so-called dirty wars,” he said.
The human rights advocacy community was equally forceful in its pushback. Daphne Eviatar, an attorney with Human Rights First, told IPS, “The short answer is that combatants can be targeted and civilians cannot under international law. Their citizenship isn’t relevant. But just being a ‘suspected terrorist’ doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a combatant.”
She added, “The key question, and where there may be serious disagreement, is whether the person targeted is ‘directly participating in hostilities’. If not, and they’re targeted, it’s a war crime.”
Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defence Committee, told IPS, “As with its embrace of the [George W.] Bush approach to indefinite detention, the Obama administration’s even greater reliance on targeted extra-judicial killing – including of U.S. citizens – is a tragic legal, moral, and practical mistake.”
“Even for those who accept the legitimacy of the death penalty, this further undermines the rule of law that is our best weapon in the fight against true terrorists, while completely subverting due process and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens,” he said.
Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said, “It is alarming to hear that the Obama administration is asserting that the president can authorise the assassination of Americans abroad, even if they are far from any battlefield and may have never taken up arms against the U.S., but have only been deemed to constitute an unspecified ‘threat.’”
Testifying before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Blair said, “We take direct action against terrorists in the intelligence community.”
He said U.S. counterterrorism officials may try to kill U.S. citizens embroiled in extremist groups overseas with “specific permission” from higher up.
In response to questions from the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, Blair said, if “we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.”
Blair’s remarks followed a Washington Post article reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama had embraced his predecessor’s policy of authorising the killing of U.S. citizens involved in terrorist activities overseas.
The Post reported that “After the Sep. 11, 2001, 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 example, has to pose ‘a continuing and imminent threat’ to U.S. persons and interests.”
The Obama administration appears to have adopted exactly the same policy as its predecessor.
The Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials, said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command have three U.S. citizens on their lists of specific people targeted for killing or capture.
Blair said he was offering such unusually detailed information in public because “I just don’t want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless.”
Blair didn’t specifically articulate the standards he used, saying only that “We don’t target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.”
Hoekstra cited an incident in 2001 in which Peru’s air force shot down a plane carrying U.S. missionaries, killing a woman and her seven-month-old daughter, after the aircraft was misidentified as a drug-smuggler.
“We were careless and we were reckless,” Blair replied. “I want to make sure that this committee does everything that it can and within its power that it does not allow the community to be reckless and careless again.”
The Washington Post story, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dana Priest, revealed that, “In November 2002, a CIA missile strike killed six al Qaeda operatives driving through the desert. The target was Abu Ali al-Harithi, organiser of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Killed with him was a U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, who the CIA knew was in the car.”
The article says, “Word that the CIA had purposefully killed Derwish drew attention to the unconventional nature of the new conflict and to the secret legal deliberations over whether killing a U.S. citizen was legal and ethical.”