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which is the title of his Friday Washington Post column.

It begins like this:

If George W. Bush had told us that the “war on terror” gave him the right to execute a U.S. citizen overseas with a missile fired from a drone aircraft, without due process or judicial review, I’d have gone ballistic. It makes no difference that the president making this chilling claim is Barack Obama. What’s wrong is wrong.
This issue has become ever hotter given the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA.

Robinson notes that the issue of using drone attacks to kill American citizens is far from a hypothetical, given the killing both of US born cleric  Anwar al-Awlaki and two weeks later his 16 year old son.   Robinson writes of the cleric

I shed no tears for him. But as the Justice Department document admits, U.S. citizens have constitutional rights. I am deeply troubled by the notion that the president can unilaterally decide those rights no longer apply.
I want to explore the issues a bit below the fold beyond what Robinson offers, and offer a few more of his words.

Robinson argues there should be at least some judicial oversight before a President or anyone else can order the killing of an American citizen overseas by drone.

I am not sure how this is supposed to work.

We have the FISA court system for execution of search warrants where there are matters of foreign intelligence that need to be kept close, but nothing in that legislation authorizes the approval of killing someone.  In fact, I would be hard put to find a circumstance where a Court can authorize killing of anyone absent a trial that begins with the accused presumed innocent and no sentence of any kind being imposed until s/he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Further, it may make a difference as to whether those operating drones are doing so while under military authority that is operating under the original authorization to go after Al Qaeda, because if it is a military operation, civilian courts have no jurisdiction, and killing someone of an opposing force in a combat situation, even were that person an American citizen, is fully authorized.  The real question then is whether the so-called war on terror is covered by rules governing the use of the military.  

If not, and one can argue that given that drones may be operated by those under the authority of civilian intelligence agencies outside the military chain of command, we have precedent of killing of threats by CIA personnel with no oversight.  It is not clear to me how the fact that the target might be an American in any way changes the procedure legally - after all the Constitutional protections to trial procedures applies to persons, not just citizens, and the rules governing actions in war make no distinction as to the citizen of persons - in theory someone functioning as an illegal combatant (which would in fact include our own operatives not wearing a military uniform) are subject to summary execution without a trial.

I do not represent myself as an expert in these matters.  I have had one conversation off the record with someone who is who expressed great reservations at the entire notion of targeted killings whether of Americans or foreign members of Al Qaeda, this discussion taking place at a fund-raiser for Barack Obama in 2008.  

Thus I think the issue is far deeper than merely allowing what Robinson admits would be a nominal oversight by the judicial branch - it is whether the way our intelligence and military now operate can be considered to still be congruent with the principles established in our Constitutional system.

Robinson is seeking " a conceptual and legal framework: what he describds as "this new, unsettling form of warfare."  I agree that issue needs to be seriously examined.  I question whether we get there simply by setting up a procedure for a judge to rubber-stamp what the administration has already decided.

Robinson is clear on one point - we know there will be drones.

Now consider his final two paragraphs:  

No president could become aware that specific enemies are planning attacks against the United States and not take action. This would be an unconscionable dereliction of duty. If the plot is being developed in a place like Yemen or Somalia, what are the options? Order a special forces commando raid, risking American lives? Mount a full-scale invasion? Or send up a flying robot, armed with a missile, and foil the plot by eliminating the plotters?

As drones become more sophisticated, the range of missions for which they are used will grow. And as the United States demonstrates the military potential of drones, other nations will build their own robot fleets. We need to realize that the future is now.

Let's consider the first paragraph.  As Robinson presents it, is that not similar to the rationalization for the use of torture in the ticking bomb scenario?  Does not it raise troubling questions?

One issue that bothers Robinson and many others about the memorandum/legal opinion governing the use of drones is the very loose definition of "imminent" as to threats to the US.  Does not that question apply to the first of these two paragraphs?  How far along must the planning be to warrant a strike violating the sovereignty of another nation?  Dick Cheney argued the 1% chance warranted the use of force - the mere potential for a threat against US interests (broadly defined) justified the use of any force deemed appropriate by the executive branch.  We objected then.  Should not we be objecting now?

