Guest Post: Legal Experts Destroy Rationale for Obama’s Assassination Policy … And Slam Democrats for Supporting It

Obama Expanding Program Started by Cheney

Attorney General Eric Holder announced at Northwestern University law school that the U.S. can assassinate U.S. citizens without any without disclosure of why they are even alleged to be baddies and without any review of any nature whatsoever by any judge, Congress or the American people.

Northwestern University’s law school professor Joseph Margulies said:

I defy anyone to read [Holder’s] speech and show any differences between Obama and Bush on these issues, They both say we are in a war not confined to particular battlefield. … Both say we can target citizens without judicial oversight and that can happen anywhere in the world.

Columbia law school professor Scott Horton notes that this assassination strategy was created by Dick Cheney, and is being carried out by the Obama administration:

A lot of this seems to have been put in place under the tutelage of Dick Cheney. So here we see one of Dick Cheney’s ideas being ratified by Barack Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder.

(Obama is also implementing Cheney and the boys’ plans for war in the Middle East and North Africa.)

Top constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley slams the Democratic Party for its complicity:

The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers. Obama has replaced the constitutional protections afforded to citizens with a “trust me” pledge that Holder repeated.

***

Senior administration officials have asserted that the president may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including in the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added, “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.”

The Obama administrationcontinues to stonewall efforts to get it to acknowledge the existence of a memo authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Democrats previously demanded the “torture memos” of the Bush administration that revealed both poor legal analysis by Judge Jay Bybee and Professor John Yoo to justify torture. Now, however, Democrats are largely silent in the face of a president claiming the right to unilaterally kill citizens.

Holder became particularly cryptic in his assurance of caution in the use of this power, insisting that they will kill citizens only with “the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.” What on earth does that mean?

Former constitutional trial lawyer and progressive writer Glenn Greenwald agrees:

The willingness of Democrats to embrace and defend this power is especially reprehensible because of how completely, glaringly and obviously at odds it is with everything they loudly claimed to believe during the Bush years. Recall two of the most significant “scandals” of the Bush War on Terror: his asserted power merely to eavesdrop on and detain accused Terrorists without judicial review of any kind. Remember all that? Progressives endlessly accused Bush of Assaulting Our Values and “shredding the Constitution” simply because Bush officials wanted to listen in on and detain suspected Terrorists — not kill them, just eavesdrop on and detain them — without first going to a court and proving they did anything wrong. Yet here is a Democratic administration asserting not merely the right to surveil or detain citizens without charges or judicial review, but to kill them without any of that: a far more extreme, permanent and irreversible act. Yet, with some righteous exceptions, the silence is deafening, or worse.

How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’s executions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground.

That the same Party and political faction that endlessly shrieked about Bush’s eavesdropping and detention programs now tolerate Obama’s execution program is one of the most extreme and craven acts of dishonesty we’ve seen in quite some time.

***

To recap Barack Obama’s view: it is a form of “terror” for someone to be detained “without even getting one chance to prove their innocence,” but it is good and noble for them to be executed under the same circumstances. To recap Eric Holder’s view: we must not accept when the Bush administration says “just trust us” when it comes to spying on the communications of accused Terrorists, but we must accept when the Obama administration says “just trust us” when it comes to targeting our fellow citizens for execution.

***

What’s so striking is how identical Obama officials and their defenders sound when compared to the right-wing legal theorists who justified Bush’s most controversial programs. Even the core justifying slogans are the same: we are at War; the Battlefield is everywhere; Presidents have the right to spy on, detain and kill combatants without court permission; the Executive Branch is the sole organ for war and no courts can interfere in the President’s decisions, etc. I spent years writing about and refuting those legal theories and they are identical to what we hear now. Just consider how similar the two factions sound to one another. When it came to their War on Terror controversies, Bush officials constantly said back then exactly what Obama officials and defenders say now: we’re only using these powers against Terrorists — The Bad People — not against regular, normal, Good Americans; so if you’re not a Terrorist, you have nothing to worry about.

***

This is nothing more than an exercise of supremely circular reasoning and question-begging: whether someone is actually a Terrorist can be determined only when the evidence of their guilt is presented and they have an opportunity to respond, just as Holder and Obama said during the Bush years. Government assurances that they’re only targeting Terrorists — whether those assurances issue from Bush or Obama — should reassure nobody: this is always what those who abuse power claim, and it’s precisely why we don’t trust government officials to punish people based on unproven accusations. [Indeed, .]

