Via NYT, White House Lays Out Case for Killing American Citizen without Trial
A little more than two weeks after reporting by the Associated Press revealed that the Obama administration was “considering” the extrajudicial targeted killing of a U.S. citizen it accuses of “terrorist activity” abroad, new and similar reporting on Friday by the New York Times is extending the president’s case for assassinating a man now known as Abdullah al-Shami, a U.S.-born American citizen believed to be living in Pakistan.
The Times reporting, like the AP story on February 10, has all the hallmarks of an intentionally leaked story in which White House officials spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity in exchange for access to information deemed suitable for public consumption.
Based on interviews with “American officials and outside terrorism experts,” the Times reports:
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Taken with the earlier AP story, observant readers might conclude that the administration is utilizing these mainstream outlets in order to lay out the case for the killing of al-Shami in public an effort to soften the possible outcry if such an operation is ultimately ordered or carried out.
The details of al-Shami and his alleged activities provided by the Times—which are really just the selected bits of information leaked by the “American officials”—paint a picture of a man involved in terrorist activities, operating on the battlefield made borderless by the U.S. declared ‘global war on terror’—in short, an acceptable and justifiable target for a U.S. hellfire missile attached to the bottom of an unmanned drone. But advocates of international law and civil liberties say that the Obama administration’s claims of such authority to target an individual for assassination must be challenged.
“Given the significance of the authority the administration is claiming, it’s quite remarkable how little information it’s disclosed,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer told the Times. Human rights advocates and international jurors, of course, question the legality of the entire U.S. drone program that has resulted in the death of thousands of civilians and untold damage over the last two administrations. The case of al-Shami, however—like the killing of other American citizens abroad—raises specific questions about constitutional protections that reside within the broader moral and legal questions of the wider global war on terror and the clandestine use of drones over multiple countries.
As pointed out by Peter Van Buren, a former State Department employee and foreign policy expert who raised serious questions about the reported “deliberations” and justifications about extrajudicial killing coming from the White House and Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, there are no asterisks next to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment which guarantees all citizens the right due process. Van Buren wrote:
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