Even some of President Obama’s greatest fans have recoiled in horror at his targeted assassination program. A memo released recently has raised important questions about the President’s willingness to wave due process and to vest in the executive branch the power to kill suspects without trial. Rachel Maddow posed the following question to President Obama:
“The issue here is who’s a bad guy and how do you figure it out?…If you’re an American citizen and the president is going to kill you, do you have the right to give yourself up instead? And how do you know you should do that if the president’s decision (to) kill you is a secret decision that nobody ever tells you?” -Rachel Maddow
I believe the very nature of democracy rides on transparency and due process, both of which are waved by a secret assassination program. It is true the memo makes reference to court oversite, but does that mean simply finding a supportive judge somewhere? The memo also claims to address itself to Al Queda, but then adds troubling passages that expand its powers almost to omnipotence:
“As stated earlier, this paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation against a U.S. citizen lawful in other circumstances.” -from the memo
For the first time I can remember I agree with Republican John Cornyn on an issue:
As Senator Durbin and others have said that they agree that this is a legitimate question that needs to be answered. But we’re not mere supplicants of the Executive Branch. We are a coequal branch of government with the Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight and to legislate where we deem appropriate on behalf of our constituents. So it is insufficient to say, “pretty please, Mr. President. pretty please, Mr. Attorney General, will you please tell us the legal authority by which you claim the authority to kill American citizens abroad?” It may be that I would agree with their legal argument, but I simply don’t know what it is, and it hasn’t been provided.
If you are a Obama supporter reading this blog shaking your head willing to defend whatever he does, I have a question for you. Will you still support this secret assassination program when the next Dick Cheney comes into power? Remember we do not build policy only to free up our best leaders. We also must build policy to constrain our worst.