Guest Post: Attorney General Holder Says Murder Is Legal

By Washington’s Blog

By leading anti-war activist David Swanson, author of Day Break and War Is A Lie, who runs the websites and (formerly

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it’s legal to murder people — not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president.  Holder’s speech approached his topic in a round about manner:

“Since this country’s earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge – and all that it demands.  But, as we have seen – and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best – ‘In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.’”

Holder quotes that and then immediately rejects it, claiming that our generation too should act as if it is in such a moment, even if it isn’t, a moment that Holder’s position suggests may last forever:

“Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment.  It is clear that, once again, we have reached an ‘hour of danger.’

“We are a nation at war.  And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated.”

So, if I were to estimate that Al Qaeda barely exists and is no serious threat to the Homeland formerly known as the United States, I would not be underestimating it?  If I were to point out that no member of that horrifying outfit has been killed in Afghanistan this year, that fact would not contribute to an unacceptable underestimation?  What fun it is to fight the most glorious of wars in the hour of maximum danger against an enemy so pitiful that it literally cannot be underestimated.

If the people of Iraq and Afghanistan hadn’t risen up and defeated the trillion-dollar U.S. military with some homemade bombs and cell phones, and were Iran not threatening to fight back if attacked, this might be all fun and games.  Except that Holder isn’t talking about those wars that still sort of look like wars.  He’s talking about a war paralleling the Soviet Threat, a war that is everywhere all the time, a war that encompasses the murder of anybody anywhere as an “act of war,” even if there’s nothing warlike about the victim or the situation other than the fact that we are mudering him or her.

“I know that – more than a decade after the September 11th attacks; and despite our recent national security successes, including the operation that brought to justice Osama bin Laden last year – there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders.  Disrupting and preventing these plots – and using every available and appropriate tool to keep the American people safe – has been, and will remain, this Administration’s top priority.”

Osama bin Laden was murdered.  No attempt was made to capture him.  You can defend that murder, but to call it “bringing to justice” and to get away with that characterization is to win the argument before you’ve begun it.  This speech was advertised as a legal defense of such murders, and such a defense can hardly begin and end with equating murder with justice.

Nor can promising not to spy on U.S. citizens without proper procedures satisfy concerns with the claiming of power to kill people, including U.S. citizens.  Here’s Holder:

“Let me give you an example.  Under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize annually, with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, collection directed at identified categories of foreign intelligence targets, without the need for a court order for each individual subject.  This ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security.  But the government may not use this authority intentionally to target a U.S. person, here or abroad, or anyone known to be in the United States.”

Nor can promising to imprison people without a fair trial justify murdering people.  But Holder does not do that.  He promises kangaroo courts:

“Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions.  The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice – and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.”

Even though al Qaeda cannot be underestimated!  Most legal obeservers do not take this seriously for a minute.  Here’s 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama: “As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.  Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists … Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.” Go Team!

Holder then explains, sensibly enough, why non-military courts work just fine (unless an extreme record of nearly 100% convictions worries you):

“Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison.  Not one has ever escaped custody.  No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack.”

But he returns immediately to defending courts that lack basic protections, claims those protections have now been put in place, and asserts that military commissions have been successfully reformed.  Among those who have not been convinced is the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo, Col. Morris Davis who said in November: “a decision to use both legal settings is a mistake. It will establish a dangerous legal double standard that gives some detainees superior rights and protections, and relegates others to the inferior rights and protections of military commissions.  This will only perpetuate the perception that Guantanamo and justice are mutually exclusive.” Of course the question of how bad military commissions are also does nothing to advance a case for legal murder.

Holder turns next to the presidential power to imprison people that was signed into law on New Year’s Eve as part of the National “Defense” Authorization Act:

“This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values.  Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act.  This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.”

This legislation did nothing of the sort.  For one thing, Obama unconstitutionally altered it in a signing statement as it applied to a huge prison full of largely non-al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan.  In addition, there has been quite a bit of discussion of the power this bill creates to imprison U.S. citizens.  The State of Virginia has forbidden state employees from assisting with that.  Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a bill to undo it.  And, despite tremendous, often willful, confusion, the history is clear that Obama insisted on the power to imprison U.S. citizens and to do so outside of the military.

Three quarters of the way through a speech on the legality of murdering people, Holder begins to approach that touchy topic.  Here is what he says:

“Now, I realize I have gone into considerable detail about tools we use to identify suspected terrorists and to bring captured terrorists to justice.  It is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible – among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them – but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority – and, I would argue, the responsibility – to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.”

By “government” Holder means the president, whether President Obama or President Romney or President Santorum or any man or woman who later becomes president, and nobody else.  That one person alone is to decide what is appropriate and lawful and feasible.  If the Vice President thinks it is feasible to capture somene, too bad for him.  He should have gotten a better job if he wanted to be a decider.  If the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court thinks preaching against the United States is not a capital offense, tough tamales.  He shouldn’t dress in his bathrobe if he wants to be taken seriously.  If the United States Congress objects that the president’s “surgical strikes” tend to kill too many random men, women, and children, well they know what they can do: Run for president! If the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has objections, well — Isn’t that SPECIAL?  And the American people?  They can shut up or vote for a racist buffoon from the bad party.  Holder continues:

“This principle has long been established under both U.S. and international law.  In response to the attacks perpetrated – and the continuing threat posed – by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, Congress has authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those groups.  Because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law.  The Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack.  And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense.  None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war.”

In reality, the 2001 authorization to use military force violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the UN Charter, and the U.S. Constitution.  It dates to only 10 years ago.  And it is already getting old, as it is becoming harder and harder to accuse people of involvement in the attacks of September 11, 2001.  No international law recognizes secret global war without limitation in time or space.  There is no long established tradition of this madness.  There has never been any type of violence that somebody wouldn’t call “defensive,” but the traditional right to national military defense applies only to nations being attacked by other nations, and not in a mystical or ideological sense, but actually attacked in the geographic area formerly known as the nation.  Holder says that’s old hat:

“Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.  Indeed, neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan.  We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country.  Over the last three years alone, al Qaeda and its associates have directed several attacks – fortunately, unsuccessful – against us from countries other than Afghanistan.  Our government has both a responsibility and a right to protect this nation and its people from such threats.”

