Obama, the Hitman: Killing Due Process

One of the many unfulfilled aims of the Obama administration has been the criminalization of political opponents via the machinery of U.S. anti-terror statutes and other devices.  So far, President Obama and his cronies have stopped at saber-rattling, confronted by an extremely heightened public awareness and growing anger amongst average Americans at the Obama agenda.  Many will recall the innumerable statements of regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and his call for banning "falsehoods," as well as the infamous DHS reports attempting to tar conservatives as potential terrorists.  More recently, the TSA has sought to make all Americans traveling for the holidays into terror suspects, attracting significant public outrage.  The direct approach has arguably failed.

But where the direct approach has failed, a more silent approach is poised to succeed.  No constitution has an unconditional right to life -- except the U.S. Constitution.  In the United States, no man can be deprived of life without due process -- i.e., a trial by a jury of his peers.  However, using shady CIA "hit lists" designed to thwart American-born terrorists, President Obama claims the power to capriciously do away with this most fundamental of American freedoms.  Through a new clandestine assassination program targeting selected citizens, Obama will void due process.  The list of targeted Americans is currently not available to the public.  The New York Times and the Washington Post both report that Obama has approved the assassination of U.S. citizens engaged in terrorist acts overseas.  U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed pursuant to this new program.

Yes, Awlaki was evil, and his behavior was criminal and treasonous.  But before the dust settles and his assassination becomes precedent, a few questions come to mind: Islamic terrorists may be the object, but what happens if this power is selectively turned against political opponents?  Is there any accountability?  Who decides who is and isn't a terrorist?  America cannot allow the precious right to life to fade without a fight.  No compromise can be tolerated on a freedom this basic.

Ironically, this highly unconstitutional protocol has been lauded by Republican Americans ever-concerned with the spread of Islamic terrorism.  The sentiment among many is one of relief, that finally President Obama takes the threat of Islamic terror seriously.  Could this magical change be the salvation of America in the War on Terror?

Obama's habitual actions until the present point speak to the contrary.  President Obama gives Miranda rights to foreign terrorists without first attempting to garner information that could save American lives.  President Obama delays an investigation of the atrocities at Fort Hood.  President Obama posts the TSA playbook online for the all the world to see.  President Obama makes strategically damning declarations like "America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam."  President Obama appoints officials who publicly advocate Islamic sharia law.  President Obama says that the aims of Hamas are fine as long as they are achieved "peacefully."  And finally, President Obama has sought to grant foreign enemy combatants not even protected by the Geneva Convention the privileges of U.S. citizens. 

And now we are supposed to believe that because President Obama is willing to trash the fundamental right of Americans to due process without so much as an amendment, he is somehow turning up the heat in the War on Terror?  This is typical liberal-style "warfare."  War becomes a means to gain power at home instead of protecting freedom abroad.  As the sage Abraham Lincoln would remark in a letter to law partner William Herndon:

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

Lincoln viewed unlimited war as the "most oppressive of all kingly oppressions," and yet in the present state of affairs, we have given to the presidency the awesome power of fighting a protracted and ill-defined war, by any means necessary.  Obama is now the equivalent of an elected king.

Consequently, the present move of the Obama administration towards KGB-style assassination of U.S. citizens should be regarded with close scrutiny.

Many warned that one day very soon, the PATRIOT Act and its sister legislation would be used against American citizens.  The broad and ambiguous language found in the PATRIOT Act gives the president, whoever that may be, the power to determine what is and is not "terror."  Section 411, G, vi, II of the PARIOT Act defines a terrorist as anyone "designated, upon publication in the Federal Register, by the Secretary of State in consultation with or upon the request of the Attorney General"[1].

Everything that follows is contingent on this loose definition -- i.e. warrantless wiretapping, warrantless entry, human tracking, access to bank statements and phone records, access to internet records, "enhanced" interrogation, and now assassination.  Predictably, as a result of this accountability vacuum, the definition of terrorism is subject to frequent and conspicuous change -- e.g., the DHS report labeling pro-lifers "terrorists"[2].  President Obama's preferred definition of terrorism generally involves Christian bigots and White Supremacists [3].  In fact, Obama's counterterrorism advisor wants to delist "jihadists" as security threats.

Even the philosophical basis of the PATRIOT Act is flawed.  If citizens are found conspiring against the United States, a provision already exists in the Constitution to address it.  It's called "treason."  As long as due process is afforded, treason is punishable by death.  Recall the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs in the last century.

