Why Obama Won't Admit that He Can't Assassinate Americans in America
UPDATE - Holder: "No Domestic Drone Strikes"
The Constitution is clear that due process must be extended to all US citizens on US soil at all times. Further, the due process clauses of both the 5th and 14th Armaments are expressly linked to killing."nor shall any person ... be deprived of life ... without due process of law"
-5th Amendment "nor shall any State deprive any person of life .... without due process of law"
-14th Amendment Why then did Rand Paul spend 15 hours yesterday on a moral rampage over the Obama Administration's refusal to answer his question over whether or not an American citizen can be killed via drone attack on US soil? The answer is obviously no. Why then all the fuss? It's simple: President Obama needs the controversy in order to make those opposed to him seem like they are crazy. In effect, by not answering Rand Paul's rather simple question he is creating another birther controversy. He's attempting to make the opposition out to be extremists, and a little off kilter. In order to understand this, recall that the Birther controversy lasted as long as it did because the White House refused to release Obama's birth certificate until his first term in office was nearly over. We have to acknowledge that a great deal of the Birther controversy was in fact fueled by paranoid conspiracy theorists. Obama was seen by this group as somehow part of a larger Red plot to infiltrate America and take it over from the inside. Even if that was the core constituency of Birtherism, a group that to this day won't acknowledge that Obama was born in Hawaii even after his birth certificate was released, that a much greater number were drawn into skepticism by the fact that Obama wouldn't do the one very simple thing needed to prove that he was a natural born citizen. By not releasing his birth certificate the ranks of Birthers grew. It would be so easy to prove that he was born in Hawaii, so why doesn't he just do it? He must be hiding something.... President Obama's strategy for winning the 2012 election was that of divide and conquer. And one of the ways you do that is to convince a portion of the American people that the opposition is filled with crazy nutjobs. This is especially effective with low information voters, some of which see voting as kind of a statement of belonging to a group. Do you want to be part of the reality based community, or are you a crazy birther? I see what is happening right now with Rand Paul and the Obama Administration as part of the same strategy. Any one who has read the Holder memos on drone strikes immediately notices two things: 1) The memo overtly states that the policy applies only to the overseas killing of Americans. And it's not subtle about this. 2) The memo clearly states that the persons being killed belong to al Qaeda, a group which we are at war with. In a war, you don't go to a judge before you drop a bomb. So, if the Obama administration never asserted the right to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, then what is all the hullabaloo over? There is a paranoid fringe on both the Right and Left that sees a grand conspiracy in nearly everything. The "black helicopter" paranoia of the '80s and '90s have been replaced by the drone paranoia of the present decade. Surrounding this fringe, but not part of it, are those that simply don't trust government. I count myself as part of that latter group. I don't believe in grand conspiracies, yet I do not want to give the government the tools it would need should future leaders try and oppress the American people. It could happen, even if the probability of it happening is low we should guard our liberties like precious jewels. Since the majority of the American people have not actually read the Holder memo on drone strikes, they simply do not know that the Administration never asserted a right to assassinate Americans on US soil. Rand Paul knows this. What he's asking the Administration to do is prove that they don't believe something which they never claimed they believe. I can't believe that even he believes the slippery slope argument that he's making. I'm also not sure the political game he's playing or what he thinks he'll get out of this. He's certainly getting a lot of attention and a lot of support from the Right. Part of this support is simple partisanship. We simply like any one who is willing to stand up to Barrack Obama. Rand Paul certainly has some backbone, doesn't he? Mostly I think this support comes from people who haven't actually read the Holder memo. We've read the headlines that a memo was released which claimed that Obama can kill American citizens. And we've heard that the Administration hasn't denied that it has this right. So ....... It's the birth certificate controversy all over again. It could be over today. All we are waiting for is for the President to deny that he has a power which he never asserted. Instead, we get nothing. Worse than nothing. We get Eric Holder going out on a limb and imagining a hypothetical situation where a drone strike would actually be appropriate: another 9/11. Is that shocking? No, it's not. Holder is simply saying what the Bush Administration said before it: that it would shoot