Several attacks?  Against the United States? In the last three years?  By al Qaeda and its associates? If Holder had been willing to take any questions after tossing out so many topics, someone might have asked for documentation of this.  And if people, as opposed to media employees, had been allowed to ask questions, someone might have inquired how whatever actions Holder described were war rather than crime.  If war, then they ought to be legal.  Holder just said that attacks are legal if you’re at war.  But he also said he only wanted to kill people if they couldn’t be captured, and he prefaced this with claims that everybody captured gets a fair trial.  That would seem to suggest a crime for which they might be tried.  But then why not try them for the crime in absentia and build pressure for their capture and extradition?  Why not at least state what the crime is, even after murdering them?  Why not at least state which murdered people were criminals and which just happened to be in the wrong place, unaware that they happened to be walking through a war?

Holder goes on to explain that the president will only murder someone in a foreign country if he’s decided that that country won’t do it for him.  This, Holder says, constitutes “respect for another nation’s sovereignty.”

Moreover, says Holder, we murdered important Japanese officers during World War II.  Of course, the United States was at war with Japan at the time, and Congress had declared that war.  The United States also committed numerous hideous crimes during that war, including the lawless imprisonment of Japanese-Americans that created the laws Holder tossed out during the first part of his speech.  Holder explains that murder is not assassination when the president does it, because he only murders people he declares to constitute an imminent threat:

“Some have called such operations ‘assassinations.’  They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced.  Assassinations are unlawful killings.  Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.”

But Obama has not so much as claimed that each person he killed constituted an imminent threat, much less convinced any independent body (sorry, Eric, you don’t count) of this.

I think the speech could have ended there.  But many in the United States believe such flimsy justifications for presidential killings only fall apart when U.S. citizens are the victims.  So, Holder goes on to argue that U.S. citizens are fair game.  The protest of this outrage, were Obama a Republican, is one for the record books in some alternative universe!

“Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad.  Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.  But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens – even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans.  Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.  In cases arising under the Due Process Clause – including in a case involving a U.S. citizen captured in the conflict against al Qaeda – the Court has applied a balancing approach, weighing the private interest that will be affected against the interest the government is trying to protect, and the burdens the government would face in providing additional process.  Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat. . . .

“Let me be clear:  an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

How are we supposed to know that Awlaki was a senior opeational leader of al Qaeda?  And his teenage son?  Was he that too?  By “government” Holder means Obama.  Obama determined these things.

“The evaluation of whether an individual presents an ‘imminent threat’ incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States.  As we learned on 9/11, al Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to strike with little or no notice – and to cause devastating casualties.  Its leaders are continually planning attacks against the United States, and they do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack.  Given these facts, the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning – when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear.  Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed.”

The Constitution doesn’t describe this sort of madness at all, so how could it possibly include such a requirement?  The appeal to “defensive war” cited by Holder above itself requires more than awaiting the moment an attack becomes clear.  It requires awaiting an actual attack.  Law enforcement does not require that.  Diplomacy does not require that.  Ceasing to occupy, bomb, and pillage people’s countries, motivating hostile terrorism, doesn’t require that.  But defensive war does.

“Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.  This is simply not accurate.  ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.  The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

The president alone can give you due process without ever explaining it to anybody else.  Who knew?

“That is not to say that the Executive Branch has – or should ever have – the ability to target any such individuals without robust oversight.  Which is why, in keeping with the law and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Executive Branch regularly informs the appropriate members of Congress about our counterterrorism activities, including the legal framework, and would of course follow the same practice where lethal force is used against United States citizens.”

Why “would”?  This is not theoretical.  Informing a handful of Congress members, and no doubt forbidding them to repeat what they are told, does not create Congressional oversight.  It just creates a Bush-era excuse for lawlessness.

Holder planned to take no questions following his remarks.  I wonder why.

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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…


  1. albrt

    As a lawyer, I don’t know what to say.

    Except that in the sick, pathetic, fascist toady department, Eric Holder has Alberto Gonzalez beat all to hell. This will be exhibit A at the eventual war crimes trials.

    The sooner the US economy implodes, the sooner the rest of the world can rewrite the security council rules and force us to accept ICC jurisdiction. I don’t think it will take as long as it did with Pinochet.

    1. nonclassical

      bushbama….the name itself says it all..

      It will take war crimes trials at the Hague to undo what bushbama have done..

      it will also take an american populace not so inveterately propagandized-misinformed.

      There quite simply is, no “al-Qaeda”..the history is there for all to view, in Adam Curtis’ BBC 2+ hour video, “The Power of Nightmares”. This video documents local, homegrown terrorism, begun in Egypt by Qutb, carried on after him by Zawahiri, who travelled to Afganistan to team with bin-Laden against Soviets, who were at the time being blamed FOR orchestrating international terrorism..
      Until Americans come to grips with propaganda, history, we are easily led around by revisions of.

      I can think of no better lesson than Curtis’ “Trilogy”, featuring “Century of Self”,
      “The Trap”, and “Power of Nightmares”… true, historical treatises of propaganda
      in America..

      1. nonclassical

        albrt..”as long as it did with Pinochet”…

        Sept 11th, 1973…Alliende’….

        if you haven’t, read “Killing Hope”, by William Blum-CIA historical extraordinaire…

        as I described for Blum, there was also once a movie, translated, “Bloody September”…over 6 hours of documentary on Chile’-Alliende’,,it played american (underground) theaters circa 1976..

        1. albrt

          Um, for those googling at home, I meant Victor Jara.

          Time for bed, sorry for threadjacking, this really is a great post.

      2. SidFinster

        I do not understand the love liberals have for war crimes trials. Another word for “victor’s justice.”

        Then again, I believe that the entire corpus of public international law as she is practiced can be summed up in three words “might makes right.”

        The extent to which this maxim can be applied to other areas of legal discourse is left as an exercise to the reader.

        1. nonclassical

 the extent the U.S. Constitution has now been reduced to meaningless rubble, (under only 2 administrations-LIES), you have a point..

  2. Pitchfork

    This isn’t an argument, this is a joke. Are Holder’s handlers really as stupid and lazy as they appear to be based on this “argument” or do they just assume that we’re stupid and lazy?

    “Are you effing kidding me?” That’s my question for Eric Holder.

    1. albrt

      “or do they just assume that we’re stupid and lazy?”


      Oh, and don’t forget powerless. Holder wouldn’t admit to murder if he thought any of the listeners could ever do anything about it.

    2. nonclassical

      …consult Chris Hedges who speculates the only reason for this sort of authoritarianism is a U.S. government afraid of its own people…

  3. TMC

    I am reading this in stunned disbelief and, yet, I’m not surprised. They are war criminals and violators of human rights, no better than the terrorists from whom they claim to be “protecting” us.

    I no longer recognize this country.

    1. Damian

      Holder’s justification / rationalization and now the result – read this very scary

  4. Extinct Species

    I’m curious under what conditions a targeted killing would be legal. Would any currently available process make it legal? A declaration of war?