By ordering the CIA to shoot and kill American citizens if classified as "terrorist," a power the White House now wields [4], both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are violated, since the Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects," and the Fifth Amendment guarantees that "[n]o person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law[.]"  The "person" and "life" of American citizens are clearly breached by such an order.  The exceptions to the Fourth Amendment are arguably infringed by the entering of homes without warrant -- a practice sanctioned by the PATRIOT Act -- since "hot pursuit" is not always a factor, and because the home has traditionally been a place where individuals possessed a "reasonable expectation of privacy."  The courts have held that warrantless wiretapping, also a power found in the PATRIOT Act, is illegal and usurps constitutionally guaranteed liberty [5].

These breathtaking powers all fall under the vague and limitless definition of terrorism now in the hands of one of the least trustworthy men ever to sit in the White House.

It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, "They that surrender essential liberty for a little temporary safety, deserve neither freedom nor safety."  America may be "safer" looking up little girls' skirts, but at what cost?  If freedom vanishes to guarantee peace of mind at airports, can al-Qaeda not claim de facto victory in the War on Terror?  Put simply, if constitutional rights can be removed by mere statute, then they are not rights.

Nothing is more certain than that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The power by which we are "safer" today will be our ruin tomorrow.

Trust in a powerful leader is not the American way.  "Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism," Thomas Jefferson once said.  Americans must not trust that President Obama will use this new power responsibly.  We must "bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution."  Only then will all Americans, and not merely those who embrace Obama's radical agenda, be secure in their liberty.


[1] USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Public Law 107-56, 107th Congress, 1st sess., (26 Oct. 2001).

[2] "Homeland Security Warns of Rise in Right-Wing Extremism," FoxNews, 14 April 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/14/homeland-security-warns-rise-right-wing-extremism/, (Accessed 4 Mar. 2010).

[3] "Errol Southers Ranting about Christian Identity Terrorist Groups," YouTube, 11 Jan. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8MaUSu4isk, (Accessed 18 April 2010).

[4] Glenn Greenwald, "Presidential Assassinations of U.S. Citizens," Salon, 27 Jan. 2010, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/27/yemen, (Accessed 18 April 2010).

[5] Charlie Savage and James Risen, "Federal Judge Finds NSA Wiretaps Illegal," NYT, 31 Mar. 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/us/01nsa.html,  (Accessed 18 April 2010). 

One of the many unfulfilled aims of the Obama administration has been the criminalization of political opponents via the machinery of U.S. anti-terror statutes and other devices.  So far, President Obama and his cronies have stopped at saber-rattling, confronted by an extremely heightened public awareness and growing anger amongst average Americans at the Obama agenda.  Many will recall the innumerable statements of regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and his call for banning "falsehoods," as well as the infamous DHS reports attempting to tar conservatives as potential terrorists.  More recently, the TSA has sought to make all Americans traveling for the holidays into terror suspects, attracting significant public outrage.  The direct approach has arguably failed.

But where the direct approach has failed, a more silent approach is poised to succeed.  No constitution has an unconditional right to life -- except the U.S. Constitution.  In the United States, no man can be deprived of life without due process -- i.e., a trial by a jury of his peers.  However, using shady CIA "hit lists" designed to thwart American-born terrorists, President Obama claims the power to capriciously do away with this most fundamental of American freedoms.  Through a new clandestine assassination program targeting selected citizens, Obama will void due process.  The list of targeted Americans is currently not available to the public.  The New York Times and the Washington Post both report that Obama has approved the assassination of U.S. citizens engaged in terrorist acts overseas.  U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed pursuant to this new program.

Yes, Awlaki was evil, and his behavior was criminal and treasonous.  But before the dust settles and his assassination becomes precedent, a few questions come to mind: Islamic terrorists may be the object, but what happens if this power is selectively turned against political opponents?  Is there any accountability?  Who decides who is and isn't a terrorist?  America cannot allow the precious right to life to fade without a fight.  No compromise can be tolerated on a freedom this basic.

Ironically, this highly unconstitutional protocol has been lauded by Republican Americans ever-concerned with the spread of Islamic terrorism.  The sentiment among many is one of relief, that finally President Obama takes the threat of Islamic terror seriously.  Could this magical change be the salvation of America in the War on Terror?

Obama's habitual actions until the present point speak to the contrary.  President Obama gives Miranda rights to foreign terrorists without first attempting to garner information that could save American lives.  President Obama delays an investigation of the atrocities at Fort Hood.  President Obama posts the TSA playbook online for the all the world to see.  President Obama makes strategically damning declarations like "America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam."  President Obama appoints officials who publicly advocate Islamic sharia law.  President Obama says that the aims of Hamas are fine as long as they are achieved "peacefully."  And finally, President Obama has sought to grant foreign enemy combatants not even protected by the Geneva Convention the privileges of U.S. citizens. 

