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License to kill?
February 9, 2010 7:46 PM   Subscribe

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told representatives that American citizens can be assassinated by the US government when they are oveseas. Blair said the comments were intended to “reassure” Americans that there was a “set of defined policy and legal procedures” in place... (via antiwar.com)

"Whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us, whether that American has -- is a threat to other Americans. Those are the factors involved." Blair explained. "We don't target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans."

According to U.S. officials, only a handful of Americans would be eligible for targeting by U.S. intelligence or military operations. The legal guidance is determined by the National Security Council and the Justice Department.
posted by 445supermag (104 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is my reassured face.
posted by enn at 7:52 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sure! If you're hanging around with Taliban bigwigs, you can expect a hellfire missile down the snoot at any time.

Why is this particularly scandalous?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:53 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Governments forget, with alarming frequency, that they exist purely at the mercy of the law, and not vice versa.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


you can expect a hellfire missile down the snoot at any time.

I think you've got your snoot on backwards.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:55 PM on February 9, 2010


Because hanging around with people is a constitutionally guaranteed right? As is the right to a trial and so on.
posted by polyhedron at 7:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.

Wait, but isn't assassination one of those kinds of actions that threatens Americans?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


Sure! If you're hanging around with Taliban bigwigs, you can expect a hellfire missile down the snoot at any time.

Well, there is a difference between "hanging around" and getting blown up when they are attacked, and being deliberately targeted because someone had the idea that you're a "high ranking al-quada operative", but is too lazy to try to arrest you and actually put you on trial.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


American citizens can be assassinated by the US government when they are oveseas

This sounds a lot more alarming than it really is. Why would the American people's right of self-defence not apply with respect to traitors? You really want the U.S. not to send a hellfire missile up the ass of some al Qaeda meeting in Pakistan because the CIA happens to think that an American jihadi is present? Really? Assassination is a loaded word - we're talking about military strikes against terrorists. Such strikes are legitimate irrespective of whether the combatant is a foreigner or a traitor.
posted by Dasein at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I prefer the term "alleged traitor". I think it provides a bit better perspective on what's really happening. I.e., that just because you are overseas, you are no longer afforded Due Process of Law, etc.
posted by darkstar at 8:03 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like it's a good idea to force high-level review for this situation instead of letting a low-level CIA operative decide whether to let the missiles fly.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:05 PM on February 9, 2010


Because hanging around with people is a constitutionally guaranteed right? As is the right to a trial and so on.

Not if it's treasonous, it isn't.

Granny Owens, having saved all her life, finally takes that dream vacation in Paris. She doesn't have to worry about being gunned down by the CIA while walking along the Seine. That isn't what he's talking about.

"Hey, you in the Taliban stronghold. This is the US Army. We're about to assault the place and kill most of you, but before we do so we'd like to know if there are any US citizens in there. Because if there are, then we can't attack and we'll have to go fight somewhere else." He also isn't saying that. What he's saying is that the Army is going to go ahead and assault the place and follow through on its plan to kill a lot of them, even if it turns out later that one or two of them are from Detroit.

Again I ask: what is so scandalous about that?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


From this link:
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has maintained an assassination list of U.S. citizens for the last eight year and has actually assassinated Americans, according to January 27 Washington Post story.

So yeah. It happened. Here we are, in the dark days of The List. Life might not be the same anymore?

Or maybe this isn't, as people have mentioned, as alarming as it seems. That article had a lot of shock talk. "Unusually frank" language was mentioned, and it is now "become more apparent that some extremists may be U.S. citizens." More apparent? I find it sad that the news makes it seem like the public needs these sporadic domestic terror issues to remember we do indeed have extremists recruiting in this country. Do we really need that?
posted by deacon_blues at 8:05 PM on February 9, 2010


Dark Star, if you are fighting against the US Army, you are not entitled to due process of law. At that point you're an enemy combatant no matter what citizenship you hold.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:07 PM on February 9, 2010


I think we could all settle this quickly if someone would point out the part of the constitution that states that a US citizen outside the country no longer has constitutional rights.
posted by mullingitover at 8:08 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


USC 2381:"whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States."
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like mullingitover, I'm curious about how precisely this is squared with the Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution:
Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Clause 2: The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Call me old fashioned.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: Dark Star, if you are fighting against the US Army, you are not entitled to due process of law. At that point you're an enemy combatant no matter what citizenship you hold.

Due process of law is what we would use to determine whether or not someone is fighting against the US to begin with. Or maybe we should be content to shoot first and ask questions later...
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Kudos to Hoekstra (R-Land of the Potentially Sane) for pressing this issue, although I'm not sure there is an actual new legal threshold here. This is less about legalities and more about rules of engagement and civilian control. The point Blair is making is that in Chocolate Pickle's scenario, we were already going to assault the hell out of the place, but they have instituted a procedure ensuring that they have civilian oversight -- implied at the executive level -- making sure that this meets legal and political requirements.
posted by dhartung at 8:22 PM on February 9, 2010


OOH OOH YES THE SHOOTY ONE I PICK THE SHOOTY ONE. I'm bored now - I can haz another war?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:24 PM on February 9, 2010


Let me clarify somethign for you: Blair is saying that it is legal in the United States for the United States government to kill an American outsideof the United States. But it is still completely illegal to do so in the country where that American happens to be.

But all clandestine activity outside of US jurisdiction is illegal in the local jurisdiction. You think it's legal for the NSA to listen in on calls from Russia? Or to harass and coerce people into becoming spies? All of this stuff is illegal. The fact that the government does it under the auspices of some law means they can't be held accountable for those actions in the US.