Please note -  I am not arguing to do nothing.  I am more than a little insistent that this is an issue that needs to be vigorously debated.  We did not vote for this administration in order for it to take these actions.  One might argue that the strong support for Obama in 2008 was because people believed he would take a different path on such issues than John "bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran" would.  

Of course the administration and its supporters on this issue might counter that having taken the path they did, the American people validated that by reeleccting the President.  I think I could dismantle that argument, but it is there to be made.

Let's now examine Robinson's final paragraph.  The technology for drones will quickly spread.  How we have chosen to use them sets a precedent for what others might do.  While we are probably some distance away from seeing armed drones from other nations in our domestic airspace, given how we use drones what is to stop another nation from using them against US interests and citizens outside of our borders?  Who might they consider justifiable targets?  What might they consider acceptable collateral damage to our interests and citizens when targeting those they classify as terrorists against their interests?

I worry about the blowback.

I commend Eugene Robinson for attempting to begin the discussion.

For once, however, I find myself critical of his thinking, because I do not believe the fig leaf of a single judge signing off on the use of a drone to kill anyone, American citizen or not, really advances the issues we need to confront.

That is my thinking.

What is yours?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (35+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 10:40:20 PM PST

  •  "Terrorism" is a criminal matter (13+ / 0-)

    Government has no power outside of what the law, under what our social contract the Constitution, provides. Drone attacks, like any assassination, are an act of war. Constitutional rights do not end at our borders.

    The legitimate options:

    • Via treaties and diplomacy, get the country in question to make the arrest, and either that country tries the person or extradites to us
    • Get the country in question to let us make the arrest, and press charges
    • Congress declares war upon the country, and we attack
    • Do nothing offensive, and play defense

    And then there are illegitimate, illegal, freedom-destroying, counterproductive options, such as assassination.

    Sample discussion earlier on Meteor Blades's thread...

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 10:58:18 PM PST

    •  the AUMF was a declaration of war. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      the Hamdan case tells us that the war powers are activated by the AUMF.

      •  The declaration of war was legitimate, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, snoopydawg

        done according to law, but immoral and cooked up by a bunch of liars.

        That the AUMF has not been rescinded is evidence that the Congress is full of blood-thirsty cowards, who haven't the courage to admit they were lied to.
        We like to assume guilt leads people to change their behavior. It doesn't.  More often than not it leads to a doubling of effort to prove there was no mistake to begin with.
        Some people invaded Iraq to prove that Viet Nam would have been a win, if the military had just stayed longer.
        In a sense, letting people believe Iraq was/is a win is a safer position from a global perspective. Iraq won't be an excuse for a do-over to get it right.
        Afghanistan never had the same alure as Iraq. "Eye - rack" sort of reminds one of seeing a "rack" and taking a shot--something that fellow Broun in Georgia would appreciate. An afghan, on the other hand, is something aged grandmothers crochet. We can do without that.

        We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:42:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Or a declaration that war is perpetual (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Most countries fear war, the US fears peace.  When was the last time an establishment Democrat uttered the word peace?

      •  AUMF is unconstitutional (0+ / 0-)

        I disagree with that aspect of the Hamdan ruling. An AUMF says, "Here, Mr. President, you decide whether and when to go to war." It's an unconstitutional abdication of legislative responsibility to the executive, just like the attempted line-item veto was in the 1990s.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:31:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You've accurately listed the options. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exlrrp, johnny wurster

      1 and 2 are ridiculous and they put our security at the mercy of hostile and/or ineffectual states.  3 means infinitely more violence and killing than what we do now.  4 is legitimate but it's the ultimate discretionary decision of the government, not something we can blithely insist about.  You can see why assassination is attractive.  It's certainly my choice.

      You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

      by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:34:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Choice between doing something and doing nothing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rich in PA, Persiflage

        I see it as a choice between  doing something and doing nothing.
        Options 1, 2, 3 are unworkable, Option 4 is unacceptable.
        And then there's option 5

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:44:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Either we have a Constitution or we don't (9+ / 0-)

        W/ current drone strike policy, as I already noted, we currently don't have a Constitutional system of gov't.  We have, in essence, an elected monarch who has unilateral, unrestricted, and unreviewable authority to kill people on the other side of the planet.

