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Do You Trust This Man to Order Assassinations on American Soil?

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Newsweek reports that a Justice Department official discussed the possibility that the President ought to be able to order assassination on US soil under the current AUMF.

Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush’s surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.

Interesting. Does that include assassinating US citizens — without a trial, without properly ascertaining whether or not they are innocent or guilty, without anything other than the say of the Preznit? Do you trust this Administration to make these sorts of choices without messing up?

Would you bet your life on it?

Sure, there are options for dealing with suspects who pose an immediate physical threat — say holding controls for an explosive device or an AK-47 in a crowded shopping mall. But a Presidential ordered assassination without any particular showing of exigent circumstances and immediate need? That’s a Constitution of a different color altogether.

Given what has happened with Jose Padilla, is anything truly beyond imagination from this Administration in terms of trampling on liberty without any adequate oversight or notification? Who would stop them if they were about to kill an innocent citizen — and who would call them on it, even if they did?

Law enforcement must have trust in order to effectively do its job. It’s part of the social contract between those who protect and those who need protection. This Administration does not have the trust of its citizenry — it has forfeited that trust by its own improper actions, time and again, and it is high time we called them on just that.

Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said on today’s Face the Nation that "[w]hen you authorize our military to use force, they can kill the enemy without a Miranda warning." (C&L will have video up of this later on today and I will link when they do so.) Well, that may be true on the battlefield — but what about on the streets of the United States?

When we throw out due process of law, can we continue to call ourselves a beacon of liberty and democracy? Or are we just another two-bit dictatorship? Should we re-animate Stalin now, or what?

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the Sessions video up from today’s Face the Nation. Worth a watch if only for how untroubled Sessions is by what he is saying. Do these people think about the long-term ramifications and constitutionality of anything — or is this all some sort of us v. them video game to them?

(photo: Antonio Cruz/ABr)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com