So the government has the same right to kill Americans in other countries that you do. You can kill anyone you want. The only difference is that you don't have the resources to get away with these crimes on a consistent and prolonged basis.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Due process of law is what we would use to determine whether or not someone is fighting against the US to begin with.

Did you miss the "fighting against the US Army" part in the bit you quoted?
posted by Cyrano at 8:31 PM on February 9, 2010


Look. I just want to know if they will send ninjas after me if I go to Mexico. I have a couple of outstanding warrants for selling teeshirts at concerts in Philly at a Tull concert. I don't mind ninjas. But i have to know if I should watch my back.

And I have skills. The first few ninjas are dead. You hear me? DEAD!

Then the last guy gets me because I'm wounded and tired.

And we talk. He stands over me with his sword at my throat. And he says.

Why did you run?

And I say, I didn't run. I'm here for a vacation. I just wanted cheap margaritas at the pool.

And he says, Hold on.

Then he checks his satellite radio and says, Oh shit. Sorry, I thought you were an enemy of the good old USA. But you're just a common asshole.

And I relax, thinking I'm okay.

And he shoots me with his sword and cuts my head off with his gun.

And my girlfriend goes home in a coffin crying in her hanky.

Or something.

Yay,USA!
posted by Splunge at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Again I ask: what is so scandalous about that?

That, frankly, I don't trust the US government to differentiate between your scenario and, "there's this American citizen who's in Pakistan, and we think he's in league with Al-Qaeda, but we can't prove it, so let's just gun him down when we get a chance." Because, given the chance, the government is going to be a lot more tempted to do the latter if they feel they're allowed.
posted by deanc at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Assassination is a loaded word - we're talking about military strikes against terrorists.

I like how "assassination" is a loaded word, but "terrorists" isn't. This is about assassination of people who someone at some point may have claimed to be terrorists.
posted by stammer at 8:42 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel: "So the government has the same right to kill Americans in other countries that you do. You can kill anyone you want. The only difference is that you don't have the resources to get away with these crimes on a consistent and prolonged basis."

Ah, the zeroth commandment: Everything is legal as long as you don't get caught.
posted by mullingitover at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Terrorist is a word used by people who are talking about the other guy.
posted by Splunge at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hundreds of times per year in the US, a criminal will pull out a gun and start shooting at police, and the police will return fire and kill the criminal.

The dead criminal wasn't tried and sentenced to death before the police returned fire. There isn't time for that.

The courts have long since ruled that it is perfectly legal for the police to do this. The constitution does not forbid it. A criminal in that situation doesn't have a right to be captured alive when he's trying to kill police.

How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 PM on February 9, 2010


Ah, the zeroth commandment: Everything is legal as long as you don't get caught.

This is one thing that should keep this policy from getting out of control, in part because the CIA is too incompetent to pull off these operations without exposing themselves.
posted by deanc at 8:49 PM on February 9, 2010


let's conduct a thought experiment shall we:

Consider the case of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Suppose instead of conducting a criminal investigation and careful trial, the US government decided to begin sending "hellfire missiles up the ass" of any "militia" or "white supremacist" meeting in the rugged mountains of Western North America where agents of said government thought attacks were being discussed. Because it's not as if religious wackos weren't plotting attacks against the U.S. government on U.S. soil and hadn't just blown up a large building in the middle of a U.S. city?

Now ask yourself, having engaged in this 'war on terror' against white christian racists, do you think there would be more or less violent extremism in the western provinces of the United States?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:50 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?"

We're talking about a hit list of people who are on a 'hit list' that the government would like to seek out and kill, not people who are an immediate threat to military personnel.
posted by mullingitover at 8:51 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hundreds of times per year in the US, a criminal will pull out a gun and start shooting at police, and the police will return fire and kill the criminal.... How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?

As Blair said, this does not relate to returning fire. It relates to people who may be "involved in a group" that may be "trying" to commit violence. Police are not allowed to sneak up on and kill such people, and certainly are not allowed to send remote-controll robots to kill them.
posted by stammer at 8:52 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?

If you're shooting at me I shoot at you? Is that okay? I don't give a flying fuck who you are. I shoot you. You or me.
posted by Splunge at 8:54 PM on February 9, 2010


According to US intelligence officials, the Obama Administration has “missed” several opportunities to assassinate US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki because lawyers are still unclear on the legality of killing him.

At issue is that Awlaki, a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric, is not charged with any crimes under US law and is only speculatively linked by the Obama Administration to terrorism through secret “intelligence reports.”

posted by 445supermag at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cyrano: Did you miss the "fighting against the US Army" part in the bit you quoted?

You and Chocolate Pickle are making some assumptions here that I don't agree with. If there is a US citizen who is firing on the armed forces, I don't think that anyone would fault the army for shooting back. However, I've read nothing that indicates that's the extent of what Dennis Blair is talking about. Whether you mean it or not, your statements are a complete misdirection.

I imagine that most targets for assassination aren't people who have directly taken up arms against the military. They are people who the intelligence community believe have taken part in 'terrorist activities'. Answer me this: What is the definition of a terrorist activity? What activities do you have to be involved in to be justifiably killed by the US government? What should the burden of proof be in determining whether or not the intelligence gathered on you is factually correct?

Basically Blair is saying that no trials are needed, and that they just need super-secret permission to kill US citizens. I don't think that's enough. If the intelligence community has an iron-clad case against someone, why can't they capture the suspect, put them on trial, and then execute them for treason if there's enough evidence to prove guilt? And if they don't think they can actually prove guilt (which is what this whole thing sounds like) should they really be killing people?
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Uh, yea, but this may not be right, and this may not be proper... Non lethal techniques ARE more popular today than they were 20 years ago... will this same change in "lethality of response" not likely come to the "battlefield" next?
But hey, you like it, so it's a go?
Ummm, the difference being that there will be an INVESTIGATION if this happens, and the truth of the situation will be public.