        As of last September, roughly as many people had been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan alone as were killed here on 9/11:

        TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals," according to the Stanford/NYU study.

        Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of "double-striking" a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

        It also highlights harm "beyond death and physical injury," publishing accounts of psychological trauma experienced by people living in Pakistan's tribal northwest region, who it says hear drones hover 24 hours a day.

        If a McCain or a Romney WH claimed the unreviewable right to kill a few thousand people based upon secret criteria and secret evidence, this site would (correctly) be outraged.  The fact that a Dem WH is claiming such a power in violation of every founding principle of our system does not make it less outrageous.   The basic concept is similar to that of Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia, which was (correctly) condemned here in 2008.

        Either we have a govt. of laws, or we have a govt. of men (and a few women).  The drone strike policy clearly adopts the latter viewpoint.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 06:10:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can't rec this enough. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RFK Lives, papahaha, snoopydawg

          DKos has never - in my experience - stood for individual Democrats, it has always stood for Democratic principles, one of which is government by law, not by decree.

          This doesn't stop when a Democrat is elected.

          "Violence never requires translation, but it often causes deafness." - Bareesh the Hutt.

          by Australian2 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 07:56:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The issue is we are at war with al Qaeda, which (0+ / 0-)

            declared war on the US government and killed 3000 individuals in New York City. al Qaeda's drones were airplanes that they used to blow up building and kill indiscriminately.

            I don't want to sound uncaring about this, especially when you consider the countless lives lost, but during World War Two, the US and allied forces bombed the dickens out of Berlin and other cities in Germany to kill members of the German army and in the process killed many of innocent lives. Are we honestly saying the drone program is worse than those past operations?

            Or perhaps the world should not have taken the fight to Hitler and Germany at all, but go into Germany and haul these individuals into court?

            A State of war exists between al Qaeda and the US and the US has the right to go after these individuals in the prosecution of this war, the drone program is far less destructive than carpet bombing these territories from the air. It would be interesting to hear your opinion on how you would handle this situation.

        •  I somewhat agree with your statement (0+ / 0-)

          But what's the alternative? Some people above stated some of them but they are mostly unworkable. What do we do about those people who are actively trying to kill us? I understand both sides of the argument but I don't see any reasonable alternatives to the current situation.

  •  The secret drone base in Saudi Arabia (6+ / 0-)

    ain't so secret no more.

    Is This the Secret U.S. Drone Base in Saudi Arabia?
    BY NOAH SHACHTMAN, 02.07.13
    Danger Room, Wired

    These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia. It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by reporters earlier this week. But the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts. And its remote location — dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town – suggests that this may be more than the average civilian airstrip.

    This base is a significant infrastructure investment. Remember also that one of bin Laden's original motivations for attacking the USA was the American armed forces stationed on Saudi Arabian soil after the 1998 Gulf War. So here we are, a generation later, perhaps dooming ourselves to repeat history.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:01:53 PM PST

  •  Just saw a poll that 83% support drone strikes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, commonmass, doroma

    to kill terrorists, we're on the wrong side of this issue.

    •  If capital punishment had 83% approval, (13+ / 0-)

      would we be on the "wrong" side of that too? No.

      Some of that 83% is solid (and there's plenty among people on this site), but much of it is fear-based, uninformed, and perhaps persuadable.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:06:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No but will take a herculean task to convince (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, johnny wurster, doroma

        people that killing Al Qaeda terrorists is bad.

        •  You mean that killing (13+ / 0-)

          targeted people who are maybe Al Qaeda and bystanders and mistakenly targeted innocent people and rescuers, based upon guesses, is bad. In addition to terrorizing whole towns, motivating even more people to oppose us, and in general supporting global military/economic empire. But it's popular!

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:14:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The 83% figure just shows how far off-base (11+ / 0-)

            our nation has become.  We are no longer the 'light on the hill', as we once were, we are now a super power that is comfortable breaking international laws whenever it suits our purpose.

