Can The Government Kill Citizens Overseas?

I’m sorry to disappoint some of my fellow liberals, but I can’t go all the way with the ACLU on this one:

“Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.

“Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power,” she said.

The ACLU is suing the Obama administration, seeking to have documents regarding the targeted killing program made public.

It’s not that I “trust President Obama,” as much as it is that, as Eric Holder said,

The Constitution does not require the president to delay action until some theoretical end stage of planning, when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear.

Look, the ACLU is right to raise questions and seek a public debate. And I admit that this whole thing makes me uncomfortable. But so too would the prospect of allowing someone like U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki—leader of Yemen’s al-Qaeda who was killed in a drone strike last September—to plot terrorist attacks with impunity in some faraway land and live to tell about his successes.  Al-Qaeda, after all, is at war with us and we with it.

NBC’s Pete Williams characterized Attorney General Eric Holder’s position this way:

The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life” without due process of law.  But that due process, Holder said, doesn’t necessarily come from a court.

“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.  The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process,” the attorney general said.

Holder said a U.S. citizen can legally be targeted in a foreign country if that person is “a senior leader of al-Qaida or associated forces,” and is actively involved in planning to kill Americans.  Killing would be justified if the person poses an imminent threat of a violent attack against the U.S. and cannot easily be captured.

The key phrase here is “in a foreign country.” The expedient of obtaining a search warrant and the necessity of safeguarding other civil rights are not practical in such situations and the Constitution should not hamstring the government to such an extent that it cannot act to protect Americans from terrorists, even if the terrorists happen to be U.S. citizens living and plotting abroad.

Holder said,

Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a U.S. citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.

The one caveat I would offer, I’m assuming in line with at least some civil libertarians, would be that the action should be reviewable after the fact by a special court that could examine classified documents, that court applying some rule of reason in determining if the authorities initiating the action acted prudently and judiciously and within the laws of war.

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  1. I totally agree with you, Duane. If the person is a threat, and a member of an organization that wants to kill Americans, then he or she is a target for a drone attack or a navy seal team. The president is protecting Americans from one American, and he is justified in declaring Anwar al Awlaki, and any other American traitor who plots to kill large numbers of Americans, a target for assassination.


    • Jim,

      Being a “traitor” is normally adjudicated in our courts, but since we don’t have American court houses in places like Yemen we have to find other means to act, and I think Holder (and Obama) has it just about right.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  March 6, 2012

    An interesting topic, for sure,

    First, Duane, you refer above to the “laws of war”. I have no idea where they are written down other than the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that take on the force of American Law. Those conventions in no way restrict a Command in Chief (in any nation) from ordering “enemies of the state” actively engaged in warfare against that county to be killed in time of war, as far as I know.

    Hitler was legally authorized to try to kill American soldiers in WWII. He was NOT legally authorized by international law to kill “Jews” during that war however. So the distinction in the case of Anwar al-Awaki, was the question was he actively engaged against America in time of war. The answer is very clear to me, YES he was and thus his “killing” was legal, in my view.

    I also sense a disparity between what you wrote, saying the American could be targeted for assination only if he was in a “foreign country”. Hight did not make that distinction, whether intentionally or not. On that point, “I’m Not Sure, Are You”? I could easily construct a scenario where an American citizen living in the U.S. could present a “clear and present danger” to the U.S. Tough issue to make such decisions, one way or the other, in my view.

    I also suspect some of your readers may get this topic tangled up with the recent Def Auth. Bill allowing our military to capture American terrorists (or aleged to be so) and suspend Habeus Corpus during wartime. I don’t think that is the point you were trying to make. Rather it was the more limited authorization for drone or Spec Op attacks overseas that may have Americans as targets for such attacks. Two different issues, in my view.

    For example, “justice was served” AFTER the OKC bombing but over 100 Americans died beforehand. “What if” authorities had “gotten a wiff” of McVeighs plans beforehand and held him in captivity “forever”? On a much bigger scale, such questions are similar to how to deal with a “stalker” threatening say, your wife? Must you wait…..?

    But a good topic to discuss, for sure in any event.



