Eric Holder: Drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil are legal

holder

It didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop.  Responding to a pointed inquiry from Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), this nation’s Attorney General stated:

“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,”

Summary execution of an American citizen on US soil, without due process, without trial, without anything except the “informed high-level government official” that believes that citizen is a “threat”.   No Fifth Amendment, no Sixth Amendment.  No Eighth Amendment.  No grand jury, no counsel for the accused,  no jury of one’s peers.  Nothing except a death sentence carried out after secret deliberations by a Star Chamber of politicians, few of whom are elected.

I am sure Marty Dempsey will eagerly crumple up that pesky old Constitution to please his masters.   Wouldn’t be the first time.

Those who believed that the drone strikes against Anwar Al Awlaki and Samir Khan were about killing Islamic terrorists have thoroughly missed the bus.   I told you then what the precedent was.  Killing of an American without due process.   Eric Holder confirmed such a precedent with his affirmative reply to Senator Paul.  That Holder claims that such an eventuality is “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur” should be taken with a very small grain of salt.  Not letting a good crisis go to waste, and all.

A criminal enterprise on the Potomac.

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It is worth noting that Holder’s faux-assurances that such an eventuality of the assassination of American citizens on US soil is “unlikely” is strikingly similar to another government official who assured the public regarding the extraordinary and far-reaching powers which spelled the end of another Republic.

The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.

Enemies, foreign and domestic.

15 thoughts on “Eric Holder: Drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil are legal”

    1. Yeah, I can think of it too. And I still think it’d be an illegal order. To kill an entire plane full of passengers, US Citizens, because you believe that terrorists are going to crash the plane into a building… I’m sorry, I don’t think I’d follow such an order.

      “But they’re going to die anyway!” Or they may take back the plane. Especially after 9/11. Look, it bugs me that people miss this. Prior to 9/11, if a plane was hijacked, SOP was to do what they said, because they’d land the plane somewhere, and you’d negotiate the hostages off the plane. Non-resistance WAS SOP. Because it worked. That day, everything changed. And it didn’t even take till the next day for that to be understood. There’s a reason those passengers on Flight 93 tried to retake the plane. They had been told what the hijackers intended.

      The fact is, anyone who attempts to hijack a plane now is going to face resistance. The world where compliance was SOP is gone. And I for one wouldn’t condemn the entire plane of passengers to death because the potential that their resistance will fail is present. No sir, that’s STILL an illegal order, and I won’t follow it.

    2. interesting points MikeD … i’d act as devil’s advocate and say, what if said airliner was heading towards a building with your loved ones working or living in? don’t they have a right to life, which you in your fighter jet were protecting? it’s a terrible dilemma but if ordered to do so – killing hundreds so thousands lived – isn’t that morally and legally justified?
      likewise if a terrorist is about to launch a dirty bomb attack, or detonate tonnes of fertiliser explosive before a federal building, and you had a gun and him in your sights, you’d shoot right? so what is the difference if it’s a drone and not a gun?
      as i say, devil’s advocate, not trying to wind you up or anything. cheers!

    3. It’s a philosophical debate as to “do you pull the switch diverting the train to kill a single baby, but saving a train full of passengers”. But I’m saying that I don’t need to make that distinction in today’s world. If a bunch of terrorists hijack a plane now, either most people are going to already be dead/incapacitated, or the hijackers will be. Because passenger flights are no longer going to meekly held hostage in a post 9/11 world. Would you sit in your seat and hope the problem goes away? I wouldn’t. Now a hijacking situation is immediately a fight to the death. So is it right to shoot down a passenger plane because what terrorists on board MIGHT do? No. Because if the flight actually IS in trouble, no friendlies are alive on board anymore.

      What ifs don’t come into it.

    4. That was a terrible answer I just gave and want to try that again, but with less stupid.

      The basic question you ask is the classic dilemma of “switch, train, baby or passengers” that I sketched out in the dumb answer. And it’s a philosophy question as to which is more “moral”. And either answer, “pull the switch and save the passengers” or “do nothing and save the baby”, is simultaneously right and wrong. In the first, you’re committing an affirmative action that causes a death (making it wrong), but you’re also saving more lives (making it right). In the latter you’re not killing an innocent baby (making it right), but through your inaction you’re letting many more people die (making it wrong). So no matter which you choose, you’re open to criticism AND praise.

      I fall on the “do nothing” side, because while taking no action is still an action, at least I’m not committing an active evil. Following an order to kill citizens on a hijacked planed is an affirmative act. And thus, I consider it an illegal order. Doing nothing MAY condemn more to die as well, but you CANNOT know that to be true. The passengers might be taking the plane back, or still fighting for control. Are you saying that the possibility they might lose should condemn them all to die? I am saying that more MIGHT die if I do nothing, but I know for sure that innocents WILL die if I shoot down that plane. When it comes to weighing potential harm versus definitive harm, I’ll take my chances with the potential harm every time.