down a hijacked plane if we thought it was going to be used as a piloted suicide missile in the same way the 9/11 attacks occurred. There is nothing extraordinary in this. Of course the President has the right to authorize the downing of a hijacked plane! Did we learn nothing from 9/11? Unless, of course, you believe that there is some difference between a manned airplane and an unmanned airplane -- a so-called "drone". The difference being ...... ??? What, precisely? I have actually followed Ryan's objections. But if you listen to them carefully all of them are hypothetical and based on faulty slippery slope argument. If the President can kill US citizens there, what is to stop him from killing US citizens here? We don't need a "rule" for this because the "rule" is the fundamental law of the US: the Constitution. I saw someone today tweeted that we need a "rule of engagement" for killing people in the US. No we don't. Rules of engagement are made for war. Inside the US we are not at war. We don't engage the enemy here, we arrest them. And we don't need to elaborate further since both the 5th and 14th Amendment specifically address the concern. Which is why Holder's answer is so puzzling. If the administration wanted to clear the air why didn't they just tell Sen. Ryan, "No, we can't do that"? Isn't the answer simple? They don't want to clear the air. They want to keep this political maelstrom going. They want to distract the American people from, well, everything! $16.5 trillion in debt. The worst recovery in US history -- ever! Millions of people unemployed or underemployed. And no end in site of the economic misery. Obama's failures are simply the new normal. But, look kids, the Republicans are so nutty! Rand Paul may be scoring some personal political points by trying to drag this thing out for as long as possible. It may help him with several elements in the base. But if Paul is counting on this controversy to bolster his cred, so too must the President be counting on the same thing. Remember the short-lived Donald Trump mania last year? It's the same thing all over again. How'd that work out for us? Betting against Obama on this is about as big a mistake as betting against a Sicilian when death is on the line. It's a mistake second only to starting a land war in China. So, unless Ryan has been gradually building up his resistance to iocane powder over the years I'm guessing that this will work out for him about as well as it worked out for Trump. This is how I see this thing playing out. Over the next few weeks or months, as the next budgetary "cliff" approaches, Obama will use this sideshow to distract the American people from the true state of the Union. His allies in the media will frame the issue as "Republican extremism", "antics", or crazy black drones in the skies conspiracy theories. [UPDATE: It's happening already] A lot of low information voters will think the Republicans are weird. They don't want to be weird. Then at some point he will go ahead and tell Rand Paul exactly what Rand Paul wants to hear: the President does not have the authority to kill US citizens in the US. At which point he will confirm what we all knew already, but the damage will be done. You don't "un-weird" yourself overnight. Once you get that stink, it lingers. UPDATE: Fixed a stupid mistake. Thanks to MTB. I'll address a couple of objections in the comments. First, from Odie Wan Kenobe: "I just don't see the difference between sniping a confederate from a balloon or tree as much different that a drone strike. Or say an ATF raid in WACO." The ATF isn't the military. They're law enforcement. We can debate the merits of Waco some other time, but worst case scenario that was a case of law enforcement officers jumping the gun with a guy who was resisting arrest and a lot of innocent people dying. The key element here being resisting arrest. No one was on a kill list. The ATF had a subpoena for arrest. So there's no comparison here. Nor with the Civil War which was a state of insurrection, which is also addressed specifically in the US Consitution Art. 1, sec. 8, authorizing Congress, "To provide for calling forth the Militia to ... suppress Insurrections" Tim notes that I am contradicting myself in saying the President has the right to down a hijacked plane but that we don't need a rule of engagement. I don't think so. Here's why. The rules of engagement are made by command so that soldiers down the line have a decision rule as to when it is ok to engage the enemy and when it is not. In the 9/11 hypothetical I don't think the call would be the soldier's to make. The President himself (or herself) would have to make the call to shoot down a plane over US territory should it be on the way to ram itself in, say, The Sears Tower. So, since the decision to strike isn't the soldier's to make (whether a drone pilot or an F-22 pilot) they don't need a decision rule to help them decide. If you call that a rule of engagement, then we're just arguing semantics. If you want to call it a "rule" or whatever, I'll cede the point. As long as we both agree that the decision to use military force in the US is a) the President's alone if and when the threat is immanent and there is no time to call Congress before the decision can be made.
