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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/6/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Obama memo eliminates due process for some Americans.

This week's Constitutional infringement by the Obama administration comes in the form of a memo that permits him to use lethal force against American citizens overseas without charges, warrants, trials, or any other due process. Although the memo is intended to refer to terrorist targets, the precedent it sets could later include any American, anywhere.

The terrorists aren't using their Constitutional rights anyway...

The terrorists aren't using their Constitutional rights anyway...

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/6/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Obama, memo, due process, imminence, drone, strikes, justice department


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There few Americans who would defend the right of a terrorist to due process, but the memo sets a precedent that could later be expanded to include anyone. That's what's giving Constitutional scholars so much pause.

The memo says that Americans who have affiliated with known terrorist organizations, are planning an imminent attacks on Americans, and who cannot be arrested primarily because doing so would not be feasible, are subject to lethal justice from the air in the form of drone strikes. Such strikes can be conducted at the word of the president or even an unelected justice department official.

This is a violation of the fundamental rights secured by the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. One of the memories of the founding fathers was that of King Charles I, who was executed for treason in 1649 following a bloody civil war in England. Charles made use of a secret court, called the "star chamber" for the room in which it was seated. Charles arrested personal enemies and placed them on secret trials where they were condemned to death, all without public knowledge.

30 years and a century later, the founding fathers added legal protections into the Bill of Rights to guard specifically against such persecutions. Among those rights are speedy public trials, the right to face your accuser, the counsel of an attorney, the right to be judged by a jury of your peers, and finally the burden of proof which is placed on the prosecution.

However, the Obama memo conveniently omits all of that. Obama or an official of his designation may simply make a determination based on scant evidence, or even none at all, and pull the trigger.

Admittedly, few people are going to shed tears for terrorists, particularly those embedded in the ranks of al Qaeda, but the worrisome problem is that the memo leaves open possibility of more strikes against more people, without any due process.

As difficult as it is to like, even those American al-Qaeda who have already been killed were technically entitled to more due process than they received.

Beyond that, there is the precedent this memo sets. For example, the president could label another organization as a terrorist group. Just what it takes to be labeled as such is unclear. Does the proposal mean that a group must be legally ruled a terrorist organization by Congress, or can the president simply declare a group of people to be terrorists?

The next question has to do with imminence, a chiefly military concept that deals with whether or not an enemy is about to attack. An enemy that is poised to strike is legally subject to preemptive attack. However, how can we know that an American who is drinking tea and praying with al Qaeda associates in the deserts of Yemen, is also planning an attack at that very moment?

What constitutes planning? Merely daydreaming about jihad against the Great Satan of America? Purchasing weapons? Forging travel documents to places where Americans are? The memo does not make clear what constitutes imminence.

Finally, the capture of the target must not be feasible, according to the criteria set forth by the memo. Again, how is feasible defined? Is feasible a matter of finances, international cooperation, logistics, or what? Arresting someone who lives down the street from the president can be labeled "infeasible" if the desire is to say as much.

Detractors who are alarmed by the memo are plenty, and not one of them is shedding tears for American terrorists such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan who were both killed under these criteria in drone strikes. However, the rights we deny these citizens because we find their affiliations repugnant, can later be denied to those whose offense against their country is less obvious.

What if one day Obama, or a future president decides that a group to which you belong is worthy of such justice? While that's a highly improbable scenario, such things can happen, if not today, certainly in decades. The world changes and groups fall into and out of favor. Today's activists could be considered tomorrow's terrorists. One need only recall that a few decades ago, Osama bin Laden was a close American ally.

The White House has a lot of explaining to do with regards to the memo and it must take steps to ensure appropriate safeguards are developed to protect the right of due process for all Americans, not matter how much we may fear and despise them.

Then again, Obama is a master when it comes to "interpreting" the Constitution.

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