How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?
They may not BE traitors... just mistakenly thought to be "traitors"? Is this not even a possibility to you?
posted by infinite intimation at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2010


They may not BE traitors... just mistakenly thought to be "traitors"? Is this not even a possibility to you?

Let's try a thought experiment:

Are they shooting at me?

BANG. Dead.

Okay?
posted by Splunge at 8:59 PM on February 9, 2010


How weirdly Obamaesque. Regardless of your opinion of whether it is right to target these terrorists or not, it is positively amazing to see this debate in the open. Bush would have hidden this behind a wall. Obama totally answered the question. And that gives opponents of the policy to actually make their arguments and the proponents of the policy to make theirs. Pretty amazing if you think about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, if someone who is an American Citizen just happens to be hanging out at a meeting of some serious bad shit terrorist organization and just happens to get blown up when we Mk84 their secret jungle compound (or wherever these guys hang out) I don't think anyone here is going to get all weepy for them.

The problem is that Mr. Blair works for the same United States that was more or less pushing to define the Sierra Club as a terrorist organization not too long ago, where methamphetamine has been called a weapon of mass destruction and where news of the police breaking down someone's front door and shooting their pets because they can't be bothered to double check the address on their warrant is not exactly unheard of. Given that backdrop, the fact that he's sort of preemptively excusing himself and his organization for wacking Splunge while he's loaded up on cheap margaritas is pretty damn scandalous.

Also, fighting and dying in a military action != being assassinated.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This sounds like ass covering. As more and more Americans get radicalizied and go overseas, (note to selves, rethink entire criminal justice system) and our drones get better and better some of those Americans get kablooied, well, this gives the US at least a place to start legaly justifying it.

I'm not saying I like it. In fact, I dislike the whole miserable ball of wax. There is a reality disconnect, each side feeding the jingoistic fears of the other, and the killing methods get better on both sides, and stupid humans get caught up in simplistic ideas or mindless protocol and KABLOOIE.
posted by vrakatar at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2010


The ability of some people to deliberately misunderstand the nuances of what's being objected to merely to score a cheap rhetorical point never fails to astound me. I suppose I'm just naïve.
posted by kipmanley at 9:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hundreds of times per year in the US, a criminal will pull out a gun and start shooting at police, and the police will return fire and kill the criminal.

The dead criminal wasn't tried and sentenced to death before the police returned fire. There isn't time for that.

The courts have long since ruled that it is perfectly legal for the police to do this. The constitution does not forbid it. A criminal in that situation doesn't have a right to be captured alive when he's trying to kill police.

How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 PM on 2/9

Everyone who understands the difference between the lethal force continuum and assassination, take one step forward.

Not so fast, Chocolate Pickle.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Not if it's treasonous, it isn't.
Treason requires material support, not just 'hanging around'. It also requires a declared war.
Kudos to Hoekstra (R-Land of the Potentially Sane) for pressing this issue
Hoekstra? Sane? This is the guy who did everything he could to stop Gitmo detainees from being placed in Michigan, for example. He also was convinced that WMDs had been found in Iraq. He is actually pretty crazy.
The dead criminal wasn't tried and sentenced to death before the police returned fire. There isn't time for that
...
How is that different from case where the US Army shoots an American traitor who is fighting against them in Afghanistan?
What does that have to do with what we're talking about, which is targeted assassination? Like from a predator drone or something.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, if someone who is an American Citizen just happens to be hanging out at a meeting of some serious bad shit terrorist organization and just happens to get blown up when we Mk84 their secret jungle compound (or wherever these guys hang out) I don't think anyone here is going to get all weepy for them.

Thus bringing the policy into the open. He's no dummy. Not easy to argue against the policy, politically.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 PM on February 9, 2010


When I see a word like Obamaesque I know I'm dealing with a moron.
posted by Splunge at 9:15 PM on February 9, 2010


If the intelligence community has an iron-clad case against someone, why can't they capture the suspect, put them on trial, and then execute them for treason if there's enough evidence to prove guilt?

How would you suggest that we capture an American who is inside a Taliban stronghold?

Do you want the UAV to land and the operator to announce through a loudspeaker that thus-and-so-a-person should come out with his hands up?

All this glib talk about "capturing" and "arresting" is sophistry. The Americans who are going to be killed this way are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest are effectively impossible.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:16 PM on February 9, 2010


Well this certainly doesn't seem ripe for abuse.
posted by JackarypQQ at 9:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assassination is a loaded word

Here are some handy alternatives: posted by swift at 9:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, what Consonants without vowels said was much more full in its response to this story and the "man, whatever, they're evil" responses found above...
This seems to be about hunting targets, not some spur of moment firefight scenario.
But yeah, you sure are showing how awesome this policy is in that one particular example of what could possibly potentially be meant by this... unfortunately any kind of blanket allowance is obviously not always about the scenario of making a split second decision in the middle of a firefight to kill someone who is actually shooting at me..
Unfortunately this is not universally the situation.
And now thinking about this, ARE they shooting at you? Or were they in the same mountain area (of someone else's country mind you,not yours), where people who were shooting at you were... but was the American shooting at you? Are you sure? Or is it enough of a crime to be interacting with people over there?
Because I think everyone will agree that if those "cops who were being shot at" were to go and shoot up everyone in the whole neighborhood where the police had been shot at... well then, no the whole "bang" "I kill you" rhetoric flies out the window.
Yeah, Nuance.. it's what's for dinner at this stage. (That is If we want to win this "war", because bellicose rhetoric and more bombs... definitively won't end anything, we are only making a new generation of opponents. Unless you think it is reasonable and realistic that we will kill all people who espouse radical Islam... or believe in using violent acts to cause social and political fear and upheaval and alteration of American citizens behaviors, in which case, I guess good luck, and good night. )
posted by infinite intimation at 9:30 PM on February 9, 2010


The Americans who are going to be killed this way are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest are effectively impossible.