UPDATE: I was wrong. Holder didn't let this fester. I was expecting this weeks from now at the earliest:
Dear Senator Paul: It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no. Sincerely, Eric HolderSo, there you go.
That's why they say it the way they do. The precedent is set.
True its very unlikely they will have to. But they won't say "never".
Posted by: Odie Wan Kenodie at March 07, 2013 01:40 PM
Instead, Holder cites 9/11 and Pearl Harbor -- not as precedents for the President to "kill Americans in America" but as a precedent for the President to "authorize the military to use lethal force in America", something that Madison talked about in the Constitutional Convention itself!
I quote from Madison's notes on Article 1, Sec. 8 in the Convention:
"Mr. Madison and Mr Gerry moved to insert "declare," striking out "make" war; leaving to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks.
Mr Sharman thought it stood very well. The Executive shd. be able to repel and not to commence war. "Make" better than "declare" the latter narrowing the power too much."
So, even a strict constructionist and/or originalist like Ryan believes the President can, in some limited circumstances, kill people in the US.
Which is why both Ryan and Holder are playing around here, using very carefully selected words. Ryan never asserting that the President claimed he could kill Americans, only that he "won't deny it" and Holder never claiming that the could assassinate Americans on US soil, only that the President "could use the military" in some cases.
Posted by: Rusty at March 07, 2013 01:49 PM
Uhmmmm, you meant "Rand Paul", right?
As one old-ass needs-to-retire Senator just told Rand the Man, "Calm down....."
Posted by: MtTB at March 07, 2013 01:49 PM
I'm starting to think you bloggers siding with McCain Graham maybe should be your undoing.
Posted by: MtTB at March 07, 2013 01:57 PM
I see what you are saying, I just don't see the difference between sniping a confederate from a balloon or tree as much different that a drone strike. Or say an ATF raid in WACO.
Its use of domestic military force against "Americans". That said, I think he has the "right". True congress and the people get oversight.
Not very likely does not mean never and he will never give it up.
Posted by: Odie Wan Kenodie at March 07, 2013 02:04 PM
Posted by: WVinMN at March 07, 2013 02:30 PM
I respectfully disagree, Rusty. Rand showed that the administration, and the senate Democrats,won't agree to something that literally no one in America objects to. This doesn't make Rand look weird--it makes the Dems who refuse to say "You're correct that the Constitution doesn't allow the US to murder people" look weird.
Granted, I understand that the media will TRY tospin this tomake Rand look like a kook. But it's hard to spin "Don't kill US citizens without a trial" into a kook belief.
Posted by: Some1 at March 07, 2013 02:30 PM
Man, how "crazy" that turned out to be!
Posted by: Rob Crawford at March 07, 2013 02:50 PM
It's really OK with me if the Civil Libertarians want to raise issues and get public assurances from our administrative officials that they know and respect the limitations we have placed upon them. I'm glad they are there to raise hell if they don't get a good answer. I might even vote for one, given the opportunity.
Posted by: VALERIE at March 07, 2013 02:52 PM
Holder answered, in writing.
Thing is, I would have expected a person qualified to be US Attorney General to answer this, correctly and emphatically, off the top of his head.
Posted by: VALERIE at March 07, 2013 03:35 PM
Generally I agree with what you out forth.
However, you seem to also contradict yourself -
gOf course the President has the right to authorize the downing of a hijacked plane! Did we learn nothing from 9/11?h
gI saw someone today tweeted that we need a "rule of engagement" for killing people in the US. No we don't. Rules of engagement are made for war. Inside the US we are not at war.h
A high jacked plane inside the US is an act of war and could be carried out by a US citizen.
Also, letfs say itfs something other than an hijacked plane, say a carbomb. Do we preemptively drone strike it? What about an apartment full of American jihadis merely planning a strike? Wherefs the line? I think thatfs what Sen. Paul wants to know.
Posted by: tim at March 07, 2013 03:44 PM
Posted by: Gus Bailey at March 07, 2013 03:51 PM
We are not on an even playing field. This is not a genteel discussion behind ivied walls. We are outnumbered by an increasingly constitutionally/politically illiterate electorate. We cannot win at their game. We must attack from our strengths and force the President and his appointees into awkward positions that eithermake them appear shiftless, petulant or clueless.