    • Anson,

      1) Merely being “actively engaged against America” is not enough to authorize killing any American citizen abroad. As Holder made clear, the person must be actively involved in a plan to kill Americans. I think you would agree with that.

      2) I assumed Jim Hight was referring to Americans on foreign soil.

      3) As far as an American living in the U.S. with such intent to kill, that is a different matter. We have full command of our soil and there is no need to avoid due process of law through our courts, as has been our custom here. Now, that’s not to say, just like any other law enforcement scenario, that eminent danger—say, a suspect about to shoot someone during a crime—wouldn’t require the use of lethal force, administered by the government (through a police officer, for instance, or an FBI agent).

      4) Which leads to indefinite detainment of someone like McVeigh (without a trial). Nope. I’m totally against it. It runs counter to our traditions and is a clear violation of the Constitution as far as I’m concerned. And I’m saying that knowing that Obama, like Bush, has embraced (however reluctantly in Obama’s case) the power to do so. He has not taken that power off the table, partly for political reasons (he would be excoriated by your side) and partly for expediency. It is just damn convenient, when it comes down to it, those trials being messy things.

      5) As you know, there is sometimes a fine line between what one person thinks of as eminent danger and what another thinks of it. Those cases, should they happen, would be decided by juries, should someone shoot a “stalker” preemptively. You sort of take your chances with a jury of your peers on that one, as no law would authorize the preemptive killing of someone you found threatening from a distance. (Someone in your house holding a gun would obviously be a different matter.)



  3. EC,

    Seems to me what we’ve done here is create a new class of criminal – terrorists. To me they are no different that members of street gangs, or drug cartels or what’s left of the Mafia. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think we go over to Sicily ro hunt down and kill Americans for their role in organized crime, especially those suspected of murder. Same with those in drug cartels in Mexico.

    There are reasons we have extradition treaties with other countries. How would the U.S. deal with a member of Israel’s Massad who came here and assassinated an American citizen who is suspected of being a Nazi war criminal? Consider too that we actually execute people later found to be innocent of their crimes even after all the appeals. Even cruel dictators like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Miloševic were accorded rights under extradition treaties. Of course, the U.S. is immune from international criminal law like the Common Article 3 of the Genova Conventions, which” W” violated repeatedly and for which, IMO, he should be tried as a war criminal.

    Aristotle said, “Law is reason, free of passion.” IMO our passion for getting “terrorists” outside the law has diminished our reason to follow the law, and worse, denies certain fundamental rights that many millions of Americans have fought and died for.

    The right to a trial by jury, due process, and Habeas Corpus go back 800 years to the Magna Carta. Those rights have been incorporated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. They may be inconvenient for law enforcement, but they are there to protect you and me and any American anywhere who is suspected of being a criminal (read terrorist) but is not one until convicted by a jury.

    I believe we are on a very slippery slope here. Bush43 and his minions have already set the tone with warrantless wire taps, the Patriot Act, and torture. Sadly, the rule of law in this country has become fungible. Remember Ben Franklin’s famous, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I suggest Attorney General Eric Holder be required to go to the blackboard and write that quote 100 times.



    • Herb,

      Like Jim, I find your points thoughtful, even if I don’t quite see it the same way.

      Oddly, I agree that we have overstated the terrorist problem, but that is not to say that there is no problem. There has always been a class of criminals called terrorists (remember the Zealots from the New Testament?). What we have done, it seems to me, is create a new kind of warfare, designed to fight terrorism emanating from stateless entities. And naturally, when some new strategy is created, there are problems that need to be thought through and changes need to be made as time goes on. Mistakes will be made, as they say.

      That new warfare strategy is at the root of the problems and potential problems you state so well. First, the problems abroad: There are laws against assassinating foreign leaders, but not against killing foreign leaders who are at war with us. Since we have declared war on terrorism (and I don’t like the linguistic construction, which I have complained about before), and since there aren’t exactly any terrorist states that admit to it, the rules of engagement are a bit fuzzy, which leads folks like you to rightly object to some of those rules, including the rules regarding the killing of Americans on foreign soil.