    I’m not sure why the absolute against stance makes me so uncomfortable. To a very large degree I agree with it, but there are times when I think a targeted killing is in the best interests of the US. My approval would be very narrow but that just puts me on the slippery slope. Still it strikes me as naive and seriously politically counterproductive to rail against the “murder” of Osama bin Laden.

    This doesn’t change without political support/pressure. I believe Obama really wanted to close Guantanamo but it wasn’t worth the political cost to him. (The country was not with him.) America is a warmongering nation. Good luck with changing that. But until you do, prohibiting targeted killings of those in other countries who the vast majority of American citizens believe are plotting harm against Americans seems politically isolating and a nonstarter.

    My apologies in advance to all those appalled by my comments.

    1. stock

      The vast majority eh?
      And in that rare event, how were those people informed to create their opinion?

      1. Extinct Species

        The basis of their opinion is politically irrelevant, just that it is held in sufficient numbers to make it a political winner.

        1. Teejay

          Extinct Species, HOW we reach our opinions,
          conclusions, decisions is absolutely relevant.
          Imagine FBI director Louie Free not succumbing
          to petty, sandbox arguements preventing John
          O’Neil from leading the investigation of the
          USS Cole bombing. He was the FBI’s chief of
          counterterorism, THE most knowledgable
          agent regarding OBL and Al Qaeda. And he
          was left on the sidelines because of the
          pettyness of Ambassador Barbra Bodine
          and Director Free’s #2, Tom Pickard.
          Different world and national debt.

          1. Extinct Species

            How we form our opinions may be relevant in a philosophical, ethical and/or moral sense but it isn’t in a pragmatic sense. Those in power will take action and enforce law as they see fit/necessary if they have the institutional support and the support of the people.

            Was there sufficient outrage to detour the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII? Were politically significant numbers of Americans against the “murder” of Osama bin Laden? Is there strong political opposition to the targeted killings that have been taking place?

            Now I’m suggesting that the absolute stance against targeted killings, no matter how noble, moral, legal and/or correct, is currently a political loser, probably even a hopeless political loser. That may be a very sad state of affairs but it is pretty much current reality. If you can convince enough people that the basis of their opinion on such matters is wrong and get them to change their stance, then you can affect these actions and policies. But if you can’t then no matter how wrong, immoral, crazy or baseless their opinions are those actions and policies will continue.

        2. Raya

          Nonsense. Of course it is relevant. The point is that “what the American public thinks” is not some immutable monolith. It can be changed. Politically motivated media outlets do this all the time. The point is, people get their ideas FROM somewhere — and largely from the words of politicians, and political organizations, who are bent on misleading them. We need to make our argument, and to find politicians who will make it. It is unacceptable that Obama and his people are up their making these fascist arguments and cementing them in the American mind, when they COULD and SHOULD be up there explaining how the law ACTUALLY works and why the continued existence of Guantanamo is hurting us as a country.

          As for “the country wasn’t with him” — bullshit. Nearly 60% of the country voted for him after repeatedly hearing his campaign promise to close Guantanamo on DAY ONE of his Presidency! The entrenched interests in the DoD and military weren’t with him — but that is at least partly his own fault for keeping on a Republican SecDef instead of choosing his own. Mostly, though, it’s our fault for not noticing sooner that his campaign promises were all lies and that his true politics, particularly on the the matter of freedom vs. “security,” were so close to Bush’s as to be indistinguishable on the level of policy.

    2. tom allen

      “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” — Magna Carta

      “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.” — Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution

      I know due process is a musty old thing, but it used to work just fine.

      1. Extinct Species

        There’s no daylight in the condition, except …, when in actual service in time of War or public danger?

        I’m no scholar, just askin…

        1. LifelongLib

          I’m no lawyer either, but I think that allows a separate legal process for people serving in the armed forces (e.g. the UCMJ). I don’t know (but doubt) if it was intended to cover POWs, “enemy combatants”, etc. Be interesting to know how those issues were handled when the Constitution was written…

      2. F. Beard

        …to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb[?!!] [bold added]

        Even the “bloody Old Testament” never mutilated criminals. Leave that to the bloody British and their descendants.

      3. just me

        “We the People … jury … jury … jury … ”

        And that was back when juries were instructed their job was to nullify law they found unjust:

        Explicitly acknowledging jury nullification, the first Chief Justice, John Jay, wrote: “It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision… you [juries] have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy”.[3]

        But later…

        In 1895 in Sparf v. United States, the Court said that courts need not inform jurors of their de facto right of juror nullification although jurors’ inherent right to judge the law remains unchallenged.

        And now…

        You get a retired professor arrested for leafleting jury nullification info outside a New York courtroom (anywhere near the same one John Jay used I wonder?)

        Due process, we hardly knew ye.

        1. just me

          TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: And, you know, even though there were a lot of things that most people view as injustices in this trial where the jury wasn’t allowed to hear much evidence and they were really specifically repeatedly told that they weren’t allowed to use their conscience in making their decision, that they weren’t there to judge whether it was right or wrong, that’s really the status quo for our legal system at this point. And so it may or may not be a successful appeal process. Because that– that’s what our legal system has evolved into, where the jury is just there to really rubberstamp the decision that the government has already made.

    3. b.

      I don’t understand why this has to be debated. There are literally decades – going all the way back to Westphalia – of attempts to define under which circumstances killing across state borders is “legal”. There is also a constitution, and even a War Powers Act to reaffirm it.

      Congress declares war against a nation state. Locations where the miltiary of that nation state – but not necessarily its allies – are present define battlefields. On the battlefield, US citizens – and citizens of other nations – can be targeted, and killed, by accident or design. There is no “due process” due, because its an official clusterfuck, nobody is in charge, and on the rare occasion Yamamoto does a fly-by, you act on “intel” to target what you believe to be a specific target.

      Congress cannot declare war against an organization, group, tribe, creed, tactics. The concept does not exist. By definition, any non-state actor is a criminal. If the criminals are too effective, and their motives are non-profit, they might become secessionists or insurgents. If they use terror tactics for political purposes, they are also terrorists. If the number of law-breaking insurrectionists becomes large enough, we enter that period in which nation states are born, or die – civil war, revolution. The US was born out of that period of domestic terrorism and armed insurrection, in treason against the crown. The union was preserved through such a period of politically motivated law-breaking that pitted hundreds of thousands of nation-state actors against hundreds of thousands non-state actors that wanted to bring about another nation. These periods are not well-covered by law, because no nation state wishes to codify processes that could bring out its end. Hence, the US had to e.g. find a way to close some of its own harbors for commerce, because it could not “legally” blockade itself. It is hard to fight a civil war if you do not wish to acknowledge the existence of a non-criminal actor.

