Barack Obama’s License to Kill

droneLet’s imagine for a moment that the Liberty Professor embarks on an extended study trip to an Islamic nation.  Since my area of expertise includes interreligious dialogue, it’s not an impossibility.  Perhaps a university in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the peaceful regions of Afghanistan would give me a grant to spend a semester learning about the nation’s Islamic history and culture.  While visiting, it would not be unusual to make friends with some of the locals.  I might even become a regular at a busy coffee shop.

What if, unknown to me, members of a terrorist organization also frequent the shop?  If I visit the shop everyday, such terrorists might often be present at the same time that I am sipping tea.  Who knows?  I might even have regular conversations with them. After all, I’m an extrovert interested in learning about the culture and religious views of those who differ from me. I’ll talk to just about anybody who will talk to me … it’s an honest trait that I inherited from my mother!

Now let’s go one step further. What if my frequent visits and cordial relations with these people come to the attention of an informed, high-level official of the United States who believes that my coffee-shop acquaintances are actively promoting attacks against the United States? That official might wrongly come to the conclusion that I am an ally of these terrorists, even though I don’t even know they are terrorists. Then what happens?

Well, if the official believes it’s better to terminate me than to attempt my capture, Barack Obama and his Justice Department say that this is an acceptable action and that my rights–guaranteed under the United States Constitution–no longer apply. That’s right. This past Tuesday, a Justice Department “white paper” came to light laying out the administration’s case for killing an American overseas as long as the operation is “conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

In other words, if the government decides to go to war against an American citizen who is abroad, it can kill that citizen.

According to analysis by Jameel Jaffer at the American Civil Liberties Union, “this sweeping authority is said to exist even if the threat presented isn’t imminent in any ordinary sense of that word, even if the target has never been charged with a crime or informed of the allegations against him, and even if the target is not located anywhere near an actual battlefield.” If the government’s rights to do this are limited, those limitations are so vague in the paper as to be nearly non-existent. “Even more problematic,” says Jaffer of the ACLU, “the paper contends that the limits on the government’s claimed authority are not enforceable in any court.”  In other words, there is no appeal.

This should chill the blood of every American. It essentially means that if a US citizen overseas is deemed a threat, that citizen can be the target of lethal action by his own government without any warning and without due process of law. No judicial review is required, either before or after the killing. In fact, the government claims the right to carry out the entire affair in total secrecy. The preferred method of termination, of course, is a drone strike.

According to Fox News, “the US drone program has been ramped up dramatically” under Barack Obama’s leadership. “It has become one of the most important tools of the administration’s counterterrorism campaign.”  Those who believe that innocent lives can’t be extinguished by this policy should think again. In 2011, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (a US citizen) was killed in a drone strike two weeks after his father was killed in a previous attack.  His father was terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who had renounced his citizenship. There is no evidence that his son ever did so, but there is strong evidence that he had not even seen his father for two years.

When confronted with questions about the matter a year later, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.”

What a frightening disregard for the life of a citizen by a spokesman for the highest office in the land! Our Constitution demands that the rights of American citizens cannot be so summarily dismissed. It is nothing short of approval for assassination. One might even imagine that a government official would wait to act against a citizen until that citizen went abroad. Knowing that the law had been construed to allow that citizen’s termination while overseas, and that there is no judicial oversight or appeal, what would prevent such a devious plan from being enacted?

When did we decide that a few powerful people in government should have such authority? Was it not for reasons such as this that the Constitution put constraints on government power? Those who think the US Constitution is out of date are dangerously mistaken. Questions like these demonstrate that it remains as vital and as relevant as it ever was.

I realize how improbable my fears may sound, but let’s be honest. When we allow such sweeping power to government, we cannot prevent the abuse of that power. This has always been the foundational insight for those of us who argue for tight limits on governmental power. You see, once power is taken by the government or given up by the people, it is normally very difficult to take it back. It usually takes a revolution.

It seems these days that our political landscape looks much like a badminton game. The Republicans get control for a while and so-called “conservatives” put in place the big-government policies they prefer, favoring those who assist them to remain in office. Then the birdie bounces into the other side of the court and the Democrats get control for awhile. Their radical “liberals” put in place the big-government policies of their preference, favoring those who keep them in office. Both sides squeeze the life out of the electorate, play voters against one another, and consolidate tremendous–frightening–amounts of power. The problem certainly didn’t start with Barack Obama, but he has used it (and abused it) to his full advantage and to the advantage of the federal government.

