I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

torture and murder

A very interesting piece in the N Y Times details Obama's "targeted killing strategy" in the conflict with terrorism.

Do you remember the outrage that was exhibited by liberals over the fact that Bush had water poured in the faces of known terrorists to obtain information?  Now comes their guy, Obama, who solved the problem of what to do with prisoners by just not having any!  No prisoners!  A sort of "kill'em all and let God sort it out" approach. The silence from the liberals is deafening.
The ACLU gets credit for being consistent in condemning both.

Some excerpts:

"A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks."

"Yet the administration’s very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo." 

"That record, and Mr. Awlaki’s calls for more attacks, presented Mr. Obama with an urgent question: Could he order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial?
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch."

I invite you to read the last one again.  I think that it is clear that the requirements of due process include: "Right to a fair and public trial conducted in a competent manner.  Right to be present at the trial.  Right to an impartial jury.  Right to be heard in one's own defense."  All of that is taken care of by a conference inside the executive branch!!  Relax, what could go wrong?  
This is where you end up when you adopt the principle that foreign terrorism is just another crime.

PS  If you refer to "water boarding" as torture, then perhaps you should also refer to "targeted killing" as murder.
PPS  I support both policies in the way in which I think that they were conducted.


  1. I agree with both your PS and your PPS.

    I too have problems with the reasoning used to justify the actions. I have a colleague who thinks it is wrong to run a red light and that you should get a ticket if an officer observes the violation, but not if a camera does.

  2. I agree with the PS, but I'm not sure about the PPS. Also, I'm not sure I understand how it follows that this is the result of treating foreign terrorism as just another crime. This seems like it arises from treating them as enemy combatants, considering they are denied due process.

  3. Enemy combatants are not entitled to the protections of the US Constitution. For example, they are subject to extended detention without a trial. It seems to me that Awlaki, for example, clearly announced that he was at war with the US. That makes him a target in the "war" and he has no protections. Shoot on sight.

    However, if Obama insists that we treat the accused as ordinary criminals then they are immediately entitled to all of the protections of the US Constitution. That includes the due process rights of the fifth amendment. Once you go there then you have no legitimate basis for "targeted killings" and you have to go through the ridiculous contortions that they are doing now saying that "5th amendment due process" is taken care of by a conference inside the executive branch!! How would you like to have your fifth amendment rights taken care of by such a conference in say Richard Nixon's executive branch.

  4. OK, you're saying that the administration is trying to have it both ways. I can completely agree with that.

  5. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/05/the-presidents-kill-list.html

    This piece in the New Yorker spells out some thoughts I had while reading the NYTimes and Newsweek articles.

    "In other words, it’s due process if the President thinks about it. One wonders how low the standard for “internal deliberations” are—if it might be enough if Obama mulled it over while walking his dog."

    I'm glad that our government takes pains to keep us safe, but I also think it is right to be cautious of the expansive view of executive power displayed here.