No, they are not. That's the part you're not getting. You're assuming it would be used in one way, whereas everyone else is saying it will be used as a cover to justify offing random people on some hit list and then manufacturing tissue thin evidence of some kind of nebulous ties to some ill-defined terror organization.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:30 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I see a word like Obamaesque I know I'm dealing with a moron.

Flagged as Limbaughesque.
posted by darkstar at 9:32 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pickle, the difference is between sending a UAV because of an American who is on this list (what we're concerned about) and having an American get caught in a UAV attack that was coming anyways (what you are talking about.)
posted by cimbrog at 9:35 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


All this glib talk about "capturing" and "arresting" is sophistry. The Americans who are going to be killed this way are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest are effectively impossible.

After the capture and trial of Mir Aimal Kasi, I have a hard time believing there are any such circumstances or places. The massive full-scale war in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq) has yielded us what? Justice? Closure? Where's Bin Laden? Mullah Omar? Why are Al Queda operatives still trying to bring down passenger jets?

Stop looking at these fuckers as soldiers, and start looking at them as thugs and crimelords. We had a lot more success tracking down and putting away terrorists using civilian tools of justice - McVeigh, the original WTC bombers, etc. The only one Clinton didn't nab was Bin Laden... and The Bush Doctrine hasn't done much better, at a much larger cost, paid with American blood and treasure and reputation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I see a word like Obamaesque I know I'm dealing with a moron.


How's that? Because the only person not addressing what I said is you. Do you think it is wrong for Obama to publically confirm that they are doing this? Doesn't this provide an oppportunity to argue for a different policy?

Which policy do you propose in terms of dealing with this situation?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 PM on February 9, 2010


They do whatever they want. The laws don't matter a whole lot. Certainly what they say they can or can't do, or will or won't do, doesn't matter. They do whatever they want.
posted by king walnut at 10:16 PM on February 9, 2010


The Americans who are going to be killed this way are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest are effectively impossible.

No, they are not. That's the part you're not getting. You're assuming it would be used in one way, whereas everyone else is saying it will be used as a cover to justify offing random people on some hit list and then manufacturing tissue thin evidence of some kind of nebulous ties to some ill-defined terror organization.


Actually, they are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest is effectively impossible because U.S. law enforcement agencies lack the jurisdiction and the footprint to arrest them. And because it would be a problem politically for Pakistan, because it is involved in moving against what could be described as an insurgency.

Somehow, they are ok with us bombing the fuck out of the people, we just can't arrest them because it will look bad. Let's get realistic here.

The problem is this--setting aside the moral aspect of the program for now, do we have the intellgence necessary for pulling this off?

The danger is not some evil "Smoking Man" cabal in the bowels of the Pentagon and CIA headquarters setting up a hit list--it is locals using the program as their own private hitman service. Somebody ripped you off for that transmission you installed? Call the Americans and explain about his Al Qaeda connections. On the other hand, they are getting the leaders of the groups.

The question really is about where do you draw the line in terms of affording process to an individual outside the jurisdiction of the United States engaging in acts designed to hurt US persons. Must you grant due process to every leader of the Taliban using the border as a shield? Or can you selectively drop bombs on them? And how does the fact that a person is an American affect the calculations.

An additional problem is that once you admit the principle, how far down do you draw the line. Once its OK to go after terrorist leaders, why wouldn't it also be ethically acceptable to go after the foot soldiers?


Hard questions, as the program is currently one of the most effective things we have out there. But are the costs worth it. I cannot tell from here. I can't even draw the line here. Because under the laws of war its lamentable but not actionable when a bomb causes collateral damage. But is this a war? Is this law enforcement? I don't have a clue.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:16 PM on February 9, 2010


So - it's OK for the US government to just declare someone a terrorist and then kill them, at any time, whether they're in a battle or not, whether or not the US has tried them, whether or not they're US citizens, with no judicial oversight, and no repercussions if it turns out the US was wrong?

Tell me - why bother having a Constitution at all, if the US government can just kill people whenever it feels like?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:20 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hard questions, as the program is currently one of the most effective things we have out there.

How in God's name do you have the slightest idea of this?! You act like you're an expert - and yet we're given no information at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:23 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell me - why bother having a Constitution at all, if the US government can just kill people whenever it feels like?

Maybe because the US government cannot just kill people whenever it feels like.

The US Constitution recognizes that war is not the same as law enforcement. (That is why, for instance, the constitution permits suspension of the right of habeus corpus in time of war. That is why certain rights regarding trials don't apply to the military.)

Your rhetorical question is a strawman. The US can't kill people whenever it likes. It kills people during declared wars. (An Authorization for the Use of Military Force under the War Powers Act is a "declaration of war", constitutionally speaking, and the Supreme Court has officially recognized it as such.) And the checks and balances? Well, there's Congress and the voters. If it's abused too much, Congress can rescind the AUMF. If they refuse to do so, the citizens can elect a new congress that does.

You cannot win a war if you're forced to fight it using rules of law enforcement, and the founders didn't expect us to do that -- because it would be insanity.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:34 PM on February 9, 2010


Actually, they are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest is effectively impossible because U.S. law enforcement agencies lack the jurisdiction and the footprint to arrest them.

