This week, a source in the government leaked a copy of a 16-page Department of Justice “white paper” setting “forth a legal framework for considering the circumstances in which” the United States government can blow away a senior terrorist who is also a U.S. citizen, and a whole lot of people got a whole lot of angry about a whole lot of common sense.
Now, it’s not too often that we find ourselves on the side of the DOJ, its gun-smuggling executive, or his gun-hating boss; and it’s even less common that we think that the government is up to any good, but here’s one thing we will back the aforementioned up on: The quickest path to Allah is — and should be — a promotion in al-Qaida. And here’s another controversial statement to chew on: A person in a foreign land plotting terrorist attacks on the United States can count on an ass whooping — and betraying one’s homeland by committing high treason is not a suitable defense.
But to cut through all the hub-bub, here’s what the white paper actually said: “A U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or an associated force would be lawful [if] (1) an informed, high level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”
And here’s what media opponents have said: This violates their right to due process; all Americans are threatened by the breadth of this power; and the concept puts too much trust in the executive branch.
Now, the document’s authors lay their legal case out rather painstakingly, and we’re not going to waste anyone’s time writing up a summary of their case. What we’re here wondering, however, is if these critics have the faintest grasp of what they’re suggesting, either in its implications, or in how stupid it sounds.
Let’s start with the 4th and 5th amendments — important constitutional rights that citizens of this country have regarding due process, searches, and seizures. Their purposes are to ensure that Americans’ rights are not trampled, and that law and order is upheld.
Additionally, these rights apply when in a foreign country. When legal precedent says these rights do not apply is when a threat is imminent: Say, for example, in a situation where a suspect opens fire on police, or “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.” And even in these situations, an officer is expected to do his best to apprehend a suspect for trial. But what about when apprehension is impossible? Say, when the subject is in a particularly unfriendly part of Pakistan?
Well, some critics of the DOJ document say that these leaders, off their battlefield (meaning, we guess, not opening fire on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan), do not pose “a threat of serious physical harm.” We want to respectfully disagree, and respectfully ride on these fools. The most dangerous sworn enemies of the United States, such as the late Osama bin Laden, didn’t spend a lot of time shooting AKs — they spend a lot of time plotting violent attacks on American soldiers, interests, warships and cities.