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Thomas Lucente: Citizens should fear misuse of drones


August 25. 2013 3:08AM
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It is still hard for some to fathom, but President Barack Obama believes he has the power to order the assassination of Americans abroad without trial.



This is nothing new. He said as much when, in September 2011, he dispatched CIA drones to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico. Al-Awlaki was riding in a car in the desert in Yemen.



A short time later, to add insult to injury, Obama sent another drone and killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old Colorado-born son and his American friend.



These killings are disturbing for three important reasons.



First, they violated international law. Obama violated the sovereignty of Yemen to carry out this dastardly deeds. We are not at war with Yemen. Nor was the United States in any imminent danger from this man riding in a car in a desert more than 7,000 miles away. There was neither legal nor moral justification for the killing.



Second, it has been U.S. policy for four decades that assassination is not to be tolerated.



Finally, and most importantly, it violates everything that we, as Americans, hold dear. We hold due process of law so dear that we engrossed it into our charter. As a free people, we find it better that 100 guilty people go free than one innocent person be punished by the government.



The idea that the president of the United States, based on his own beliefs, can misuse drone technology to execute U.S. citizens wherever they might be situated should put the fear of God into every American.



Some defend his behavior by claiming al-Awlaki was a casualty of war.



Not so.



He was a civilian, not a soldier. And he was not killed on a battlefield. He was executed by order of the president through a CIA drone. It was an intentional killing of an unarmed civilian in a country with whom we are not even at war.



Now, if this were an isolated incident, perhaps it could be forgotten.



After the assassination, the administration argued in federal court in a lawsuit filed by al-Awlaki’s father that it always follows the law. However, it refused to release to the court its secret legal research on how the targeted killing was lawful, predicting chaos if it were made public.



U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon sided with the administration, but only reluctantly. She complained that the administration created “a thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”



And was she ever right.



An undated and unsigned Justice Department policy paper was leaked to NBC news. In it, the author, presumably a lawyer, claimed that any “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government,” not just the president, had the power to decide when to suspend constitutional protections and kill them without due process.



Has this administration ever heard of the Constitution or the rule of law?



Judge Andrew Napolitano said it best: “Obama has argued that he can kill Americans whose deaths he believes will keep us all safer, without any due process whatsoever. No law authorizes that. His attorney general has argued that the president’s careful consideration of each target and the narrow use of deadly force are an adequate and constitutional substitute for due process. No court has ever approved that. And his national security adviser has argued that the use of drones is humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. We know that is incorrect, as the folks who monitor all this say that 11 percent to 17 percent of the 2,300 drone-caused deaths have been those of innocent bystanders.”



And leftists wonder why we want to keep our guns.



At the onset of the American Revolutionary War, the Rev. Byles Mather, the loyalist nephew of Cotton Mather and grandson of Increase Mather, both of Salem witch trials fame, asked, “Which is better — to be ruled by one tyrant 3,000 miles away or by 3,000 tyrants one mile away?”



That point appears to be moot. Now we are ruled by one tyrant one mile away.





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