      You asked, “what if said airliner was heading towards a building with your loved ones working or living in?” If I had actionable intel that the plane WAS flying directly towards a building my wife was in (i.e. the hijackers say they’re going to hit the White House and my wife is there or something), then my answer is still the same. It’s a silly scenario, but my answer would still remain the same. I don’t KNOW it will hit the building she’s in. But I do know I’ll kill many innocent people if I shoot down the plane. Illegal order, whether my wife’s a target or not.

      “likewise if a terrorist is about to launch a dirty bomb attack, or detonate tonnes of fertiliser explosive before a federal building, and you had a gun and him in your sights, you’d shoot right? so what is the difference if it’s a drone and not a gun?”

      Different situation. If I have a gun and can kill the hijackers on a plane? Legal order, bang, dead Tango. The truck bomb and dirty bomb questions are of that same nature. You put me in a position to kill the bomber, no problem. If you’re asking me to blow up a bus bomb with 32 innocent people aboard to stop the bombing… illegal order. Killing a perp in the act is no moral issue for me. Intentionally killing innocents to remove the POTENTIAL for the perp to kill more innocents IS.

      But here’s a similar issue to the plane one. Let’s say a man on a street corner is whipping up a mob. The mob looks like it could turn deadly violent. You’ve got a sniper rifle. Can you kill the man whipping up the crowd? What if he’s a US Citizen? If you’re asking me to shoot a man who is whipping a crowd into a frenzy and they can potentially go forth an kill innocent people? Illegal order. If you’re asking me to shoot a member of the mob about to kill someone else, legal order. Arrest the HELL out of the guy whipping up the mob. But he’s not the one smashing an old lady’s head in with a brick. You can’t shoot him for telling someone else to.

      Now, my previous response is still true. The hijacker situation is still a red herring. Can’t happen. But even if it did, I still think it’s an illegal order. BUT… smarter men than I disagree. Read Grim’s response in the comments for a completely different opinion on that legality:
      http://grimbeorn.blogspot.com/2013/03/extraordinary.html

  1. Anyone familiar with the XX century knows that the primary killing agency for adults was that person’s own government.

    Even including WWI and WWII together, totalitarian governments killed more of their own citizens than died in those world wars.

    We angst over 23 dead in a CT school as a tragedy. Communism and fascism killing over 100 million between 1920-1979 — a mere statistic.

    So those who mistrust the current US government have learned from history, and are forearmed, for what good it will do. I am not liking the dystopian rhetoric and proto-totalitarian actions out of DC these days.

  2. That statement is pure, unadulterated Evil. Now it is legal for the President to kill anyone he finds inconvenient, by claiming it is “neccessary”. The Chicago Mob is now running not just Chicago, but the entire US Government.

    Every day I worry more and more that the United States may not survive this Administration, and it’s actions. Can you imagine if a Republican AG had said that the POTUS can legally kill anyone he considers a ” threat “. Yet, the crickets of the press are deafening in thier silence. Chicago magazine had an article last December about how the Democratic Party in Chicago works hand in glove with the gangs, and now we have proof, right from the AG, that the current Administration is a criminal one.

    What has the Press done to justify to themselves thier enthroning such people as our rulers, for the days of our being other than subjects has clearly ended . Is feeling smugly superior that important to them, that they will allow people to have thier lives ruined, or even forfiet, so that they may do so? How does the Left look itself in the mirror each day?

    Last September, at the Democratic Convention, an attempt was made three times, to place God back in the Platorm, and three times it was denied by the crowd. Why don’t people see things like that? Why don’t they see that the Democrats are scrapping the Constitution? That soon we will not have rights, any privlidges given out by our ‘betters”? How can sane people accept Nancy Pelosi, Harry Ried, and Barack Obama as their “betters”? What have we come to?

    1. What have we come too? We have come to a dictatorship being built. We are at the place where a man’s Race, Creed, Color, religion or national origin determines whether he is innocent or guilty of crimes unless the citizens are among the federally protected races, genders, sexual preference and religions. The POTUS has determined he can kill American citizens without due process, in a PUBLIC statement, that means the Constitution is already in the trash as well as the Bill of Rights.
      American’s Fat Dumb and Happy just do not know it yet.
      Our POTUS and Government has gone Rogue, the nations people are their enemies and they intend to use weapons of war on us.
      American’s just go along still believing in a country with laws when those laws make us all criminals and terrorist to kill at will.

