Sure, but only on foreign soil? Obama’s “drone strikes on Americans is cool” ruling.

I’m not really that worried about it as long as the strikes are against those who have chosen to fight our country. The trouble comes down to who identifies the bad guys?  Is it only jihadists on foreign soil or can it be troubled veterans and civilians here?  I mean, as Hillary put it, “what difference does it make?”

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

And does that mean if the military can shoot you from  a drone, why can’t they shoot you from a hovering helicopter manned with Special Forces soldiers?  Again, Hillary’s point comes in handy here.

The question comes down to this concept that certain people are ethical and professional enough to arbitrarily decide to kill another human based on the feeling that person is or going to be a danger to the country.  That we trust them not to get the decision wrong.

“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Read the entire ‘white paper’ on drone strikes on Americans

Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

Where this goes wrong is the intentional leeway built into the process.  You could argue about anyone from a tactical commander to a person running a website the government finds offensive as a person of interest.  Build a case from that and almost anyone could be a threat. Maybe not today, but if this slippery slope keeps being followed….

And you have to ask yourself what qualifications would the person (or persons) making this decision have before he/she is given this kind of ultimate power?  And further, why is it important as we build our ability to spy on each other to use that technology to isolate and kill those who are not allies of whoever is in charge.  I mean, if the President likes the Palestinians or Hezbollah (which have training camps in Mexico) then no “boom boom”. But if the next President sees the threat differently, do the terrorists training in Mexico have to start living underground?

 Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration  officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s  Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly — or even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.

“This is a chilling document,” said Jameut the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

Once you unhinge yourself from any rules sooner or later no rules apply.

Just saying….

Here is a picture from the new camera flying at about 17,000 feet. Make sure you wave and say hi.


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