The Obama administration has filed a brief arguing that no one can legally challenge their order for the assassination of Anwar al-Aulaqi because it would compromise “state secrets” (Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald). To review: Anwar al-Aulaqi is an American citizen living in Yemen. While he is suspected of aiding Al-Qaeda, he has never been convicted or even charged with a crime in the US courts. It is probable that he is guilty of crimes, and possible that he could be convicted, but Obama has pre-empted that by ordering his assassination, which can be carried out even if he is located outside of a combat-zone.
Claiming the power to assassinate Americans is odious enough, but the Obama administration has raised the stakes by claiming the courts cannot hear the case. Given the way the state secrets claim is made, does anyone imagine that the administration would ever allow a legal challenge to any assassination without crying about state secrets?
In effect, the administration is trying to lay the groundwork for a right to kill Americans that is not subject to real judicial oversight. So long as the legislature is cowed, the constraints on the President would be extremely weak. I suppose it’s nice to think that Obama isn’t the type to abuse this–though I hope you’re asking yourself what kind of man asserts this power–but does that change all that much? What matters are the powers themselves, not the man holding them. Obama is not a tyrant, but he is repeatedly demanding tyrannical powers. Not only may future Presidents be less trustworthy, the powers themselves are abhorrent.
I would not want to slander the majority of Democrats by saying that they’ll support this decision just because it’s Obama. That would be unfair, as most Democrats have the good sense to say that this kind of decision is really just awful, before pivoting and talking about healthcare. With this unpleasant business forgotten, they can get on to explaining how the “professional left” is full of people who “need to be drug tested”, see the glass as “half full”, and act petulant when the President doesn’t give us “world peace.”
There’s too many accomplices out there.