      Against the established body of international law and constitutional precedent – flagrant violations of both set aside – there is, pre-9/11 contortions, simply no place for a GWOT. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, the expediency-driven legalistic posturing of the US with respect to “weapons-use related covert activity programs” in nations the US has not declared war on, and has under the UN charter no legal right to declare war on, is undermining the very notion of a nation state abroad, and at home. Given claims that the Taliban government was indicating they would extradite specific suspects to US legal proceedings before and after 9/11, even US operations in Afghanistan stand on shaky legal ground. Iraq, despite the shameful collusion of the UN Security Council temporary and permanent members, and the full assembly – all of which had the means to put the UN on record one way or the other, through UN resolution 377 – was clearly an illegal, aggressive war. The shameful conduct of Congress – unwilling to take responsibility – does not change this either. The Founders did not intend for the war powers to be delegated, or ursurped with tacit agreement.

      If one wants to argue that, in failed or uncooperative states, law enforcement might not be possible, then a declaration of war against the nation state claiming that territory has to precede any armed intervention. An occupation can be followed by the occupying nation claiming law enforcement perogatives – as well as accepting law enforcement duties required from occupying nations under international law, something the US failed to deliver in Iraq. But all the whining about opponents that are not government employees does not change the legal aspects. If one wants to change the applicable law, the place to start is the UN General Assembly.

      I won’t waste my breath discussing the concept of “imminent threat” in this context either, or the US inability to capture “suspects”, let alone explain their “suspicions” before or after the fact. Prior to the hysteria that followed 9/11 – a terror plot so far beyond reasonable planning, it should never have succeeded against a competent government, especially one with excessively funded law enforcement and intelligence services – any nation that would have acted as the US did, does, and intends to continue to do would have been clearly seen as an aggressor and a rogue nation. Imagine the Soviet Union had mined Nicaraguan harbors… oh, wait.

      There was a joke circulating in Nazi Germany that, to make the government more effective, the border posts would henceforth be motorized. Efficiency, effectiveness, expendiency might be mighty buzzwords in the domestic reality distortion fields, but we have not always been at war with Oceania, and the ever-shifting goalposts of what passes as US “discourse” are at this point reaching terminal velocity.

      If you are not sure why the “absolute” stance against this nonsense makes you uncomfortable, try this: It’s a tradition. It is called conservatism. Rule of law, etc.

      Prior to Gulf War I, Bush I spent a lot of oxygen proposing a new world order, an alliance of UN Charter signatories against any and all aggressive wars, a debate in the General Assembly to make sure that warmongering regimes like Saddam Hussein would no longer have an expectation of getting away with their transgressions. “The invasion of Kuweit changed everything.” You might notice that no such advancement of international law and treaty followed. I am sure that there was some kind of national debate regarding the reworking of the US Constitution and a review of the various international treaties signed. At least, everybody appears to pretend that this happend, and that those that missed it, and are stuck in their pre-9/11 understanding of the law, have really no reason to be surprised that “everything is different”.

      1. Jim Pharo

        Plus, Congress has never declared war on anyone since Japan, Germany and their allies.

        The whole thing is an insult to thinking people everywhere.

  5. bob goodwin

    I don’t believe that there has ever been a ruling against a sitting president for orders that he has made to the military. I know the supreme court ruled against the Japanese internment well after Roosevelt was out of office.

    As for the laws of war, there are not many that are recognized by our courts. There are a lot of laws dealing with criminal law, and I know that there are a lot of people who want to use the laws to limit the military, but again I think it is wishful thinking to expect the supreme court to intervene on military matters.

    Guantanamo is not good… 11 years of indefinite confinement without trial is outside past experience. But I still expect the courts to be highly deferential against the goverment. Every president at war has used their discretion to protect the nation. The drones are just the newest weapon.

    I rather wish we would pull back from the world conflicts, but to the extent that we are involved, we should expect shots to be fired, and for bad guys to be killed and detained.

    1. LucyLulu

      Never before however has the war been on terror, with unidentified opponents and no geographical borders. What prevents an outspoken and popular organizer with non-conforming political views from becoming the next identified enemy combatant?

      Was there a Congressional Committee consulted before Awlaki and his son were killed as Holder mentioned? I’m asking, I don’t know the answer.

      1. bob goodwin

        There is not much doubt that Awlaki was an enemy combatant. I am guessing that congresscritters were notified, and were largely in agreement with the military action.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Actually, from what has been shown so far, the “evidence” against Awlaki is very thin. Without more information it is truly impossible for us to tell whether he was operationally involved or not. What the defense for killing his son is, I don’t know. I don’t think there is any as I’ve never even heard Obama’s minions state that there is.

          So now due process means the preznit decides and informs congress. I don’t believe that’s what due process traditionally refers to, but since when did Obama ever have respect for precedent or the rule of law? Its all after-the-fact justification for doing whatever the hell he wants.

        2. Darren Kenworthy

          Your assertion is simply untrue. Not even the administration contends he was a combatant. The claim made was that he recruited and inspired potential combatants.

          1. Procopius

            No, the claim made was that he was a “senior operational commander” of Al Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula, a group that did not exist in 2001. As far as I know no evidence has been presented to support the claim. Also, Iremember when people used to say Al Awlaki should “turn himself in” to face the charges. What charges? To whom should he have “turned himself in?” How about the other American citizens whom we are told are on the “kill lists?” Have they been notified that they are on the list? Certainly their names have not been leaked to the public as Awlaki’s was.

            Basically, Holder’s speech did not answer any questions and raised a few new ones, but the most chilling thing he said was that anonymous officials in the executive branch are the only ones with the “expertise and immediate information” to know whether someone should be murdered or not. My God, I think even the Star Chamber allowed the accused to argue that the charges against them were not true.

    2. skippy

      “we should expect shots to be fired, and for bad guys to be killed and detained.”…. bob, g.

      Skip here… bob that requires clarification, bad guys should read…. predominately *woman and children*. Followed by shots fired, which should read bombed from above and more than not by some guy in California at the controls. And to top it all of detainment for ethnically challenged.

      Its all so quaint now, Bonds, the Suez canal, England, Egyptian sovereignty, the tail of a region.

      Skippy…. I’d be pissed off too, traffic going to and from work (drone pilot) can be a bitch.

      PS. is therre CDS against American aggression?

        1. skippy

          War is not Hell, but, murder for profit and buy that… heaven for most Americans.

          Skippy… profit will never be obsolete in America, it is that which all things are judged… b[u]y and with.

