The Obama doctrine of unlimited power

Lawyers have much more interest in constructing lines of reasoning than they do in clear communication. For that reason, the Justice Department’s white paper on the targeted killing of Americans was written not so much to articulate the policies of the U.S. government but rather as part of a legal process designed to ensure that President Obama and other U.S. officials can avoid being prosecuted for murder.

Stripped to its bare bones, the argument runs like this:

I can kill you if I think that you want to kill me. And I can kill you now or whenever I choose if I have no way of knowing when you might try to kill me.

This isn’t a basis for self-defense; it’s a justification for premeditated murder.

Spencer Ackerman writes: “Imminence” used to mean something in military terms: namely, that an adversary had begun preparations for an assault. In order to justify his drone strikes on American citizens, President Obama redefined that concept to exclude any actual adversary attack.

That’s the heart of the Justice Department’s newly-leaked white paper, first reported by NBC News, explaining why a “broader concept of imminence” (.PDF) trumps traditional Constitutional protections American citizens enjoy from being killed by their government without due process. It’s an especially striking claim when considering that the actual number of American citizens who are “senior operational leader[s] of al-Qaida or its associated forces” is vanishingly small. As much as Obama talks about rejecting the concept of “perpetual war” he’s providing, and institutionalizing, a blueprint for it. [Continue reading…]

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