      Like Jim, I am less worried than you about the slippery slope (as regards killing Americans abroad), as long as officials have internal mechanisms designed to make a determination that would likely stand up in a court of law (the Attorney General doubtless is part of that mechanism), and as long as these officials are held accountable after the fact, preferably by a court designed to hear such sensitive cases and, as Jim said, public opinion and the press.

      Now, like you and Jim, I see the domestic application of the so-called war on terror as much more problematic. It is here where I think libertarians and liberals can find much common ground. Conservatives, though, have completely gone off the deep end on this issue, as the latest Defense Authorization nonsense proved. It appears to me that there are no Constitutional protections they will not sacrifice in order to give the Commander-in-Chief powers to do whatever he or she wants here at home.



  4. Excellent post and discussion here, IMHO.

    I generally agree with the EC. Herb’s points are well-taken, but I don’t see the same dangers regarding the elimination of American terrorists on foreign soil as he if the EC’s proposed post-action court reviews are enforced. I see such events as rare and also subject to review in the court of public opinion and by the press.

    Warrantless wire taps, the Patriot Act and torture on the other hand I see as overreaching of serious concern, just as Herb does.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  March 6, 2012

    I would suggest a question, at this point in this discussion, probably one that is NOT answerable, but should still be asked of our government.

    As a direct result of the Patriot Act, enhanced interogation and warrentless wire taps, how many American lives have been saved or grievious injury avoided?

    In other words have the methods that “push” on Constitutional liberties during peace time been productive in avoiding wartime harm?

    Please, let’s do NOT get into an argument whether or not we have been at war, at least with Al Qaeda for now over 10 years.

    Any research of the apolitical sort out there on that topic?



    • Anson,

      You asked the question, “As a direct result of the Patriot Act, enhanced interrogation and warrentless wire taps, how many American lives have been saved or grievous injury avoided?” My answer is that it would be the same number of lives that would have been saved by following the Constitution. Neither situation can be proved one way or the other. Of course, the latter protects everyone’s liberty, while the former denies it.

      With the enactment of the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012″ Americans are now subject to indefinite detention and torture. So, let’s say that the president has been informed that one Anson Burlingame has stolen information from the Rocky Flats plant where he worked and sold that information to al-Qaeda. Mr. Burlingame would then be “captured” and carted off to whatever detention center DOD picked. There he would be held without access to a lawyer, without contact with anyone other than his “interrogators,” without the right of habeas corpus, and for an indefinite period. All perfectly legal. If you have any doubts, check out the cases involving John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla, and a 15 year-old Canadian, Omar Khadr, held at Gitmo.

      As I suggested in my post above, the war on terror is a law enforcement action like the war on drugs and the war on organized crime. But with all the hysteria after 9/11, it has been elevated to a status deserving of military action. Traditionally, a declaration of war is made between two or more nations, and in our case, voted on by Congress. (The last time Congress declared war was December 8, 1941.) But al-Qaeda is not as nation. So, to get around that handicap, we’ve come up with some really creative laws and/or presidential edicts. Many of these violate international law and treaties and, where American citizens are involved, violate our Constitution. (See Article III, Section 3, which says “No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”)

      So, we Americans continue to act like the big bully on the block. If we don’t like the rules we just change them – unilaterally. A black eye to anyone who objects. Never mind the blowback.



  6. ansonburlingame

     /  March 6, 2012

    To all,

    Herb presensts, first of all a red herring or strawman argument over my hypothetical delivery of nuclear secrets to Al Qaeda. I would be in violation of U.S. law on U.S. soil (espionage laws) and would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. Simple issue.

    But let’s say I had found a way to smuggle weapons grade material out of the vault at RF and delivered over time such materials to “someone”, maybe. Maybe that someone is in America building either a dirty bomb or actual small nuclear weapon. The possibilitiy of one man doing so is VERY small, but nothing is in fact impossible in such cases, in my view.

    Now how would you proposed to deal with that situation? If there was a reasonable case to suspect that I had done such, I would agree that I should be “sweep away in the darkness of night” until the matter was resolved. Why arrest me in broad daylight and give my cohorts a chance to scatter when dealing with such very serious matters. I have enough faith in my government that I would really have to have done some really stupid things to even come under suspicions of such egregious behavior, like trying to use my “authority” as head of the company to gain access, alone to such materials and a lot more things to build a case of suspicions, not actual proof in court. But a nuclear weapon on the “loose” in America, well I don’t want to see such happen, ever.