    3. OIFVet

      Ah yes, a president at war… an indefinite war. Call me a pessimist but I just don’t see how America’s wars will ever end. There’s too much profit in it, like skippy pointed out; its good business for some… Saw it first hand in Iraq, private contractors getting paid a ton to do the same thing we uniformed people did, but without the accountability. Besides indefinite war with ever changing objectives is good for the system, holding Americans in a perpetual state of fear is the only way the system can survive in its current form. Sad to say it but you are right, our courts can’t and won’t do anything about this outrage. When I joined the military I was sworn to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic… In light of Holder’s speech I wonder if that would make me a terrorist, since its obvious that the CinC has declared himself above the Constitution. Its so incredibly sad to see what this country has come to, and its so infuriating to feel so helpless to do anything about it. At least Holder’s cowardly refusal to take any question tells us that the legal justification for the policy is so flimsy it can’t withstand questioning from mere law students.

      1. steelhead23

        OIFVet – First, allow me to pat you on the back. Although I believe the attack on Iraq was illegal and stupid, that crime lies with those who “Decided”, not those who carried out orders. But your point is well taken. As the U.S. inches into tyranny, one is left to wonder at what point the president crosses the Rubicon and forces those who have taken oaths seriously to act.

        1. Procopius

          Well, I retired from the Army thirty years ago, and to me it’s seemed a real dilemma. Nixon was certainly a crook, but I didn’t think he was an enemy of the Constitution. From October 2001 onward it’s been pretty obvious that the President and Congress, and probably the higher level courts, are all domestic enemies of the Constitution, but what to do about it? I do not currently live in the U.S., and have to say I am pretty glad of that. I don’t really expect the current situation, where they don’t admit targetting people inside the U.S., to last. I certainly believe a President Palin would, and I expect President Obama might, give in to the temptation to designate a really effective opponent a legitimate target.

          “Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed.” –Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, 1802. ME 10:325

          I fear for my country, I really do.

          1. OIFVet

            I enjoyed your comment. The irony is that I took an oath to defend the Constitution twice, first upon my naturalization and the secnd time when I received my commission. Yep, I am a proudly naturalized citizen of the United States hailing from a formerly communist naation where at least they went through the motion to put on show trials. Its funny how things turn out sometimes.

        2. OIFVet

          Perhaps I may be naive but I really can’t see anything good coming out of the military getting involved at any point. I think that there are many examples from abroad of what we can expect if colonels and generals take matters into their own hands, and it ain’t pretty. For that matter I don’t think they ever would, as the current system guarantees them a handsomely compensated post-service career in the media and/or the military industrial complex. I think we are indeed descending into tyranny, but I think any resistance to the forces taking us there has to come from the citizenry, assuming it ever manages to wake up from its reality TV and opinion media induced stupor.

          Speaking of the opinion media, am I the only one who noticed that the TV “progressives” almost completely ignored this issue? I don’t watch much TV but I tuned in after Holder’s speech because I had a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be covered by the “progressive” stalwarts of MSNBC. And I was right, the AG of the United States had just declared that the President could order any American citizen to be killed yet the “progressives” deemed Limbaugh’s insanity and mysogeny to be the more urgent issue facing the nation. Their hypocrisy is appaling, as Greenwald pointed out in Salon. Makes me hesitant to call myself a progressive going forward. Anyway, of all the disappointments served up by Obama this is by far the greatest and ultimately the most dangerous to our future.

  6. Seal

    and to be totally safe maybe we should go after Awlaki’s wife and mother too. Blow em all away for the sake of the Homeland. We don’t really need laws anymore when we have such capable men in charge.

  7. Conscience of a Conservative

    It’s so legal that the administration is facing at least three Freedom of Information Act lawsuits over its refusal to release the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memorandum that reportedly provided a legal basis for the targeting of al-Awlaki.

  8. Paul Walker

    Behind all the political rhetoric being hurled at us from abroad, we are bringing home one unassailable fact – [terrorism is] a crime by any civilized standard, committed against innocent people, away from the scene of political conflict, and must be dealt with as a crime . . .

    In our recognition of the nature of terrorism as a crime lies our best hope of dealing with it . . .

    Let us use the tools that we have. Let us invoke the cooperation we have the right to expect around the world, and with that cooperation let us shrink the dark and dank areas of sanctuary until these cowardly marauders are held to answer as criminals in an open and public trial for the crimes they have committed, and receive the punishment they so richly deserve.

    WILLIAM H. WEBSTER, Director,
    Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 15,1985

    Tragic that such wisdom has been abandoned upon the field of providing the terrorists with their greatest victory. The subversion of their targeted societies foundation of the rule of law at the hands of that societies rulers.

  9. keepon

    Patriot Act, NDAA, Bank Bailouts, The Great Land Grab, siphoning pensions to foot the bill, rising food prices, rising gas prices, low interest rates, jobs exported, “…holding Americans in a perpetual state of fear….”

    This “bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.”

    (There exists an) unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012…. H.R. 347 received virtually unanimous support in Congress among Democrats as well as Republicans, (which) reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule.”

    1. Dan G

      Now that the financial cartel is finally starting to be recognised by the general public for the legalised Ponzi scheme that they have created and puport, it is time for the military and police state to step in to insure that freedom is extinguished to protect the elite and their fortune.
      Ron Paul is he only canidate for true freedom and liberty. The rest are full of shit.

      1. John B

        Ron Paul stands alone to change the greed and corruption of our financial system and our Government’s abuse of citizen rights for land, property and privacy.

        1. Procopius

          Yeah, right. That’s why he made millions of dollars selling an “investment” newsletter that used racist and apocalyptic nonsense to gin up sales. It sounds like you would buy a used car from this man.

  10. LD

    Well, by all accounts with this action, it appears the jig is up, we can’t continue to pretend anymore, and it is time to declare our past hundred years or so OffofPrez “side activities” legit. Damn internet, spoiling our world of fun and games!

  11. JTFaraday

    Well, *no wonder* his fanboys are convinced Obama assassinated Andrew Breitbart!

    “That would seem to suggest a crime for which they might be tried. But then why not try them for the crime in absentia and build pressure for their capture and extradition? Why not at least state what the crime is, even after murdering them?”

    If Obama would at least try Breitbart in absentia then his fanboys would know for sure if Bam droned him with some weird heart attack inducing biological weaponry for publicly proposing to do violence to his billion dollar campaign

    a). by releasing incriminating video from Obama’s days as a campus radical at Harvard.

    or b). by releasing incriminating “tapes of interviews he (Breitbart) conducted in Chicago over dinner with weather overgrounders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.”

    Hm. Maybe the Tea Party will impeach him now. (If Rush Limbaugh goes down too, I think Bam may be history).