And now we are supposed to believe that because President Obama is willing to trash the fundamental right of Americans to due process without so much as an amendment, he is somehow turning up the heat in the War on Terror?  This is typical liberal-style "warfare."  War becomes a means to gain power at home instead of protecting freedom abroad.  As the sage Abraham Lincoln would remark in a letter to law partner William Herndon:

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

Lincoln viewed unlimited war as the "most oppressive of all kingly oppressions," and yet in the present state of affairs, we have given to the presidency the awesome power of fighting a protracted and ill-defined war, by any means necessary.  Obama is now the equivalent of an elected king.

Consequently, the present move of the Obama administration towards KGB-style assassination of U.S. citizens should be regarded with close scrutiny.

Many warned that one day very soon, the PATRIOT Act and its sister legislation would be used against American citizens.  The broad and ambiguous language found in the PATRIOT Act gives the president, whoever that may be, the power to determine what is and is not "terror."  Section 411, G, vi, II of the PARIOT Act defines a terrorist as anyone "designated, upon publication in the Federal Register, by the Secretary of State in consultation with or upon the request of the Attorney General"[1].

Everything that follows is contingent on this loose definition -- i.e. warrantless wiretapping, warrantless entry, human tracking, access to bank statements and phone records, access to internet records, "enhanced" interrogation, and now assassination.  Predictably, as a result of this accountability vacuum, the definition of terrorism is subject to frequent and conspicuous change -- e.g., the DHS report labeling pro-lifers "terrorists"[2].  President Obama's preferred definition of terrorism generally involves Christian bigots and White Supremacists [3].  In fact, Obama's counterterrorism advisor wants to delist "jihadists" as security threats.

Even the philosophical basis of the PATRIOT Act is flawed.  If citizens are found conspiring against the United States, a provision already exists in the Constitution to address it.  It's called "treason."  As long as due process is afforded, treason is punishable by death.  Recall the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs in the last century.

By ordering the CIA to shoot and kill American citizens if classified as "terrorist," a power the White House now wields [4], both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are violated, since the Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects," and the Fifth Amendment guarantees that "[n]o person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law[.]"  The "person" and "life" of American citizens are clearly breached by such an order.  The exceptions to the Fourth Amendment are arguably infringed by the entering of homes without warrant -- a practice sanctioned by the PATRIOT Act -- since "hot pursuit" is not always a factor, and because the home has traditionally been a place where individuals possessed a "reasonable expectation of privacy."  The courts have held that warrantless wiretapping, also a power found in the PATRIOT Act, is illegal and usurps constitutionally guaranteed liberty [5].

These breathtaking powers all fall under the vague and limitless definition of terrorism now in the hands of one of the least trustworthy men ever to sit in the White House.

It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, "They that surrender essential liberty for a little temporary safety, deserve neither freedom nor safety."  America may be "safer" looking up little girls' skirts, but at what cost?  If freedom vanishes to guarantee peace of mind at airports, can al-Qaeda not claim de facto victory in the War on Terror?  Put simply, if constitutional rights can be removed by mere statute, then they are not rights.

Nothing is more certain than that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The power by which we are "safer" today will be our ruin tomorrow.

Trust in a powerful leader is not the American way.  "Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism," Thomas Jefferson once said.  Americans must not trust that President Obama will use this new power responsibly.  We must "bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution."  Only then will all Americans, and not merely those who embrace Obama's radical agenda, be secure in their liberty.


[1] USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Public Law 107-56, 107th Congress, 1st sess., (26 Oct. 2001).

[2] "Homeland Security Warns of Rise in Right-Wing Extremism," FoxNews, 14 April 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/14/homeland-security-warns-rise-right-wing-extremism/, (Accessed 4 Mar. 2010).

[3] "Errol Southers Ranting about Christian Identity Terrorist Groups," YouTube, 11 Jan. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8MaUSu4isk, (Accessed 18 April 2010).

[4] Glenn Greenwald, "Presidential Assassinations of U.S. Citizens," Salon, 27 Jan. 2010, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/27/yemen, (Accessed 18 April 2010).

[5] Charlie Savage and James Risen, "Federal Judge Finds NSA Wiretaps Illegal," NYT, 31 Mar. 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/us/01nsa.html,  (Accessed 18 April 2010).