Debate Over Drone Killings Drones On
The Attorney General of the United States says President Obama has the right to use unmanned aircraft (drones) to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
Eric Holder argued that using lethal military force against an American in his home country would be legal and justified in an “extraordinary circumstance” comparable to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Obama Administration claims that the president, as Commander in Chief, “has the legal power to assassinate Americans who are identified or suspected of being senior al-Qaeda operatives posing an imminent threat and where it would be “infeasible” to capture them.” It is conceivable, say Administration officials, that the president may have to sign off on the killing of Americans sympathetic to terrorist interests, ordering their deaths by drone attack.
Yet, a Kentucky senator finds the idea of having the president authorize a “hit” on an American citizen on home soil is “frightening.”
In an article published in the online version of The Telegraph, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) called the idea, “an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans,”
Indeed, Civil Liberty proponents suggest the president and his aides are seizing powers to deny American citizens their constitutional rights without approval from the Congress or from the courts.
The seventh amendment to the Constitution – part of the Bill of Rights – reads, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. [italics are this writer’s]
Mr. Obama swore an oath – twice – to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He must therefore balance the national interest against the provisions of the Supreme Law of the Land.
Whether such targeted Americans are agents of al-Qaeda or not, they are U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and are therefore entitled to due process of law. The Bill of Rights makes no exception for terrorists, genuine or suspected. Every citizen on U.S. soil is entitled to the protection of the law, and is innocent until proven guilty.
By Jay Zimmer