Does Obama have a  ‘license to kill’ Americans in U.S.?

bill cowan
LTC Bill Cowan: “Is this the beginning of a slippery slope that we don’t see any real boundaries to?
Photo credit:

The Obama administration claims it possesses the authority to use drone strikes to assassinate Americans traveling abroad. How about Americans here at home?

Early this week, an unclassified Department of Justice “white paper,” or memo, was leaked to NBC reporter Michael Isikoff, providing justification and authorization for the killing of U.S. citizens overseas.

Two days later, defense expert and retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan appeared on “The Sean Hannity Show.”

“Let me get this straight, Colonel. Waterboarding — that’s torture,” Hannity said. “But it’s alright to just kill somebody. Where’s the outrage here?”

“I have no problem with the drone program,” Cowen responded, according to Real Clear Politics. “I have no real problem with waterboarding if it saves American lives.”

Then he added: “This issue is, is this the beginning of a slippery slope that we don’t see any real boundaries to? How long does it take to go from killing Americans overseas with drones to killing Americans here in this country with drones?”

All of which brings us to the Justice Department memo,16 single-spaced pages of bureaucratic legalese that would send most to their medicine cabinet in search of aspirin.

In her website, Attorney KrisAnne Hall recently offered a sobering, detailed analysis of the issues that the paper raised, including the possibility of killing U.S. citizens within our borders.

She claims that although the Justice Department asserts that lethal force is restricted to U.S citizens who are in a “foreign country outside the area of active hostilities,” other statements contained in the paper “nullify this assertion.”

A fair reading of the memo would lead one to conclude that “this conflict is not defined by borders or nationalities, but is expanded to include a global arena with groups of people only identified by classification of behavior and not acting by the authority of a single government,” she wrote, referring to the second paragraph on Page 3 of the memo. That section states that “any U.S. operation would be a part of this non-international armed conflict, even if it were to take place away from the zone of active hostilities.” (Emphasis added.)

Hall pointed out that in the same paragraph, the memo asserts that the 2001 congressional resolution, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, “does not set forth an express geographic limitation on the use of force it authorizes.” (Emphasis added.)

Hall also found it significant that “throughout the DOJ’s paper, they refer to their authority to engage in the killing of U.S. citizens as authorized under the “laws of war.” She refers the reader to the National Defense Authorization Act, and writes:

The NDAA of 2012 not only extends the “laws of war” outside a formal declaration of war to the vague application of “hostilities,” but also allows the president the authority to transfer the powers under the “laws of war” to the FBI.  This is not my interpretation, but that of the current administration and their interpretation of powers authorized through the section 4 waivers of the NDAA 2012.

Robert Mueller
FBI Director Robert Mueller was unsure what our policy was on killing Americans within U.S. borders.
Photo credit Atlantic Council

Although the whole idea sounds preposterous, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress a year ago he would have to check with the Department of Justice as to whether Attorney General Eric Holder‘s criteria for the targeted killing of Americans also applied to Americans inside U.S. borders.

He didn’t know? He had to check? Maybe now we know why.

When the whole idea of drone flights within U.S. borders first came up, most people thought about their loss of privacy. Perhaps we should all be concerned about bigger problems than being photographed sunbathing topless in the back yard.


Related or top stories:
Video: FBI director on Obama’s ‘assassinating Americans’ policy

Secret DOJ ‘white paper’ details Obama’s targeted assassination program

Hannity interviews doc who took Obama to task at prayer breakfast


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