Where Will It End?

At his inauguration, President Obama said,

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.  Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake

I have written numerous times about the Bush Administration utter disregard for the Constitution and the separation of powers.  I wrote numerous posts about their claims of Article II powers to incarcerate anyone they labeled a terrorist without charges, the right to counsel or the right to challenge their detention in court.  Now, it turns out that the Obama administration has upped the ante.  According to the NYTimes,

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

The administration will tell you that we are at war with Al Qaeda and that it has the right to kill the enemy, who ever he is and where he may be found.  But we are not talking about killing someone on the battle field somewhere with guns pointed at our soldiers.  We are talking about the killing of AMERICAN CITIZEN, without trial, counsel, right to cross examine his accusers or any due process of law, who could be sitting at dinner with his family or praying in a mosque when he is executed.  This really is only the logical extension of the Executive Powers the Bush administration claimed in the last 8 years when they jailed numerous American citizens and legal aliens residing here without Due Process of Law.  Just think Padilla, Hamdi, Rasul and Al-Marri.  What is to stop this President or the next from killing innocent Americans on American soil merely for speaking out against their government by just claiming they are a terrorist.  We have a 5th Amendment and its protection against the deprivation of life without due process for a reason.  And this is it.

As Justice O’Connor, speaking for the Supreme Court in Hamdi v Rumsfeld, said, when discussing the claim of the Government to detain an American citizen, without due process of law, indefinitely,

Moreover, as critical as the Government’s interest may be in detaining those who actually pose an immediate threat to the national security of the United States during ongoing international conflict, history and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means for oppression and abuse of others who do not present that sort of threat.

And this was only when the government wanted to hold an American, not kill them.  She went on to write:

Striking the proper constitutional balance here is of great importance to the Nation during this period of ongoing combat. But it is equally vital that our calculus not give short shrift to the values that this country holds dear or to the privilege that is American citizenship. It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad

While I have more confidence in the Obama Administration as compared to the Bush WH, I do not have enough confidence in them.  But more importantly, even if I did, I might not trust the next one.  What if it was President Palin or Cheney?  Would any of us have enough confidence in their judgment.  We can’t not let the Obama administration set this dangerous precedence.  We caught John Walker-Lindh  on a battlefield actually carrying weapons to fight against us.  And did we kill?  No, we returned him to the US and gave him the right to a trial.  If we did it for him, we should do it again.


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