            This debate will take a different turn if another nation decides to kill an enemy combatant on American soil using a drone, because we will have to admit that an act of this nature on our own soil is illegal or even an act of war...just like it is when we use a drone to commit murder in another country (no matter if the targeted person is a terrorist, the innocent people who become collateral damage are victims of murder).  So, does the use of drones mean we are in a de facto war with Pakistan?  Yemen?

            The president is fighting to prevent this debate from ever happening because it will face a fierce legal challenge at some point, and then that leaves him open to 'international war crimes' accusations..

            And don't forget the money trail behind all of this...

            •  Suit our purposes (5+ / 0-)

              or perhap suit the purposes of our allies.

              There has been speculation, based on evidence, that some of our drone strikes are done not to protect our interests, but to satisfy the requests of country who allow us to operate on their soil.

              There has also been speculation, rather convincing I thought, that drone strikes were used for political reasons in Pakistan during a time when Pakistanis were so up in arms about drone strikes that they told us to stop and then wanted an admission and an apology for a strike that killed 24 people who were not enemy combatants.  They refused our convoys passage through Pakistan.  We were pressuring them to open up their passages to us for quite a long time and during that time the frequency of drone strikes increased significantly.  There were suggestions in the media that the reason for the increase in drone strikes was to pressure the Pakistanis.  

              More recently, there were drone strikes in northern Yemen, far away from the area where we had been conducting strikes against AQAP.  Around the same time the existence of the secret drone base in Saudi Arabia was revealed.  This is another thing that had been speculated on in the media for months.  But after the strikes in unusual areas, there was more speculation about who the targets were, and whether they were truly enemy combatants presenting a threat to the U.S. or whether they were targets the Saudis wanted to take out.

              "Justice is a commodity"

              by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:56:16 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The appreciation for indirect action, which leaves (0+ / 0-)

                the authority unidentified, is neither genetically nor ethnically determined.  All sorts of people are persuaded that having an agent is better than getting one's own hands dirty.

                Did God the Father not send His Son to take care of a problem?

                We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

                by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:48:41 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Not only a guess (4+ / 0-)

            Sometimes it is an anonymous guess.  The public has been misled, purposely, about the nature of drone strikes.  Not all of these bombings are a result of targeting a known terrorist.  Signature strikes are done on people we don't know, based on some criteria that might be as simple as being in the wrong place geographically.  In those cases, we have no idea who it is that we just killed.

            Also, deliberate suppression of information about women and children blown up by drones is being done.  I do believe that some of those 83% are persuadable and I'd take it further than that.   The high approval rate is a result of secrecy and blatant lying about these drone programs.

            "Justice is a commodity"

            by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:49:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  But that's not what your diary was about. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            johnny wurster

            Your diary specifically denies the right of the United States government to kill any US citizen abroad.

            During World War II we killed enemy soldiers without regard to citizenship.  Sometimes they were US citizens.  We did this because there was a declaration of war.  Now we have an AUMF, whatever one thinks of it, and I don't understand what's different.  

            You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

            by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:32:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and thats why, as a matter of US law, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rich in PA

              the strikes are clearly legal.  if people want them ended, their recourse is to politics, not the courts.

              •  not necessarily (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                you are expanding Hamdan beyond where SCOTUS took it, and even if that means AUMF functions as a declaration of war, then our actions would still be bound by international convention and treaties, and the person who is an expert on such matters with whom I spoke AFTER Hamdan argued that such actions were still not legal

                "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

                by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:53:33 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  No, I think Hamdan is squarely on point. (0+ / 0-)

                  It tells us that the AUMF triggers the war powers and grants the President the power to wage war including all the incidents thereto (which is how they held that the President had the power to detain).

                  The international law angle is interesting, especially for those of us that are outside looking in to the community.  A few thoughts:

                  - The actions have to be legal under international law as construed by US courts.

                  - That said, this is one of those odd areas that are non-justiciable legal questions.  A court almost certainly won't interpose itself between the President and battlefield operations, so there probably won't.

