Doctor Science Knows

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Joint Special Operations Command sued

Marc Ambinder reported that ACLU Challenges the Joint Special Operations Command.
JSOC kills people, mostly in war zones. Since 9/11, JSOC's assets, called "special missions units," have been unleashed into the world, and, on the basis of a series of still-secret executive orders, given the authority to pursue members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network wherever they go, and kill or capture them as determined by a specific set of criteria.
the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have challenged JSOC's right to engage in targeted killings outside the battlefield. They're basing their challenge on the public acknowledgment of JSOC's existence by two presidents, on the acknowledgment by a presidential adviser that lists of human targets, some including U.S. citizens, exist, and on an acknowledgment by the director of national intelligence that Yemen is a place where these targets could be "gone after."

[commenter VrDrew:]
On the one hand, I have a problem (morally as well as Constitutionally) with an Executive, answerable to no-one, killing anyone (American citizen or otherwise) anywhere in the world outside of a declared battlezone. On the other, I can also see the threat posed by terrorist organizers operating in essentially lawless states such as Yemen, the FATA areas of Pakistan, and Somalia.
To be honest, I don't see this "other hand" at all.

Terrorist or not, lawless state or not, what *possible* threat makes it even vaguely appropriate for the US government to secretly sentence US citizens to be assassinated? This isn't just a little bit outside the Constitution, this makes the whole idea of a Constitution a mockery.

It seems to me that you're saying, "on the one hand, it's evil *and* illegal. On the other hand, we're cowards."

The most terrifying image George Orwell could think of was "a boot stamping on a human face - forever." But even he didn't imagine that the person being stomped would be holding the boot in place and licking it.

[commenter airish:]
Tokyo Rose was a US citizen. What's your point? If you are actively supporting an armed adversary of the US during a time of war, you can't hide behind your (joint) US citizenship that was acquired as an accident of birth
To insist on being legally accused before you're killed by your government is not "hiding behind" US citizenship. *That's* the point.

You may want to pick a different analogy to make *your* point. Tokyo Rose (a) was accused in a court of law, (b) had a US trial, (c) was convicted based on perjured testimony, (d) went to prison, and (e) later got a Presidential pardon. Apparently you believe that the whole bit with the law and the trial and the prison should have just been skipped over, and she should just have been quietly assassinated by US agents. Your approach would also skip over the bit about the perjury and the pardon, too, but I'm guessing that's a feature as far as you're concerned, not a bug.

whether our friend al Awlaki gains any special consideration by virtue of his dual US citizenship over, say, Osama bin Laden
Dude, he's covered by *US law*. The US government's treatment of US citizens is *not* a matter of international law or treaty.

In the case of Osama bin Laden, we've had a public price on his head for quite a while. He is not in any way a covert enemy of the US, nor vise versa. A targeted assassination policy may be a bad idea across the board, but it's IMHO *certainly* a bad idea if the list of targets needs to be counted on a second hand.

Now obviously you feel that al Awlaki isn't a "real" US citizen, so the US Constitution and US law shouldn't necessarily apply to him. But that is clearly, obviously, a matter for Johnny Roberts and the Supremes -- you shouldn't be assuming it as a given.

More generally, surely you can see that it is *extremely* dangerous for the US government (or any authority) to have the ability to kill Americans whenever and wherever it feels like, without any public knowledge or review. This is what tyranny looks like; this is what tyranny *is*.

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