By Christopher B. Daly
Sadly, the Obama administration is continuing to drag its heels in releasing the rationale for its policy of killing people — including American citizens — with drones. No one is asking Obama to reveal any operational secrets. But every American, including every member of the Democratic Party, should demand the instant release of the policy, which is still being kept an official secret. If Obama and his team can find a justification for his policy under the U.S. Constitution and/or international law, so be it. I want to examine it and decide for myself.
What is intolerable is the idea that the president can assume the power to order executions without bringing charges, holding a trial, or offering any other safeguards. His policy, so far, is “trust me” — which is tantamount to repealing the rule of law and substituting personal power. He is taking on the role of the tyrant who says of his perceived enemies, “Off with his head!” Obviously, if George W. Bush did something like this, liberals would react with outrage. For the same reasons, Obama’s actions to date have been equally outrageous. The American people have not only a right but a responsibility to know what is being done in our name.
It doesn’t matter if the cause is just or if his intentions are good. If he operates outside the law, then he’s a tyrant.
Luckily, someone leaked the Justice Dept “white paper” about drone executions to NBC News. That is a description of the policy, not the policy itself.
Today’s Times has a good package of pieces, including:
–a triple-byline page 1 lead story, (dateline: SANA, Yemen),
–a double-byline analysis of the legal situation (in which the Times downplays its own FOIA suit), a note from the paper’s Public Editor,
–a full-blown expert debate,
–graphics, video, and more.
It should also be noted that many others are reporting on this (a hat-tip to the Washington Post), or suing over it (a hat-tip to the ACLU), or waging a political fight against the administration (oh, wait: no one is!).
This is not over.
Here is the main takeaway from the legal piece, which begins by noting that Obama rejected the Bush administration’s decision to shroud its torture policy in secrecy:
In the case of his own Justice Department’s legal opinions on assassination and the “targeted killing” of terrorism suspects, however, Mr. Obama has taken a different approach. Though he entered office promising the most transparent administration in history, he has adamantly refused to make those opinions public — notably one that justified the 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed an American, Anwar al-Awlaki. His administration has withheld them even from the Senate and House intelligence committees and has fought in court to keep them secret, making any public debate on the issue difficult.