    As for “proving” whether or not the Patriot Act was needed, well we have not had any attacks since 9/11. That is a FACT. Herb might hypothesize that there would have been no attacks, absent the Patriot Act. But such is not a FACT it is a guess.

    But let’s pull that string a little harder. Exactly how many Americans have actually “suffered”, meaning spied upon and thus been exposed for something, as a result of the Patriot Act unrelated to terrorism?. Maybe they were running a child porn ring. Were they prosecuted for such or left alone because their acts while illegal were not terrorism, however you might define such.

    I hear civil libertarians worrying about the dangers to Americans resulting from the Patriot Act. But I have never read about or heard of such an actual case. Have you? In other words has the use of warrentless wiretaps, Patriot act and for sure enhanced interrogations ever been used against Americans for non-terrorist related activities to the point where they “suffered” as a result of illegal but non-terrorist actions? Again I have not heard of any such things.

    Could they happen, maybe. Have they happened, not that I am aware of. Combine that with no successful terrorist attacks in going on 11 years, makes me somewhat “comfortable” but still keeping a “weather eye” of civil liberties as well.

    I would also point out that the Patriot Act has NEVER been deemed ILLEGAL in a court of law. It may be unpopular in some circles, but not illegal. So the Patriot Act and other “things” to protect America are at least for now policial and moral arguments, not legal ones, that I have heard adjudicated, successfully to void the acts, in courts of law in America.


    l in a court of law.. Unpopular, maybe with some, but NOT illeagal against the Constitution.



    • After all the breathtakingly outrageous things you have said about government over the last three years, you wrote,

      I have enough faith in my government that I would really have to have done some really stupid things to even come under suspicions of such egregious behavior…

      Wow, is all I can say.

      And by the way parts of the Patriot Act have been found unconstitutional and the findings reversed at the appellate level.



  7. Jane Reaction

     /  March 6, 2012

    The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life” without due process of law. But that due process, Holder said, doesn’t necessarily come from a court.

    Well, then, it is no more due process than the innocent Iraqi victims of the U.S Apache Gunships got in the documentary Collateral Murder.

    They blew away the people who came to help the victims!

    The same damned thing you endorse.

    I am disappointed in you Randy. Your roots are showing.

    Gerald Malan


    • Gerald,

      I’m sorry you feel that way.

      But there is no way what you referenced (I watched the two videos again) is in any way comparable to what I “endorsed.” The killing of those Iraqis and Reuters’ journalists was not sanctioned by the Justice Department or President Obama, as was the killing of Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen. In the former case, apparently the Americans mistook cameras for guns and made a lot of bad decisions thereafter (including the cover up). In the latter case, there was intelligence involved that apparently demonstrated to the commander-in-chief’s satisfaction that al Awlaki had planned and was planning attacks against Americans here at home (which was not covered up at all).

      Again, these two cases have nothing in common, in terms of the issues raised in this blog post.


  8. ansonburlingame

     /  March 6, 2012

    A man is standing on a street corner waving his arms above his head. A pedistrian askes him why he is doing so. The man says to keep away the pink elephants. The pedistrian says, I don’t see any pink elephants. The man says, it works, does it not?

    Show me how the Patriot Act has actually harmed someone not engaged in terrorist activities, and I might tell the “man to stop waving his arms”. But if no one is harmed except “pink elelphants” that stay away because the man is waving his arms…….?

    Now do you want to tell me there are no “pink elephants” out there? Of course there are none, but potential terrorists wanting to cause great harm, today, to America? You bettcha to coin a phrase.



    • Oh my Gawd.

      Here is a link to a story in which it is reported that the Patriot Act was used in 1,618 drug cases and in only 15 terrorism cases from 2006 through 2009 (as The Washington Post noted).

      And here is a Wikipedia entry on “Controversial invocations of the USA Patriot Act.”

