U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder thinks it’s legal to kill American terrorism suspects overseas without any judicial review or public notice. It’s an astonishing claim to make and a shameful stand for the Obama administration, which came to office pledging to curb such constitutionally shaky excesses.
In a speech, Holder essentially offers the “trust us” argument in defense of targeted killings. The guidelines are murky: The military will compile a list of dangerous terrorists including U.S. citizens, hunt them down, and if the host country can’t or won’t catch the suspect, then the United States will. The example at issue is last year’s drone attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born al Qaida leader.
Under Holder’s ground rules there is no outside review, court deliberation or explanation of how a suspect makes the kill list. For those critics concerned about oversight or legal caution, he offered this observation: “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”
Holder didn’t cite an in-house legal opinion used to justify the policy, which he’s refused to release and is the subject of a civil liberties lawsuit.
Obama still hasn’t closed the Guantanamo Bay gulag as promised. Now he’s shielding targeted killings from genuine review. This presidential subversion of rule of law was unacceptable under George W. Bush, and it is unacceptable under Barack Obama.
San Francisco Chronicle (March 5)