Over at NRO, Kevin D. Williamson is asking important questions about the Obama administration’s most recent foray in the war on terror, permitting the killing of American citizens targeted for their terrorist activities:
I hate to play the squish, but am I the only one who is just a little bit queasy over the fact that the president of the United States is authorizing the assassination of American citizens? . . . Surely there has to be some operational constraint on the executive when it comes to the killing of U.S. citizens. It is not impossible to imagine a president who, for instance, sincerely believes that Andy McCarthy is undermining the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute the war on terror on the legal front. A government that can kill its citizens can shut them up, no? I ask this not as a legal question, but as a moral and political question: How is it that a government that can assassinate Citizen Awlaki is unable to censor Citizen McCarthy, or drop him in an oubliette? Practically every journalist of any consequence in Washington has illegally handled a piece of classified information. Can the president have them assassinated in the name of national security? Under the Awlaki standard, why not?
If worrying that the president might be overstepping his authority in approving the targeted killing of American citizens makes you a squish, Mr. Williamson, well, that makes two of us. Oh, wait. Make that three. Conor Friedersdorf is squishing out as well:
Is our polity losing it? In proposing that middle-aged citizens be counseled by medical advisers to prepare for end-of-life decisions, the president is widely accused of supporting “death panels”—a charge trumpeted loudly by select conservatives and repeated endlessly by the national media, though avoided by many serious Republicans.
Mere weeks later, it is revealed that President Obama presides over an actual death panel, shrouded in mystery except for the fact that it literally orders the killing of United States citizens, absent any oversight. Existing hit lists include at least three Americans.
And the response?
Sorry, make that four:
Here we are, almost four years later with a new party in power, and the President’s top intelligence official announces—without any real controversy— that the President claims the power to assassinate American citizens with no charges, no trials, no judicial oversight of any kind. The claimed power isn’t “inherent”—it’s based on alleged Congressional approval— but it’s safeguard-free and due-process-free just the same. As Gore asked of less severe policies in 2006, if the President can do that, “then what can’t he do?”
Does it strike you as odd that we’re targeting US citizens with no judicial process? Does it strike you as odd that we’ve got two entirely separate sets of list on which Americans can be targeted to be killed? Does it strike you as odd that we’ve now got an apparent turf battle over who gets to kill al-Awlaki?
Do I hear six?