Behold President Obama: The Cowardly Assassin-In-Chief

June 7, 2012

Since the New York Times published an article about President Obama’s assassination-by-drone program, several writers, including Glenn Greenwald (here, here, here, here, and here), Tom Engelhardt (here), and Kevin Gosztola (here, here, here, here here and here) have posted articles condemning it.

I am appalled and sickened by Obama’s definition of a “militant” as any male of military age within the strike zone, unless posthumously determined to be innocent. This is a conclusive presumption of guilt and death sentence based on apparent age, gender and presence near an intended target, or in the case of signature strikes, mere association with others who also fit the definition and profile of a militant.

There is no discernible difference between this policy and the Vietnam War policy,

Kill ’em all and let God sort them out.

The decision to target a specific individual depends on the information available about that individual which may come from a variety of sources who are reliable and unreliable. The Attorney General and the President of the United States, who is a former Constitutional Law professor, assure us that the process by which the president decides whom to kill satisfies the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Yet, the president does nothing more than review a Power Point production with a photo of the individual under consideration with a bullet point list of alleged roles and activities in which he has engaged.

I was a criminal defense attorney for 30 years defending people charged with felonies, including death penalty offenses, and a law professor for three years teaching Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Causes of Wrongful Convictions. I can assure y’all that the process by which he makes these decisions is materially indistinguishable from a Star Chamber Proceeding. That is precisely what the Due Process Clause was intended and designed to prevent.

Do not ever forget that the Due Process Clause includes the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the right to present a defense. One cannot have due process without those rights.

Even with those rights, the presumption of innocence and a jury trial, innocent people are wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. According to the Cardozo Innocence Project, 292 people innocent people have been exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence.

The seven causes of wrongful convictions are:

1. Mistaken eyewitness testimony;

2. Police Misconduct;

3. Prosecutorial Misconduct;

4. False Confessions;

5. Forensic Fraud;

6. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; and

7. Jailhouse Informant Testimony

Note that only a small percentage of cases have biological evidence where it is possible to conduct a DNA test that will inculpate or exculpate a defendant. The seven causes of wrongful convictions can cause a wrongful conviction in any case.

The Department of Justice surveyed all public and private DNA labs in the country in the early 90s to determine how often each lab exculpated a prime suspect with a DNA test. The average rate varied little from lab to lab, whether public or private. The average rate was 22.5%

To nevertheless murder people without any meaningful process according to ridiculously overbroad definition of a militant is at best reckless homicide and at worst premeditated murder. Given its continuing use despite a high civilian casualty rate makes it premeditated murder.

To accept and allow this contrived exception to due process to stand is to tolerate an exception that swallows the rule. No American should tolerate it and no American should vote for the man who issues the order to kill. He is a murderer, a war criminal and utterly unfit to serve as President of the United States.

Anyone who votes for him will walk out of the voting booth with innocent blood on their hands.

Innocent blood that will never wash out.

I have another reason that motivated me to write this article.

President Obama obviously authorized the story in the New York Times because there is an election coming up in November and he wanted to portray himself as the candidate with the right stuff, ready, able and willing to make courageous and necessary decisions to keep all Americans safe.

But it does not take courage to order others to kill ’em all and let God sort them out, posthumously. And it does not take courage to look at a set of Power Point slides and, like a Roman emperor, issue a thumbs up or thumbs down sign.

Those are the acts of a murderous coward afraid of losing an election.

EDIT: I added links to a series of excellent articles by Kevin Gosztola that I inadvertently omitted from my original post. Thanks to Elliott at Firedoglake for the reminder.


Your Right To Due Process Of Law Is Endangered

February 2, 2012

Drone State?

by Truthout on Creative Commons at Flickr

Judges use a legal expression when they decide to prevent the potential evisceration of a fundamental rule of law by exception. In denying an argument to recognize such a proposed exception, they point out that, if they were to accept it, the exception would “swallow the rule.”

Our fundamental constitutional right to due process of law is in danger of being swallowed up by the Obama Administration’s policies of assassinating and indefinitely detaining United States citizens, no matter where they may be located, without due process of law, if the president decides that the citizen is a terrorist, supports terrorism, or is a member of al-Qaeda, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, or an associated force.

For example, in a recent federal case in which Anwar al-Awlaki’s father sued President Obama, Secretary of Defense Gates, and CIA Director Leon Panetta seeking to prevent them from assassinating his son without due process of law, the Department of Justice persuaded the judge to dismiss the case because, nothwithstanding the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that explicitly prohibit the government from depriving a person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” the judicial branch of government has no constitutional authority to question or review decisions by the president as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to assassinate U.S. citizens on his say so anywhere in the world at any time pursuant to the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in response to 9/11, and the president’s authority under Article 2 of the United States Constitution.

Go here to read the government’s arguments in its motion to dismiss the father’s complaint.

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens, were subsequently assassinated in Yemen last September by Hellfire missiles fired from a U.S. drone. Mr. al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was assassinated by drone two weeks later.

As Glenn Greenwald points out today, the Obama Administration hypocritically uses the CIA drone assassination program to publicly congratulate itself on removing targeted individuals like al-Awlaki “from the field” without due process of law while at the same it refuses to admit or deny that it has a list of targeted individuals and a drone assassination program. With the exception of Mr. al-Awlaki, whose name was confidentially disclosed to journalist Dana Priest as a person targeted for assassination, we do not know whether the president has targeted anyone else and, assuming that he has, we do not know if such person or persons have been assassinated. We also do not know what criteria the president uses to decide whether to put someone on the list. For all we know, any one of us already could be on the list or at risk to be added to it. Since we do not know whether we are on the list and we cannot find out if we are, we cannot challenge the president’s decision to add us to the list, assuming for the sake of argument that he did. We, by which I include every U.S. citizen no matter where situated in the world, are left with no choice except to trust the president to never make a mistake and never succumb to the temptation to use the assassination program for political purposes.

In the mistake department, one need only consider the relatively frequent stories that pop up about innocent people, including young children, whose names inexplicably are added to the No-Fly List maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. I will not go into the category of assassinations for political purposes as it remains a raw and bleeding wound of grief and endless suspicion and speculation by many people. Think, for example of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Bruce Ivins and others too numerous to mention. The point is that many unscrupulous people of wealth and privilege covet the power of the presidency. We already know that this president is for sale and we cannot trust him. The question is whether, assuming you openly oppose him, you are willing to trust him not to target you for assassination. And if you trust him not to do so, would you also trust a Newt Gingrich, a Sarah Palin, or someone like them not to do so, if they should be elected president?

The answer to that question should be self-evident.

Consider these words written by Justice Black of the United States Supreme Court in Reid v. Covert, 354 U. S. 1, 10 (1956):

Trial by jury in a court of law and in accordance with traditional modes of procedure after an indictment by grand jury has served and remains one of our most vital barriers to governmental arbitrariness. These elemental procedural safeguards were embedded in our Constitution to secure their inviolateness and sanctity against the passing demands of expediency or convenience.

This is not the first president and certainly will not be the last to seek to detain people indefinitely and/or target them for assassination without due process of law in the name of keeping us safe. Whether in good faith or in bad faith for political purposes in the pursuit of power, I feel much safer if his decisions and actions are constrained by the Due Process Clause and the right to habeas corpus.


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