The title of this article asks a reasonable question in view of information that has recently come to light.
The United States government has admitted publicly that it keeps certain “kill lists” of American citizens who are suspected of terrorism, but who reside far from any war zone in which the United States is formally engaged.
Under our constitutional system, Americans have certain rights or constitutional protections when they are suspected of crimes by the government. These protections are more than just court precedents laid down by courts over the years, and instead go to the Bill of Rights itself.
The Fifth Amendment, for example, states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…” The Fifth Amendment goes on to say that no person may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
This means that when the United States believes that a person is a terrorist, the government has an obligation to present that information to a properly constituted grand jury to let that jury decide if the government has enough evidence to bind the accused for trial.
In the recent case of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, who is accused of being a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the government would have to present its case to a grand jury and let the jury decide if he should be tried for a crime. Instead of following the Constitution’s requirements, the government simply places his name on its executive list, which apparently means kill on site.
Lawyers from the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights recently filed a 12-page complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking to have targeted killing of American citizens declared unconstitutional, and for an injunction against the killing of Al-Aulaqi. The complaint makes several arguments of a constitutional nature, including that the kill list amounts to a death sentence without a conviction, trial or even charges having been brought.
The president decides that Mr. Al-Aulaqi is a terrorist and orders him killed: it’s that simple. In response to the complaint, the government filed a 60-page memorandum and motion to dismiss. That memo raises some questions that should be of vital interest to all Americans:
There are several procedural objections raised in the memo, but the government’s basic position is that the kill lists targeting American citizens for death sentences are a matter of foreign policy, which is the exclusive right of the president.
The memo further concludes that to rule otherwise would be to violate the doctrine of separation of powers because the judicial branch has no authority in the area of foreign policy.
The government’s argument, if accepted, would put the president above the law, legally and officially, not just in fact.
It’s bad enough for the government to kill and torture people and then deny it, so that we don’t know for sure it is being done; but to be up front and admit it, and to insist that it is acceptable legally, is completely different.
It’s different because when the American people don’t know it is being done, they are not legally complicit in the crimes. That doesn’t lessen the crimes, but at least we are not invited along to sign off on the last of the Constitution.
Do we really want to admit once and for all that we have totally abandoned the Constitution and don’t even pay lip service to it anymore? Do we want to admit that the president is above the law and nothing checks his power? Like King John, he will then say that “the law is in my mouth.” Have we really devolved to pre-1215 law?
Let us not forget that the people doing this are “progressives.” The lawyers who signed the government’s brief were appointed by Mr. ‘Progressive” himself – President Obama.
What happened to what used to be called the liberal agenda? It was the liberal agenda until they became ashamed of the name and decided they were really “progressives.” “Progressives” have always been collectivists and statists and have always been honest about stealing the fruits of our labor for this or that program, but they used to at least pay lip service to protecting human rights.
What happened to the hope (I’m sorry I had to say it) that came out of the 70’s with the work of the Church Committee and the passing of the Freedom of Information Act? I suppose it died with Jimmy Carter’s Trilateral Commission Cabinet. Too bad, but I guess it’s more difficult to defend the “progressive” agenda when its leader of hope and change is a war criminal.
- Darrell Castle