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View Diary: The Power to Assassinate a Citizen (228 comments)

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  •  "Active military conflict" (0+ / 0-)

    I think you've defined that term far, far too broadly if you're considering an unarmed, alone, undefended guy as "actively engaged in conflict."

    But supposing you're correct on the law, and this is somehow a permissible act, should it be?  Should we be able to say, as I think you are arguing we are "this citizen may be legally killed in any context, so long as he isn't already in US custody"?

    "Speaking for me only." -Armando

    by JR on Thu Sep 30, 2010 at 02:08:25 AM PDT

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    •  it's not exactly simple (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan

      but I can say for certain that armed, religious maniacs who are engaged in organizing terror attacks on the US are not engaged in the democratic process. There is a difference in kind between state action against someone who incites draft resistance and someone who attempts to e.g. blow up airplanes full of civilians. The purpose of the constitutional limits on the government are to assure the rights of democratic self-government and those rights do not extend to military campaigns to impose the rule of religious wackos.

      To me, the key issue is the issue of designation of combatant and battlefield. The Bush administration claimed the right to define an unarmed US citizen walking through a domestic airport as a combatant and to designate domestic airports as battlefields. That's clearly an abuse. But is designating an AQ commander in tribal Yemen a combatant on a battlefield incorrect? I don't see it.

      •  Again, traitors aren't engaged in the process... (0+ / 0-)

        ...either, but they still receive explicit constitutional guarantees of trial and sentencing process.

        Does it matter to you that the kill order, so far as I can tell, doesn't limit itself to "combatants on a battlefield," but seems to extend universally (or at least everywhere outside the US)?

        "Speaking for me only." -Armando

        by JR on Thu Sep 30, 2010 at 02:38:46 AM PDT

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        •  is that really the case? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Deep Texan

          If the lawsuit had asked that the US be enjoined from killing Mr. Aulaqi off of the field of battle unless during the course of resisting arrest in ways that would normally permit use of lethal force, it would be a very different dispute and I think a more valid one. But they are asking for a much wider injunction.

          As far as I know, nobody but the government knows what the actual US policy is.

        •  just to make it specific (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal, Deep Texan

          Would you argue that an order to send a missile into the commander's tent of an AQ military encampment in Yemen was wrong/illegal?

          •  I wouldn't, no, depending on Yemen's position. (0+ / 0-)

            But if that commander were a citizen of the US, and the order was instead to kill him however, wherever, whenever, then I would have a problem with it.  Much of your argument seems to rest on the idea of the context of war, that everywhere is a battlefield (or at least that Yemen counts as a battlefield).  My point is that this doesn't seem to be a contextual kill order, but a standing one that applies nearly everywhere.

            I think our root disagreement is that you think the government has the war power to declare a single citizen a legitimate target for military operations, so long as that citizen is "making war" on the United States.  I think that when a citizen "makes war" on the US, he's committing the crime of treason, and unless he's in a context where capture, detention and trial would be impossible, such as an armed encampment or firefight on a battlefield, killing him violates the Constitution.  But I can't define "battlefield" as "everywhere in the world where an enemy might be" since that would make a circular justification for military action, and I can't accept that someone might be summarily executed for treason without first being tried and convicted, or indeed without evidence being presented at all.

            And even accepting your arguments in this particular case, I think we're then left with a very dangerous level of Presidential discretion in future cases.  If, on secret evidence with no trial (I don't think we've even charged him with anything yet), the President can declare a citizen of the United States to be a military target, then we've placed a huge amount of power into the hands of a single person, to a degree that I think undermines the purposes of the Framers (a case I lay out in Section I of the diary).

            "Speaking for me only." -Armando

            by JR on Thu Sep 30, 2010 at 10:52:12 AM PDT

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