Rights Disappearing Down Obama's Drain:
It's such a kindly-worded "fuck you." That was the Rude Pundit's first thought when he read the letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Sen. Patrick Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee (which is the worst band name in history) affirming that the United States, under orders from the President, drone-murdered four American citizens. Oh, sure, the act is couched in all kinds of justifications, including President Obama's "Most Magnificent Guide to How You Excuse Yourself For Drone Murdering Americans."
See, Anwar al-Awlaki was ordered dead by Obama because he met three conditions: "(1) the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is not feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles." Did you know we're still at war? It's easy to forget that. Al-Awlaki was stone cold killed with intent. The other three Americans named were just collateral damage in other strikes.
How do we know that al-Awlaki (or "al-Aulaqi," as the letter transcribes his name) met the mighty condition trio? Because the White House tells us that he did. "[A]l-Aulaqi repeatedly made clear his intent to attack U.S. persons and his hope that these attacks would take American lives." But "it was not al-Aulaqi's words" that forced the United States to turn a citizen into lumps of bloody paste scattered around a wrecked building. He helped the underwear bomber: "Al-Aulaqi planned a suicide operation for Abdulmutallab, helped Abdulmutallab draft a statement for a video to be shown after the attack, and directed him to take down a U.S. airliner." And he did some other shit with explosives.
And how do we know al-Awlaki did these things? Because Holder tells us that he did. That's all. And if you want to see the evidence for this, well, fuck you, that's classified. Some members of Congress were briefed on the matter before it went down. And the letter contains a great deal about how previous Supreme Court decisions during real wars against real states apply and about how the U.S. could legally murder the fuck out of al-Awlaki. Also, government lawyers said it was cool by them. While it's not the same players, you'll remember that when George W. Bush wanted to torture detainees, government lawyers said it was cool. That's what lawyers do. They find a way to justify barbaric acts.
It all reads like an eminently reasonable brief. And perhaps it is. But the Rude Pundit also reads it another way, as a massive middle finger to anyone who would question the President's right to kill at will. "Don't worry your little heads," it says. "We've looked into it and we've found that we can do what we want." It's the honor system, except not with coffee refills, but with missiles of doom.
Holder concludes, "I assure you that the President and his national security team are mindful of this Administration's pledge to public accountability for our counterterrorism efforts, and we will continue to give careful consideration to whether and how additional information may be declassified and disclosed to the American people without harming our national security." In other words, we'll let you know when we want to tell you more. In otherer words, dontcha trust us?
Here's the deal for the Rude Pundit: He was sadly unsurprised that the Obama administration was revealed to be throwing a broad investigative net in order to discover leaks to reporters. What the hell did anyone expect to happen when the Executive branch was granted all those barely checked surveillance powers under the Bush administration? Did you expect Congress to take them back? While we might have thought, in our dearest Obama fantasies, that he would turn away from them, of course he was going to take advantage and expand them to the legal breaking point.
By the same reasoning, of course, some president down the line is going to expand who gets killed on his or her orders. Of course, that president will have lawyers backing up the decision. Of course, there will be another letter to an acquiescent, complacent Congress, which will, of course, make noise as if it's going to do something about it. Of course, the public will be left in the dark as to what's real and what's not. Of course, the public will not give a good goddamn.
This letter was supposed to clear things up. But all it did was make the administration seem even more sinister. Why can't it show us that al-Awlaki was dangerous? The letter says that they can't do so in order to protect sources, but it all just still stinks. Like its war on whistleblowers and leakers, like its insistence on approving quotes for stories, like all of its other attempts to control coverage, Obama's approach to leading the country is to leave the citizens of the country out of it. Well, unless they need drone murdering.
We are in the midst of another kind of media manipulation, beyond just spin. It's the next obvious step: control of the message without consequences or real questions (hence the avoidance of press conferences - not that Obama would get decent questions from a cowed press corps). In his speech today, Obama will no doubt say that what he did was right to keep America secure, even if now we're winding down the drone war.
The United States government definitively says it can kill its citizens if it's too inconvenient to arrest them and try them. That's the bottom line. If you think your government, no matter who is in the White House, should have that power, then you really don't care about your rights.
Except the 2nd Amendment. That shit is sacred.