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NYT Rebukes Obama on Extrajudicial Killing of U.S. Citizen Terrorists, Echoes Hypocritical Eric Holder from 2004

Morgen on March 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

In a lead editorial today, the New York Times ripped the Obama Administration’s legal argument for the targeted killing of U.S. citizens in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Attorney General Eric Holder outlined the Administration’s case in a speech last week – the Times isn’t buying it.

Perhaps most disturbing, Mr. Holder utterly rejected any judicial supervision of a targeted killing.

We have said that a decision to kill an American citizen should have judicial review, perhaps by a special court like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes eavesdropping on Americans’ communications.

Mr. Holder said that could slow a strike on a terrorist. But the FISA court works with great speed and rarely rejects a warrant request, partly because the executive branch knows the rules and does not present frivolous or badly argued cases. In Mr. Awlaki’s case, the administration had long been complaining about him and tracking him. It made an earlier attempt to kill him.

Mr. Holder said such operations require high levels of secrecy. That is obvious, but the FISA court operates in secret, and at least Americans are assured that some legal authority not beholden to a particular president or political party is reviewing such operations.

Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution “are not one and the same.” This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.

I’d give the Times some credit for consistency, but the truth is this editorial could have been published at any time since September 2011 when Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Or even after 2009 once it became perfectly clear that the Obama Administration planned on continuing most of the Bush ‘War on Terror’ policies that the Times had spent years railing against. Did the editors of the Times really hold out hope that they would be swayed by the brilliance of the Administration’s legal argument, and thus duly waited to hear it before weighing in on this? I doubt it, and in any case we know they would have been hounding the Bush White House incessantly from day one.

But this isn’t even the hypocrisy I really wanted to highlight. Take a look at what Eric Holder had to say about the Bush terror policies at a speech at the University of Oregon in 2004. This really is the height of hypocrisy.

With all due respect to President Reagan, the problem is not government. The problem is with those who run the government. In the struggle against terrorism, these people have made a mockery of the rule of law…

And yet a disturbing pattern has emerged. Lawyers for this administration have attempted to sanction the wholesale roundup and extended detention of Middle Eastern men on routine immigration violations, and the indefinite detention of American citizens with minimal judicial supervision, and without access to legal counsel.

Now I understand that we live in difficult times, and that we face an extraordinary, unprecedented threat. We cannot be naive in how we expect to conduct this struggle. This is not a time for the liberal community to see our enemy for anything other than what they are: murderers bent on the destruction of our way of life, which is superior to that which they seek to impose. We must be aggressive in the conduct of the war, and in the interrogation of prisoners taken in that war. But this Administration’s view, that the President’s authority as Commander-in-Chief can almost always overcome what it views as burdensome laws, restrictive International treaties, and tired old customs is extremely dangerous.

Our history is replete with scandals and miscues that are tied to the unrestricted exercise of Executive Branch power, in peace and in war. We must employ techniques in the current struggle that are consistent with the spirit of our founding documents, and that will also stand the test of time. We must feel comfortable, fifty years from now, looking back at our actions in a way that we do not when we examine for instance, the detention of American citizens during World War II.

Now let me be clear. This is not to equate American al-Qaeda sympathizers with law abiding Japanese-American citizens. But citizenship must mean something. The guarantees that come with it must be respected.

The war on terrorism can be won and our tradition of respect for civil liberties can be respected. The tension that this administration sees existing between the two simply is not correct.

This probably goes without saying, but if “respect for civil liberties” took precedence over the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens under Bush, then the same argument should apply even more so to the idea of killing them under Obama…you know, permanently.

I have a feeling that a weasel like Eric Holder would try to square the circle between his sanctimonious condemnation of Bush in 2004, and the policies he is now defending. But when even your most ardent supporters in the media aren’t buying your bullshit, maybe it’s time to just pack it in and resign.

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Category: Politics |

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