  3. 1) Eric Holder should be in prison.

    2) Eric Holder is a Grade B idiot.

    Look, can the President order the assassination of an American citizen? Yes. He (unfortunately) has the capacity of speech and a sophisticated communications apparatus. He can give the order, but he isn’t unique in this. Every President since at least Lincoln has had such power. Will the order be obeyed? I’d like to think no, but the government is large and employs a large number of people. I’m sure that given enough time a person sufficiently amoral could be found. Now we come to the rub. Can the President issue such an order without facing legal sanction? Holder is claiming yes. Fortunately for us it isn’t his call. Courts generally give broad leeway to Presidents conducting operations overseas. There is quite another standard for scrutiny when at home. Not to mention public opinion. Nobody really cares about a bad guy hiding out in the deserts of Yemen. It’s quite another story when a protester in Topeka gets exothermically disassembled.

    I think I know what Exportin’ Eric was trying to accomplish. He didn’t want to set policy that would tie the government’s hands in a nasty edge case (A terrorist with the launch keys for a nuke hidden in Houston while Jack Bauer is at his sister’s wedding). Of course, because of (2) he screwed it all up. Far better to set the policy of “not in the US” and worry about breaking that policy if deemed necessary.

  4. The argument for downing the airliner is a strawman to this entire line of assertions. What Holder is describing is a discrete action by the Federal government in place of arresting, charging, and trying a citizen, in fact in place of anything resembling due process. This is a LEGAL action in which the assassination of the American citizen is the action as a result of a decision, not a disagreeable side effect.
    This is NOT an extension of the authority to quarantine, or institute martial law, which are emergency measures dependent upon a specific legal framework which may indirectly cause negative outcomes. Nor is this predicated upon any declaration of insurrection or emergency condition. This is NOT a legitimate power an American President has had, ever. Like much of the very dangerous precedent this Administration has set, there is no conceivable limit to such authority in the hands of Federal officials. And such is no conceivable way an enumerated power, but instead is in violation of the preponderance of our Constitutional liberties and legal protections.

    1. Well, here’s the full letter:

      http://paul.senate.gov/files/documents/BrennanHolderResponse.pdf

      And my reading of it is, Holder only sees that authority extending to a situation much like that facing Bush on 9/11. And Bush was fully prepared to down an airliner, and the pilots were fully prepared to do so, to the point of ramming, if need be, in order to minimize the loss of innocent life.

      If you’re not calling for Bush’s head on a pike for that, you can hardly call for Holder’s and Obama’s when they take the same position.

    2. I would have held Bush accountable for that act. But I still agree with URR, it’s not the same thing to call for such a decision in the heat of the moment, and a far cry different to coldly determine that the President has the authority to order a killing of a US citizen NOT in the act of attacking anyone else (as that’s already well covered by established law) but because “it might prevent an attack like Pearl Harbor or the attacks on 9/11 from occuring” without oversight or outside approval. Remember, no one is saying you need to arrest someone or ask Congressional approval if they’re in the act of doing harm to someone else. There would be no reason to ask Holder that. It’s well established. We’re talking about killing a US citizen on US soil outside of current law enforcement protocols (and, I would add, in violation of Posse Comitatus) on the President’s sole authority, and Holder says, “yes, if he deemed it necessary” to prevent such an attack as 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Not to stop it IN PROGRESS, but to prevent. Without trial, without outside oversight or justification, ON HIS DETERMINATION. That is a power no President should EVER have.

  5. In that case I would assume the legal killing could travel both ways.
    If the Government says they can kill US Citizens without due process and a trial then I would think the US government is against American citizens who deny global warming, carry a pistol, vote republican and will kill them.
    killing goes both ways and the gov. is not all powerful and untouchable. The family, friends of the citizens the Government kill may be of the type to want some payback, get this going with enough Gov. kills of citizens and no where will ever be safe for American’s and more importantly, no where will ever be safe for the Government employees hired, appointed or elected.
    They still hunt war criminals and that’s just what killing citizens without due process makes Holder and his bosses.
    When a drone strike on an alleged Citizens enemy of the state and Obama admin. is killed along with innocent by standers the SWHTF and a lot of current gov. folks will be charged with murder, Obama and Holder ain’t so powerful they can just start killing American’s. Not without reprisals.
    What happens if Obama and Holder order a strike on an innocent citizen by mistake, and kill just some average Joe on his way to work?
    Even a good cover up could not hide the murder.

  6. Brad,

    When you listen to the answers Holder gave in testimony, you will find that his assertions are radically different from what you portray. In fact, he all but refused to admit that the government does NOT have the authority to kill Americans arbitrarily.

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