      Here’s one where the Act was reportedly used “against a 16-year-old boy,” who was falsely accused of making bomb threats.”  Watch the report, Anson, and then tell me no one has been harmed.

      Here’s one from CNN where the FBI is found guilty of “‘serious misuse’ of the power to secretly obtain private information under the Patriot Act,” a government audit found.

      I could go on and on but I think you get the point.



  9. ansonburlingame

     /  March 7, 2012

    Here we go again with “links”. I took the time to read all of the above links provided by Duane, almost all of which were from the 2007 or so time frame. Here is a quote embedded, deeply, within the one from CNN.

    “FBI Director Robert Mueller said Friday that 90 percent of the letters are used to access phone records in helping to track U.S. contacts with suspected terrorists overseas.”

    He went on to say that, yes, in some cases the FBI had oversteped its bounds and he was working to fix that problem of the use of the Patriot Act for purposes unrelated to terrorism.

    In another link above the author of an OPINION article showed some 1,600 drug cases vs only about 18 for terrorism but those numbers were not related to any particular source. As well, while such numbers may have been used to “investigate” drug cases, it says nothing about the prosecution of such cases. In other words were “drug kings” made to “suffer”, meaning subjected to prosecution as a result of evident misuse of the Patriot Act, or instead was prosecution NOT persued because the information gained was illegally obtained. Who knows.

    Sure there will always be overzealous agents that will go beyond the intent or actual construct of a law to achieve their goals of getting “bad guys”. But our courts generally throw out such cases if DAs or Attorneys General are dumb enough to try to prosecute such cases.

    So go back to your links Duane and show me where people have been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned as a direct result of the misuse of the Patriot Act, which was my orginal question when I question “suffering” on the part of American citizens, not perceived “suffering”.

    In matters related to potential terrorism during wartime, I HOPE that when authorites clearly see SMOKE, they can use the Patriot Act to determine if a real fire dwells therein. And if they misuse such authority I have the confidence in our courts that such misuse will be “throw out” of courts.

    Certainly seems like a well respected head of the FBI was working hard on doing just that, put a wet blanket on overzealous agents misusing a good law to protect us during wartime.

    As for a sunset provision, tell me when the “war on terror” is in fact over and I will consider deleting the law from the books. Seems to me that is exactly what President Obama is doing, does it not???



    • You are a piece of work.

      You originally wrote,

      Show me how the Patriot Act has actually harmed someone not engaged in terrorist activities…

      Well, I showed you only a couple of instances (did you bother to check out the Wikipedia article?) and then you move the goal post to, “show me where people have been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned as a direct result of the misuse of the Patriot Act.” (Did you just ignore the article on the drug convictions)?

      The reason I will not do any more research on this topic is because if I did present more evidence to you, you would likely come back with, “show me where people were exiled to Venus under the misuse of the Patriot Act.”

      The point is that even if you think the Patriot Act is good law (some of it is, no doubt), it doesn’t hurt (does it?) to at least admit it has its flaws.



  10. ansonburlingame

     /  March 7, 2012

    I read ALL the links.

    “Investigations” particularly covertly conducted “harm” no one. They don’t even know an investigation is taking place if law enforcement is any good. If someone reviews my phone records, covertly and I have no idea they are doing so am I “harmed”. Nope. Now if I was really doing something wrong and the review of such records was legally conducted might then become harmed. You bet and I should be if I was actting illegaly.

    So my position remains that you have yet to demonstrate any “harm” to individual American citizens as a result of the Patriot Act. Go read your own links. Such information is NOT there!



    • Anson,

      Readers can follow the links themselves and decide if cases like Steve Kurtz or Brandon Mayfield or the Dismissal of United States Attorneys brought harm.

      But I want to say that I do find it harmful for the FBI to go on fishing expeditions and rummage around in people’s private affairs “improperly” and/or “illegally.”  That you don’t is amazing to me.



      • ansonburlingame

         /  March 7, 2012

        Go read your link again. The Director of the FBI clearly said that 90% of the “fishing expeditions” were directed at terrorism and he was working to make sure ONLY such reasons were used to “fish”.

        I note your lack of response to my “smoke and fire” comment during wartime and only against potential enemies, here and abroad. Or do you really believe we have no “enemies” amongst us?



