The media seems to be all in a tizzy about a “White Paper,” which was unearthed by NBC News’ investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. According to what I saw in this Rachel Maddow clip, the White Paper is an abridged version of a ~super secret~ memo that gives the Obama administration its legal justification to order targeted drone strikes on American citizens without due process.
So people seem a bit freaked out by the idea that the government has that kind of authority, and matters are not made better by the vague language employed by the White Paper. There are no concrete criteria for determining what kind of evidence is required before your government can kill you. You just have to pose an “imminent threat,” which sounds fairly reasonable, until you get to the part where “imminent” is clarified to be referring to a “broader concept of imminence” which could mean…basically anything? That’s disturbing.
Many in the media have criticized others in the media for not completely freaking out about this. Nick Gillespie at Reason.com says that journalists are too “awed by power” these days and make excuses for Obama because they’re not in his place, don’t know what he’s going through, etc. Others, such as Buzzfeed, have amusingly laid out in gif form the contrast between how Democrats would have reacted to Bush employing certain policies vs. how they currently react to Obama employing such policies.
I’m pretty sure that if this White Paper had surfaced under the Bush/Cheney administration, it would have been outright declared to be a tyrannical abuse of power and everyone would have gone bananas. People just don’t see Obama that way. And I’m in no way claiming that he is a tyrant; I’m just saying that the facts are open for interpretation at this point, and that’s an interpretation Democrats don’t seem to be making, for whatever reason.
I don’t think this White Paper is entirely evil and will end civilization as we know it. I think it needs clarification, a LOT of clarification — what does “imminent” mean, what is considered a force “associated” with al-Qaida, how much evidence is required before an assassination is justified, how it is determined that capture or arrest is “infeasible,” and so on and so forth. But I do think that in certain cases, as unpleasant as it is (and maybe I’m just totally corrupted from watching too much 24), it may be necessary to assassinate a terrorist leader even if he or she is an American citizen.