                  - I'm a small-d democrat, so my view is that we are bound exclusively by those treaties which we have ratified.  Intl law jurists, on the other hand, treat all manner of things that aren't subject to the democratic process - like opinions of the ICRC, opinions of jurists and professors, UN Gen Assembly resolutions - as binding.  This strikes me as deeply undemocratic.  What I think is oddest of all is the lack of meta analysis in international law.  What is it, in what sense can it be seen as "law," how is it consistent with democracy and how it can be legitimate in the absence of democratic ratification, etc.  I haven't read too much international law, but I've rarely come across much that gets to these questions.  (that's not to say it's not out there, though)

            •  are you directing this to me? eom (0+ / 0-)

              "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

              by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:52:00 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  maybe we should first ask (18+ / 0-)

          who gets to determine who is and isn't a terrorist?

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:48:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  so what? (5+ / 0-)

          not so very long ago a majority of people opposed marriage equality, but we have changed that

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:17:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  They're on the wrong side (20+ / 0-)

      Even if "they" were 99% of all 299,999,999 and I was the last DAMN PERSON in the US, I would scream from the fucking mountains that it is WRONG.

      Right and wrong are not up for vote, neither are torture, war crimes and murder. Every person in this country can vote to torture Osama bin Laden himself as punishment for 9/11. It would still be a violation of the 8th amendment and I would fight it.

      •  asdf (4+ / 0-)
        History teems with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not suppressed forever, it may be thrown back for centuries. [...] Persecution has always succeeded, save where the heretics were too strong a party to be effectually persecuted. [...] The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.

        - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:30:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think back almost two millenia ago (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ItsSimpleSimon, shypuffadder

        when the Arian controversy was raging in the early Church and often the voice of Athanasius, who advocated for the position that Christ was fully man as well as fully God was not only in the minority but opposed by imperial force.  He was driven into exile more than once.  Yet eventually, for better or worse, his position prevailed.  The phrase used was Athanasius contra mundum -  Athanasius against the world.  

        If we believe the position is wrong, are not we obligated to oppose it?

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:21:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  among self-described liberal democrats (10+ / 0-)


      it is beyond disturbing.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:47:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The people who love drone strikes (5+ / 0-)

      are on the wrong side of the issue.  How many wrong people there are doesn't matter.  It's still wrong.

      You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

      by Johnny Q on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:53:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  well, yeah (4+ / 0-)

      That's why the administration makes a point of specifying that they're only in favor of killing terrorists, and when they kill people who turn out not to be terrorists, they aren't in favor of that.

    •  Life is on the wrong side of death. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:44:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't particularly care what polls say. (0+ / 0-)

      I guarantee if someone in the US not on the other side of the world was killed in a drone strike, say someone from Yemen or w/e hiding out in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Illinois or Oregon people would be out in the streets demanding some politicians head.

  •  there seems to be two arguments (12+ / 0-)

    and they boil down to:

    1) but i trust obama

    2) but what do we do about the bad guys?

    that whole due process and rule of law thing is so easily dismissed.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:46:06 PM PST

    •  Even after NDAA (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snoopydawg, Laurence Lewis

      which allows for assassination on American soil, you'd think that would have changed minds.  However that was carefully veiled and made very vague.  The question of whether Americans could be detained or killed on American soil was not answered until last week really.  I hardly watch the tv and cable news anymore so I don't know if they brought that news strongly to the American people.  I suspect that they did not.

      President Obama covered for that provision by doing a signing statement saying that he didn't plan to kill any Americans on American soil with no due process.  A very weak protection and essentially no protection.   A president who uses a signing statement can easily use another.  But he says it all so nicely so people don't believe he'd actually do it.  And it's a case of "it could never happen here" going on.  Suspension of belief.  We've been here before.

      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:08:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have never heard that NDAA provides for (0+ / 0-)

        killing Americans on US soil.  rather, it pretty much just restates the AUMF, and in any event neither could authorize killing a US person on US person (see ex parte Milligan).  Nor have I heard about any signing statement re killing US citizens, and I'm pretty sure that none exists.

  •  It is very disheartening to see Robinson (0+ / 0-)

    stab President Obama in the back on this issue.

  •  I've been calling it "assassination by remote (5+ / 0-)

    control" since 2008.

