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Holder argues Congressional authorization is unnecessary to kill Americans, Executive Branch can do what it wants

President Barack Obama's (D) Attorney General, Eric Holder, dropped a bombshell this week, revealing [PDF] that he did consider it acceptable to kill Americans with drone deathstrikes on U.S. soil, but only under "extraordinary" circumstances.  

I. A Time to Kill?

He says that such plots had never been performed in the homeland to date.  But several Americans have reportedly been killed with drone strikes in the Middle East during the Obama regime was elected into power in 2008.

AG Holder's comments came in response to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.).   Sen. Paul had promised to stall the nomination of John Brennan to become director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  Mr. Brennan is a controversial figure who helped mastermind the program of drone deathstrikes and "enhanced interrogation" (torture) programs in the Middle East.

Eric Holder
AG Eric Holder told Sen. Rand Paul that "hypothetically" drone strikes could be used on U.S. soil to kill Americans. [Image Source: AP]

In his letter to Sen. Paul, seeking to clarify when drone strikes would be allowed, AG Holder writes:

The question you posed is.... entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.  It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.

Holder goes on to point to Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 as examples of the kinds of threats that might require Americans to be ordered killed by the President.

II. Armed and Ready, Flying Over Your Backyard

Since the middle of the last decade, military-grade drones have been flying over U.S. states, ostensibly for use in countering drug trafficking and other forms of crime.  Of late, some of these drones have been reportedly armed.

Reaper drones
Reaper drones are currently being used over U.S. airspace. [Image Source: The Real Revo]

There are currently no formal laws passed by Congress governing whom and be killed and when – if the President's premise that death strikes on Americans does not violate Constitutional due process holds true.  Further, such strikes appear entirely at the discretion of the President, the military, and the national intelligence agencies -- Congress is not in the loop.

That seems rather curious.  The Constitution is unequivocal in that Congress alone has the power to authorize the use of deadly military force.  Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the foundation of the U.S. government, clearly grants Congress the power:

U.S. Constitution
[Image Source: EL Civics]

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

However, according to President Obama and his staff's logic, that power has now been transferred to the executive branch, and what's more, it can be used to kill Americans without a trial on U.S. soil.

Obama upset
The Obama administration argues sometimes American citizens may need to be killed without due process, both abroad and at home. [Image Source: Matt Ortega/Flickr]

The Obama adminstration executed a similar privilege overseas at least once -- ordering a drone strike that killed suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who happened to also be a New Mexico-born U.S. citizen.  Other Americans were also killed in other drone strikes, but it is unclear whether those killings were ordered or mere inadvertent attrition.

III. Some Upset About Obama's New Power to Kill Americans

Sen. Paul was not happy with the Obama administration's plan to grant itself the power to kill, and to cut Congress out of the loop.  He comments, "The U.S. attorney general's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening. It is an affront to the constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

Predator missile
Some in the Senate feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the killings of Americans on U.S. soil. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]

But some of his colleagues weren't so harsh.  Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) praised the President's decision to hand over memos detailing when drone strikes were allowable.

The Obama administration had previously asked its press secretaries to lie about the existence of the memos, claiming they didn't exist.  In light of the disclosure, the Senators say in a joint statement, "We are pleased that we now have the access that we have long sought and need to conduct the vigilant oversight with which the committee has been charged. We believe that this sets an important precedent for applying our American system of checks and balances to the challenges of 21st century warfare. We look forward to reviewing and discussing these documents in the days ahead."

The Senate now moves on to debate Mr. Brennan's confirmation, following his confirmation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.  There will likely be lively debate from Sen. Paul, et al., during Mr. Brennan's confirmation hearing before the full Senate.

The debate brings to mind the words of George Orwell in an essay on wartime Britain, who wrote, "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

Sources: Sen. Rand Paul [PDF], [Press Release], Sen. Wyden, et al.

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RE: Can Someone Explain?
By Beenthere on 3/6/2013 1:41:59 PM , Rating: 0
You are correct this is a bunch of nonsense over nothing. All it does is allow special government authorities to use a drone in the U.S. if absolutely necessary. The military is not being turned against the populace.

As usual the knee-jerk reaction gets lots of media exploitation. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be concerned about this authorization to use lethal force on a terrorists - no matter what nationality the terrorist is or where he is when they take him out be it with a drone, C4, cyanide or a bullet. the only good terrorist is a dead terrorist.

Blowing their worhtless arse away is doing society a favor. If you're dumb enough to be a terrosits, you're dumb enough to be anhihilated. A drone is very efficient and saves on other services that would be wasted on a piece of garbage.

RE: Can Someone Explain?
By Ammohunt on 3/6/2013 3:29:42 PM , Rating: 3
If this were the only incident of talk like this I might not be as concerned but the fact is there is a trail of this type of talk since Obama took office including his idea to create an ARMY as strong as the military controlled by civilians. With the recent gigantic ammunition and weapons purchases by the DHS and other agencies it make you wonder if such an idea was brought into existence.

RE: Can Someone Explain?
By Skywalker123 on 3/6/2013 7:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
Dont worry about Beenthere's opinion, he's an idiot/troll.

RE: Can Someone Explain?
By JediJeb on 3/7/2013 3:33:24 PM , Rating: 2
I heard on the news that DHS also just got 2700 new armored personnel carriers of the MRAP type for deployment within the country. That is rather disturbing.

RE: Can Someone Explain?
By kerpwnt on 3/6/2013 4:10:05 PM , Rating: 4
Shouldn't be concerned? What about collateral damage? What about The Fifth Amendment? This is about U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. There is no oversight of these proposed drone strikes, let alone due process.

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 offence 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.

Obviously the President has perfect/God-like judgement, so due process doesn't matter...

Holder's domestic drone strikes are still hypothetical, but the proposition reeks of a willingness to subvert human rights. This, and the fact that he stands behind Fast and Furious (selling/giving guns to Mexican cartels), have me convinced that Mr. Holder is not concerned about endangering us to achieve his goals.

RE: Can Someone Explain?
By tng on 3/6/2013 5:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct this is a bunch of nonsense over nothing. All it does is allow special government authorities to use a drone in the U.S. if absolutely necessary.
Who would deem it necessary? POTUS, Congress, DHS, FBI, DOJ, or any number of armed federal agencies that could possibly need such services?

Where is the line that you or I could cross to be the target of such a strike? Obviously that line is not well defined which means that in conjunction with other laws that have been passed/renewed in the past 2 years, you or the guy in the house next door could be named a terrorists for simply using a bad choice of words.

Yeah, there are allot of us out here in the US that are paranoid, but with good reason. Such laws are prone to abuse at the hands of someone who may only have their own best interests in mind.

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