Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Drone attacks can now target US citizens

In September of 2011, a drone attack in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, two American citizens. Although both men were suspected Al-Qaeda affiliates, neither had been charged with any crime, nor had they been indicted by any US Court.

Catch that? Two American citizens were killed by the government of the United States because they engaged in suspicious activity.

These killings were the result of a policy initiated by the Obama administration, the details of which were revealed in an exclusive story uncovered by veteran Washington reporter Michael Isikoff. A Justice Department memo, outlining policy, asserts that the United States government can summarily execute its own citizens. Further, the legal requirements for such an execution are very low. The memo states that "the condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Get it? The Justice Department asserts that the government can execute any American citizen whom the Justice Department deems might someday pose a threat to the United States. More bluntly, if you talk to the wrong people, the President can have you killed.

This issue, which has been simmering for at least 18 months, is now being brought to the fore because the Obama administration has nominated counter-terrorism adviser James Brennan to be the new Director of Central Intelligence. Brennan is an advocate and supporter of this policy.

At long last, and with the national election (conveniently) behind us so there can't be any meaningful debate, this blockbuster issue is getting some much-needed exposure.

I've never been comfortable with the drone policy. It would seem to be disastrous from a counter-terrorism standpoint. Although the Justice Department stresses that the attacks are targeted, when a bomb drops on a wedding or a funeral or a random village innocent bystanders will be killed. Americans don't generally worry too much when people in exotic places are killed by their government. But now that American citizens are included in the list of viable targets maybe we'll get some public outcry.

I'd love to blame all of this on Junior Bush and his rotten administration, but the truth is that although Bush expanded drone attacks during his term, President Obama has taken it to a whole new level. Killing American citizens by executive order!

Republicans looking for an impeachable offense would have one here, except that they don't have the stones for it. Besides, they no doubt see the usefulness of the policy. They'll be back in the White House one day, after all. This is bipartisan. (Can't you just see John McCain gleefully rubbing his hands together?) President Obama is merely advancing the whole misguided drone policy to its logical next state.

The drone genie got let out of the bottle a decade or more ago. Given the moral corruption of our corporate-owned government, it is hard to imagine that we'll ever get it back in.

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