  11. To all,

    First, I think it is naive to assume that any covert acts conducted pursuant to the Patriot Act or any other related anti-terrorist statute that result in the death or harm to any American is going to be revealed to the public. In fact it’s hard just to know how many Americans, military and civilian, like Pat Tillman, have been killed by friendly fire while fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan and then neatly covered up.

    On the issue of staying within the Constitution and giving terrorists their rights, the Center on Law and Security’s report “Terrorist Trial Report Card, 2001-2009,” says this:

    “The Department of Justice (DoJ) has indicted 828 defendants. Trials are still pending against 235 of them, leaving 593 resolved indictments for purposes of analysis. Of these 593, 523 defendants were convicted on some charge either by guilty plea or after trial, resulting in an 88.2% conviction rate. Seventy defendants were not convicted.” (P. 10)

    As to the guys at Gitmo, Colin Powell, from the February 21, 2010, edition of CBS’ Face the Nation, says: “Of three people tried In military court in eight years, two served relatively short sentences and are free, and one guy is in jail.”

    As to the Patriot Act specifically, consider this Dec 11, 2011 report from Fox 19, in Cincinnati, “Reality Check: Has the Patriot Act thwarted 42 terror attacks?” where reporter Ben Swann finds that the answer is closer to 30. “Among those 30,” he continues, “very few can be traced back to the Patriot Act as a source for prevention,” and that “only about half were cases were arrests made.” Swann goes on to say, “While the Patriot Act may have intercepted plans for several attacks, it also failed to prevent 1 successful attack: Major Nadal Hassan at Fort Hood. Hasan opened fire on post at Ft. Hood, Texas where he killed 12 people and injured 30 others.”

    It’s hard not to conclude that staying within the bounds of the Constitution has produced very positive results on the war on terror; Seal Team 6 notwithstanding.



    • Herb,

      I agree that assuming we know a lot about what has been going on is naive. I don’t believe we know much at all about what is going on. But what we do know is troubling enough, at least in terms of things like our right to privacy.

      As for the Act’s effectiveness, that, too, is hard to determine, since there is so much secrecy involved.



  12. ansonburlingame

     /  March 7, 2012


    you said, “First, I think it is naive to assume that any covert acts conducted pursuant to the Patriot Act or any other related anti-terrorist statute that result in the death or harm to any American is going to be revealed to the public”

    I thus assume you lack faith and confidence in American Courts of Law. I don’t suggest you trust all “lawmen” but the courts, come on. There are any number of judges out there that would love nothing better than to “shove it up the DAs nose” if he tried to bring illegal search and/or seizure into an American court room.

    As well what in the world does Pat Tilley’s death have to do with the Patriot Act? I did NOT hear anyone attempting to cover up that friendly fire tragedy using the PA as an excuse for such travesty.

    I actually worked in a field demanding the utmost secrecy for 23 years. I can assure you that NEVER during all those years did I see or hear of anything “unAmerican” done under such veils of secrecy, NEVER. Why is that you ask? Because the men, including some “missions” actually approved by the President himself, were ordered to be conducted and supervised by many good Americans as well.

    No most of those “missions” would not be well received by some on the front pages of newspapers. But they were important, well executed and vital missions for American security during the Cold War, for sure. I am glad we did it on my own “watch” and hope the same continues today now by others.



    • Anson,

      You do understand that the government lies to us, don’t you? I mean let’s get real here. Under G. W. Bush, we were lied to about WMD’s, about Iraq helping Mohammed Atta carry out 9/11, about Iraq seeking uranium and certain aluminum tubes in Africa for Iraq’s nuclear program, about the fact that we would be greeted as liberators when we invaded Iraq, about the supposed “rescue” of Private Jessica Lynch, about Iraq’s oil money going to Iraqis, about finding WMD’s, about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed giving “valuable information” only after being waterboarded 183 times, about the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and on and on.

      So, yes, I believe it is naive to think we’re going to get the straight skinny from our not so illustrious leaders. And I’m totally clueless about what you mean when you say, “I thus assume you lack faith and confidence in American Courts of Law.” My argument all along has been to carry out the war of terrorism using the Constitution. I even gave you examples of how successful the courts have been in prosecuting terrorists. Did you not read the post?

