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ETpro's avatar

Awlaki and the CIA Hit List -- Should US Presidents have the right to target US Citizens for assassination without any judicial review?

Asked by ETpro (34469points) September 25th, 2010

I know we live in dangerous times, and we want someone to protect us. But at what point does yielding constitutional protections to the Executive put us at greater risk than just living in a world with terrorists does?

I can see both sides of this issue. With Awlaki hiding in Yemen, it really isn’t practical to send Federal Marshals out to arrest him and bring him to the USA for trial. But what if this president or some future president decides to take advantage of the power to declare someone a terrorist threat to the USA to begin eliminating political rivals? History is full of politicians who have used such power in exactly that way. Why should we believe the USA is immune to such men?

Here is the pro-presidential-powers argument
and here is the con-presidential-powers argument.

Should the President have the power to assassinate anyone, citizen or not, once the Administration declares the person a terrorist—no judicial review? Should Presidents not have the power solely within the executive branch. Do you think there needs to be judicial review of such decisions? Or perhaps you have an alternative not mentioned. What’s your opinion?

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14 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

No, of course not. And when have people not lived in dangerous times? Giving the the U.S. President dictatorial powers, including the power to murder people at will, will not make us any safer, in my opinion and may actually put us at greater risk.

Edit: We’d save more American lives by allowing the President to assassinate drunk drivers.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Gawd, no. That’s a slippery slope where a president could simply declare executive power over anything. We have checks and balances for a reason! Besides, never mind the injustice of the president acting like some vigilante sheriff in the Wild West. Hasn’t that sort of behaviour caused us enough problems?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I do not believe that assassination should be used against anybody. Period. Capture them and bring them to trial.

ETpro's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, @lillycoyote and @aprilsimnel You do know that since the Bush administration, this has been going on, right? And courts have refused to even look at it. Up to this point, every court has accepted the Administration’s State Secrets assertion and decided that it was the realm of the Executive and thus beyond their power to review. So I have to ask, “What checks and balances?

@hawaii_jake That gets problematic when the person is in a foreign land where we may not be welcomed. When foreign leaders declared war on us in the past, or when other nation states were at war, targeting and killing individuals on the other side was always fair game. It would be impossible to pursue a war if you cnofined yourself to arresting all the enemy combatants no matter what level of resistance they put up.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro Yes, I know. One of the crucial “checks and balances” that we very often forget is ourselves, “we the people.” Americans have to care whether or not we surrender our liberties out of fear and ignorance, if we want to grant the Executive Branch powers that it shouldn’t have or not do that. If enough Americans made a stink the courts and the government would act accordingly. They are supposed to answer to us and the courts are supposed to act according to the laws of this nation and the Constitution. We are supposed to not just abide by but champion international law because we helped create it. But it is enough for many Americans to slap a yellow ribbon magnet and a “Freedom Isn’t Free” bumper sticker on their cars and wave a little flag and ignore the erosion of liberties and the consolidation of power in the Executive Branch. True blue patriotism is no longer “My Country Right or Wrong” but is “My Country Never Wrong.” And as I said in my first comment, no a U.S. President should not be able to target a U.S. citizen or anyone for assassination. Extrajudicial killings of any kind undermine law and order, domestically and internationally. This is how I see it. Americans represent about 4 percent of the world’s population. We can help to create a world that is increasingly governed by law and order while we are still powerful and influential enough to do it or we can help to support a world that has always to a great extent been governed by brute force. You do the math. In a world governed by brute force we are really very seriously outnumbered and outgunned. Just something to think about.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote Sadly, the ones making a stink are the cowering far right, who in their trembling, insist that they are the only true patriots and the only Americans brave enough to keep us safe. And they are yelling that the current Administration’s Constitutional abuses don’t stink enough!

Excellent point on the math. How right you are.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro I must confess that I have had moments of true despair as to the direction our country has been going in since 9/11 but I have never entirely given up hope. I think we are a nation that very often takes 2 steps backwards and then, over time, takes 3 steps forward. We put American citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps during WWII, a terrible crime, but we didn’t do that this time. No internment camps for American Muslims or Americans of Middle Eastern descent. Is that progress? Yes it is. I still despair at times. If the only weapons you have against ignorance are truth and reason and the truth doesn’t matter to matter to many people what do you do? Contemporary Americans have inherited a tremendous legacy that I don’t think many of them either truly understand or appreciate. This nation didn’t come ready made right out of the box. Americans seem to like to think that their way of life was created and defended primarily by soldiers on the battlefield. And I am certainly not trivializing the service of any of this country’s military or it’s veterans. But most of the rights and privileges that Americans enjoy today were fought for and won in the streets and in the courts, not on the battlefield. Universal suffrage, child and other labor laws, civil rights for women, African Americans and other minorities, rights to free speech and freedom of religious expression; extended to Americans mostly because people marched in the streets and demanded those rights and continue to have them because infringement of those rights and privileges were defended by the courts. But I still think that there are enough people who understand and care and believe in the process that all is not lost. We elected a black President! You’ve got to give us that one. That’s a major victory. We’re not sunk yet.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote Thanks. We can keep spreading truth and light. We can do that.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro “The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, “My country, right or wrong.” In one sense I say so too. My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Carl Schurz

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote What an excellent response to the “My country, right or wrong!” chant. I’m adding that to my quotation spreadsheet.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ETpro Yes, we’ve been aware of the erosion of civil liberties for many years now. We have addressed it, but I can’t talk about how or when. I have found that an activist like myself is quite a threat back.

Zaku's avatar

No. Imagine Trump with that authority. Or Palin…

majorrich's avatar

My understanding is that many presidents had lists of people they would ‘like to see gone’. LBJ had a big list and enlisted the CIA to work on it. I vaguely remember reading something about that a long time ago. A quick Google search and this was the first hit. I don’t always give a lot of credence to first hits, but this was interesting. I’m sure there were lists by probably every president of people that were irritating enough to want to see them disappear.

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