***

We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

***

That this policy is being implemented and defended by the very same political party that spent the last decade so vocally and opportunistically objecting to far less extreme powers makes it all the more repellent. That fact also makes it all the more dangerous, because — as one can see — the fact that it is a Democratic President doing it, and Democratic Party officials justifying it, means that it’s much easier to normalize: very few of the Party’s followers, especially in an election year, are willing to make much of a fuss about it at all.

And thus will presidential assassination powers be entrenched as bipartisan consensus for at least a generation. That will undoubtedly be one of the most significant aspects of the Obama legacy. Let no Democrat who is now supportive or even silent be heard to object when the next Republican President exercises this power in ways that they dislike.

As does Charles Pierce:

The criteria for when a president can unilaterally decide to kill somebody is completely full of holes, regardless of what the government’s pet lawyers say. And this…

“This is an indicator of our times,” Holder said, “not a departure from our laws and our values.”

…is a monumental pile of crap that should embarrass every Democrat who ever said an unkind word about John Yoo. This policy is a vast departure from our laws and an interplanetary probe away from our values. The president should not have this power because the Constitution, which was written by smarter people than, say, Benjamin Wittes, knew full and goddamn well why the president shouldn’t have this power. If you give the president the power to kill without due process, or without demonstrable probable cause, he inevitably will do so. And, as a lot of us asked during the Bush years, if you give this power to President George Bush, will you also give it to President Hillary Clinton and, if you give this power to President Barack Obama, will you also give it to President Rick Santorum?

Greenwald also points out that it is unclear whether the poster child for assassination of American citizens – Anwar Al Awlaki – was even a threat:

Applying traditional war doctrine to accused Terrorists (who are not found on a battlefield but in their cars, their homes, at work, etc.) is so inappropriate, and why judicial review is so urgent: because the risk of false accusations is so much higher than it is when capturing uniformed soldiers on an actual battlefield. Just recall how dubious so many government accusations of Terrorism turned out to be once federal courts began scrutinizing those accusations for evidentiary support. Indeed, Yemen experts such as Gregory Johnsen have repeatedly pointed out in response to claims that Awlaki plotted Terrorist attacks: “we know very little, precious little when it comes to his operational role” andwe just don’t know this, we suspect it but don’t know it.” Given this shameful record in the War on Terror, what rational person would “trust” the Government to make determinations about who is and is not a Terrorist in the dark, with no limits or checks on what they can do?

***

Holder’s attempt to justify these assassinations on the ground that “capture is not feasible” achieves nothing. For one, the U.S. never even bothered to indict Awlaki so that he could voluntarily turn himself in or answer the charges (though at one point, long after they first ordered him killed, they “considered” indicting him); instead, they simply killed him without demonstrating there was any evidence to support these accusations. What justifies that? Additionally, the fact that the Government is unable to apprehend and try a criminal does not justify his murder; absent some violent resistance upon capture, the government is not free to simply go around murdering fugitives who have been convicted of nothing. Moreover, that Awlaki could not have been captured in a country where the government is little more than an American client is dubious at best …

(Interestingly, Lt.Col. Anthony Shaffer – who claims to have tracked several of the 9/11 hijackers prior to September 11th – alleges that al-Awlaki was a triple agent and an FBI asset before 9/11.)

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander… http://www.washingtonsblog.com

37 comments

  1. shhhh

    The silence from the Republicans (who theoretically place rights of the individual above the power state and distrust collective power held by gov’t) is equally maddening and saddening.

    1. C

      No, what’s truly sad is that they are keeping silent not because they disapprove or approve but only because they fear that bringing it up will help Obama in the polls.

      Ultimately rhyme, reason, right and wrong are lost in favor of reelections.

  2. Jagger

    Unfortunately, I suspect large numbers of thinking people are dropping out of the system. We no longer believe our vote or our voice has any real influence on our political leaders or system except, perhaps, at the local level.

    Myself, I no longer believe in our political system and increasingly question the foundation and organization of our entire society. If I were a young kid, I might be more pro-active and optimistic but then I doubt I would have the experience to realize just how screwed up is our society.

    I would like to point out the root of our political problems lies in election campaign financing. And even though financing is a major factor, I suspect the problem is much deeper and may lie within human nature. The power of politics seems to attract the worse types of personalities while the wiser abandon the field. So by default, the worst type of personalities rule the country and not just in politics. I am beginning to think you cannot reach the top of any profession without being a psychopath or sociopath. Maybe it has always been that way and always will be.

