Secret panel can put Americans on ‘kill list’

Glenn Greenwald writes: Here is what the Democratic President has created and implemented, and what many party loyalists explicitly endorse (when there’s a Democrat in the White House) — from Reuters:

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate. . . . The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process. . . .

Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, was asked by reporters about the killing. The process involves “going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president” . . . .Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier than what Ruppersberger described. They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC “principals,” meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval . . . But one official said Obama would be notified of the principals’ decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the official said.

So a panel operating out of the White House — that meets in total secrecy, with no known law or rules governing what it can do or how it operates — is empowered to place American citizens on a list to be killed by the CIA, which (by some process nobody knows) eventually makes its way to the President, who is the final Decider. It is difficult to describe the level of warped authoritarianism necessary to cause someone to lend their support to a twisted Star Chamber like that; I genuinely wonder whether the Good Democrats doing so actually first convince themselves that if this were the Bush White House’s hit list, or if it becomes Rick Perry’s, they would be supportive just the same. Seriously: if you’re willing to endorse having White House functionaries meet in secret — with no known guidelines, no oversight, no transparency — and compile lists of American citizens to be killed by the CIA without due process, what aren’t you willing to support?

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