    Not to interrupt all these great comments with this little triviality, but it *is* getting harder and harder these days to determine what constitutes reality and what constitutes mass psychosis.

    1. JTFaraday

      Well, I suppose it *is* to their credit that they seem to think it was Obama and not vigilante justice from Occupy Oakland.

        1. JTFaraday

          The person who wants to escalate vandalism charges into violent crime charges in a social movement he professes to support is impugning MY intelligence.

          Okey dokey. Now I know why everyone spends so much time zoned out in front of the TV.

          1. Lambert Strether

            And the person who uses cheap rhetoric to defend decisions that are losers tactically and poor choices strategically insults MY intelligence. But do continue trolling and snark on behalf of a movement you “profess” to support. It’s a proven surefire winner!

          2. JTFaraday

            You are really consistently missing the point.

            You profess to support a social movement that is protesting in the streets the authorities don’t want them to march in, occupying spaces the authorities don’t want them to occupy–it’s even called “Occupy” for cripes sake! and no one mentions it on this board more than YOU do– all the while they are incidentally (more or less) wreaking havoc in public spaces that other people also need to “occupy,” drumming 24/7 in drum circles when other peoples’ kids need to sleep, tearing up the Rose Kennedy Greenway–when asked NOT to, pooping in the park and causing public sanitation problems, running generators and running a fire hazard (while they sleep at night in tents), knocking over police barriers, jostling people all over the place (incidentally, of course), etc, etc, etc. We’ll leave it at that.

            The entire time hundreds, thousands of these people are getting arrested and booked and ISSUED CRIMINAL CHARGES in the US terror state.

            The second a bunch of kids in Oakland California don black masks and engage in some deliberate–as opposed to, you know, allegedly “accidental/ incidental” mass havoc–YOU, who mentions “Occupy” more than anyone else on this board, are the first one on the barricades arguing that the US terror state should start escalating their charges.

            Now, according to you and your cohort of legal geniuses, vandalism charges should be violent crime charges, and we should all shut up and let you escalate the charges on the very people YOU want to see protesting, marching, having unauthorized meetings in unauthorized spaces– and inevitably getting arrested– because there’s no question that’s going to happen.

            Heck, you jumped the Terror State on escalating the charges. They only just did that the other day.

            When I get my inevitable day in court, and you’re on the Jury, remind me to revoke your civil right to serve on a “jury of your peers” because you and your ilk are the single most dangerous type of person that I have seen around this social movement yet, to date.

            So, at some point, if/when something else happens with some other disaffected group that decides to protest (or riot, or whatever we want to call whatever they decide to do) thank you very for doing your Sainted, Holier than Thou medieval part advocating that US Terror State should f*** them harder.

            THAT’S my point, that’s been my ONLY point throughout this entire tawdry episode of “Get those black block kids offa my nice manicured middle class lawn!!!”

          3. JTFaraday

            You know what? I don’t get paid to do this crap. Educate yourself. And as for your little “post a link” comeback that you like to use, you know what?

            If you can actually think, you always need a f***ing link.

            I’m done.

            1. Lambert Strether

              I see no reason invest any more than few seconds of time responding to gross caricatures, no matter how rapidly typed or vehemtly expressed.

              If you’re done, I’m very pleased. It will clean up the threads.

    2. Up the Ante

      “Not to interrupt all these great comments with this little triviality, but it *is* getting harder and harder these days to determine what constitutes reality and what constitutes mass psychosis. ”

      To think, all it takes is the ‘outing’ of Allen Dulles ‘anticipating’ the Occupy movement decades ago. So Bush gave the green light to Special Forces snipers years ago to target future opposition and we now have the Attorney General forging its justification for he and his boss ? Because they don’t want to make it too tough for the Secret Service to protect ?

  12. SR6719

    We are in WFKATGWOT (the War Formerly Known As The Global War On Terrorism).

    We have to get used to the idea that the US government has no intention of ever ending this war, it’s far too profitable, there will be no end to war.

    The names of the war will change. In 2025 they might be calling it MCFWGGWAT (Magic Country Future World Global Gothic War On Terrorism). The name of the countries will change, the mission will change (from hunting WMD, to spreading democracy, to hunting al-Qaeda, etc), but the war will never end.

    “The role allotted to the American people is to applaud, if and when notified that a successful assassination has occurred.” – Andrew Bacevitch

    Whether or not an assassination really occurs is beside the point. Who is assassinated is beside the point, etc…. The announcement itself is the cue for applause.

    The role of the American public is to applaud.

  13. Tom Stone

    Is Holder clinically insane? If I take his words at face value, there is no doubt.Idiocy at least.

  14. Cynthia

    Any government that adopts a policy of officially-sanctioned assassinations (especially in the case of its own citizens) in order to obtain its political, economic and military objectives has, without any doubt whatsoever, proven itself to be nothing more than a criminally evil, immoral and spiritually bankrupt tyranny. After all, cold-blooded murder is cold-blooded murder, whether it is “officially-sanctioned” or not.

  15. M Chandler

    Laws of war are fine – but the laws of human nature say if you conduct yourselves this way you will find turn-about is fair play. Kill some fellows relatives with casual indifference and you may find retribution delivered from afar via a bullet through your head. If somebody wants you dead it can be accomplished no matter your level of security. If you think you are totally immune and safe you are a fool.

  16. Johnny Fraudclosure

    Can’t mention Holder without mentioning MERS. Can’t discuss MERS without considering Covington Burlington (which is now home to Johnny Dugan, former OCC Chief Bank Lobbyist)
    and was Holder’s previous employer for 8 years. Now, presumably for our benefit, Holder clarifies extrajudicial assassination. This undoubtedly channels another wave of paranoia from our Government, which slogs forward in completely the wrong direction.

    1. psychohistorian

      Look at it on the bright side.

      With Holder you get a two-fer. As one of the parents of MERS and now legal fascist murder it would be even better to hear him singing at the Hague.

      Tell us who runs our world Eric. It sure as hell ain’t animal spirits. The global inherited rich need to join Mr. Holder at the Hague. Get all the major puppet masters and puppets in one place….what a hoot that would be!

  17. Thurmont

    ‘The Obama White House announced Monday evening that it was moving the May annual summit meeting of the Group of 8 (G-8) industrialized nations from Chicago to the secluded Presidential compound at Camp David, Maryland.’

    1. eyedr

      Re-watch the SOTU. Holder must have blinked 6,000 w.i. the minute he was on camera as POTUS detailed the investigation that ‘his’ AG Holder was about to undertake.

      Sending arms to Mexico?