Inherent in this statement is the belief that if America has the right to kill someone within its borders, they have the right to kill someone anywhere. Every other country on earth would like to disagree, but some of them have too much American military residing within their borders to speak up.

The truly stunning thing about this, is that what you have implied here is not even true. If these people were inside of the USA, they would be entitled to full constitutional protection and be allowed to stand trial in a civilian court. But, because they are not inside the USA, the Administration is asserting that we can execute them without trial. American citizens are not entitled to Constitutional protection when they are overseas. This is an incredibly radical policy.
posted by mek at 10:41 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I say we chip in and buy Rush Limbaugh another plane ticket to the Dominican Republic.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:04 PM on February 9, 2010


First, we are NOT at war. There's no mention of "Authorizations for the use" etc in the Constitution. Congress has to authorize a war, and it did not. You tell me that this is constitutionally a war - show me where in the Constitution it says that.

Second, even if this were a real war, we've been at it for almost ten years, and we're planned to be at it for at least another ten... so these aren't "emergency" powers.

Third, the powers you are discussing are aimed only at the battlefield. The government is now claiming that they can exercise these powers any time, anywhere, without the target actually offering any threat of violence to anyone.

Let's put it another way - can you see any case when the government is not allowed to kill someone they merely "believe" is a bad guy? Does it not bother you that the government gets to kill people just on their say-so, with no judicial oversight?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told representatives that American citizens can be assassinated by the US government when they are oveseas.

Well fuck that trip to Toronto! I gotta make sure I stay on base, so I can't be tagged.

By tagged I mean shot.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:31 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hard questions, as the program is currently one of the most effective things we have out there.

How in God's name do you have the slightest idea of this?! You act like you're an expert - and yet we're given no information at all.


Uh, there's plenty of reporting on this. For a start I recommend the work of Jane Meyer and Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. They have a series of long articles that ran in the spring, summer and fall of last year. I read them all. There was a prior FPP linking directly to one , which ran on Nov. 21, I think.

The program is effective in the sense that it has both killed leaders in the Taliban, (especially the Pakistani Taliban, of whom the last two or three leaders have been killed) and sowed deep fear amongst the remaining Taliban, making it hard for them to work together. However, the risk, aside from the ethics, is that the use will anger the Paskistani people and drive them into the hands of the Taliban.

For now, this is not happening, because the people of Pakistan are pretty righteously pissed about the suicide bombing that killed Benazir Bhutto and a continuing series of suicide attacks against Pakistani civilians and leaders.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 AM on February 10, 2010


First, we are NOT at war. There's no mention of "Authorizations for the use" etc in the Constitution. Congress has to authorize a war, and it did not. You tell me that this is constitutionally a war - show me where in the Constitution it says that.

War Powers Act covers all of this. The President's power as Commander-in-Cheif is pretty fucking plenary. Whether or not this is right is another matter. Except for the situation involving American citizens, this is black-letter stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:12 AM on February 10, 2010


Actually, they are in places and circumstances where capture and arrest is effectively impossible because U.S. law enforcement agencies lack the jurisdiction and the footprint to arrest them.

Inherent in this statement is the belief that if America has the right to kill someone within its borders, they have the right to kill someone anywhere. Every other country on earth would like to disagree, but some of them have too much American military residing within their borders to speak up.


This is an overstatement of the position put forth.

But, let's look at that. The question is, do we have a right to kill persons our intelligence informs us are involved in terrorist attacks and assisting irregular forces in direct combat with US forces in neighboring Afghanistan?

What's your answer to that?

Also "every other country on earth would like to disagree, but some of them have too much American military residing within their borders to speak up" is pretty out there. Are you suggesting that persons in other countries are so scared of the US military that they do not agree with the alleged premise put forward here? Because last time I checked, pretty much you can protest the shit out of the US in a lot of places where it has military bases. You make it sound like the forces we have in these countries could take over the entire country. You don't see the UK wanting to remove all US bases, do you? Because if it was a huge enough issue for the populace as a whole, we'd be gone. Its not like we can "take over" the UK from our bases. A little more nuanced analysis might be called for here.

I think its a mixed bag on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:20 AM on February 10, 2010


You don't see the UK wanting to remove all US bases, do you?

The UK is not criticizing the USA policy of assassinating its own citizens abroad because this policy does not apply to the UK. If such a thing as a CIA-executed assassination plot occurred inside the UK, or Canada, or France, or pretty much anywhere in the EU apart from Italy (where it might be bribed away), criminal charges would have been brought against the CIA officers involved and, while the USA would never ever extradite them, they would never enter the country again lest they have to stand trial for their crimes. Guess what: even though they are an American citizen abroad, you have still murdered someone.

There apparently exists a second class of country, for which we need not even pretend to have respect for government institutions, where we have the right to execute individuals on a list, and can expect no retribution from anyone. The USA is claiming this as a right, confidently and blithely. How is this possible? Isn't this somewhat controversial? Or did we all stop pretending in democracy awhile back, and I didn't get the memo?

The question is, do we have a right to kill persons our intelligence informs us are involved in terrorist attacks and assisting irregular forces in direct combat with US forces in neighboring Afghanistan?

The question is flawed - to have any confidence at all in "our intelligence" after the events of the last ten years is to be willfully ignorant.
posted by mek at 12:56 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


There apparently exists a second class of country, for which we need not even pretend to have respect for government institutions, where we have the right to execute individuals on a list, and can expect no retribution from anyone. The USA is claiming this as a right, confidently and blithely. How is this possible? Isn't this somewhat controversial? Or did we all stop pretending in democracy awhile back, and I didn't get the memo?

These strikes are all approved of by the countries in which they are taking place. We are not just bombing without asking, unlike when Clinton shot those cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden.

