A heated Senate Judiciary Committee meeting early last month with Attorney General Holder being pressured by Sen.Ted Cruz (see below) put the spotlight on the secret targeted killing program of American citizens by their own government.
There has been virtually unanimous agreement over the lack of transparency of the kill program as outlined in the so-called “targeted killing playbook,” by John Brennan.
Sen. Mike Lee urged full release of the Office of Legal Counsel Memorandum on targeted killings to the oversight committee, while AG Holder appeared to flip-flop by adding a tentative “no” to his letter to Sen. Rand Paul stating that killing Americans domestically without due process was constitutional.
Despite promises to release all information, there have instead been 20 instances that members of Congress have asked for the memo without success. The Hill is now reporting that the continued pressure has resulted in a statement from Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that the members will finally be granted access to these memos. But will the public ever learn the full extent of what they contain?
So far, the only information comes via a 16-page white paper leaked to NBC News. Questions immediately were raised about the meaning of threat “imminence” which Sen. Lee cited from page 7 of the 16-page leaked version.
As noted by The Hill:
The white paper states that a lethal strike against a senior operational leader of al Qaeda — or an affiliated terrorist group — can occur if a three-part test is met: a high-ranking American intelligence official must have determined that the person poses an “imminent threat,” the person’s capture is not feasible and a strike on that person is conducted according to the laws of war governing use of force.
That definition seems to establish the extrajudicial component of the kill program. Holder certainly couldn’t answer the question satisfactorily when pointedly asked about it at the last meeting, stating repeatedly, “I’m not sure.”
Holder did say that he, like Brennan, thinks there could be a place for judicial review, but remains worried that it would interfere with operations. Even though he stammered through the questioning of Cruz, The Hill notes that he had specified three criteria when first presenting the case for drone strikes against U.S. citizens in a speech at Northwestern University:
…there was a limited open window for attacking the person, a grave possible harm that not attacking the target could have on U.S. civilians, and a strong likelihood that targeting the person would head off a future attack against the United States.
The hearing to address these issues, titled “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing” certainly states the obvious and should give full opportunity for the current administration to defend itself against the Constitution.
Let’s see if this “Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights subcommittee” becomes just another dog and pony show like The 9/11 Commission, or if there are any representatives remaining to take a stand and truly protect the American people who are next in line for the atrocities thus far committed overseas.
What do you think will be the outcome of this investigation? Will the American people ever learn when it is acceptable to be killed without due process within the borders of their own nation?
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