    2. Susan the other

      Nor his voice, nor his body language. He is the man who isn’t there. The signatures on the NDAA are still wet and Holder takes the pulpit to explain without explaining that this is a war, however undefined and undeclared, and so we will, from here on in and for a long time to come, be living under a sort of marshall law whereby we can be offed on a whim or a mistake. This attempt at such a casual marshall law is an end run around justice just as an electronic mortgage registry is around property ownership. And on that reminder – an article from the SF Auditor: We need new laws reflecting the modern mortgage market. So Congress will soon pass laws that make MERS legal? And once again Holder will stand up like a ghost and give an empty speech.

  18. Erin

    Don’t worry. It’s all good. As soon as somebody like Jeb Bush gets elected as president, then assassinates Americans without due process, Democrats will then be outraged!


    F@#k ’em all, I’m voting for Paul!

  19. take your medicine

    I don’t imagine anybody thought to ask the following hypothetical question: You seem convinced of the justice of your decision. If the UN Security Council referred criminal charges for wilful killing to the International Criminal Court, would the Commander-in-Chief want his day in court? Or would he escape from independent judgment with a veto?

  20. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©


    Meanwhile. Nice timing by the Republicans and Limbaugh, by the way. First their “war on contraception” covers for the ultimate Obama cave to the banksters, now El Fathead’s contribution to same is taking the headlines from this naked repudiation of our civil rights.

    USA! USA! USA!

  21. jerry 101

    I seem to recall, once upon a time, we had a President who did something blatantly illegal. He signed a treaty to purchase a large tract of a land from a foreign power, obligating the nation’s treasury to pay a substantial sum of a money. The sum of money required to make the purchase was not included in the budget for the relevant fiscal year. Congress had no say in the treaty.

    This President believed he was acting in the best interests of the nation, and realized the window of opportunity this represented was to narrow to wait for congressional approval of such a treaty and for congressional approval of the required budgetary action.

    So, he signed off on it. The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France.

    The President then threw himself upon the mercy of Congress. Congress could have impeached him, removed him from office, after which the Department of Justice could have prosecuted him for any number of high crimes and misdemeanors.

    But, Congress decided that he had acted appropriately, and chose not to impeach Thomas Jefferson.

    That should have set a precedent. In extraordinary times, the President may take extraordinary and illegal actions. But, if the President does so, then the President should inform Congress of such actions so Congress can determine if the President’s judgement was truly in the nation’s best interests and determine if the actions warrant impeachment and removal from office. That’s how it should work.

    Instead we get Presidents like Bush and Obama who override the law, then come up with clearly bogus legal rationales to say what they’ve done is kosher, and the skirt any sort of responsibility for their actions. What Obama did in having bin Laden murdered was blatantly illegal. Even worse was the murder of the US citizen in Yemen (I think – I forget the guy’s name, but I’m pretty sure he was murdered in Yemen).

    If these are truly extraordinary times and these murders were truly warranted and the administration truly feels that it can defend its actions, then Obama should take his case to Congress and dare Congress to impeach him over it. Congress could impeach, or it could choose not to. If it chooses not to, at least the rule of law is intact, as Congress would have determined that Obama’s actions were justified in light of the circumstances. Instead, we get greater and greater extensions of executive power and ever greater expansions of the abuse of that power. The law is meaningless to those in power.

    1. jerry 101

      Posted before I wrote the postscript, which should be clear:

      Jefferson is turning over in his grave.

    2. take your medicine

      Yeah, when real men break the law, they just do what they have to do, then shut up and take their medicine. Liddy. Ollie North. By contrast, murdering cowards Obama and Holder and all the shrinking-violet CIA torturers, they cry like babies at the thought of legal exposure. Hey, it’s not like they’re giving you two bullets in the back of the head, or 30 slits on your penis. It’s a namby-pampy trial in the Hague and a humane Belgian prison. Be a man.

  22. SalesAnalyst

    So if I were Putin, I’d make a speech similar to Holder’s, proclaiming Russian’s legal defense of extra-judicial killings, and then sit back and enjoy myself as the US State Department twisted itself into contortions trying to condemn the Russian stance while defending the American. Or even better yet, how about if Ahmadinejad did the same? Slippery slope indeed.

  23. bobdevo

    THe Attorney General conveniently leaves out some key words from the 5th AMendment. The constitution does not just guarantee “due process” – which I suppose might in a twisted mind like Holder’s include a rap session in the Oval Office where John Q. Public gets targeted for assassination – the Constitution guarantees “due process of law” – by which I believe the Framers were talking about the very “judicial process” Holder eschews.

    What a tool.

    1. Susan the other

      Holder is actually trying to say that due process is determined by the law governing the offense. Is it military law or civil law, he seems to ask rhetorically. And then he obfuscates the concept of marshall law and acts like everything is OK if law is a relative thing.

  24. aet

    If the context is that of organized and violent NON-STATE ACTORS which a Nation is fighting against, then I think the use of the word “war” can be both inappropriate and misleading.

    But if we can gun down John Dillinger, then we can gun down other public enemies too!

    And there’s no doubbt that there are public enemies!

    The question is solely one of the adequate identification of the individual targeted ( and of course, the prior question of the adequacy of the evidence which would render that specific individual a target in the first place ) – and NOT of the State’s essential right of making an effective response to organized violence against it or its denizens.

    For there can be NO question as to the right of a State to respond to organized violence against it with violence of its own.

    But the question is, as always: what makes the targeted individual one of such an organized and criminal group? And can valid and sound judgments against a group as such (which itself must be first of all be defined by people, either its own members, or by its enemies) be extended with justice to ALL “members of that group”?

    In others word: if one being a “member” of a “criminal group” which therefore makes one “fair game” for targeted State violence, then how “membership” in that group is defined becomes the crux…so what does it mean to be “member” of ANY group? Or is that something we are free to define by our whimsy? By ourselves after deliberation? by the judgement reasoned or otherwise of some other person?

    And what of the Freedom of Association guaranteed by the US Constitution?

    What of the injustice of group punishment? How is that to be avoided?

    We gunned down Dillinger…can we gun down all the members of “his gang” on sight, too? Does “his gang” include the people who gave them meals, or their occassional auto mechanic? Or does it include the women who sleep, or have slept, with them? Or their kids? Must we first afford them an opportunity to surrender – or do we just start blazing away on sight?

    “War” is for States and would-be States – ie, civil wars…
    calling it a “war on terrorism” simply clouds the issues.

    1. robert157

      Holder speaks of targeting members of “Al Qaeda or associated groups.” You can be a “member” of a group “associated” with a group who the President determines is plotting to do violence against the regime. No doubt this extends onward — you can be associated with a member of an associated group, and not be a member yourself. Perhaps you can be associated with an associate, and be legally targeted by the Pres. In a war without end, why not justifications without end.