    I point that out not to brag but to call your attention to some history.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 01:30:30 AM PST

  •  The rights of citizenship outlined in the (3+ / 0-)

    Constitution relate to citizens' rule as rulers (voting, holding office, serving on juries, etc.) The human rights, some of which are addressed in the amendments in the context of what agents of government are supposed NOT to do, adhere to all natural persons within the jurisdiction of the U.S.
    Since treaties with foreign nations are supposed to be the law of the land, the Constitution presumes that our treatment of foreign nationals in foreign lands will be governed by our treaty obligations. Otherwise, in lands within the jurisdiction of the U.S. there is no disctinction with regards to natural persons.  All their rights are supposed to be respected.

    The Cons' harping on U.S. citizenship as being a privileged status is nothing but the segregationist impulse in another form.  The thinking seems to be that if people can't be separated and segregated by how they look or where they came from, then citizneship will have to serve as a defining criterion. Segregation is necessary because without it there can be no hierarchy and without a hierarchy of authority, we can't have a functioning society, as the Cons conceive it. Without hierarchy and authorities there can be no society. The people ruling as equals is, in their estimation, an unruly mob. Rules mean that somebody tells and somebody else does.

    This isn't, at base, an antagonistic position. Though that organisms which year to be free and mobile are to be ruled and restrained is likely to be perceived as an antagonistic stance. Herd animals don't seem to mind being driven from pillar to post and "protected" from random marauders, but a large marjority of humans do. Persuading them that it's for their own good to stay together in one location is a tremendous task and requires a lot of effort. Also, a truckload of excuses.
    Herding humans from the sky with drones surely seems like a really good idea to the herders. Human husbandry, in case it's not clear, has evolved from the herding instinct. I suspect it depends on the marriage of the sense of time with predation. To catch first and consume later is economical in the sense that it requires less energy and leaves less for the vultures.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 01:53:57 AM PST

  •  My thinking, Ken, is this: (15+ / 0-)

    President Ford signed an executive order banning assassination in 1976. President Eisenhower warned us about endless war in 1960. Sadly, what I think we have here in our prosecution of the "War on Terror" is policy which is militaristic at best, terroristic at the worst.

    I continue to be flummoxed by the Obama administration's embracing of Bush era neocon policy. I fear that this is tarnishing what ought to be an excellent Presidency.

    The drone thing and the CIA: it reeks of Richard Nixon.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:31:21 AM PST

    •  to my mind its a real betrayal of important things (11+ / 0-)

      including of the presidential candidate who used to tout himself as one who had taught the Constitution and would abide by it

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:27:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You might want to read (8+ / 0-)

      this article in the New Yorker.  It's  more than just a Nixonish feeling.   The DoJ white paper leaked by Isikoff contains a reference to a speech by a Nixon legal advisor that was used for the purpose of Nixon's illegal warmaking in Cambodia.  There is a lot more in that white paper to raise red flags, but since you said it felt like Nixon, that's because it is like Nixon.


      About a third of the way into in a Department of Justice white paper explaining why and when the President can kill American citizens, there is a citation that should give a reader pause. It comes in a section in which the author of the document, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last year—and obtained by Michael Isikoff, of NBC, on Monday—says that this power extends into every country in the world other than the United States, well beyond those where we are engaged in hostilities. The reference is to an address that John R. Stevenson, a State Department legal adviser, gave before the Association of the Bar in New York in May, 1970, to justify the Nixon Administration’s incursion into Cambodia. Does that make everyone, or anyone, feel better about what the Obama Administration has decided it can do, or the extent to which it thought through the implications, unintended consequences, precedents, and random reckless damage it may be delivering with this policy?

      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:35:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We've gone so far over the line (12+ / 0-)

    and most Americans either don't care or don't realize how unconstitutional it is.  We're in a very bad situation.

    The secrecy and the media failure to inform the public have a lot to do with this.  With some serious and accurate reporting on the issue, opinions could change very quickly. But most of the reporting on drones is similar to a conversation between John Brennan and Dianne Feinstein talking about Americans who "joined" al Qaeda, about carefully chosen targets and surgical strikes.  It's presented in such a neat black and white package when the reality is nothing of the kind.  Nobody ever hears the names or sees the bodies of those who are blown up, or the cars or homes that are blown up, and nobody ever sees any evidence of what crime they committed.