Section II.A of the white paper (page 5) specifically brings up the constitutional guarantee of due process for an offending citizen.  It is dismissed entirely:  “The Due Process Clause would not prohibit a lethal operation of the sort contemplated here.”

If you have tended to see this blog as an overreaction, or if you have not yet understood the destruction of our human liberties that is well underway in the United States of America, then read this white paper for yourself. If you are an American citizen, read it carefully. This is the US Justice Department explaining to a court and to the entire world why it can kill you, why it can do it secretly, and why it needs no oversight or court approval to do so. A few highly-placed government officials can reduce you, a person who pays their salaries, to ground meat.

This is the executive branch of our government at work “protecting us” by inventing the right to kill us without due process of trial and legal defense. As US district court Judge Colleen McMahon wrote, the federal government has created “a thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws.” Here is a judge who is awake to the danger falling upon us all.

Of course, some readers will scoff at my concerns. They will argue that I’m an alarmist. After all, the government insists that this move is designed to save American lives and defend the homeland. One must ask where this reasoning will take us next. If the threat is that bad, perhaps a day will soon come when strip searches in airports are not enough.

One must also ask why any level of government in the US needs increasing numbers of drones in our homeland skies. Who are they watching? What privacy is being taken away, and from whom? It is one thing to arrest a lawbreaker. It’s another thing entirely to participate in wholesale spying on citizens just because someone might be breaking the law.

Is a day coming soon when the feds will use attack machinery in our own cities? It appears that such plans are already being developed. As reported by CBS News, Black Hawk helicopters were deployed in Miami on January 25 as part of a military “training exercise.”  Such urban-assault exercises have been taking place in other large cities across the US recently, such as Houston and  St. Louis.

If we combine these preparations for “our safety” with the government’s insistence that it can kill us overseas for the nation’s survival, how long will it be before that same government decides it can kill us at home without due process–if it’s best for the country?

It’s probably a ridiculous question.

On the other hand … power, once it is seized by government, is rarely returned to the people voluntarily.

Madame Secretary Dodges, Ducks, and Deflects

untitledThe second imperial presidency of King Barack I began with a bang this week as a well-prepared Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The goal of this hearing was to get to the bottom of what went wrong in Libya on September 11, 2012. As Secretary of State, Clinton stands at the very top of a system that failed on that day, leaving four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The transcript of Clinton’s opening statement is worthy of analysis.  Such analysis will easily demonstrate that the woman who would be president accepts little genuine responsibility for what happened just 137 days ago in Benghazi.  Oh, perhaps you had forgotten.  You can’t be blamed, really.  The pro-Democrat “mainstream” press has mostly ignored the incident.  For them and for the Obama administration, our ambassador and his three defenders were expendable. Now they need to be forgotten lest they tarnish the Obama legacy or prevent the ascendancy of Hillary Clinton.

Madame Secretary’s statement began by mentioning the names of our honored dead from Benghazi, but quickly moved past them. She placed recent events into the context of other security failures since 1988 and boldly proclaimed that “our security professionals get it right 99 percent of the time.” Then she mentioned the presidential administrations and congressional members of “both parties” and their attempts to learn from past tragedies.

This was political speak in its highest form. It was the narrative version of a wink and a nod, meaning that we all just need to move on. Mistakes have been made before and they’ll be made again. Powerful political players enjoy their salaries and perks, but they don’t enjoy being in the spotlight of blame.

She then listed all the ways that she and the State Department under her leadership rose to the occasion on that fateful day in September–and what has been done since. According to her, these actions under her vigilance have been designed to “increase the safety of our diplomats.” Then, oddly, she stated that “concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are not new.”

She dutifully recalled how difficult it was to watch the flag-draped coffins of our citizens return stateside and offered a moving and patriotic ending. “Every time that blue-and-white airplane carrying the words ‘United States of America’ touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensable nation.”

