Civil Rights Groups File Suit Against US Government Assassinations

Dyer Sez: There has been a lot of media attention and political hoopla surrounding President Obama’s speech on the end of combat operations in Iraq. When one looks at the fact that we will still have 50,000 soldiers stations there (for at least ten years if not in perpetuity, according to the Pentagon), almost 200,000 military contractors and mercenaries on the ground, an escalation of mercenaries being hired by the State Department (more than double), and zero accountability for those who drove us into this unjust war in the first place, it seems that the only thing missing from the President’s speech was a huge banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” over his head as he spoke.

Unfortunately, with most eyes in the direction of this latest piece of politics from the White House, a story which should hold just as much gravitas has been all but ignored by the TV media.

One of the most egregious acts committed by any dictatorship or empire is the assassination of it’s own citizens based on nothing more than the say so of a government , without any sort of due process or legal justification. Acts such as these can be traced all throughout history, usually attached to those who have carved out a place for themselves in the annals of time as the “Bad Guys”. Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, and a slew of long dead European kings and nobles have all laid claim to their sovereign ‘right’ to erase anyone who they thought to be a threat.

We Americans used to only wonder what life would be like under such a regime, as we watched cold-war era movies about the “Red Menace”, our eyes glazed as we stared at the screen as KGB agents would ‘disappear’ anyone who was considered a dissident or an enemy of the state.  The thought in the minds of those movie-goers, as they chomped on their popcorn and slurped their soda-pop, was that such a thing could never happen here in the good ol’ US of A.

Unfortunately, that notion borne from a sense of moral superiority of always being the ‘Good Guys”, is now nothing more than a distant memory of a bygone age. Because, you see, it was only a few months back that our government decreed their right to assassinate any American citizen they deemed a terrorist, without the need for a court, Habeas Corpus, due process, or the presentation of evidence of a threat.

On Monday, both the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of Anwar al-Aulaqi, due to the fact that he is on the list of American citizens targeted for assassination on the say so of the Obama administration. Here’s the video release from the ACLU concerning the complaint:

The suit itself is not a defense of al-Aulaqi, nor to belay suspicion that he involved in anything that can be labeled terrorism, but to simply point out (and hopefully create legal precedent) that the act of targeting an American citizen for death based on nothing more than the word of the Executive branch of government is strictly and utterly unconstitutional.

It’s bad enough that our government is sending unmanned drones to take out suspected terrorists of other nations – a situation made all the more grim by the fact that far more innocent civilians (including women and children) than ‘targets’  have been killed by these actions.  

It’s also bad enough that our country is embroiled in acts of military aggression (not wars, per se – Congress hasn’t declared war on any nation we are currently dropping bombs or firing guns on)  against countries who never attacked us, based on intelligence and reasoning that was faulty to begin with, and has been proven to be erroneous (to recap briefly: no WMD’s, no Osama Bin Laden, 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and the masterminds were from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – so why did we invade these countries again?).

But now we find ourselves in a strange and surreal place in our history, as the Obama administration has decided that it is above all of our laws, above all other branches of government, above all other governments of the world, above our very own Constitution and has claimed the ability to assassinate it’s own citizens, no matter where in the world they might be, based on Presidential whim.

Worse yet, no governmental body has stood up to the executive branch to tell them they may have crossed the line:  not Congress, not State Governors, nor any local government functionaries that I have heard of yet. I leave out the judicial branch, because they can only rule on constitutionality when a case is brought before them; unfortunately, after the confirmation of the last couple of Supreme Court justices (especially Kagan, who has indicated that that she has no problems with a president doing whatever he see fit regardless of constitutionality) I find that my conviction that the courts will sort it all out has been greatly diminished. 

Even if one considers themselves and Obama supporter (which, in all honesty at this point, I simply don’t get – but, then again, I never understood the blind faith of rabid Bush supporters either), take a moment to ponder this thought: even if you trust our current president to do the right thing when applying this self-authorized power of the executive branch, would you trust Newt Gingrich, Sara Palin, David Patraious, Rush Limbaugh, Jeb Bush or John McCain with such power? Do you think that the next president from the other side of the aisle will simply give up this ‘right’ to assassinate American citizens? Did Obama simply give up the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, or the John Warner defense Authorization act when he was elected?  

(if you’re keeping score the answers are no, no, and no)

I can only hope that the case brought by the ACLU and the CCR is heard swiftly and comes to the determinate and definitive conclusion that not only is this an unjust and morally heinous crime, but that the Supreme Court find this power-grab blatantly unconstitutional.

If they don’t, if this claimed power of the President goes unchecked, the mantra that future historians will ponder over when considering our current times will go something like this:

First they came for the Terrorists

Then they came for the Arabs

Then they came for the Constitutionalists

Then they came for the dissidents

Then they came for the slightly outspoken

Then they came for me

(Further reading: Click Here for the Washington Post Article, Click here for an excellent piece by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Click here for a PDF of the legal complaint with a thanks to Law Scholar Jonathan Turley for posting it)

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2 Responses to Civil Rights Groups File Suit Against US Government Assassinations

  1. marjorie says:

    Of course, the American government has been assassinating citizens for years, only it was never out in the open before like it is now. Good post!

  2. Dy'er Hear? says:

    @Marjorie: History agrees with you that the government has been involved in similar nefarious activities in the past. Whether it was outright assassinations of American citizens (just look at the huge man hunts, with shoot on sight orders, by the FBI during the prohibition era) or the slower death by the secret testing done on the population by the government (the Tuskegee experiment comes to mind).

    Many people seem to think that these things can’t happen here, without realizing that they already have happened here. My fear, at this point, is that these actions will find a legal precedent which will make such abominations a given instead of a scandal.

    Thanks for commenting, Marjorie!

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