    Of course, we can just throw up our hands or we can fight the good fight. Win or lose, the side you choose and the fight you fight defines your life.

    1. Waking Up

      The problem with our political system is far deeper than election campaign financing. Why do I say that? Because ask yourself this question…would we have different candidates running in the presidential election even if there WAS limited campaign financing? Would the same wealthy interests “choose” who the candidates would be? While election campaign financing is a huge problem, other issues such as voter fraud through computer systems, our two party system where both parties are corrupted (revolving door between private industry and government, lobbyist influence, desire for power – note, when 50% of our “representatives” are millionaires, you know they aren’t there simply for the interests of citizens, and numerous other issues such as completely ignoring the constitution), then the problem is far greater than campaign financing. Add in the corporate run media which informs the 99% based upon the interests of the 1% instead of giving voice to candidates which would represent the citizens and well….

    2. nonclassical

      bushbama has lost ALL credibility…and bears the responsibility when his former
      supporters leave in droves..WikiLeaks shows he had deal with bush-cheney to NOT do “transparency, oversight, accountability” for WAR CRIMES-in fact he is perpetrating such himself.

      Americans are SICK of being governed by war criminals who belong in the docket at the Hague…and now that includes bushbama..

      bushbama threw his grassroots under the bus following 2008 elections (as exposed by his grassroots organizer), and now we throw HIM under….

    3. RBHoughton

      I completely agree with you. Government no longer represents the people.

      But I disagree with the attribution. I suspect in fifty years time, when historians evaluate these days, they will conclude that today’s US decline was due to the seven sisters’ manipulation of oil prices and supply.

    4. rjlaures

      “I would like to point out the root of our political problems lies in election campaign financing.”

      I would suggest that the root of our problems, both political and economic is our system of financing, period. I remembering reading a qoute, which I can not attribute off the top of my head, that said “Give me the power to create a nations money supply and I care not who makes its laws”.
      I am of the belief that we need to take the money creating power out of private hands and Dennis Kucinich’s bill HR2990 is a good place to start.

  3. votersway

    If Holder claims his powers under the NDAA 2012, he is wrong. I’m not aware of another bill that gives him such powers.

    Anyway, this whole circus is unacceptable. A messy bill manages to “confuse” Obama into a misleading signing statement, then Holder overrules the signing statement and claims powers he doesn’t have, while the media is playing along and mongering all that nonsense without any analysis.

    Hmmm….

  4. RobinH

    This article has merit only if you believe the two parties exist as something more than entertainment. Of course what Cheney pushed is completely unconstitutional… Cheney is a madman. But Barack is perhaps even more of a scoundrel for bringing it into its finished form. Such power is usually only found in despotic regimes and is typically employed to destroy political opposition; it certainly isn’t something you’d associate with free, open democracies.
    Don’t vote- none of us deserves the abuse this ‘reality show’ is serving up. Demand what Jagger says: reform election financing, better yet, make all elections publically financed- it would be better and cheaper for all of us in the long run.

  5. Bonnano Derivatives

    Yadda yadda. Obama clearly stated that so-called “borrowers” knew exactly what they were doing, and that they should expect to be “whacked” without due process. Hooray for the terrorism profiteers, we’re all gonna get ours!

  6. steelhead23

    I just happened to be reading an article in Bloomy (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-08/why-do-the-kochs-want-to-kill-the-cato-institute-ezra-klein.html) that offered a link to this Cato Institute book (http://www.cato.org/store/books/cult-presidency-america-s-dangerous-devotion-executive-power-paperback). My own views could not, in general, differ more from those of Ezra Klein and the Cato Institute, but on some issues, at some times, they get it just right.

    As a one-time Boy Scout and Army brat who deeply loved his country, I am repulsed by the unitary executive theory, the push toward perpetual war, and the growing tyranny of the POTUS. I fully recognize that the United States of my childhood memory was a lie itself, a mythological place where good triumphed over evil and the U.S. was always and forever the good’s champion. I submit, however, that it is getting worse. That is, the United States is further and further from my boyhood ideal. This change has forced me to reflect on my prior fealty and has resulted in a changed view of my citizenship. I am a citizen of the world who happens to live in the USA. I no longer know the place.

    1. rjlaures

      “I am a citizen of the world who happens to live in the USA. I no longer know the place.”

      I love this statement. My loalty are to the pincipals of love and caring for all life for all time. In a more temporal and political expression of these principals I encourage a political structure of participatory democracy.