      Now, you seem to have this hangup about the Patriot act and what harm it’s done, if any, to Americans. Well, you seem to ignore the evidence that’s been presented herein, so I can’t help you any more with that. As to Pat Tillman, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Patriot Act. I was merely trying to show that the military acted to cover up this friendly fire incident, just like they did with the so-called “resuce” of Jessica Lynch. If it had not been for the Tillman family, and the fact that he was a famous football star, we probably would never would have known what happened. My point is how many other “Pat Tillman’s” are out there and what other cover-ups have been ordered.

      I believe it’s this whole hysteria over and manufactured fear of terrorism that has created this atmosphere of playing loose with the law. And that derived, I think, from the cavalier, almost dismissive treatment of our Constitution by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their henchmen like Ashcroft and Gonzales. The greatness of America has taken a real nose dive since those criminals were in office.



      • You present a good summary here, Herb, of why secrecy and extra-legal operations are conducive to corruption. Reading it, I couldn’t help but recall of how in WW II Lieutenant Commander Lyndon Johnson, USNR, received the Silver Star for simply risking his Texas carcass flying in an army transport plane in a combat zone.


  13. This is such a difficult topic me. Awlaki the US citizen should have been given the due process. Awlaki the terrorist got his just reward. I feel a little bad for Awlaki the US citizen, but I’m not shedding a tear for Awlaki the terrorist. And the terrorist stands out more to me, especially since his words inspired the likes of the Fort Hood shooter, the underwear bomber, and the Times Square bomber.

    Should he be dead? I don’t know. Am I glad he’s dead? Yes.


  14. ansonburlingame

     /  March 8, 2012

    So Herb, you really believe hat Colin Powell LIED to the UN over WMDs, right? I could go on and on over such “hysteria”. Honest men using the best knowledge available made judgments over such matters. No one in real authority that I know of actually LIED on such counts.

    Does government “spin” things. You bet. All politicians do so. But outright LIES. They are few and far between, based on what have read and heard.

    But I know I won’t convince you on such matters. We all must make our own value judgments related to the “honesty” of anyone.

    Someone supporting the use of prevailing wages could read my recent blog on that subject and accuse me or the contractor with whom I spoke of LYING. Well they would be WRONG in such accusations. Both the contractor and I might well be wrong in using the “numbers” provided in the blog, but neither one of us lied in using such numbers.

    I have used this point before in comments on this blog. During a previous SOTU address, as I recall, Obama said HC premiums would not go up, or words to that effect, if my memory serves me correctly. We all heard the retort from the floor during the address.

    Point being is that the President was “spinning” the benefits of ACA. Turns out that “spin” was wrong it seems to me. But I don’t call Obama a LIAR for doing so. I simply oppose his policy on that count.

    Oppose the “War on Terror” all you like, Herb or Jim or anyone else. But to accuse the President, Vice President, Sec of State or others of LYING. I disagree, rather firmly.

    As for Tilly, someone, somewhere in the COC probably lied in that coverup. Fine, go find him or her or them and can their butts is my call.



  15. King Beauregard

     /  March 7, 2013

    This whole noise about “citizens” is nothing more than cheap emotional appeal. Where in the Constitution does it say that only citizens are subject to the Bill of Rights? And where in the Constitution does it say that the police are prohibited from shooting citizens?

    It matters NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST whether the guys we’re droning are citizens.

    As to the use of drones at all, as far as I’m concerned, the question is whether drones hinder al Qaeda. On the one hand, we hear that drones are terrible PR for the US (as if invading Afghanistan and Iraq made the Middle East love us). On the other hand, remember when Clinton tried to get bin Laden with Tomahawk missiles in August 1998? Drones likely would have gotten the job done; they’re simply better suited to the task than cruise missiles. Imagine a 21st century without a bin Laden … no Afghanistan War, no Iraq War. And the only thing we’d remember about 9/11/2001, perhaps, was some rally where lefties were protesting how Clinton murdered that nice Mr. bin Laden without due process.


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