Your points are not wrong Professor, just wrongheaded.
Posted by: Gus Bailey at March 07, 2013 04:05 PM
Posted by: Moshe Ben Avram at March 07, 2013 04:32 PM
I think you give these White House gangsters too much credit. In most cases these crimanals are reactingAFTER they have been caught doing something illegal (i.e. Fast and Furious). What motivates guys like Holder is he's not willing to leave anything on the table. As you implied, the question leaves Holder imagining just when the administration my want/need to kill someone. That is why it is so difficult for him to say "No, the government can not kill without due process......"
It is not planned out. These guys are to fuckin stupid to plan things out. But in the end it does serve as good cover for the other failings
Posted by: Abrog8 at March 07, 2013 04:35 PM
Will that stop him from killing American citizens on American soil?' The answer is 'no'.
Don't act surprised when it happens. Because it is going to happen.
Posted by: EROWMER at March 07, 2013 04:54 PM
Yeah but it won't be with a drone. It will be an agency like ATF or something.
Maybe just run them down with an APC.
Posted by: Odie Wan Kenodie at March 07, 2013 04:57 PM
Posted by: Rusty at March 07, 2013 05:43 PM
"As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts."
This paragraph does not acknowledge that the US government doesn't have the POWER to kill US citizens without due process of law, and in fact in times of war only has the power to hold them to answer for a crime. This paragraph is so far divergent from what a lawyer would expect to see, as to drive them all nuts.
Posted by: VALERIE at March 07, 2013 07:37 PM
And, in fact, we have. See --> Americans who fought for Nazis.
It's a matter of how you frame the question. It's misleading since when you frame it a certain way, it leads people to make erroneous assumptions about what you mean.
Also, Holder is responding to an inquiry made by Sen. Paul after Paul read the White Paper (what I call "memo" above) which said, "use lethal force in a foreign country" in the very first sentence of the memo!
So, Holder and DOJ say "foreign country" and then Paul immediately jumps to "if there, why not here?" even though here is never mentioned! Then he's asked by Rand to refute something he never claimed!
So, both sides are playing lawyer semantics games here for political purposes. Which I think was the whole point of this post, right?
Posted by: Rusty at March 07, 2013 08:06 PM
Posted by: EROWMER at March 07, 2013 09:23 PM
Key word: Yet.
Posted by: Kafiroon at March 07, 2013 11:04 PM
Distraction. By getting everybody chasing the mythical Kenyan Creation Story they took attention away from the elephant in the room AND by making all talk of Obama's origin 'crazy talk' made it so that when people did see it they kept their mouth shut or was denounced by all right thinking people as crazy.
The elephant is of course the Natural Born Citizen question. By Obama's own (ghostwritten) autobiography his father was never a US Citizen and had no desire to become one. Add in the fact he was adopted (again, Obama's own words) into Indonesian citizenship. Plus, legally, by way of the father President Obama is legally entitled to British Citizenship. If the Natural Born Citizen clause really meant someone with clear legal claims to citizenship in FOUR countries qualifies then we must ask "What the hell were the Founders doing?"
Posted by: John Morris at March 08, 2013 01:45 AM
remember the leftotards accepting clintons 'it all depends what the definition of "is" is ....'
leftists love to redefine words to mean whatever is convenient at the time.
Not to worry, the meaning of 'execution for high treason' will be clear enough in the future to those who matter.
Posted by: gerbnoff at March 08, 2013 04:42 AM
Posted by: Mark at March 08, 2013 11:20 AM
Posted by: Doom at March 08, 2013 12:52 PM
You sir have missed the whole point. It does not matter where obama was born, his father was not a citizen of the USA, therefor neither was obama a Natural Born Citizen.
Obama was a citizen of Brittan by birth to a citizen of Kenya.
If the 5th and 14th Amendment stand then so does the 1st. In order to be President or Vice President a person must be a Natural Born Citizen. Natural born is born of two citizen parents.
Gear up because Marco Rubio does not qualify either.
Posted by: Jan at March 09, 2013 09:20 PM
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