When it was discovered that attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo drafted a memo, dubbed the torture memo, for the Bush White House giving the legal OK to waterboard terrorist prisoners, there were serious calls to have the two prosecuted.
In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department investigated the matter but eventually downgraded the Office of Professional Responsibility’s finding of misconduct to a finding of poor judgment.
How will Holder treat David Barron and Martin Lederman, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who, according to today’s New York Times, drafted a secret memo giving the Obama administration legal rationale for killing American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with a remote controlled drone?
According to the Times a 50-page memo dismissed all the legal barriers to killing al-Awlaki:
— Executive order that bans assassinations only applies to political leaders not an armed combatant.
— A federal law prohibiting Amercians killing Americans abroad, because it is not “murder” to kill an enemy under the laws of war.
— The fact the CIA drone operator is not a uniformed soldier is not war crime.
— The Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable seizure and the Fifth Amendment prohibition against depriving life with due process? No problem. The memo compared al-Awlaki to suspect killed in a high-speed chase.
Don’t hold your breath while waiting for the hue and cry over this secret memo. Torture by a Republican is so much more despicable than murder of a U.S. citizen by a Democrat. Get your priorities straight.
On the other hand, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said:
The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.