Unfortunately, the little watched Olbermann seems to be about the only mainstream television journalist shedding light on the horrible decision to allow the President to order the assassination of a United States Citizen. Justin Kuznicki of CATO notes that this goes directly against the grain of what America founders struggled to create, A Government of Laws, Not Men:
Consider today’s news:
The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
Americans, this is what arbitrary government looks like. As a simple matter of fact, even George III was never this arbitrary. Even he didn’t make individual colonists’ lives depend merely on an act of his own will.
Indeed, if I wanted a perfect example of what a government of men, not laws, looked like, I could just glance at the newspapers today and see what our government is doing right at this moment.
Do not respond that this power will only be used wisely and sparingly. Doing so just admits my basic point, namely that we now depend purely on the wisdom and restraint of our individual leaders. We depend on their wisdom and restraint — to check their own worst impulses. All power, both for and against, is contained in one individual. No legal processes, and no guarantees, separate us from them. And the stakes are life or death.
Likewise, do not respond that this power will only be used against very bad people. Again, doing so just admits that we now depend on an unreviewable judgment of character, not on a legal system with formal procedures and safeguards. Even in the dark days of the Cold War — even during the Revolution itself — we never ceded so much power to so few.
Glenn Greenwald, perhaps the most civil liberties oriented journalist in our country, expounds on this decision in great detail at Salon.com:
Today, both The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield. I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they're sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind. I won't repeat those arguments -- they're here and here -- but I do want to highlight how unbelievably Orwellian and tyrannical this is in light of these new articles today.
No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he has done vehemently through his family). None of that.Instead, in Barack Obama's America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens -- and a death penalty imposed -- is that the President, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone's guilt as a Terrorist. He then dispatches his aides to run to America's newspapers -- cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they're granted -- to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist.
Just to get a sense for how extreme this behavior is, consider -- as the NYT reported -- that not even George Bush targeted American citizens for this type of extra-judicial killing (though a 2002 drone attack in Yemen did result in the death of an American citizen). Even more strikingly, Antonin Scalia, in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, wrote an Opinion (joined by Justice Stevens) arguing that it was unconstitutional for the U.S. Government merely to imprison (let alone kill) American citizens as "enemy combatants"; instead, they argued, the Constitution required that Americans be charged with crimes (such as treason) and be given a trial before being punished. The full Hamdi Court held that at least some due process was required before Americans could be imprisoned as "enemy combatants." Yet now, Barack Obama is claiming the right not merely to imprison, but to assassinate far from any battlefield, American citizens with no due process of any kind. Even GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra, when questioning Adm. Blair, recognized the severe dangers raised by this asserted power.
And what about all the progressives who screamed for years about the Bush administration's tyrannical treatment of Jose Padilla? Bush merely imprisoned Padilla for years without a trial. If that's a vicious, tyrannical assault on the Constitution -- and it was -- what should they be saying about the Nobel Peace Prize winner's assassination of American citizens without any due process?
Why are so few people worried about laws, checks & balances, due process, and all those other pesky principles that keep governments from descending into tyranny? Does the cult of personality towards Obama have no limits?