Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Obama administration’s assassination program is the fact that they simply refuse to address if they claim the authority to kill Americans on US soil without charge or trial.
While they clearly claim the authority to kill Americans abroad without requiring any clear evidence based on secret meetings and a classified legal justification, they dodge any and all questions around assassinations on US soil.
Individuals in the Obama administration – including Obama himself – have chosen to simply answer a question that was never asked when they are confronted with the issue.
This recently came up in a series of written questions and answers (original without notes here) from Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“Could the Administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?” asked the Committee.
“This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so,” Brennan responded.
No one asked Brennan if the Obama administration has carried out drone strikes in the United States or if they have the intention to do so. The question was if they could carry out such a strike. This was not answered.
When asked, “Could you describe the geographical limits on the Administration’s conduct drone strikes?”
Brennan responded that the Obama administration does not “view our authority to use military force against al-Qa’ida and associated forces as being limited to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan.”
“Al-Qa’ida and its associates have in the recent past directed several attacks against us from countries other than Afghanistan. The Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens from these attacks, and, thus, as the Attorney General has noted, ‘neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan,’” Brennan wrote.
“This does not mean, however, that we use military force whenever or wherever we want,” he continued. “International legal principles, such as respect for another nation’s sovereignty, constrain our ability to act unilaterally. Using force in another country is consistent with these international legal principles if conducted, for example, with the consent of the relevant nation – or if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.”
Unfortunately, this answer does not rule out assassinations on US soil in any way.
Glenn Greenwald, writing for the Guardian, further points out that Obama has also dodged the question when it was posed to him in a Google hangout, of all places.