But I suggest that you exercise that right of democracy--write your congress person and contribute to NGOs opposed to this.

The question is flawed - to have any confidence at all in "our intelligence" after the events of the last ten years is to be willfully ignorant.

This position seems the most out there of all. We cannot start ignoring the information we do get or stop collecting it. That makes no sense. How are we to protect ourselves without the information. You can be opposed to the drone policy, but it is just plain stupidity not to collect intelligence.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 AM on February 10, 2010


The question is, do we have a right to kill persons our intelligence informs us are involved in terrorist attacks and assisting irregular forces in direct combat with US forces in neighboring Afghanistan?

The question is flawed - to have any confidence at all in "our intelligence" after the events of the last ten years is to be willfully ignorant.


Flawed or not, it is still a question and still out there. I don't know what to think. I do like the idea of people working with those killing our service men and women in Afghanistan are on the run and getting stopped. But I also wonder if the policy is ethical, and if it is not, where the line does get drawn as to what we can do. We have to have some kind of policy to defend the US. Terrorists who in the past have worked with the Pakistani Taliban, did do a little number on us one morning in September 2001. I was in DC that day and it wasn't pretty. The threat is real. But so are the ethical problems and the danger of using such a tool.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:16 AM on February 10, 2010


The question is, do we have a right to kill persons our intelligence informs us are involved in terrorist attacks and assisting irregular forces in direct combat with US forces in neighboring Afghanistan?

The question is flawed - to have any confidence at all in "our intelligence" after the events of the last ten years is to be willfully ignorant.


Note also that Canadian troops are being killed by the Taliban.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:18 AM on February 10, 2010


Chocolate Pickle: Dark Star, if you are fighting against the US Army, you are not entitled to due process of law. At that point you're an enemy combatant no matter what citizenship you hold.

Due process of law is what we would use to determine whether or not someone is fighting against the US to begin with. Or maybe we should be content to shoot first and ask questions later...


Note also that in the Civil War, the lives of hundreds of thousands of US citizens were taken inside the country by Union troops. The slave property and other property of those citizens were taken and often destroyed. Collateral damage killed innocents too.

These lines are not as easy to draw as it may seem.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:22 AM on February 10, 2010


All you have to do is draw them.
posted by mek at 1:26 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough people have responded well to Chocolate Pickle's early-thread comments I feel that's been handled.

Ironmouth:
War Powers Act covers all of this. The President's power as Commander-in-Chief is pretty fucking plenary.
[...]

On the "War on Terror" not being handled through law-enforcement channels: that indicates that there is something wrong somewhere along the line, but I am not sure where it is. The idea that some folk feel that the law gets in the way and should be brushed aside makes me deeply uncomfortable. When that law is our own, I get much more uncomfortable still.

And let's make this clear, the scare-quotes above are because I really have problems with calling it the "War on Terror," on multiple levels. To try to keep my comment concise I'll stick with the problem with calling it a "war," a word that has become surprisingly debased in recent decades. The "War on Terror" is only barely more an actual war than the "War on Drugs." A war takes place between nations; to use the word in this context without recognizing that this is not the meaning of "war" that appears in the Constitution is to allow ones-self to be influenced by the muddying of language. We might accept that the new meaning for "war" is a valid one, but if we then applied that meaning to the law we would be opening the door to all kinds of legal redefinitions. IANAL, but it seems to me like the law should not be built upon such shifting sand. Especially when, decoded, "War on Terror" expands into "War on a handful guys scheming in caves in Afganistan." When Jon Stewart says we've become a nation of pussies, the only problem I can find with it is that it somehow seems to be too degraded a means of referring to an excellent and necessary organ. Won't someone think of how the vaginas feel about all this?

We cannot start ignoring the information we do get or stop collecting it. That makes no sense. How are we to protect ourselves without the information. You can be opposed to the drone policy, but it is just plain stupidity not to collect intelligence.

When the government uses illegal means to obtain information, it makes that information inadmissible in court. If later on some other action is taken on the basis of that information, it could throw that into jeopardy too. To have information you shouldn't when you are required to play fair and back up your decisions can be a great burden, because you may know actions you would like to take but not be able to.
posted by JHarris at 1:41 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


All you have to do is draw them.

Where, exactly? Tell us.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:46 AM on February 10, 2010


I already did: nobody should be pre-emptively assassinated or detained for future crimes. The end.
posted by mek at 1:53 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The idea that some folk feel that the law gets in the way and should be brushed aside makes me deeply uncomfortable.

The law is not well-settled on this matter. So you are really misstating their case when you assert that they think the law gets in the way. They believe, with some caselaw supporting, that the executive may lawfully do this. Your indignation aside, the President's war powers are considerable. Having run up against them before, I can assure you it is true. And the activity is part of a conflict agreed to by resolution of Congress. The activity is sanctioned by the government of Pakistan. It aids them, now again a democracy, in the battle against mysoginistic preachers of violence against civilians.

Can the government lawfully shoot an armed Confederate in the service of the alleged non-constitutional "Confederacy"? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Those in the North were seized by Lincoln and held without trial and without access to the Writ of Habeus Corpus.
Were these actions legal? Based on my knowledge of the Constitution and the case law, I don't think this is an easy call.

I think your case is better made on ethical and practical grounds.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:59 AM on February 10, 2010


New! Terrorist identification and eliminiation, brought to you by the same people who brought you WMD, yellowcake and 775 Guantanamo 'enemy combatants' certified 'bad people' by the president (420 released without charge).

