The fallacy of ‘The government will take care of me’
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 22:02
What if a select group of Americans had the ability to decide whether you lived or were murdered, all unbeknownst to you? Further, there’s no proof of you committing any crime. Would you be OK with that?
The reason I ask is, because the idea of a secret court to determine this very question was discussed as a means to rein in control of drone use.
Don’t believe me?
Fox News reported Monday, “U.S. senators are now floating the idea of an assassination court as a way to rein in the ever-expanding drone program -- a secretive operation that, as it is, sounds like thriller fiction, but isn’t.”
The purpose of the court is to decide whether or not to approve fly-by killings of suspected terrorists, and the fate of the “terrorist” lies solely in the hands of a select few. If those few deem him guilty, he is executed via drone immediately. If he’s found innocent in their eyes, he lives.
Some of you reading this may be thinking, “Okay that doesn’t sound so bad. We kill off terrorists so that they can’t hurt me or anyone I know and love. What’s the big deal?”
Perhaps the big deal is in the details of the leaked drone memo posted on Business Insider Feb. 5. In their report, Business Insider outlines seven key points to the drone policy that, when examined, will most likely spawn a fear the likes of which has not been evidenced since Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast. The only difference is that this isn’t a sci-fi story written long ago; it’s real, and it’s happening right under our naïve little noses.
As posted on Business Insider, the leaked memo cites the following:
1. The executive branch is under no obligation to show evidence, before or after Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, writes:
According to the white paper, the government has the authority to carry out targeted killings of U.S. citizens without presenting evidence to a judge before the fact or after, and indeed without even acknowledging to the courts or to the public that the authority has been exercised. Without saying so explicitly, the government claims the authority to kill American terrorism suspects in secret.
This means if the administration murders someone, it cannot possibly be prosecuted.
2. The administration uses an “elastic” definition of “imminent.”
Jaffer also describes the Justice Department’s use of the word ‘imminent’ — as in “imminent attack” — as so loose that the criterion could be applied to almost anything ... 5 days? Minutes? Months?
Jaffer says that it has been so redefined that it’s lost all relevant meaning — “It’s the language of limits—but without any real restrictions.”
By widening out imminent in terms of time, it means that the administration can strike targets while they’re in the shower, cutting toe nails or taking a nap.
3. The loose use of language turns the War on Terror into a Forever War
The memo describes Al Qaeda as a “terrorist organization engaged in constant plotting” against the U.S. So as long as they perceive Al Qaeda exists, the executive branch can conduct extrajudicial killings.
This means the next president can conduct the same exercise of power. The authority to kill without transparency continues so long as any executive branch perceives a threat, possibly (and probably) forever.
4. Language sets precedent for foreign strikes inside U.S. borders.
The following justification for crossing borders of countries with which the U.S. is not currently at war — countries “unwilling or unable” to mitigate “terrorist threats” themselves — potentially gives other nations a foot in the door, under the Constitution, to target their own definitions of terrorist threats inside U.S. borders.
From Jaffer: “The white paper also suggests, incorrectly that the courts have endorsed the view that there is no geographic limitation on the government’s exercise of war powers.”
In short, a foreign nation can claim the right to strike inside the U.S. border against anyone they consider a terrorist.
5. There is zero check on authority to conduct extrajudicial killings.
Much like the lack of necessity to show evidence before or after a strike, the Obama administration has also tipped power precipitously into the hands of the executive branch.
In grade school, every American learns that each branch of government has checks and balances against the power of the others. In this case, presently, no such check exists — the executive branch acts unilaterally (and until a law is enacted requiring transparency to some degree, in perpetuity).
Obama, who OKs these death penalties as summarily as Judge Dredd, is judge, jury and executioner.
6. The memo blurs the line of “armed” and “violent.”
There is never a proper, stringent definition of either “armed” or “violent” — as in “armed” terrorists committing “violent,” “imminent” attacks.
Can a terrorist be armed with a computer keyboard, a microphone, a computer? And can his communication be considered a “violent” attack?
This means that members of Anonymous, for example, are not far behind.
7. The administration likens the terms “lawful” and “not unlawful.”
With this use of words, the administration moves aggressively into the space between what’s legal and what’s criminal.