      Democratic Politics
      Democratic Money
      Democratic Industry

  7. MikeJake

    There’s only two possibilities here:

    1. If all the Awlakis we kill are on a battlefield, whether they’re engaged in combat with our military or not, or whether they’re in a country we’re at war with, then the whole world is potentially a battlefield, and due process goes out the window if the government deems you a terrorist.

    2. On the other hand, if you recognize that some places might be battlefields, and every other place is not a battlefield, then you have to point to some compelling justification for killing someone without due process. “Trust us” is no justification. In Awlaki’s case, all any of us know for certain is that he made Youtube videos.

    Holder’s speech comes across as nothing more than an ex post facto justification of an illegal act. In some sense it’s encouraging that at least Holder concedes that the Awlakis of the world are entitled to due process. But they need to explain how their secret process that supposedly constitutes due process is applied to individual cases like Awlaki’s, and they need to do it in front of a judge, not a law school audience. If they’re so confident that their secret process is kosher, why didn’t they argue it when Awlaki’s dad and the ACLU sued instead of getting the case dismissed on procedural and justiciability grounds? Could it be because they didn’t actually have a policy until now?

    1. nonclassical

      ..then there’s HB 347, instituted to make certain noone “questions authority”…

  8. John Regan

    I think the deliberate killing of any person who is not in the act of attacking you is wrong, whether done by an individual or the government. Key word is “deliberate”.

    The president might issue a lawful order to capture a specific person, and if that person is killed in the course of apprehending him, that’s one thing. But if the president orders a specific individual to be killed, whether then and there engaged in hotilities or not?

    This should be thought of as wrong in all times and all places, even more basic than constitutional considerations of who has power over who. I do not understand how a right to do such a thing can be coherently argued.

  9. Hugh

    You don’t have to be a legal “expert” to know that this assassination policy is unConstitutional on its face. What is obscene is that the Framers clearly had the British Star Chamber in mind when they wrote habeas corpus into the body of the Constiution and added the 5th Amendment:

    Art. 1, Sec. 9. The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

    and

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    The Star Chamber was, of course, the infamous British court that operated in secret, and without indictment, jury, witnesses, or right of appeal could convict whomever it pleased of whatever it pleased. It was abolished in England by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1640.

    When Holder speaks of due process, the process he is referring to is the process of the Star Chamber. As I said, such a reference is obscene. It is Orwellian. It is spitting upon our whole Constitutional tradition. But this is what we get with a political class made up of nothing but criminals.

    1. proximity1

      Exactly.

      Our trouble can be summarized in the fact that the picture you offer and the reasoned grasp of facts which underlies it are out of reach of most Americans’ perceptions. Even if they could recognize that you are addressing something of vital importance, and even if they read your words, the import and the context of your comment would still escape them.

      One needs a minimum of background understanding to grasp what you have understood and expressed here. Most Americans simply do not possess this background understanding, and perhaps cannot and never shall possess it. Moreover, many of them, if told this, might reply that they don’t care to have such an understanding in the first place. And that is behind the symptoms we observe all around us, and behind the popularity of our morally depraved political class.

      And, in every respect, modern technology feeds and drives these social and cultural tendencies.

      Everything we need to destroy humane culture is in place and we, as a society, are addicted to these things.

      The force of technology as a social and cultural molder of mass thought and mass behavior is as immense as it is little appreciated.

    2. bob goodwin

      Notice the clauses on public safety and public danger. You could quibble with the meanings of these clauses, however BushBama are making exactly this case: These are *not* criminal events. Awlawki is not a criminal, he is a militant. It will not be hard to make this case in court, and I think the courts will remain highly deferencial to the presidency on issues of war.

      1. Hugh

        The distinction being made in this sentence is between the grand jury process which covers all civilians and courts martial which cover the armed forces.

        The phrase “in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger” is a clarification with regard to militias only. It means basically that militias are a special case. Its members are covered by the grand jury process under normal circumstances and under courts martial in times of “war or public danger.”

        I would note too that with regard to Art. 1. Sec. 9, the only cases allowing for the suspension of habeas corpus are invasion and rebellion. The war on terror is clearly neither.

        What is important to keep in mind here is that the Framers made no exceptions for difficulty or inconvenience in seeing these rights respected. It is precisely the point that adherence to these rights counts the most at difficult and inconvenient times. Read through the Bill of Rights and add on “except when it is difficult or inconvenient” to its sentences. It takes all the meaning out of them.

