White House to be the Judge, Jury and Executioner of 'dangerous' Americans
Wednesday, 06 February 2013

Legal experts expressed grave reservations Tuesday about an Obama administration memo concluding that the United States can order the killing of American citizens believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida — with one saying the White House was acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”

The experts said that the memo, first obtained by NBC News, threatened constitutional rights and dangerously expanded the definition of national self-defense and of what constitutes an imminent attack.

“Anyone should be concerned when the president and his lawyers make up their own interpretation of the law or their own rules,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and an authority on international law and the use of force.

“This is a very, very dangerous thing that the president has done,” she added.

The memo, made public Monday, provides detail about the administration’s controversial expansion of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens.

Among them were Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed by an American strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Both men were U.S. citizens who had not been charged with a crime.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a talk at Northwestern University Law School in March, endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans provided that the government determines such an individual poses “an imminent threat of violent attack”. 



But the memo obtained by NBC News refers to a broader definition of imminence and specifically says the government is not required to have “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

 

Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer who writes about security and liberty for the British newspaper The Guardian, described the memo as “fundamentally misleading,” with a clinical tone that disguises “the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.”

“If you believe the president has the power to order U.S. citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it’s truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable,” he wrote.

 


  

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