Wouldn't trust them with a shovel and my shite, never mind the extra-legal power to assassinate those they 'know' to be bad people.
posted by Jakey at 2:01 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The US government policy of internment without trial for alleged terrorists have not worked out great, has it? Going by the track record, I'm certain that this will result in hundreds of innocents killed. And even if by some miracle only "bad guys" will be taken out, this policy will still alienate everyone. When people are found dead in ditches in the morning, courtesy of the CIA, it will not help the American cause any, "secret evidence" or not.

What makes me think the American public dropped the ball one the whole liberty and freedom thing is that this policy apparently is not very controversial in the US.
posted by Harald74 at 2:25 AM on February 10, 2010


Some historical perspective, from this Salon.com article by Glenn Greenwald
A 1981 Executive Order signed by Ronald Reagan provides: "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination." Before the Geneva Conventions were first enacted, Abraham Lincoln -- in the middle of the Civil War -- directed Francis Lieber to articulate rules of conduct for war, and those were then incorporated into General Order 100, signed by Lincoln in April, 1863. Here is part of what it provided, in Section IX, entitled "Assassinations":
The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such intentional outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.
Can anyone remotely reconcile that righteous proclamation with what the Obama administration is doing? And more generally, what legal basis exists for the President to unilaterally compile hit lists of American citizens he wants to be killed?
(My bolding of text in the above)
posted by Harald74 at 2:30 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


A parallell to the Vietnam War era Phoenix Program exists. The Wikipedia article comprises quote a few differing links and opinions on the success of that particular program.
posted by Harald74 at 2:34 AM on February 10, 2010


The only thing more galling and obscene than this announcement is the blasé nature in which it is being received.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:00 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I like this development, but they were probably doing things like it anyway before this, so I guess it's good to have it out in the open.

PS - New guy here. Just signed up, so please forgive me if I'm doing something incorrectly!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:20 AM on February 10, 2010


No person shall be:

* held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;

* nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;

* nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,

* nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

* nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
posted by mikelieman at 4:55 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


If such a thing as a CIA-executed assassination plot occurred inside the UK, or Canada, or France, or pretty much anywhere in the EU apart from Italy (where it might be bribed away), criminal charges would have been brought against the CIA officers involved

Or it might result in the conviction of 22 agents for rendition.

HAMBURGER
posted by ersatz at 4:57 AM on February 10, 2010


If such a thing as a CIA-executed assassination plot occurred inside the UK, or Canada, or France, or pretty much anywhere in the EU apart from Italy (where it might be bribed away), criminal charges would have been brought against the CIA officers involved and, while the USA would never ever extradite them, they would never enter the country again lest they have to stand trial for their crimes.

Well, well, what an insightful little aside, mek. Just a tad...well, racist and misinformed.

Actually Italy is the one country where a number of named CIA operatives cannot go because they have been tried and convicted of the illegal kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan .

But hey, let's not get facts get in the way of a little nice dago-bashing, eh? Especially when it's completely inconsequential to the discussion at hand.

Sorry for the interruption - you can now go back to your prejudice-based, fact-free argument.
posted by MessageInABottle at 5:17 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jinx, ersatz
posted by MessageInABottle at 5:18 AM on February 10, 2010


I just wanted to point out that your Constitution says "no person", not "no American". Those rights supposedly apply to all peoples.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:13 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]



Governments forget, with alarming frequency, that they exist purely at the mercy of the law, and not vice versa.

Not really
posted by notreally at 6:22 AM on February 10, 2010


nobody should be pre-emptively assassinated or detained for future crimes.

You can't really mean that. That would mean we can't, for example, put the underwear bomber on trial for attempting to blow up a plane, because he didn't actually blow up the plane yet. Or that if a guy is standing outside your house pointing weapons at you and threatening to kill you, it would be wrong to have him arrested.

Threatening or plotting to do evil things has to be considered a crime, or it becomes impossible to prevent serious crimes. Obviously we have to take into account the likelihood that the person would have actually followed through, but you can't just let everyone off until they actually kill someone.
posted by echo target at 6:36 AM on February 10, 2010


Helen Tasker: Have you ever killed anyone?
Harry: Yeah, but they were all bad.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:37 AM on February 10, 2010


Hey, Ironmouth. I note that you didn't feel a need to give any references for your claim - and that was, I assume, because you made it up out of your own head.

"The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war."

Just to be clear, Ironmouth:

The War Powers Act does not allow the President to declare war unilaterally. Nor does it give the President the right to run any military operation for more than 90 days - so any powers it gave any President are long gone.

The article goes on to say:

"Every President since its passage has treated it as unconstitutional and has claimed that the President is therefore not bound by its statutes."

Here's an article listing the actual wars that the US has fought in (the last one was WWII) and then a list of "military engagements" (including the current ones).

Just as I said...

WE ARE NOT AT WAR. CONGRESS HAS NEVER DECLARED WAR. THE CONSTITUTION REQUIRES CONGRESS TO DECLARE WAR BEFORE THERE IS A WAR.

So, Ironmouth, you made it all up - which explains why you wouldn't give me a reference!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The big problem with this GWOT thing is that the laws of war apply to conflicts between nations and international terrorism involves sub-national actors. But at the same time, the acts terrorists engage in would be considered acts of war if committed by nations.

The laws of peace (in Lincoln's phrase) should apply. However messy and inefficient that may be.

Why? War is an existential threat to a nation. International terrorism is not. Terrorism is a political problem without a military solution.

How to stop terrorism? Don't do it and don't support people (or nations) that do.

None of this "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" nonsense. It's glib, but it's fundamentally flawed. International terrorism is crime, not war. About the only exception to this would be internal civil wars, but that's a derail. The tools of war are aimed at bringing about a negotiated or compelled surrender of sovereignty. Terrorists don't have a way to surrender as a group, only as individuals. So declaring "war" on terrorists will always be bad policy - because the means are not suited to the end.