    Assuming that most people who watch Ed Schultz's show, we've got a big problem on the left too.  Look at this.  It's hard to imagine the left agreeing with policies like this even a decade ago.  I've seen other polls that indicate such high support for drone killings by Democrats too.  And they may not be highly educated on law and the constitution, but they surely do know that these extreme powers will pass into the hands of president who succeed President Obama.  They know that. Most probably have no understanding of the NDAA though.  Still, this is a new low, in my opinion.  This is a sea change for Democrats and whatever it is that we call the left today.

    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:37:59 AM PST

    •  It is low, but remember that on other issues... (0+ / 0-) gay marriage, there were many Democratic party members on the wrong side of that issue.

      Not many progressives like Shultz tho which does make this a concern.

      Send your old shoes to the new George W. Bush library.

      by maxschell on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:28:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm brought to think of a couple of things: (5+ / 0-)

    First, from Robert E Lee:

    "It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it"

    The second is "A Taste of Armageddon"

    These are very very dangerous waters we now swim in.  Legally, ethically, and technologically.  Will we survive whole?

    Pray we do so.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:04:21 AM PST

    •  I like your Lee quote (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, Heart of the Rockies

      The notion of keeping our own military out of harm's way is, of course, compelling.  But I don't believe war should ever be "easy."  I've not served, and neither has anyone in my family (except for my Dad, briefly, in the 1950s), so I recognize that I'm speaking from a limited and privileged perspective, but I fear that fighting a war without a certain level of risk to our own side only guarantees that the war will never end.

      "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

      by Nespolo on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:31:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lee quote after Battle of Fredericksburg (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zenbassoon, Simplify

        when Union troops attemping an assault up Marye's Heights got slaughtered

        worth noting that when Picket's charge was beaten back at Gettysburg, the successful Union defenders began chanting over and over "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!"

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:55:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The rest of the world (3+ / 0-)

      is not happy with this.  I think it can only go so far before they will decide that it's not okay.  We've already seen some of this with respect to the war in Iraq and courts in foreign countries and now the UN rapporteur.  

      U.S. Use of Drones, Under New Scrutiny, Has Been Widely Opposed Abroad

      Last spring, Pew Research surveyed the public in 20 countries around the world and found that in 17 of them, more than half disapproved of the U.S. conducting drone strikes to target extremists in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The policy was particularly unpopular in majority Muslim nations, but it also faced disapproval in Europe and other regions as well.

      Disapproval is strongest in Greece (90%), Egypt (89%), Jordan (85%), Turkey (81%), Spain (76%), Brazil (76%) and Japan (75%).

      We seem to operate on an assumption that the U.S. can do anything and decide what's legal not only domestically but globally but the rest of the world does not see things that way.  I think this is not sustainable and it will either lead to formal or informal sanctions and economic pressure, legal pressure, or world war.

      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:03:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep. As I said, dangerous waters. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We either learn as a Humanity to end war, or be doomed to perpetual war.  We're at the cusp.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:19:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We're focusing on the least important issue. (3+ / 0-)

    The right of Americans abroad to work for the violent destruction of their government and society without fear of being killed by their government is a right I attach absolutely no value to.  Collateral killing is the more important issue by far.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 04:27:42 AM PST

  •  A shocking contrast - the real vs. imagined evils (0+ / 0-)

    Throughout the past five years we have witnessed hyperbole, lies and outlandish distortion of the truth employed to trash the President's reputation. One could call these imagined evils.

    -- Not a legal President (birtherism)
    -- He's a socialist/fascist/communist
    --- See above healthcare reform
    -- Black helicopters, subservience to the UN
    --- See above - guns, taking of
    --- See above - new world order
    -- Bought & paid for by Wall Street & yet simultaneously
    -- An enemy of Capitalism

    Plus a dozen other imagined evils that demand new page entries at

    These days the top on the list of these imagined evils would be the taking of guns - tomorrow it will be something else.

    It never is this question about the constitutionality of authority to kill, to kill an American citizen, to kill kill an American inconveniently ensconced in a foreign uncooperative land.

