Well, now. What a difference a few years makes. It wasn't so long ago that the Far-Left, led by people like then-Senator Barack Obama, was screaming about President George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies. Rendition, data mining, covert black sites, interrogation, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping. All came in for withering criticism from the Far-Left kooks, who suggested that Bush was ravaging the Constitution. Some even talked openly about impeachable offenses.
And yet, when that Far-Left leader became President, he decided to adopt all---ALL---of the Bush policies, with the notable exception of enhanced interrogation techniques. Every other Bush counterterrorism measure (including an open Guantanamo Bay), stands, implemented fully by Team Obama. Of course, the Left has been silent on all of this. Whereas once they protested and screamed and hung Bush in effigy, now they chirp with the crickets.
In fact, they've taken another step, one that Bush never even contemplated (and if he had, you can be sure the Left would've moved to impeach him): targeting and killing American citizens without first giving them their Constitutional right to due process.
NBC's Michael Isikoff obtained the Holder Justice Department memo that provides the legal basis for the killing of Americans. Here's part of his report:
"A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaida or "an associated force" -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
"The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration's most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes."
So Obama and his team are justifying targeting U.S. citizens from drones flying high above and taking them out via missile, without the benefit of due process.
Isikoff continues: "The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future," the memo states.
"Instead, it says, an "informed, high-level" official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been "recently" involved in "activities" posing a threat of a violent attack and "there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities." The memo does not define "recently" or "activities."
So, it's a slippery slope. Definitions are fluid. Who's to say what's "recent" terrorist activity? Who's to say what defines "activity?"
Isikoff goes on: "...the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be "infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to "law of war principles." But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an "undue risk" to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes." (Read Isikoff's complete report here: http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/04/16843014-exclusive-justice-department-memo-reveals-legal-case-for-drone-strikes-on-americans?lite )
And therein lies the rub. Obama kills because he cannot---he will not---capture. Capturing a terrorist means transferring him to a black site. It also means interrogating him. And then it means transferring him yet again out of the third country black site to someplace more permanent, such as, say, Guantanamo. And then it means continuing interrogations there and holding him indefinitely.
Obama cannot abide by any of that. He cannot appear to be holding and interrogating terrorists and moving them to a detention facility he said he's trying to close and OUT of which he's been busy transferring terrorists. So instead of capturing them and mining them for every shred of intelligence they can provide about terrorist attacks, planning, operations, networks, and other critical details, Obama is simply killing them. Even if they are American citizens.
During the Bush years, top administration official John Yoo was relentlessly attacked for authoring the memo that provided the legal basis for enhanced interrogation techniques---which outgoing Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted just days ago were crucial to gaining the intelligence needed to locate and kill Osama bin Laden. The Yoo memo looks like child's play compared to the Holder Justice Department memo justifying killing U.S. citizens.
And still: crickets from the Left.
Yoo wrote recently about how and why Obama is killing instead of capturing terrorists, and why it's denying us possibly critical intelligence. (See his powerful piece here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703834804576301032595527372.html )
It would be a nice surprise to see some intellectual consistency from a Left that relentlessly pounded Bush for a lot less. Not holding my breath. But taking out U.S. citizens without due process is a bridge that even the Left's Darth Vaders---Bush and Cheney---did not attempt. And yet, this president, enjoying the full Obama privilege---skates away with the Constitution. Waterboarding? No! Unconstitutional! But killing without due process? No problem.