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Obama White Papers Rationalize Targeted Killing of Americans

Updated on May 28, 2013

In response to repeated Freedom of Information requests, the White House at long last released documents seeking to justify the Obama Administration's policy on targeted killing of American citizens abroad.

The Senate Intelligence Committee gained access to classified documents from the Department of Justice, which are surely far more damaging, on February 7, 2013.

For public consumption, however, NBC's Michael Issikoff was able to obtain & release 16-pages of White Papers laying out the basic tenets of the Obama Administration's legal framework for authority.

Source

Imminent Threat

The White Paper attempts to lay out steps for identifying targets. Initially American "senior leaders of al-Qaeda" are described as candidates to be targeted & killed once an "Informed, high level U.S. Government official has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat...".

Imminent threat later devolves into ongoing threat, being that these individuals are "continually involved in planning...", or have, "recently been involved in activities posing an imminent threat...", and thus,"does not require the United States to have clear evidence that an attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."

Execution of these individuals - as opposed to detainment and trial - is contingent upon "whether the capture remains feasible". Feasible is then described as causing "undue risk to U.S personnel." I would add that there is inherent risk in waking up in the morning.

Source

al-Awlaki

Pressure has been mounting at least since September 30, 2011, when two American citizens - Samir Kahn & Anwar al-Awlaki - were targeted and killed by drone strike in Yemen. Anwar al-Awlaki was reported to have been a leader of AQAP (al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula) and had trained both the failed underwear bomber & the Times Square bomber among others.

Two weeks later on October 14, 2011, his 16 year-old son who was born in Denver, Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki was killed along with some cousins in the same manner. White House Secretary Robert Gibbs explained that he should have had a "far more reasonable father".

“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserted in March 2012, adding that, “Citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reassured us on February 5, 2013 that, "These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates & Attorney General Eric Holder
Defense Secretary Robert Gates & Attorney General Eric Holder | Source
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While identity strikes akin to those levied upon al-Awlaki et al are said to have been successful, what is less discussed is the level of collateral damage imposed, and what level is acceptable. Collateral damage not only to nearby civilians, but that represented in the new recruits born of every strike.

Current US policy involves posthumously declaring all military-aged males as militants. We employ the signature strike, in which targets are chosen solely upon their pattern behavior while eschewing the hassle of identifying whom it is exactly that we are executing. This has resulted in the accidental bombings of wedding parties and funeral processions. Hopefully untrue and far more disturbing - and not implicitly endorsed - are reports of double-taps, where responders are hit in a second pass.

What is to stop these practices from becoming common place on our own soil?

The American public needs to be aware of what our government is doing in our name, so that we may examine the facts of events and their justifications, and thus be in a better position to determine whether particular policies are politically palatable to the populace. We need more transparency in these matters so that we can voice our approvals and concerns.

CIA Director John Brennan
CIA Director John Brennan | Source

According to CIA Director-nominee and drone-program architect John Brennan, "There hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop." This claim is highly unlikely to be based in fact. Slightly less disconcerting is Brennan's assertion that there is “little evidence that these actions are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for A.Q.A.P.” He also served as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, oversaw the - until recently secret - drone base there, and helped implement the "Yemen model".

Brennan is sure to hear a succession of queries concerning these and other policies for the duration of his confirmation hearings.

Source

Pot, Meet Kettle

What I do find interesting is how many of the same conservatives who found no issue with President Bush regarding extra-judicial detainment, extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation, illegal wiretapping and basically the entire Patriot Act - are now snickering at the lack of outrage among Democrats with Obama. I am one liberal who has no reservations with criticizing a Democratic President when the circumstances demand as such. I will say though, while these White Pages simply lay out the questionable legal justifications - we already knew the effects, embodied in the targeted killing of Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki.

Our biggest problem is that once these executive powers are defined and thus legitimized, there is little hope for rescinding them from future administrations. Hopefully I am proven wrong.

2/7/2013

President Bush, Robert Gates, & Donald Rumsfeld
President Bush, Robert Gates, & Donald Rumsfeld | Source

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    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of pissants promisem and deantraylor 4 years ago from TWO OF THE MANY LYING LIB CRYBABIES OF HUB PAGES

      "The biggest problem is that once these executive powers are defined and thus legitimized, there is little hope for taking them back."

      Really? Little hope for taking back what is constitutionally illegal? Obama should be impeached for his actions but...

      The biggest problem I see is that we have an administration and justice department who want to give foreign terrorists due process and all the rights of American citizens and try them in our judicial system while they justify in the white paper assassination of American citizens without any due process, evidence or trial - merely feined suspicion is actually enough for President Obama to legally murder an American citizen.

      Of course their position is also that this (murder) is not as offensive as waterboarding a high ranking terrorist prisoner to obtain valuable information which it has been proven to do.

      Only a liberal can ignore the real problem and worry about a violation of the constitution by this President not being reversed. All hail the Messiah.

    • Justin Earick profile image
      Author

      Justin Earick 4 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      You miss the forest for the trees; while possible violation of the Constitution is the entire basis of the hub, the bigger concern is whether such a violation ends up becoming standard policy for future administrations.