    That a large number of the U.S. population sees no problem with this new and purportedly selective version of death from above should matter next to nothing.

    Truly, a yawning silence from friends and opponents both on the clearest of issues.

  •  The continuation of, and expansion of, the Bush... (2+ / 0-)

    policy of combating "terrorism" with greater and more crushing violence is a losing proposition from the start and will lead to even more obscene violence being perpetrated on the soil of America. The way we are "fighting" the "war on terror," is an exercise in futility, further militarizing our social structure, changing the "norms" of civil society and creating a burgeoning "military, security, intelligence, congressional-complex," that is destroying us socially, politically, economically and morally.

    Assassinating Americans with robot killers is just the next step in the process of the destruction of legal and societal norms in America. What happens when other countries start employing their own drone strikes - perhaps with poison gas or biological weapons, then what?  We are gazing into the abyss and becoming that which we once beheld with contempt.

    If the only tool in your toolkit is violence, then every situation demands that violence be employed to fix it- this is just foolish and stupid.

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:05:16 AM PST

  •  We have long used the law as a cover for (0+ / 0-)

    immoral acts.  After all, slavery was legal.

    Promoting human rights has never been high on the U.S. agenda. Property always comes first.
    However, under the mantle of "protection," we seem to have finally achieved a long-sought ideal -- to act before something untoward happens, rather than after. After all, "protecting national security," rather than promoting the national interest, an earlier iteration,  was the predicate for the invasion of Iraq. Unlike the colonial powers, who invaded whatever territory had assets they wanted for themselves, now we can invade and crush whoever "threatens" the nation by failing to comply with our demands.

    Instead of "give me what I want, or else," the bandit says "do what I tell you, or else."  Exacting obedience is much safer because there's no quantifiable property involved. Moreover, coerced compliance is really hard to prove in a criminal court, if there's not an identifiable thing of value, like a wallet demanded and handed over to a mugger, involved. The extortionist can always argue that consent was freely given (after all, the victim had a choice) and abuse to which one consents (as in traditional marriage vows) is not abuse.
    Consent has become a universal absolvent. If Iran consents to having its nuclear plants inspected, then the demanded invasion of privacy is not abusive.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 05:30:16 AM PST

  •  This will be ignored here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan G in MN, Simplify

    but discussions on the left around these issue simply do not understand the idea of jurisdiction.

    A prosecutor in the US has a number of tools to use against criminals.  They can, as long as they get a warrant, conduct searches.  The can subpoena witnesses.  They can arrest people.

    They have very few tools when trying to prosecute someone outside of the US for the simple reason that a US Court does not have the authority to issue a search warrant or a subpoena in a foriegn country. This fact was completely ignored by people who didn't like the OBL operation.

    A US Citizen operating outside the US who has joined an enemy should NOT expect to have the same rights as a criminal defendant inside the United States.  The US Constitution does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens in the key sections of the Bill of Rights for a very simple reason: they are limited not by a person's status but by his presense.  Jurisdiction is based on location, not citicenship status.

    I am uncomfortable with the lack of judicial review of the use of drones against US Citizens, but the real problem here is the AUMF, which is still in effect and which has no time limit.  The repeal of the AUMF or its modification is desperately needed.  The US is still as a matter of US Law still at War under the AUMF.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 06:55:34 AM PST

  •  Logged in to rec this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First, it is clearly unconstitutional to kill Americans without due process when there is no imminent threat.  And yes I know that the Administration/Obama have tried to re-define "imminent" a la Bush/Yoo to make their case to kill Americans at will.

    Killing Americans at will is bullshit.

    Second, the only reason 83% of Americans support this is because they haven't heard anything about it.  Why?  Because the Administration/Obama has kept it all secret.

    Finally, I would invite everyone to recall how recently it was that 83% of Americans were against gay marriage.  We, and in particular the incredibly well-organized and dedicated gay rights movement changed that by taking their case to the  American people and making opposition untenable politically.

    We know killing Americans by Presidential fiat is wrong and unconstitutional.  Now we just have to stop it.

    Send your old shoes to the new George W. Bush library.

    by maxschell on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:25:34 AM PST

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