        Obama and Holder should not just be impeached over this but disbarred. Neither will happen though as long as we allow criminals, and not the law, to rule us.

          1. proximity1

            RE: “There is no law. There is only context.”

            This doesn’t so much imply that context is everything as state that as a incontrovertible fact.

            Only if we take your wild assertion in another “context,”– that of a more moderate observation of the importance of context in considering any issue, can we avoid noticing that in the context of this thread of discussion your unqualified comment is rubbish.

            I’d bet you’re Professional Practitioner of Context–maybe you even have a Context Degree from some Context School, perhaps the Harvard Context School or Yale Context School.

            If one is foolish enough–and a post-grad degree in Context wonderfully helps one get that far–one can say,

            ” There is no (_fill in the blank__) . There is only context.”

            While context is very important, in and of itself it neither trumps nor is a substitute for a set of facts which persist from context to context.

  10. Jill

    Today Turley is discussing the targeting of American citizens in the US itself. I personally do not feel a distinction between the unjust and unlawful killing of people who are not American citizens and those who are. Like another poster, I think it is all wrong. But I also think it’s important for Turley to point out that Obama has gone as far as this–yes he can! kill an American citizen in the US! This speaks volumes about US citizens.

    Harold Koh discussed this matter and stated clearly that the limiting factor on where Obama would murder someone was the level of inconvenience and embarrassment it might cause to the leaders of the country where it happened.

    For example, he said that we would be unlikely to hit anyone in Germany because their people would protest the US and it would be in the newspapers, putting their govt. in an uproar. On the other hand, killing people in Pakistan doesn’t get that much attention in the West so drone strikes and assassinations there would continue.

    I often wonder what would happen if a US citizen was openly assassinated in the US by Obama. Would people stand and cheer? I think many would. That is how far backwards we have come as a people. Obama says trust me and people do. That isn’t a democracy. That is a cult of personality where the power of law has ended and the power of a dictator is accepted by many not only as a necessity but as a good.

    Again I will state that we the people must stand for the rule of law. The rule of fiat will tear this society apart. It really doesn’t matter that a guy with a nice family, a wonderful dog and a great organic garden is doing that. It matters that anyone is doing it. What matters more is that people will allow it.

    I am with Lambert. There are other ways. People are organizing.

  11. bob goodwin

    I am going to repeat the essense of what I have said in previous posts. I regret bushbama’s adventurism overseas. However I don’t think using criminal law to tell a president how to perform his war duties is a tested legal theory. I expect courts to be reluctant to take the bait, and frankly I hope we leave future presidents wide latitude in killing people who are using violence against our government, economy or society.

    Awlawki was not a criminal, and so we never made a case in court against him. He is a violent agitator that Obama came to believe was a danger to the US.

    1. Jill

      bob goodwin,

      There is no such thing as a “war on terror”. From the lie that there is a war on terror, all deceit has flowed.

      Terrorists exist and the US has a legal way of dealing with them. That way is a court of law. The US has been attacked by terrorists before and until 9/11 we always considered it a criminal matter and dealt with it in our civilian court system.

      Bush decided and Obama concurs that we need to wage war in battlefield earth in order to deal with the “terrists”. As the Pythia said (more or less): “if you go into battle a great empire will fall”. That would be the US.

      Clearly, the lie about terrists is a ruse to kill, remove other national leaders, and land grab as the ruling elites wish. For example, as written about on this blog, two 9/11 commissioners gave sworn testimony that some Saudis had a hand in the attacks of 9/11. Given the GWOT, why are we not droning, regime changing and bombing the crap out of Saudi Arabia? Why did we go to Iraq instead? Why are we going into Iran? This isn’t even consistent from the GWOT perspective.

      The rule of law has been replaced with the rule of fiat. Unless you protest this you will see your society crumble before your eyes, just as it is now.

    2. Dave

      @bob,

      What you just described is a direct violation of the 5th amendment. Even violent agitators are guaranteed due process, with due process as defined by the supreme court in the Greenwald cites as being at least the presentation of evidence to the accused and the opportunity to defend themselves in front of a neutral party.

      By the way, your statement that Awlawki was a violent agitator needs to be backed up by evidence. Oh, and the Supreme Court has already deemed that unless speech incites immediate violence, it is protected by the 1st amendment (Brandenburg v. Ohio).