Then, as if to cement her camraderie with the members of the Senate committee, she thanked them for their “partnership” and “shared sense of responsibility.”

Let me be as fair as I can here.  Admittedly, Hillary Clinton said that she takes responsibility for Benghazi: “As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right.” Reading the convoluted message delivered to the Senate, however, I have grave doubts.

Getting it right in the future was not the only reason for this hearing. The questions left unanswered by Clinton’s self-supporting statement include “What went wrong back in September?” and “Why was our ambassador left in such a vulnerable position on a day that is soaked with bloody meaning for the terrorists determined to harm the United States?”

This has been the necessary question screaming for an answer yet to be given. It remains unanswered because an honest assessment must point to the very highest echelons of our government. This failure is one of epic proportions and it falls upon the shoulders of President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton. This is why, from the beginning, an anti-Islamic video was falsely blamed for the attack. That poor excuse was intended to give the political cover that Obama and Clinton so badly needed. If the nation were convinced that the attack was spontaneous, then the blame would be minimal.  Or so they hoped. When they were caught in their lie they perpetrated a second lie by claiming that they never acted in the way in which they clearly did act.

It’s all quite an impressive show.  But it has little to do with honesty or an attempt to get to the facts. “It’s been a cover-up from the beginning,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reminded us. And the cover-up continued in this week’s hearing. It became especially disgusting when Clinton was questioned by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who wondered about the official version of what happened in the days immediately after Benghazi.

The pressure was too much for Clinton. The light of responsibility was shining directly at her. She did what the guilty often do: she deflected. She dodged and she ducked, and she acted as if the senator had done something wrong by daring to raise the issue. Irritated, she lectured him. “What difference at this point does it make?” she yelled. “It is our job to figure out what happened and to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

This is Hillary Clinton unhinged. Ever looking to the future and a possible bid for the presidency, this is Hillary Clinton dodging her responsibility and refusing to allow her failure to take root in the very spot where it belongs.

Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012. Shortly after this photograph was taken he was gang-raped and murdered in the streets of Benghazi.

Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012. Shortly after this photograph was taken he was gang-raped and murdered in the streets of Benghazi.

Madame Secretary, you’re out of line. You ask what difference it makes. It makes a great deal of difference. On the most dangerous anniversary in American history outside of declared warfare, you and your State Department were caught off guard. You were unprepared. You left our personnel in harm’s way. Then, when there was still time to save our ambassador, someone gave the command to stand down.

This colossal failure belongs to you and to President Obama. Sadly, as his re-election shows, it didn’t stick to him. Tragically, it probably won’t stick to you either. But it does matter. And it will always matter, regardless of how the media may ignore it.

Don’t give us sob stories about watching coffins as they are unloaded from transport. Your emotions are not the cause of our national grief. The bodies inside those coffins are the cause. You and President Obama put them there.

Our Government is Prepared to Make War Against Us

On September 30, 2011, the President of the United States authorized the targeting and assasination of an American citizen.  That president was Barack Hussein Obama.  The citizen was Anwar al-Awlaki.  The method of annihilation was an AGM-114 Hellfire missile.  The citizen was obliterated.  There was nothing left for burial.  Two weeks later his teenage son was targeted and killed in the same manner.  Born in Denver, he is believed to be at least the fourth American citizen assasinated on orders of the Obama administration.

Now we jump forward three months, to New Year’s Eve of 2011.  The date was intentionally chosen by the Obama administration.  It was a weekend holiday when most Americans were more interested in attending parties than tracking their government, and a time  when the major news outlets were less than attentive.  President Obama signed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), including Amendment 1031, a law granting to the United States military the right to detain US citizens indefinitely without charges, without legal advice, and without trial.

This is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.  It qualifies as one of the nightmare acts of government that specifically inspired our nation’s Founders to limit the powers of government.  Proud Englishmen with respect for the law, they had far too often seen the contempt of the British monarch for his own citizens.  Colonial citizens had often been arrested and detained by agents of the Crown without warrant, without specific charges, without legal advice, and without trial.  They refused to construct a government of their own that could do likewise, yet that is what we now have.

If you think the title of this post is incendiary, then I hope you’ll aim your concern at its cause rather than its author.  A pall is descending on America.  Where is the indignation?