      What group is more “associated” with Al Qaeda than the executive branch of the US government? That association has been direct, and is well documented. Associated indeed.

  25. Blunt

    There’s an ailment here that defies cure, except the cure that might come from the death of the ailing one. There is no longer an “America.”

    The past 40 years of lawlessness and surreptitious rendition of the law in the service of imperial fantasies has put an end to whatever had been America before.

    The irony will be, I hope I live to see it, that the empire has all but fallen apart and those morons in Versailles have no idea that it’s going, going, gone.

    Holder and Obama make quite a team: law school oligarch wannabes who are willing to do whatever’s necessary to curry the favor of those who will pay them after the eight year or five year stint they current seem on a trajectory to accomplish is done.

    In the meantime Rome is sacked and there will be no return. In fact, it would surprise me if those who have done the sacking will enjoy the loot they have looted for very long.

    1. falun bong

      My sadness at it all runs very deep. My country, it’s shining principles, the beacon of hope for the world, debased and corrupted by these men and their lies. It has become a nation of men, not laws. I was hoodwinked into believing Obama was a decent man, a good man. How wrong we all were. Black Bush thinks he has no choice but to continue the wars, the last thing he needs is hundreds of thousands more unemployed young men and women back in the country, many trained in the use of automatic weapons. The saddest part is how it will self-fulfill: they are sowing so much hatred and anger around the globe that the created enemies will strike back.
      I don’t see terorists gearing up to attack Brazil, or Canada, or France, or China. If any of those nations acted the way America does the uproar would be colossal. You reap what you sow America.

  26. Hugh

    Kleptocracy is maintained and supported by class war, that is a war waged by the 1% against the rest of us. As kleptocracy deepens and entrenches itself, it creates more suffering, becomes more obvious to those suffering under it, and takes on more and more of the attributes of an overt dictatorship. We see this in the militarization of the police. We see it in a two tiered justice system. We see it in the construction of a surveillance state where searches of and data collection on those of us in the 99% without court order, due process, or probable cause have become routine and where this information accurate or not is aggregated into huge data bases and made available to law enforcement at all levels through so-called fusion centers. We see it in the criminalization of protests. (Look at the reaction to OWS and the just passed bill making it illegal to confront and protest politicians or hold protests at public sites.) We see it in the legalization of indefinite detention, even of US citizens. We see it in the legitimation of extra-judicial executions, again even of US citizens.

    Put simply the al Awlaki assassination is just one part of a much larger attack on us in the 99%. What you have to understand is that the War on Terror is just an excuse. In the great scheme of things, they are not and never will pose an existential threat to this country. They are at best a nuisance. In the eyes of the 1%, it is not terrorists, but we of the 99% who are the real enemies. And they have put together this whole intelligence and police apparatus, not for a few jihadis, but to use against us as the awareness and resistance to their kleptocracy grows.

    In essence, our elites are arming themselves now for what they see as the next, armed, phase of the class war against us. Look at all the trillions they have stolen. Look at the tens of millions of lives they have ruined. Look at the hundreds of thousands of deaths they are responsible for just through lack of healthcare. Did you really think they were just going to give all the money back and quietly accept the punishments for their crimes? Did you really think that with so much loot to defend and so much blood on their hands, they would just give up? Obama and Romney are just goofy stooges meant to distract you, but when the time comes and political theater is not enough, the 1% means to make this, not a play war but a real one, and they mean to take it to the bloody end. You see they realized a long time ago that it is either them or us, and they mean it to be them.

    1. SR6719

      Hugh: “..our elites are arming themselves now for what they see as the next, armed, phase of the class war against us..”

      Excellent comment!

      However if the commenters at Daily Kos are any indication, the elites won’t be needing those weapons any time soon, as the propaganda appears to be working just fine.

      1. psychohistorian

        The MSM is a dangerous addictive drug that defines the worlds for many who partake.

  27. Eric L. Prentis

    It is truly corrupting air the status quo elite breath. It turns their brains into mush.

  28. ian

    I don’t get this – I would have thought that one of the basic protections that come along with citizenship is that no matter what you’ve done – treason in time of war, serial killer, too many parking tickets – you don’t get punished without due process. I find it appalling that none of the presidential contenders has said a peep about this.

    1. Hotel Scheveningen

      That’s why states’ sovereignty is conditional on meeting the minimal standards of the civilized world: the UDHR, the CCPR, the CESCR, the UN Charter and the Rome Statute. So when we lose the fundamental right to life, it means the US is no longer a sovereign state. We’re wasting our time treating the government like a legitimate authority, it’s not. This state has no reason to exist. Time to throw sand in the gears here at home and enlist the international community, both states and civil society, for coordinated pressure.

  29. spigzone

    This makes conclusive what I’ve been saying for almost three years, Obama is by far the most dangerous president in this nation’s history … this after voting for him and donating to his campaign based on his POTENTIAL.

    Glad I’m an old man.

  30. Westcoastliberal

    I don’t remember us “declaring war” do you?
    Seems to me the neo-con regime that took control by stealing the 2000 election is still in full power, night is day, black is white, the criminals are TBTF, and now the government thinks they can kill us just by saying we’re guilty in a fake war. Priceless.

  31. DLC

    After Timothy blew up the federal building in Oklahoma the government publicly accused all militias of taking part in that crime. And when those heretofor unknown small and large militia groups popped their heads up to deny those accusations the government hit them in the head with a big hammer just like the goffer game at your county fair.

    Of course no one has ever identified the third suspect in those bombings (the government agent) but the intent was to identify groups that stood in the way of this country’s plans (the 1%ers plans) to subvert the constitution and to destroy those groups.

    Thank God that these same people are really stupid because while they have gone into stage 2 or 3 of their plan and have been concentrating on foriegn conflicts and just recently turning their attention back to subverting the constitution the rest of us have been rearming.

    We are not militias, anymore than most of those groups of concerned citizens were back in McVeighs day but I guarantee you that in order for the government to take what we have left they will have to fight for it. And they know this, that’s why all the new laws (voted on in secret behind closed doors) that will allow them to sleep at night after a rough day of killing U.S. citizens who are doing nothing more than protecting their loved ones and their property.

    Something that an old, tattered, yellowing document use to do for all of us before we allowed such a disgustingly small number of individuals to destroy it and what it represented.

    This goes way beyond the murder of one man or a thousand others, this is nothing more than justification for what is to come…………… one more piece in the bigger picture.

    Just so no one misunderstands….. I do not and am not condoning the bombing in Oklahoma City-that was a cowardly act and someday I hope that all those involved pay the ultimate price-after a trial by jury.

    God help us all……..


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