President Lincoln concluded that famous speech that the world would little note, nor long remember by praying “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The current administration might be of the people and even for the people, but it sure as hell is not by the people when the reasons for decisions of life and death about U.S. citizens can be kept from them by the most transparent administration in the history of the universe.
This past week a federal judge denied requests from The New York Times and ACLU for access to a Justice Department memorandum outlining the legal justification for drone assassinations of U.S. citizens, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a strike in Yemen in 2011. Both the Times and the ACLU promise to appeal.
In a speech in March Attorney General Eric Holder made this contorted argument: “Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”
While the Fifth Amendment guarantees due process, the Sixth guarantees a public trial — not a judge, jury and executioner all rolled up into one person, without any checks or balances between the three branches of the federal government.
One of the lawyers for the ACLU, Jameel Jaffer, said, “This ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government’s extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens and also effectively greenlights its practice of making selective and self-serving disclosures.” The whole truth and nothing but the truth? Nah. If you thought Lincoln’s denial of habeas corpus was wrong …
Here are a couple of graphs from the ruling by Judge Colleen McMahon that reveal a certain level of frustration with Alice-in-Wonderland nature of her own ruling and the Catch-22 in which the law entraps her:
When the government is hiding something, you know they’ve got something to hide.