Drones Over America: Obama Won’t Absolutely Rule out Domestic Drone Assasinations, and That’s Tell Us All We Need to Know
by Eileen | 9:17 pm, February 16, 2013 | Comments Off
Does Barack Obama hold that he can order the use of drone strikes to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil?
This is a crystal clear yes-or-no question. But Barry won’t answer it. That, itself, is the answer.
Make no mistake, both he and his flunkies have been asked to provide a real answer to that question, and they’ve flubbed.
During his unclassified confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director-nominee John Brennan’s complete answer to the question of drone strikes over U.S. territory was, ‘This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.”
That might see heartening, but having “no intention of doing so” is a non-binding and ambiguous statement about the current state of mind. it’s actually quite far from an explicit promise that military drone assassinations won’t be conducted on American ground. The wording also leaves open the possibility that Obama can order domestic drone assassinations and say that things changed. It also does nothing to restrict future Presidents from bringing the drone war home. Plainly, there is no rule of law, no equality, no universality to this. It’s a privilege accorded to the President, applicable as widely as he prefers. For citizens, this means there is no predictability. It is high caprice.
Obama had the opportunity to commit himself to a real limitations of the awesome new powers he’s given himself. As evasive and bumbling as his answer might seem, his response was not accidental or extemporaneous in the least. His non-answer to the perfectly question of whether or not he presumes the right to order domestic drone strikes is worth examining. The first thing he said?
First of all, I think, there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil.
First of all, oh-hope-filled-beacon-of-transparency, if you don’t know whether or not armed drones have been used domestically then who does? Getting at the central point, you weren’t asked for the history of drones, but to publicly make a categorical statement about your own policy and how far you think your Presidential prerogative extends.
He then made multiple categorically false statements:
…we respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations…
…what we’ve done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues…
and, soaring to new heights of patronizing chicanery:
I am not someone who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism. There have to be legal checks and balances on it.
The closest he came to speaking to the likelihood of domestic drone assassination was still flimsy and evasive:
The rules outside the United States are going to be different then the rules inside the United States. In part because our capacity to, for example, to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different then in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The already infamous Justice Department paper on drone strikes set out, as one of three preconditions for employing drones, that capturing the ‘terrorist’ must be infeasible. It’s certainly hard to imagine that the full force of American might, operating at home, would be unable to apprehend someone. But Obama did not say, ‘Look, it’s unthinkable that we wouldn’t be able to track done and arrest a high-level terrorist on U.S. territory, and therefore there is no need to use armed drones over America. Therefore, it is the policy of my Administration to we do not and we will not use armed drones over American territory.” No, he made the tautological statement that the U.S. and the rest of the world are different places, before moving on in a non-responsive spiel.
His very next words were:
But what I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we are doing the right thing.
Oh, bullshit, Barry, you lying wad of scum.
This line comes from a man who not only won’t deal transparently and honestly with Americans, but who withholds OLC opinions regarding targeted drone strikes from the Congressmen who are specifically charged with that oversight and who hold security clearances. Barack Obama absolutely expects citizens to take his word and stop asking questions he doesn’t want to answer.
It took multiple Senators threatening to put a hold on Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA or filibuster the confirmation before the White House grudgingly turned over one OLC opinion. Yet Senators Wyden and Paul are still ready to block Brennan unless much more documentation is forthcoming. And, by the way godspeed to you both, gentlemen.
The other on-the-record Administrative statement that’s particularly telling about the legality of drone strikes is Attorney General Holder’s arch 2012 speech when he explicitly argued that the Obama policy on drone assassinations complies with Due Process, and was at pains to establish that the President is not ignoring Due Process under the theory of war. (In that speech, though, Holder still averred that Due Process for suspected terrorists is a different animal from Due Process afforded to criminal defendants.) The DOJ paper takes the opposite tact; drone assassinations are part of a war and, as such, need not answer for Due Process violations. I know, more contradiction from Barry and friends, what else is new? In short, the Administration wants to claim it’s at war when the rules to war suit it and to claim they are engaged in something that is decidedly not a state of war when that suits.
In this case, consistency is not hte hobgoblin of little minds. It is the stuff of gentlemen and of statesmen.
As Mother Jones reported, drone strikes are the purview of the CIA and the DOD. The former is categorically banned from operating domestically. That’s never stopped them, but they do prefer to violate their charter quietly. However, Posse Comitatus allows the President to order the military into domestic activity against Americans under some circumstances. That power dates to the Reconstruction era and was last used during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. The intent of the law is to quell isolated and rare civil disturbances that exceed the response capability of the police and are severe enough to represent a real threat to innocent civilians, but it seems frighteningly clear that Obama intends to wage a vaguely defined and indefinite ‘war’ on anyone who irritates him.
Paired with the Justice Department’s perversion of ‘imminent’ beyond any acceptable definition of the word and John Brennan’s insistence that drone strikes are preventative and not punitive, the ground is laid for the perpetual use of the military as a domestic strike force that responds to the unilateral wishes of the Executive. In this instance, the Executive is not any publicly identified figure, but a faceless procession of random high-level appointees. It’s a fair assumption to say that the people ordering drone strikes – the foreign ones we already conduct and the domestic ones that the Administration won’t rule out – will never be named or held to account, and that will probably be passed off as a regrettable necessity of ‘security’.
Going by the maddeningly – and deliberately – imprecise language in the DOJ’s white paper, Obama’s Justice Department’s first inclination is not to use Posse Comitatus, two words whose mere mention inflames civil libertarians, but the AUMF, the Authorization of Military Force dating back to the Bush 43 days. In that paper, DOJ took great pains to interpret the AUMF as a blank check for the President to do anything he felt ‘necessary’ in the War on Terror. While neither the paper nor any individual will categorically say they are claiming the legal power to order drone strikes over U.S. soil, no one will emphatically rule it out, and that is nothing less than terrifying.
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