American Thinker

By Elise Cooper

President Obama's latest executive order allows for the killing by drone strikes of American citizens abroad.  The administration attempts to find its justification for this in American law: a targeted U.S. citizen has to have recently been involved in terrorist activities and pose "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States."  Although many national security advisers do not disagree with this tactic, they do have some reservations.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden told American Thinker he believes that the issue should be not killing those who take up arms against the U.S., including American citizens, but rather the hypocrisy of it all.  "President Obama in 2008 ran against President Bush's first term while Obama after 2008 governs against terrorism like Bush's second term.  They are doing the right thing, but the sin here is pretending it's different from what they inherited, and it is not.  Sometimes lawful isn't sufficient in a democracy.  Although I am quite comfortable with the legal rationale, based on my past experiences, programs like these require long-term, broad-based political support."

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the intelligence committee, agrees.  He told American Thinker, "If someone actively plots future attacks against U.S. citizens, soldiers, and interests around the world, the U.S. government has both the authority and the obligation to defend the country against that threat."

The Obama administration's trouble getting political support is no more evident than in Jon Stewart's classic and eloquent commentary, which Hayden found both funny and wise.  Stewart sarcastically commented that this administration has a different definition of "imminent" from most Americans', since it does not require the U.S. to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.  Stewart wondered how transparent the Obama administration is, considering that "[w]e told you we were going to be transparent.  We just didn't tell you it was about the last guy's secrets."

A former operative argues that there should be an array of counter-terrorism tactics, including the use of drone killings, along with capturing and interrogating terrorists.  He points to John Brennan's confirmation hearing, where Senator Chambliss (R-GA) asked Brennan about the capture policy and noted that during the Obama administration, only one terrorist has been captured and interrogated.  The operative felt that "Brennan was not forthright with the committee on his past views of the enhanced interrogation program, because he tried to please the Senate Democrats.  As far as I know, and I was there at the time, no one at the CIA has come forward agreeing that Brennan voiced his concerns.  I find it very hypocritical that on the one hand, this administration says the enhanced interrogation was torture, which is not even true, yet they have no problem killing people, including American citizens.  The concern I have is that if we do not capture and interrogate terrorists, at some point, we are not going to know what they are planning."

This is also the opinion of Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who told American Thinker, "There need to be numerous safeguards and reviews by all three branches of government when contemplating drone strikes against U.S. terrorists abroad.  While these strikes may be warranted in rare cases, it's difficult to understand why President Obama prefers to kill terrorists rather than allow for the capture and rigorous interrogation of them, which could afford valuable intelligence about their networks and future plans."  

Andrew McCarthy, author, executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center, and contributing editor at National Review, cites the hypocrisy of those Democrats who wanted to impeach President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretapping of cross-border communication, without a court order, if the person to be tapped was allegedly attached to al-Qaeda.  McCarthy finds it completely illogical that "anyone would want to impeach Bush over that yet had no problem with Obama killing American citizens.  This proves that the Bush impeachment debate was completely political, done solely to hurt President Bush, while now, with President Obama, they are looking the other way so as not to hurt him." 

If a drone strike is the tactic the president wants to use, why not authorize one, after evacuating all Americans, to kill the major terrorists at Guantánamo Bay?  McCarthy's answer is that they cannot be killed outright.  His point is that once captured, the enemy combatants must have some kind of process and must be detained, given a trial, found guilty, and then sentenced to be executed.  American citizens can also be treated as enemy combatants where the options available, depending on the circumstances, are to kill, capture, or interrogate.

McCarthy goes on to say that Congress was given the constitutional power to decide who the enemy is when at war -- yet the president does have the power to use his judgment regarding the use of military force.  Congress passed after 9/11 a resolution called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which defined the enemy.  The AUMF defines an enemy combatant as harboring someone involved in the 9/11 attacks or having been complicit in the attacks themselves.  "However, twelve years out, there are not very many of America's enemies having transactional connections to 9/11, so Congress needs to amend the AUMF."

His concern is that this executive order of drone killings has made Congress's war-making policy virtually irrelevant.  "What is most disheartening is that Congress's power has been almost completely eradicated, and they don't seem very upset about this.  Congress has not risen above partisan politics to defend its own institution.  In theory, each institution of government would want to protects its own turf and revolt by cutting off funds or through impeachment."

There are those congressmen, such as Ted Poe (R-TX), who have taken action.  He wrote two letters, on December 9 and February 8, requesting a response from the White House regarding the drone strike executive order.  He has yet to hear back.  He told American Thinker, "The letters ask the questions: what is the policy, who is the individual that makes the decision to use the drones, and what is the constitutional legal basis for the president's actions?  I want to hear what the White House has to say, and then I will determine if it is legal.  It seems to me on the surface those actions should be made by congressional legislation."

Unfortunately, President Obama has anointed himself as the one to decide who shall live and who shall die.  Lets hope that he will not abuse his broad powers.  This executive action, with Congress appearing to abdicate its given constitutional powers, has allowed the president to determine who the enemy is and what military action is appropriate, even as he hypocritically denounced the enhanced interrogation techniques.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews, and she has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.