I like Attorney General Eric Holder and I support the president, but this is a pile of manure:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. defended the U.S. right to target and kill American citizens overseas in the war on terror, telling an audience at the Northwestern University law school that when those individuals pose a real threat to this country and cannot be captured unharmed, “we must take steps to stop them.”
But according to the text of his remarks released by the Justice Department, he stressed that it can only be done “in full accordance with the Constitution,” and asserted that a targeted slaying, like that of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen last year, can be ordered only after an “imminent threat” was posed to the United States and the person’s capture was “not feasible.”
“In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out,” Holder said. “And we will not.”
People are not complaining that the United States eliminated an imminent threat. They’re complaining that the process for eliminating that imminent threat doesn’t have adequate structural protections for U.S. citizens. They could fix this quite easily by creating some kind of special court to review evidence on an expedited basis. We have a FISA Court that reviews wiretap requests. If we want to target an American citizen abroad, the bare minimum that should be required is that a three-judge panel unanimously approve the action. Otherwise, a future administration could murder an American citizen with no due process, no transparency, no legal review, and no opportunity to either surrender or otherwise answer the charges. That is, in fact, what happened to Anwar al-Awlaki. The consensus is that al-Awlaki was a very bad man who was involved in the Christmas bombing plot and whose capture was impractical. There are, however, some doubters about those facts. And even if the doubters are wrong, the process does little to prevent abuse.
Here’s the process:
American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.
I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t good enough. It’s unacceptable. It’s wrong. And fixing it is not that complicated. We don’t have to get indictments in every case. But there has to be some judicial review and some transparency and some accountability.