Obama Lawyers: President Can Order Assassination of US Citizens
December 2, 2011
John Glaser / Anti-War.com & Matt Apuzzo / Associated Press
The US may target and kill US citizens when they take up arms with al-Qaeda, top lawyers in the Obama administration have argued. CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson -- questioned at a national security conference about the drone strike that killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki -- insisted that US citizens don’t have legal rights when they side with al-Qaeda.
Obama Lawyers: Killing US Citizens Allied With Al Qaeda is an Executive Decision
John Glaser / Anti-War.com
(December 1, 2011) -- The US may target and kill US citizens when they take up arms with al-Qaeda, top lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.
CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson were questioned at a national security conference about the drone strike that killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, but they would not comment on it specifically. They did say US citizens don’t have legal rights when they side with al-Qaeda.
Johnson maintained that only the executive branch, not the courts, can decide who qualifies as an enemy on a battlefield. Unfortunately for US citizens, the secret, peremptory nature of such executive decisions is not up to a review of any kind and do not require that any evidence be put forth proving the individual’s guilt or association with al-Qaeda.
Obama's lawyers were also not bothered by the fact that the "battlefield" in such considerations is amorphous and essentially spans the globe, a fact which makes their legal opinion on targeted assassinations of American citizens a dramatic expansion of unaccountable government power.
Also unmentioned was the CIA murder of al-Awlaki's 16-year old son and what kind of legal authority the Obama administration had for that action. Presumably, they are immune from any investigation or prosecution regarding that attack.
Obama Lawyers: Citizens Targeted If at War with US
Matt Apuzzo / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (December 1, 2011) — US citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.
The lawyers were asked at a national security conference about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen and leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 US drone strike in the mountains of Yemen.
The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson, did not directly address the al-Awlaki case. But they said US citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.
Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.
The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.
Late last year, a judge threw out a lawsuit filed by al-Awlaki's father, saying that the courts do not have the authority to review military decisions by the president aimed at protecting the country from terrorists. The cleric's father, Nasser al-Awlaki of Yemen, was suing to prevent the U.S. from targeting his son.
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