The underlying issue here is the "targeted killings" are wrong and contrary to the spirit of law. Arguing that dealing with crime through legal means is ineffective and thus the law must be discarded doesn't seem (either analytically, historically, or rationally) to be good policy.

So the problem isn't so much the targeted killing of Americans, but the whole notion of targeted killings in a more basic sense.

Arguing about means without considering ends is off-kilter.

If this is a war on terror, what are the war aims? That's the debate that this nation has avoided. Get some consensus on that and the means to those ends will be a little clearer.
posted by warbaby at 7:35 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not being a US citizen, and thus apparently disposable anyway, this debate leaves me rather cold.
posted by Skeptic at 8:27 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It amazes me how the people who don't have a problem with shit like this are always the ones who claim to not trust the government.
posted by Legomancer at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2010


"That would mean we can't, for example, put the underwear bomber on trial for attempting to blow up a plane, because he didn't actually blow up the plane yet."

You can't be serious.

Are you saying "Attempted murder" isn't a crime? Are you telling me it's not a crime to smuggle a bomb onto a plane - even if you don't set it off?

The fact is that the Constitution, again, quite clearly spells out under what circumstances you can be detained and "suspecting you will commit a crime in future" is NOT one of them. Now, some of the crimes you can be detained for involve forward planning - for example, you can be convicted of "conspiracy" which means you got together with people and planned a crime, even if you didn't do it yet; or you can be convicted of one of a large number of crimes where you threaten to hurt, kill or otherwise injure a person but don't actually do so. But you cannot be preemptively detained except in times of war - and frankly, even the reading that you can preemptively detain someone in an actual war is deeply flawed to me.

I should also add that the standard for proving "conspiracy" in particular is fairly low. If the government can't even prove that, then when it comes down to it, they simply have nothing on you.

"Preventative detainment"; "unlimited detainment without trial"; these are all signs of totalitarian states. Over 200 years ago, the United States made a decision that it was going to be a free country; and one of the consequential axioms was that it was better to occasionally allow the guilty to go free than to allow innocent people to be punished by the state.

If you don't like that idea, there are plenty of totalitarian states to live in (might I suggest Turkmenistan?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:53 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"even the reading that you can preemptively detain someone in an actual war is deeply flawed to me."

Sorry, that should read:

...even the reading that you can preemptively detain civilian of your own country during wartime is deeply flawed to me.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:59 AM on February 10, 2010


It amazes me how the people who don't have a problem with shit like this are always the ones who claim to not trust the government.

Haha. Exactly.

Just so we've got this straight.

Government wants to kill those it labels as 'aiding terrorists'. -- It's all good they'll never abuse this power.
Government wants to tax you and supply health care to everyone -- WE CAN'T TRUST THE GOVERNMENT WITH OUR HEALTH CARE
posted by graventy at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually Italy is the one country where a number of named CIA operatives cannot go because they have been tried and convicted of the illegal kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan .

Thanks for picking up on this. It was a test to see how fact-free Ironmouth's world is. The facts are that a growing number of countries are acknowledging American detention, rendition, assassination and torture policies as illegal.
posted by mek at 11:19 AM on February 10, 2010


I just wanted to point out that your Constitution says "no person", not "no American". Those rights supposedly apply to all peoples.

You obviously haven't read any of the supreme court decisions in this area, as they do not actually apply to "all peoples." Enemy soldiers have zero due process rights, American or not.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:47 PM on February 10, 2010


You obviously haven't read any of the supreme court decisions in this area, as they do not actually apply to "all peoples." Enemy soldiers have zero due process rights, American or not.

Yeah, let god sort out the pieces!
posted by fuq at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2010


Ironmouth: Boumediene vs. Bush.
posted by mek at 11:54 PM on February 10, 2010


Not that I didn't already miss this whole wonderful discussion, but the question isn't whether the US can kill people actively engaging in military activity against the USA.

This policy is evidently being advocated to kill a person or persons who are communicating and interacting with fellows we consider terrorists. They may in fact agree with and repeat the sentiments of those considered to be agents of terrorism. Kill them in the act of violence against the USA or put them on trial. Those are the rules. You folks pretending like there's a middle ground here are insane, dangerous demagogues.

Stridently advocating the dissolution of the USA is every American citizen's right. If anyone is up to it I would like to gain an understanding of the legal and constitutional principles that enables the USA to go to war with a poorly defined multinational group of people whose opinions we disagree with (ignoring the whole lack of a declaration of war thing). Are we a nation of laws?

Catch and imprison the motherfuckers perpetrating violence against the USA (kill them if we really must). We can do this without destroying every last semblance of constitutional protection that remains today.

In truth, the only way the terrorists can possibly "win" is if we become the sort of lawless blood-thirsty barbarians they accuse us of being. The liberal western values ensconced in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the only things that made us different from previous global hegemonies. When we have forgotten this, we have committed atrocity. Repeatedly.
posted by polyhedron at 12:14 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


mek, you're seriously claiming that was a test? that's a debate foul of the lowest order. it would have been better to admit to a mistake.
posted by batmonkey at 1:43 AM on February 11, 2010


yeah, what an asshole.

Did you pick that up?
It was a test, goddammit!
posted by MessageInABottle at 3:03 AM on February 11, 2010


I am specifically familiar with that incident - this Greenwald post has a lot of excellent details. Also relevant is the ongoing process of criminal accountability in Britain and Canada, in regard to torture.

While the Obama administration continues to insist it has the right to torture, detain, and even assassinate people without due process of law, it is becoming increasingly likely that numerous other democracies will bring criminal charges against politicians involved.
posted by mek at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2010


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