Patterico's Pontifications


More Reasons to Worry About a Slippery Slope From the Assassination Memo

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:56 pm

Think it’s crazy to worry about a slippery slope when a memo tells Barack Obama he’s good to kill American citizens who aren’t imminently about to attack the United States?

What if the U.S. citizen is a 16-year-old whose crime is having a terrorist dad?

Now, I can hear you saying: “hey, if the 16-year-old happens to be standing right next to his terrorist dad when we kill the dad . . .” If that’s what you’re thinking, stop. It’s not entirely clear what did happen . . . but it’s clear that’s not what happened:

He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country — they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Awlaki had proven himself an expert inciter of those with murderous designs against America and Americans: the rare man of words who could be said to have a body count. When he was killed, on September 30, 2011, President Obama made a speech about it; a few months later, when the Obama administraton’s public-relations campaign about its embrace of what has come to be called “targeted killing” reached its climax in a front-page story in the New York Times that presented the President of the United States as the last word in deciding who lives and who dies, he was quoted as saying that the decision to put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill list — and then to kill him — was “an easy one.” But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn’t on an American kill list.

Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penin[su]la. Nor was he “an inspiration,” as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone “operational,” as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests. He was a boy who hadn’t seen his father in two years, since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who snuck out of his family’s home in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the second cousin with whom he’d lived while on his search, and the friends he’d made. He was a boy among boys, then; a boy among boys eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all.

I would need to know more about this attack to know whether to be outraged by the attack. Maybe he was collateral damage to an attack on another terrorist. Here’s the problem, and here is what is certainly cause for outrage: a spokesman for this administration is willing to justify it as the fruits of his dad’s decision to be a terrorist. Watch at 1:56:


ADAMSON: …It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.

GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

Conor Friedersdorf:

Again, note that this kid wasn’t killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment. Is that the real answer? Or would the Obama Administration like to clarify its reasoning? Any Congress that respected its oversight responsibilities would get to the bottom of this.

Emphasis added.

See? If they think they can come up with a cute sound bite to justify it, they’ll try literally anything. They’ll look you in the eye and say it’s OK to kill a kid because his dad’s a terrorist. That may not be what happened, but that is the position that this idiot Gibbs is defending.

Glenn Greenwald has more on the memo and what makes it worrisome. I think we have to apply to Obama the same standards we would apply to such a law under Bush. To me, at first glance, the idea that a single official can make a decision when there is no imminent threat sounds unAmerican. Where are the checks and balances?

If a president would need a warrant to wiretap American citizens, presumably he should need a warrant to, um, kill them.

Awwww: Obama Wants to Avoid Automatic Spending Cuts

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:42 pm

HuffPo via Hot Air:

White House officials say President Barack Obama will ask Congress to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across the board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1.

Sorry, dude. No tax revenue for you. As you have repeatedly told us, we need this thing called a “balanced approach.” We have had the tax hikes. Now we must “balance” them with spending cuts.

If you don’t like that, I have a suggestion for you. It’s what you told us during the last negotiations.

Government Memo: Obama May Kill Certain U.S. Citizens

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:35 am

Today, that’s restricted to leaders of Al Qaeda or an associated force planning an imminent attack on the U.S. who cannot be captured.


A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

Here’s the memo itself (.pdf).

I haven’t read the memo all the way through, but it’s hard to conclude that a President doesn’t have authority to defend the United States from deadly attack by a terrorist, citizen or no. For example, say it’s reported that a U.S. citizen has hijacked a plane overseas, and has announced his intention to ram it into the Empire State Building on behalf of Al Qaeda. Surely the president can order that plane shot down.

One problem is that the memo does not restrict itself to an imminent attack situation:

“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,” the memo states.

Another problem is that Obama is a liar and I do not trust him. So while I might be OK with what the memo proposes, there is no way for me to be sure he won’t take it further, if he thinks it would benefit him politically. He doesn’t consider himself constrained by little things like budget deadlines. Why would he pass an opportunity to kill a U.S. citizen outside the above guidelines if he thought he could justify it?

RELATED? Iowa farmers complain about drones monitoring their farms:

Few developments in the news in recent weeks have disturbed me more than what we’re learning about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using unmanned drone aircraft to monitor Iowa farms. In some cases, we’re learning that the EPA has used the aircraft to gather information on agricultural operations. The simple truth is that no government agency should be able to treat Iowa farmers like the Taliban.

Alarm is growing among many farmers in the Midwest regarding this surveillance operation. They’re justifiably concerned that a government agency may be gathering information on them or their property without their consent or knowledge. Much of this alarm stems from the scarcity of facts we have about these flights. In response, I sent a letter this week to the EPA administrator to get to the bottom of what this aerial surveillance is all about. In my letter, I demanded responses from the EPA on what sort of information is being gathered, how that information is being used, how much these surveillance flights cost and what legal justification they have for conducting them.

I bet U.S. citizens never thought drones would be conducting surveillance on farmers.

It’s not like this guy thinks of himself as above the law or anything, does it?

UPDATE: I added a paragraph that explains that the memo does not restrict itself to situations where an attack is imminent.

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