      In other words - doing it once is disconcerting enough, ensuring it's permanence is far worse.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Yes--it's far too late to complain about this sort of thing. The die was cast in 2001, after 9/11. Everything that Bush wanted, he got: due to the rah rah sis boom bah club of "Patrotic" Americans who backed him wholeheartedly--and called anyone who didn't un-American.

      We were saying it til we were blue in the face....if you let Bush do it: it is set in stone for all future presidents.

      They--the Republicans-- got what they wanted, because imo, they thought they would always have the presidency.

      In 2006, Bush handed civilian control of defense over to the Pentagon.

      Done deal. Finito.

      Sorry---we got what they wanted......and now they complain because a Democrat has the powers they envisioned only for themselves.

      Those who called us Haters for wanting to impeach Bush--are now calling for the impeachment of Obama....

      They are a day late, and a dollar short.

      Or, as their candidate would say: what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      We are living the results of their policies. Deal with it.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Just remembered a tweet from yesterday...

      ‏@bobcesca_go

      The best way to end targeted killings of citizen-enemies is to tell Congress to rescind this awfulness:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use...

      "The Authorization for Use of Military Force [1] is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. The authorization granted the President the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF was signed by President George W. Bush on September 18, 2001."

      But they won't....know why? Because they hope to have Rubio in there next time.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of pissants promisem and deantraylor 4 years ago from TWO OF THE MANY LYING LIB CRYBABIES OF HUB PAGES

      "You miss the forest for the trees"

      Didn't miss anything but you conveniently ignored 9/10 of my comment, I wonder why. Talk 'bout not seeing the fores for the trees, you should avoid mirors!

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of pissants promisem and deantraylor 4 years ago from TWO OF THE MANY LYING LIB CRYBABIES OF HUB PAGES

      lovemychris - so everything is the republicans fault? Still blaming Bush. Obama didn't have to continue any of Bush's anti terrorism policies (which he vocally opposed as a senator and voted against) but gee as President he not only kept them he even expanded some of them. The democrats had control of congress for 4 years - didn't see them try to do anything you accuse the Republicans of nefariously (to elect Rubio? c'mon!) avoiding. The truth is unconstitutional policies and/or laws can easily be corrected but the democrats and the President have no desire to follow the constitution and the republicans have had NO power for 6 years...wake up and smell the stink.

    • Justin Earick profile image
      Author

      Justin Earick 4 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Dont - Of course I did, because you are saying the same thing I was saying throughout the entire body of the hub. We have no disagreement on the fact that these actions are egregious.

      I don't know why you are so intent upon getting me to agree with you when the entire hub is dealing with that very concern.

      Your mistake is thinking that this issue begins and ends with Obama, when future presidents may be able to take advantage of these executive powers for generations.

      Again, what is the bigger threat to our freedom? The misguided 5-year power grab (2011-2016) of a single man, or those very misguided policies codified for all future administrations?

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      "so everything is the republicans fault? "

      Yes. Was then, and continues to be now.

      Why don't we wait til Rubio is prez, then we'll see how much all of you suddenly like the policy!

      Did you call for Bush's impeachment? I did.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Congress can re-scind the AUMF....and I do believe that would fall in Boehner's lap?

      Let's write him, and start a campaign to end it.

      But I would take bets on that happening.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of pissants promisem and deantraylor 4 years ago from TWO OF THE MANY LYING LIB CRYBABIES OF HUB PAGES

      Justin, I know you are a liberal and that is why you will do everything possible to avoid confronting the main point of my comment which I never said disagrees with your hub. What I said is the biggest problem is the hipocracy and dublemindedness of this administration. I'll repeat it, maybe you can bring yourself to actually read it:

      The biggest problem I see is that we have an administration and justice department who want to give foreign terrorists due process and all the rights of American citizens and try them in our judicial system while they justify in the white paper assassination of American citizens without any due process, evidence or trial - merely feined suspicion is actually enough for President Obama to legally murder an American citizen.

      Of course their position is also that this (murder) is not as offensive as waterboarding a high ranking terrorist prisoner to obtain valuable information which it has been proven to do.

      I suppose that means nothing to you, that Obama wants to bestow on non citizen foreign terrorists the rights of American citizens while at the same time moves to take these rights away from American citizens. And I guess you agree with him that water boarding of terrorists is worse than assassination of American citizens.

      Are you really so blind as to not understand that coment - I doubt it. When a liberal is confronted with a fact he can't refute he simply ignores it and talks about something else. Thanks for the repeated demonstration of liberal logic.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of pissants promisem and deantraylor 4 years ago from TWO OF THE MANY LYING LIB CRYBABIES OF HUB PAGES

      lovemychris So why did't the democrats recind it when they had control of congress? I suppose THEY were backing Rubio at the time? You have no respect for the facts, do you.

    • Justin Earick profile image
      Author

      Justin Earick 4 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Dont- Let me get this straight; your complaint is that while I am thoroughly offended by the assassination of Americans, your stance is that I should be more concerned with Obama's hypocrisy?

      Interesting values system you have there.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Errrrm: WHO is making an issue out of it?

      hint: All the same people who cheered for it back in 01.

      Bush: "We're gonna get you"

      Republicans: "Yeah! Yay! USA USA USA"

      Obama: "We're gonna get you."

      Republicans: "Impeach! Impeach!"

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