    3. Fiver

      And how would anyone know whether the person assassinated was actually intent on doing violence other than the Executive’s say-so? Even if you were fool enough to trust Obama, who we know has already killed hundreds of innocent people with his insane drone attacks, how on earth can you possibly justify setting a precedent for some future, even more monstrous President/Admin to, without any need to prove anything, just start eliminating political enemies of any stripe anywhere?

      You are throwing away the entire basis for rights, law and democracy in exchange for a “security” that means constant war to maintain Empire, and a police state internally to maintain a criminal elite. That’s some trade-off.

  12. el friomundo

    Well, the constitution’s gone for good, but there’s another less tractable problem for Commandante Obama and his extrajudicialo Death Squads. It’s in the cone of silence here at home but it will put a crimp in the Ex-President’s retirement travel plans, just like for hostis humani generis Bush.

    How many people know that the Human Rights Committee is reviewing the US right now? How many people know that the Committee Against Torture is reviewing the US right now? I wonder whether the President will get lots of hardball press questions on the review, when he’s campaigning? I wonder why the US’ Article 19 report on torture, due November 19, 2011, isn’t published on the State Department website, as required?

    Someone in the White House press pool – if there’s anyone there who’s not a sniveling ass-kisser – ought to ask President Obama how “look forward, not back” comports with Convention Against Torture Article 12 and with the international legal consensus exemplified by Barrios Altos v. Peru:

    “This Court considers that all amnesty provisions, provisions on prescription and the establishment of measures designed to eliminate responsibility are inadmissible, because they are intended to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution and forced disappearance, all of them prohibited because they violate non-derogable rights recognized by international human rights law… Owing to the manifest incompatibility of self-amnesty laws and the American Convention on Human Rights [the US signed in 1977], the said laws lack legal effect and may not continue to obstruct the investigation…”

    What happens when the public starts discussing what it means when the sitting President of the United States is a criminal, complicit in torture and extrajudicial killing, and legally an enemy of all mankind?

  13. Brooklin Bridge

    The Three Big Ups For The Imperial Thumbs Down

    1) The other side of the isle (which ones are we again?) have a hard time calling Obama a wuss and hell it’s just a button for crying out loud.

    2) A 5 point rise in the polls for a few weeks and the media goes nuts.

    3) And finally, as the nice CIA man says (upon vaporization), “Better safe than sorry…”

  14. curlydan

    When I try to break down Holder’s speech to as simple terms as possible, he’s saying that the possible U.S. citizen kill targets will get “due process” as guaranteed by the Constitution but cannot be afforded “judicial process”.

    Unfortunately, Holder’s position means it is ultimately the President who determines the possible U.S. citizens to put on a kill list, evaluates any evidence, and issues a possible kill order. For the president and the Executive branch to have all the power to possibly kill a US citizen without trial and without input from any other branch of the government is an affront to the ideals and philosophies that helped create our country.

    We staged a revolution against excessive executive power. Yet like all executives, our Presidents just embrace the powers we let them have and never relent these powers unless forced by the courts or by public opinion. Another bad precedent set by our greedy kings to be.

  15. Fiver

    Good to see this covered by NC, Yves.

    I would have hoped that this piece, on a subject this important, would elicit far more comment. Greenwald and a few other stalwarts lay bare the stupefying degree of hypocrisy displayed by this President and all those supporters who so rightly condemned Bush for engaging in criminal wars via criminal means abroad and ushering in a police state domestically. That Obama goes much further than Bush compounds the offense. So egregious is the attack on the clear intent of the Constitution and the entire evolution of principles of rights and law that you have to wonder if it is a deliberate effort to force some group to take it all the way to the Supreme Court in order to have this despicable expansion of Executive Power in the service of Corporate Empire sanctioned or scuttled by the current SC.

    A loss in Court by, say, the ACLU, would be disastrous for human rights and liberties. Obama, the “chess-player to everyone else’s checkers”, surely knows this. Would you entrust the current Court with this absolutely vital decision? I can’t see taking a crap-shoot on something this important, but perhaps others have a different argument.

  16. political economist

    Obama is like Clinton much worse than his predecessor because he has consolidated the rightward, indeed fascistic, movement of political action and discourse. So few politicians will buck their leaders so we find the horrific dialectic of Republican Presidents trashing of previous standards like due process in this case and Democratic opposition fading away as the next Democrat President takes the same position. Completely justifiable horror and disgust by Democratic party leaders when a Republican does something beyond the pale is turned into apologetics for a President who is trapped by “circumstances” into mimicking the unholy.

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