Who can’t be on Obama’s “kill list”?

A DOJ white paper reveals White House rationalization for drone strikes -- and an out of control power structure

Topics: Drones, Barack Obama, Department of Justice, NBC, CIA, John Brennan, Terrorism, New York Times, Editor's Picks,

Who can't be on Obama's "kill list"? (Credit: Wikimedia)

Last month, America saw in graphic detail how the destructive notion of Too Big to Jail means for an executive branch that refuses to prosecute a single banker connected to the financial meltdown. Today, with the release of a secret Justice Department white paper about the president’s so-called kill list, we are learning about another radical jurisprudential notion being pioneered by the Obama administration. Call it Too Big to Curtail.

That’s the most accurate label to describe the machinery of the government’s ever-expanding drone war. As the white paper asserts, that war — which is likely creating more terrorists than it is neutralizing — cannot be curtailed by laws or the Constitution. Therefore, the argument goes, the president no longer merely claims the power to detain and torture people without due process, nor does he merely claim the power to execute American citizens without indictment or trial. Those extra-constitutional powers, which only a few years ago were seen as utterly illegal, are quaint compared to the new assertion that the president can now do all of this without any concrete intelligence suggesting a citizen is linked to terrorist activity.

This is the most harrowing takeaway from the white paper, which was released as a bipartisan group of senators belatedly demands answers about the drone war. As NBC News reports (emphasis added):

It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

This new claim that evidence is not required to kill someone is the true foundation of Too Big to Curtail. To really appreciate how extreme the whole concept is, understand that it is already blatantly illegal for a president to execute an American citizen without so much as a indictment. Indeed, if the constitutional notion of “due process” means anything at all, at minimum it means at least being formally charged with a single crime.

You Might Also Like

But in the new white paper, the Obama administration isn’t just laying waste to that most basic of ideas — it is going further and insisting that even within the extra-constitutional “kill list” deliberations inside the White House, the president doesn’t actually need evidence to order someone’s death.

This, of course, creates a legal architecture to justify the administration’s heretofore shocking declaration that, according to the New York Times, “it in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” It also explains why Obama’s spokesman said the president was justified in executing a 16-year-old U.S. citizen simply because the kid “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” According to the Justice Department white paper, those killings are all now perfectly legal because supposedly the law “does not require the United States to have clear evidence” in order to kill anyone, much less posthumously identify them as a threat.

In the context of the administration’s other high-profile legal moves, this is nothing short of a tectonic shift in long-term jurisprudential standards. When it comes to Obama campaign contributors on Wall Street, Too Big to Jail means no amount of overwhelming evidence can prompt a single white-collar prosecution, regardless of the scope of financial terrorism. Meanwhile, when it comes to any U.S. citizen the president unilaterally deems a terrorist, Too Big to Curtail means that not a single shred of actual evidence is needed not just to prosecute him, but to outright execute him.

Should the Congress continue to do nothing about this shift — say, for instance, by confirming the CIA nomination of one of the architects of Too Big to Curtail, John Brennan — this double standard will be the new assumed normal, one that (heads up, liberal Obama defenders!) will be exploited by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. As evidenced by its statements to the Times, the Obama administration clearly knows that to be the case — and is now doing its best to guarantee that its radical precedents are cemented for the long haul.

David Sirota
David Sirota is a senior writer for the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Sonic

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.

    KFC

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.

    Interscope

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>